The Winding Path of a Lifelong Learner

Written by: Jeff Maloney, MIT SCM Blended Master Candidate

There are people who love school and would look forward to each Monday morning with excitement. Then there are people for whom the mention of the word “school” fills them with anxiety and memories of long suffering afternoons watching the clock. I was one of the ones who counted down the minutes until I was set free. So, what would have compelled me to return to school after so many years and so many memories of restless afternoons? It is the same personality trait that has shaped so many decisions in my life and has had a profound impact on my career path. Despite my lack of affection for school, I have always been insatiably curious, and compelled to understand the world around me. I love to study the fundamental interactions around me and gain perspective on how small reactions can lead to large changes. And for those who love knowledge there is no better place to be than MIT.

As you might expect from someone who loves to learn but didn’t love school, my path to MIT was far from linear. From a studying biochemistry in undergrad, to working in combustion engineering, to finally landing upon supply chain, my work experience appears as a seemingly disconnected series of careers. The result of incongruous life choices and random happenstance, I now find myself surrounded by those who, like me, were driven to learn. However, if you look at my past from the perspective of a lifelong student, it starts to make a little more sense. A constant throughout my journey has been the pursuit of understanding. For each new role I found myself in, I would immediately be looking for a solution to the business challenges. And through learning about and solving these business puzzles, seek a greater understanding of the environment around me.

When I came across an opportunity to work in supply chain, it was a natural match for someone who is looking to challenge their understanding and learn more about the world of business. As someone with no prior experience in supply chain, I had a lot to learn, but was told that the key to success in supply chain was being a good problem solver. It quickly became apparent that successful practitioners of supply chain are continuously learning. With complex systems to coordinate, stakeholder relationships to manage, and new technologies and software to master, there are endless opportunities for personal growth and intellectual development. Supply chain careers tend to attract the type of person who seeks both insight into how a system operates and understanding of what it takes to implement that knowledge.

If I considered myself fortunate that I found a career in supply chain, when I learned of the online supply chain management program through MITx, it was divine intervention. Before me was an irresistible opportunity: learn more about supply chain as taught by the number one program in the world and the possibility that if you perform well enough, you might be invited to campus to study with other like-minded learners. The blended online/on-campus program seemed purpose built to cater to life-long students like me. The opportunity to study on my own time and at my own speed ensured that I would never be watching the clock. As so often is the case, the further down the path I went, the more I realized that I didn’t understand, which only stoked my curiosity more.

I know that when this program ends, it will not be the end of my education. The questions raised in classes and through discussions with other students here cannot be answered in semesters or even years. The pandora’s box that I’ve opened by coming to MIT will have me pursuing understanding for the rest of my life. Now as I sit here, surrounded by other people who have the same innate curiosity and made the same decision to ask the questions and seek the answers, thought it may not have seemed like it at the time, I’ve been on the right path all along.

Jeffrey C. Maloney
SCMb 2019

3 thoughts on “The Winding Path of a Lifelong Learner

  1. Awesome write-up Jeff! It is indeed amazing to be in the company of so many people driven by the pure pleasure of consuming knowledge just because it happens to be there 🙂

    1. Jeff, I loved reading your prose and the message in it. Curiosity is the starting point of innovation, what a great reason to be at MIT. I am proud to sharing a part of our journeys. Well done.

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