home > News & Events > Spotlights > Student Spotlight: Kevin McDonough

SDM ’18
B.S. Computer Engineering

Getting a master’s degree has always been something Kevin McDonough intended to do. After jumping into the software world post-undergrad, 12 years passed working in healthcare IT software before the desire really began to take shape.

“I have worked for the same company in various roles, and over that time my responsibilities shifted from pure engineering to working with teams to improve their efficiency,” Kevin says. “At one point I was hiring for a new team in the Boston area, while also looking for interns, and seeing all these 5th-year master’s students in the midst of their thesis made me realize the time was now.”

Based in New England, Kevin was looking for a program flexible enough to do while working full time when he came across the SDM program.

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

Picking just one experience is difficult. One of the aspects of SDM in particular that I like is the breadth of experiences you are exposed to. Being a program that is combined between the engineering school and the Sloan school, encouraging you to branch out in both directions really offers up a lot of different opportunities.

This semester alone I am doing two extracurricular projects that are NASA sponsored projects/competitions for design and development. One is related to a new system for exploring the permanently shadowed regions of the south pole of the moon. The other is an ice drilling competition for water extraction on Mars. Those are just fantastic opportunities, and being part of a space grant school you gain access to a lot of resources and support from the AeroAstro side of things that you wouldn’t otherwise.

On the management school side, this semester I am working with the Boston Red Sox on a sustainability project for the energy efficiency of Fenway Park. Being able to have both of these experiences is something that for me is a real draw to the program.

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

I came in because the program aligned with my current roles, and also tracked well with my trajectory within my organization. However coming here, I realized that the opportunity for entrepreneurship was really strong with the resources and the network available to me. I have an interest in sustainability and cleantech, so I have been exploring that space a lot. 

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

I would like to believe that at some level I was a holistic systems thinker coming into the program, but the SDM program has certainly pushed the boundaries of what being a systems thinker means and it has sharpened and expanded the principles and methods that I keep in mind when I am doing projects. The strength I have found is being able to clearly articulate and find the threads more easily, pulling from any single topic and being able to see a systemic view of how all the components interact, making me a stronger candidate in my future career.

Why should people come to SDM instead of getting an MBA?

If your focus is solely on business and management, an MBA is a reasonable place to go; but if you are interested in the engineering and the technical side of things and you want to be involved in shaping how the product development and engineering processes around the product, and even how the organizational structure itself, is architected and designed, then SDM offers a lot of advantages over a traditional MBA from my experience.