An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Graduates: Lessons from MIT Alumni

  • Julie Fox

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On June 8, approximately 3,000 students graduated from MIT, setting off on the next stage of their lives. Perhaps they have a solid plan in place or perhaps they don’t but, either way, they will receive words of advice from many people—friends, loved ones, and complete strangers. What better source of advice than the alumni who came before you?

Below are a few tips gained from popular Slice of MIT stories about alumni to help you get from PSETs to sharing a stage with Beyoncé.

1. Hard work pays off.

As a former US Olympic short-track speed skater who won a bronze medal at the 2010 Games and a silver medal in 2014, Jordan Malone ’18 knows a lot about hard work and says his Olympic training proved useful when he enrolled at MIT. “I think people look at an Olympic medal the same way as graduating from MIT. A big similarity is that, at some point, you have to come to terms with how difficult it might be to achieve your goal. You don’t realize how much it takes to be successful until you are in the middle of it.”

2. Think outside the box.

Sharon Lee MArch '81, MCP '81 is addressing the housing crisis in Seattle, Washington, the city with the third largest homeless population in the country following New York City and Los Angeles. With approximately 11,000 homeless people in Seattle on any given night, she couldn’t wait for the years it takes to get housing and permits. The solution: tiny houses. Tiny houses are a growing trend in the real estate market for those with a minimalist goal, but they’re not just cute, they’re also practical. These tiny houses are eight feet by 12 feet and they include lights, heat, a window, and a door with a lock. Most importantly, since the tiny houses are under 120-square-feet, they aren’t considered a dwelling unit so they can be built and operational quickly.

3. There is no one career path—explore your options.

Joe Brown ’07 majored in Course 2 and wants to design rollercoasters but in the meantime, his dancing and teaching classes, choreographing, and professional dance jobs brought him on the stage with Beyonce at Coachella Music Festival. “That roller coaster is still going to happen. That theme park is still going to happen. But right now, I just want to spend some time with dance.”

4. Push yourself out of your comfort zone.

When chemical engineer Winnette McIntosh Ambrose ’98 and her brother Timothy McIntosh ’08 opened a French-inspired patisserie on Capitol Hill in DC, he insisted they apply to be on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Although she resisted, not only did they get on the show, they won. McIntosh Ambrose recently got called back to the Food Network to show her skills on Chopped winning the baking round of the “Chopped Gold Medal Games” and competed in the grand finals, making it to the second round.  

5. Take matters into your own hands.

In typical engineer fashion, if a product doesn’t work the way it should—make one that does. That’s what Adrianna C. Vazquez Ortiz ’11 did with her company LiLu, which is completely rethinking how nursing moms pump. An estimated 13 million mothers worldwide use a breast pump to produce milk for their children and according to Vazquez Ortiz, “More often than not, it’s a negative experience. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to find talented, motivated, and passionate people to improve a product that’s so important to motherhood.”  

Read more stories on Slice of MIT and visit the MIT Alumni Advisors Hub where you can connect with alumni any time to get advice.

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