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Daryl Phua
SDM ‘19
M.Eng. Mechanical Engineering

A native of Singapore, Daryl has spent his career in the public service in a variety of roles including program management, international relations and policy, and logistics management. He learned about the program from a former colleague who is an SDM alum and was excited by the opportunity to build both technical and management skills sets in a single program. 

Daryl was attracted to SDM’s diverse cohort and the many opportunities for networking with other experienced working professionals from different industries. 

Have your plans/goals for your career changed while you’ve been in the program?

Being in the SDM program and part of the broader MIT community has opened my eyes. There are so many things going on here, some I knew a bit about before coming here, and a lot more which I discovered here. For example, there’s a vibrant entrepreneurship community here and I’ve found it very inspiring to learn from some of these entrepreneurs. 

At this point, I’m really enjoying the experience here – both the people and the curriculum. I’m excited to see how the skills picked up here as well as the connections made will make a difference after graduation. 

How do you plan to use systems thinking in your future career?

When I first heard about systems thinking, I thought it was in the context of the architecture and engineering of technical systems, which I had some experience in my career. What I’ve learned at SDM is that almost anything out there can be considered a system and that systems thinking can be applied to anything that has related entities, which may range from organizational structures to complex socio-technical systems. I see systems thinking as an interdisciplinary management philosophy that can be applied to many different industries, both in the public and private sector. 

What would you tell a colleague who was considering whether to pursue a graduate degree? Why should people come to SDM instead of getting an MBA?

I would ask that colleague to consider what they wish to achieve in graduate school. Recent news reports show that MBA admissions are in decline, and I think for good reason. In today’s digital economy, technical skills are as important as business aptitude. 

SDM sits at the intersection of the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, so you get access to courses and faculty on both sides and a wide variety of activities. I couldn’t recommend a better program at MIT, especially if you’re looking to push yourself for the next phase of your career. With a mature and diverse cohort with 10 years of working experience on average, there are many opportunities to learn about different industries from fellow classmates’ experiences. If you like a challenge and are open to taking the path less trodden, definitely consider SDM. It probably won’t be easy, but I believe the lessons learned and the bonds forged will make this journey worth it.