Category Archives: school

The immovable object vs the unstoppable force

An amazing drama unfolded before us on the carpool ride to work today. On the back roads of East Haven a school bus stopped, its lights flashing, stop sign extended, and door open waiting for a late student. A row of cars began lining up on each side of the road.

Suddenly from behind us blared the siren of an approaching ambulance.

CUE DRAMA!!

As we obediently pulled over to let the ambulance by, the door of nearby house opened and an elementary school child began a slow trot towards the bus, his large backpack bouncing back and forth with the pace of his stride. THE KID WAS DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO BEAT THE AMBULANCE. I could feel every driver holding their breath. Who takes priority? The child? or the person in desperate health need?

The ambulance screamed up to the bus… and applied its brakes!

Siren blaring, the ambulance waited anxiously as the kid trotted across the lawn!!┬áThe little kid started boarding the bus. The bus promptly killed its flashing lights and retracted the stop sign. The bus started rolling forward, presumably trying to pull over more so the ambulance could pass. The ambulance, its patience exhausted, BLARED its horn screaming at the bus “DONT DO ANYTHING, I GOT THIS,” swerved around the bus and hauled towards its destination.

Fascinating.

30 Month Lessons.

During my 30 month participation within RPI’s weekend MBA program (WEMBA), I kept a word document on my laptop’s desktop and would write down anything that I thought would be useful to me in the future. The goal was to develop a short list of simple and efficacious points that, if reviewed regularly, could add some umph to my strengths as a worker and leader. I didn’t want anything too in depth, just a cheat sheet that I could look at to keep my business direction steady and my personality in check.

As with much business study, the items on the list are very much common sense – but to be reminded of these items regularly is very important.

Here is my list.

1. Brand is Bankable
2. It is far more important to provide a value to your customer than to sell a product
3. Arrogance is the cause of a lot of failures
4. Two avenues for service improvement: Provide a service with less waste, provide a service with greater value
5. When proving a point, it undermines your legitimacy to not mention the strongest counter arguments*
6. New products require flexibility
7. No finger pointing
8. Common root problem: Flawed sense of reality
9. You must work towards a perfect balance of optimism and realism, especially in leadership
10. Follow the lessons of Earnest Schackelton’s leadership** (if you don’t know E. Schackelton, watch all 11 of these. You will not regret it)
11. Charge by the value of what you deliver

*This is also a great tip for trying to argue your way out of being a cylon in the Battlestar Gallactica boardgame.
**

Shackleton’s brilliance:
-Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, and focus energy on short term objectives
-Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors
-Instill optimism and self-confidence, but stay grounded in reality
-Reinforce the team message constantly
-Be willing to take the big risk when necessary
-Never give up, there’s always another move
-Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect
-Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about

Graduate THIS.

On Saturday afternoon I finally had my graduation ceremony for my RPI MBA. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful honor to be part of the celebration. RPI President Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson did an amazing job speaking and presenting the awards.

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My RPI cohort

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Receiving the degree from Dr. Jackson

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Dad D, Mike D, and Mom D.

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Woo!

Special thanks to my folks, Theresa, and Sarah for sharing the day with me.

ATTENTION.

I am done with classes.

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I have completed the academic marathon that began when I was first accepted to graduate school on August 16th, 2005. It’s been 3 years, 5 months, and 30 days. I’ve participated in 1,220 hours of classroom time. I’ve learned a lot and, so far, I’m extremely happy it’s over.

I celebrated with a weekend of extreme awesomeness. Friday night after class, I zipped over to Darcy’s where we enjoyed tomato pie (holy crap – delicious), and some homemade chocolate cake (with frosting and ice cream!). We played some games and hung out. It was the perfect evening to conclude the quest for degrees.

Saturday saw Longboarding (more about this later), kung fu, guitar practice, rock band, and the movie: Death Race. Sunday included intense cooking (ribs – deeelicious), running, smoothies, rock climbing, more longboarding, more guitar, and some pleasure reading: (I Know this Much is True by Wally Lamb)

Longboarding:

Longboarding is like skateboarding, but… you guessed it… the board is longer. It’s more of a traveling board than a trick board. I’ve never been good at board sports so it’s about time that I worked out the kinks. Roommate Kevin introduced me to the sport. My hope is that by the end of the summer we can don helmets, gloves, pads, and other protective gear and go up to Meriden’s famous Castle Craig. After about 8pm they close the long steep road to cars and I’m hoping we can scream down the road performing sweet tricks and videotaping the intensity.

Anyway, I am totally stoked to be entering a new phase of my life. I hope I can cram it full with as much adventure as possible.

Read the following in your best ‘movie preview’ voice.

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Upon the recommendation of the Faculty and by the authority vested in the Board of Governors, The University hereby confers upon Michael A. DiDonato the degree of Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering with all the honors, rights and privileges appertaining thereunto. Given under the seal of the University at West Haven, Connecticut on the seventeenth day of January, two thousand and nine.

If you want, you can call me Master D.

Delightfully Egotistical

“I’ll start this morning by passing back your exams, to see if we’re still on speaking terms,” the professor started amidst laughter in my Saturday morning class, “no no no, in all seriousness, the exams were very good. I take that as testimony to my excellent teaching.”

B- is the new A.

YES!

I got a B- in Vibrations! This is great because:

1. My engineering degree is now officially over
2. I get reimbursed by my company!

Such great news!

In other great news, I got A’s in both of my MBA classes for the fall semester. Yes!

Done.

I’ve taken my last mechanical engineering final. My Vibrations class ended last night and with it, my mechanical engineering masters program.*

I’m not overly excited because I went through all the joy and celebration when I thought I was done last June. But even still, having an extra night every week come 2009 will certainly be a plus.

I have 64 hours of MBA class remaining. It will all end on Valentines day 2009. That will be my first day of freedom from academia.

I intend on sleeping in.

*provided I pass.