Category Archives: school

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.

My RPI cohort

Receiving the degree from Dr. Jackson

Dad D, Mike D, and Mom D.


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


I am done with classes.


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 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.


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.


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!


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.


I started my new MBA class on Friday. It was actually really awesome. The class is all about starting a new venture and the professor told some amazing stories about businesses that he’s triumphed. The following is paraphrased

Prof: “and if you follow the strategies of this book you can almost assure success because it goes about product development in a more surefire way. There will be times when you can’t think of ideas and are struggling to get off the ground but when you do you’ll succeed. At one point I was unemployed for 14 month and that was a very stressful time. But when I finally got the business off the ground I was earning about $30,000 a month.”

Wait… what?

Unfortunately, as we were leaving class a student asked for the syllabus

“oh, I’m sorry. I’ll have a syllabus for you next time. Just read the book and we’ll talk about it in our next class.”
“how far should we go in the book.”
“no, you misunderstood me. Read the book. Finish it for next class.”

darn it!

Anyway, the countdown is on. It’s been a long time since this post. But I’m finally on the home stretch. I have a notably finite number of classes left at school (both schools), in fact, I think I can change the units from months to days to hours left.


Soon. soon.