By Christine Miyachi, SDM ’00
April 2, 2002
As I write, it’s 8:45 a.m. on a Monday but I’m not in a traditional office and I’m not wearing a suit. I’m at a desk in a small corner room of my house, in a T-shirt and sweats. I’ve been working since 6 a.m., with a 45-minute break to get my kids ready for school. I’ll work more afterwards; go for a run, shower, and then work until 6:30 when the kids get back from afternoon activities. I’m not exactly a high-flying executive, but I am a highly trained, highly skilled and well-paid SDM graduate and a stay-at-home parent. I love both my work and my work arrangement!
Work and family balance is important to me. As a technical lead/project manager at Xerox before entering SDM, I managed almost 30 people, worked 56 hours a week, traveled, and went to school part-time. Then I would go to my second and most important job — taking care of my three young children with my husband. It was an exhausting whirlwind and I can’t say I enjoyed it because I never stopped long enough to wonder if I did!
I knew that I needed to learn more about the “softer” side of business, however I wanted to study technical subjects too. Lastly, I needed a local program that I could attend part-time – for obvious reasons!
It was then that I learned about SDM, through information that all Xerox employees received about the program. Xerox offered to fully sponsor selected employees, allow time off for studies, and still provide full-time salary and benefits! I was very excited!
Initially, my boss was less than enthusiastic since he knew he would lose my full-time work. Eventually he supported my sponsorship, which was key to my being admitted. Soon after, I learned that Xerox selected me to matriculate in January 2000.
Less than a year later while I was in my first year at SDM, I was laid off when Xerox announced that my local office was closing down. I was very concerned because Xerox only staffs positions in sales and service in the New England region. Although I was offered an opportunity to relocate, I declined because my kids are settled in school and my husband in his career. I tried to focus on my studies while figuring out how I could graduate in one year versus two, look for a job — and of course, take care of my family!
I was offered many opportunities, mostly CTO-type positions. They sounded exciting, but required tough commutes, travel, lots of direct reports, and technical responsibilities. With my young family, I knew it wouldn’t work for me to accept this type of position.
Then, in August, the new VP in my former division at Xerox called to invite me back to the team. He was open to my working remotely, which would give me the flexibility I always wanted to balance work and family, so I said yes.
My new job in software architecture corresponds exactly to the focus in SDM. SDM’s technical offerings have been key to my current work. Classes that were particularly useful were Systems Architecture, Systems Engineering, and Axiomatic Design. For example, I am using Axiomatic Design now to map architecture to requirements. I’m also on a task force to redevelop our systems engineering process in relation to our architecture process.
More importantly, software architecture requires many of the essential soft skills, such as negotiation, leadership, and teamwork, which I was able to develop at MIT. We are incorporating competitive strategy into our architecture analysis. I’m also able to work on business strategy in relation to open source software.
Although my current title at Xerox is categorized as an individual contributor, it actually involves significant leadership. The skills I acquired through SDM have enhanced my value to the company so that even though it is sometimes inconvenient to have me working at a distance, it is worthwhile. (Working with the distance-learning students at MIT has enhanced my ability to work remotely with my teammates at Xerox – an unexpected benefit.)
For the first time in my career, I can be home for my kids in the morning and afternoon. I can also take breaks during the day for school events, stay home with sick children, and not flip out when there is a snow day. Of course, I have to make up work sometimes on weekends and evenings, but at least I can do this now, where before it was essential that I be at the office during set hours.
And what about those CTO positions? Some of them went south with the economic slow down, but I know that one day, when my kids are older, I will pursue that type of opportunity. For now, I am fortunate to be able to balance my personal life with a great job. I owe that to the SDM program.