George Clernon, SDM ’14: Applying Systems Thinking at Analog Devices

George Clernon, SDM '14, mans a booth at Analog Devices' Design Conference 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany.George Clernon, SDM '14 By Kathryn O’Neill, MIT SDM Correspondent
February 20, 2014

A native of Ireland, George Clernon, SDM ’14, began looking for a graduate program several years ago that would combine systems thinking with advanced engineering and a management curriculum—but it wasn’t until after he moved to Boston that he found what he wanted in MIT’s SDM master’s program.

While he considered other U.S. options, his employer ultimately tipped the scales toward SDM. "My director had experience with SDM, and he said the MIT program was much better from a company point of view—it was much more aligned with what we needed to do," said Clernon, whose enrollment is sponsored by Analog Devices.

George Clernon, SDM ’14, mans a booth at Analog Devices’ Design Conference 2013 in Frankfurt, Germany.
Photo by Melanie Huber

Initially, he admits he doubted SDM could live up to its exceptional reputation. "At one of the information sessions someone said they were applying what they learned every day at work," he said. "I was pretty skeptical about that."

Just two months into the program, however, he’s a believer. "I regret my skepticism," said Clernon, who works as an engineering tools manager in Analog Devices’ core markets and marketing division. "There’s an ongoing application of learning as I come back to my day-to-day work."

During SDM’s month-long on-campus "boot camp" in January, for example, he took a class called the Human Side of Technology and learned the importance of putting emotions aside to focus on the problem at hand. "Even in engineering, which is fact-based, people’s personalities come into play," he said, explaining that people tend to become attached to their own ideas. "When you put emotions in the equation, you start making decisions about the emotion rather than about the facts."

Clernon said he is looking forward to gaining additional insights from his spring courses, particularly Technology Strategy, which provides strategic frameworks for managing high-technology businesses. "Analog Devices is No. 1 in analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters and has been for a long time," Clernon said. So, he hopes Technology Strategy will help him answer the question: "How do we develop new technology to be a disruptive force so we can retain our position?"

Currently, Clernon is endeavoring to develop a platform that will provide Analog’s core customers with online engineering tools to support the company’s 10,000-plus products. "We have so many products going to so many customers, there’s a strong need for a more systems-based approach," he said. "SDM is helping me further that solution and move it along at a better pace."

After 16 years with the same company, Clernon said he particularly values the opportunity SDM has given him to work with people from a wide range of industries. "One thing about coming to SDM is that it’s a great way to make yourself uncomfortable—not in a bad way but in a challenging way," he said. "I’m working with different people and organizations and it’s inspiring."

When he’s not studying, working, or taking classes, Clernon said he’s likely to be found playing with his 14-month-old son, Eoin, who loves Legos, and enjoying time with his wife, Cherry, who recently started her own baking business, Cherry With a Cake on Top. How does he manage it all? "I’ve just realized how much free time I had before that I was misusing," he said.

George Clernon, SDM ’14
Photo by Dave Schultz