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Hannah Slominski
SDM ‘18
B.S. Mechanical Engineering

As a 14-year employee of the Illinois-based John Deere manufacturing company, Hannah Slominski has strong ties to the systems engineering world, working in several different design roles for the company as well as wearing the hats of a system engineer and project manager. 

Having started with the company right after graduating with a mechanical engineering bachelor’s from Purdue, Slominski was interested in both blending and building on her past experiences in management and engineering. Fortunately for her, John Deere values employee professional development and has partnered with SDM to sponsor students in the one-year certificate program.

After completing her certificate in August of 2019, Slominski felt there was more she could gain from the program and converted to the master’s track which she is scheduled to complete this spring.

What’s an experience you’ve had or project you’ve worked on during the program that’s unique to MIT and SDM?

One of the experiences that sticks out most to me is Boot Camp week, especially that very first one. For people who are looking for a program they can do while working fulltime, it can be a detractor to have any sort of required time on campus.  But I am so glad this program has that because that is the week that you get to know everyone and start building relationships. At the end of the day I know I learned just as much from my classmates and the insights they provided from other companies and industries. The goal of the Bootcamps was very apparent; to bring us together so that we could be effective as a cohort and not just a bunch of individuals.

As a distance learner, I was really impressed with the synchronous learning techniques and how they were facilitated. The distance students call in live to the class and are on video. You can see the students sitting in the class, and when they speak the camera goes to them so you can hear them and even from a distance you get to know each student in the class and they get to know you because your face is up on the screen.   

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

My interests have definitely changed. John Deere is really embracing the concepts of systems architecture and systems engineering, and the program confirmed for me my interest in these concepts. One thing that sticks out to me is something Joan [Rubin] says at the beginning which is that SDM is for people who want to be leaders in engineering; so the program for me, someone who has been in the workforce at the same company for almost 15 years, getting a sneak peek at what other industries and leading universities and researchers are saying just reinvigorates the energy and passion around engineering.

What would you tell a colleague who was considering whether to pursue a graduate degree? 

I found out I was pregnant with my first child after I committed to the certificate program. It can be intimidating for parents, especially new moms, to add schoolwork to the family and professional work you are already managing. You question if you can do it and if it is worth it. In my experience, the answer was ‘absolutely.’ I had a great personal support system, but also all the people SDM and MIT rose to the occasion and really became like family in a way. There are lots of students who have families and spouses, offering advice and encouragement. 

When I converted to the master’s, I made that work by moving to campus with my family for a semester, and that was an amazing experience. MIT, in general, treats their grad students really well, and sets up families for success. There is family student housing, resources for spouses, daycare on campus. Moving is never easy, but I feel like MIT really helped make it as easy as it could be.

For those who are not sure if they can commit to the master’s or if they can make a semester on-campus work, I would definitely recommend they look at the certificate program. The SDM Core is very enriching and was my favorite part of the program. It is definitely worth at least starting there with the knowledge that if you do want to convert to the master’s the program is super flexible.