The Kick Off for The new Stevens Master’s of Engineering in Technical Leadership (METL) was in Washington, DC on September 2011, with 12 outstanding industry and government participants from Lockheed Martin, Verizon, General Dynamics, Kongsberg Protech (Norway) and NASA.  Three weekends have been completed to date.

The first weekend of Technical Leadership truly represented the best of Stevens.  The orientation night featured the METL faculty representing three schools (Debra Facktor Lepore, Val Gavito, Mike Pennotti, Peter Dominick, Ann Murphy, Bill Guth) plus two Deans (Dinesh Verma and Lisa Dolling).  The first weekend kicked off the first Systems Lens course, “What to Build and Why” (LSYS625), and the first thread, “Personal Effectiveness as a Leader” (MGT 810), and included significant contributions from John Boardman (SSE), John Nastasi (SES), and Jeff Nickerson (HSTM).  One participant said, "Stevens truly deserves the designation 'Innovation University!'"  Guest lecturers included Ms. Vicki Cox, FAA Senior Vice President for NextGen and Operations Planning, and Mr. Chris Ferreri, Managing Director at ICAP and a long-time member of the SSE Advisory Board.  The Systems Lens project was kicked off by Bill Robinson.  We can all be proud of the seamlessness of this institute level effort and of the collaboration it is inspiring among us.

Weekend #2 included the METL faculty (Gavito, Robinson, Dominick, Lepore and Pennotti), along with guest presentations by John Boardman (SSE), Peter Koen (HSTM), and Carlos Alomar and Greg Morgan (CAL).  The participants continue to be impressed by the highly diverse and thoroughly professional "One-Stevens Team!"

While the first two weekends convinced the participants that there are outstanding people at Stevens, the third weekend showed them that we also have some amazing friends! 

In addition to contributions from all members of the Stevens team, the program featured Kelly Miller, Deputy CIO of the NSA, Allen Fairbairn, Chief Systems Engineer for the Channel Tunnel Project, Dr. Mike Griffin, former Administrator of NASA, Dr. Rich Roca, Director Emeritus of the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Steve Rottler, Chief Technology Officer for Sandia National Laboratories.  Each of these guests shared their perspectives and passions, and engaged the group in lively dialogue. 

Key themes that emerged from their collective contributions were integrity, decisions and communications.  Perhaps even more importantly, their presence itself provided a valuable lesson in technical leadership.  The guest speakers are sharing an understanding of who they are, what they stand for, what they view as important, and how they conduct themselves.  This will inform and inspire participants in the program long after the details of what they said have faded. 

METL held the first of five Mentor sessions on November 4-5.  Eight of 12 mentors attended the Friday evening dinner with Mike Griffin and seven joined us Saturday morning for a discussion on measuring success for mentoring.  The conversation could have lasted for hours – about personal mentoring experiences, advantages and disadvantages of planned and unplanned mentoring, and how to use the planned mentoring opportunity in METL to benefit the participants and mentors. 

Many shared stories of their own positive mentoring experiences, both as a mentor and as a mentee.  Most agreed that “unplanned” mentoring had the most timely and relevant impact.  Some expressed skepticism about planned programs, such as where a formal mentor relationship could become political within an organization based on who had access to what mentor.  We also debated how to measure mentoring success, with some wondering whether measurements were even possible.

At the end of the discussion, we concluded that while the METL mentor component might best be viewed as a “planned” relationship between participants and their mentors, it still can preserve the flexibility to tailor individual content.  The “planned” aspect is the selection of the mentor, the 20-month timeframe, and the 5 Mentor Engagements (every 4 months or so) scheduled during the program with all participants and mentors.  Individual content may then be tailored based on particular questions, goals, or spontaneous opportunities that arise during the course of the program.

In summary, the METL program is now hitting its stride.  As participants tackle requirements for class preparation, team assignments, and individual projects, participants are coming to grips with what it means to complete a Master's degree in 20 months, while fulfilling the obligations of their demanding full time jobs.  Nevertheless the group continues to be enthusiastic, energetic and engaged and we are seeing more and more why their organizations chose to sponsor each of them for the program.  The Systems Lens will continue through March 2012, followed by the start of the second thread (“Organizational Effectiveness as a Leader”) and the Business Lens.

Many thanks to the Stevens faculty from across the Institute and the staff who are contributing to the success of METL!  We and our sponsors are enjoying this so much that we are already thinking ahead to a second cohort to start in Fall 2012. 

For more information, please contact: 

Debra Lepore

Industry Professor; Program Director, Technical Leadership; Director, Strategic Programs, Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC)

Email: [email protected]