My First Semester at MIT Sloan


By Ryan Pijai

Here is a collection of highlights from the first semester of my full-time MBA program at MIT Sloan!

I’ve organized the highlights into 5 categories:

  • My Ocean
  • My Courses
  • My Core Team
  • Extracurriculars
  • Entrepreneurial Activities

My Ocean:


Our incoming class of approximately 400 MBA students was initially split up into 6 “oceans.” Everyone in the same ocean attends all first semester core classes together. By the end of the semester, you most likely have interacted in some way or another with everyone in your ocean.

I was assigned to the Indian Ocean! This year, our ocean developed a reputation for being low-key, book-wormy, and typically fashionably late to parties. We are also known for having the longest ocean cheer.


My ocean award this year (as voted on by classmates) was “The Most LGO-y Non-LGO.” “LGO” is a 3-year program at MIT for students who are getting both a business and an engineering Master’s degree at MIT at the same time. Even though I am not in the LGO program, I guess I am one of the most engineer-like MBAs this year!

My Courses:

The one-semester core consists of 5 required courses, an optional elective course, and a required introductory course to a track specialization if you are enrolled in one. For my elective I chose Marketing Management, and for my track specialization I chose Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The classes have a nice mix of lectures, activities/simulations, and case studies, and the homework involves readings, case preparations, problem sets, papers, group projects, and presentations.

Although this won’t do the classes justice, I’ve come up with Key Takeaways in Four Words Or Less for each of the 7 classes I took this semester. In no particular order, here they are:

  • Economic Analysis for Business Decisions: “Think on the Margin”
  • Financial Accounting: Numbers Are Subjective Judgments”
  • Data, Models, and Decisions: Master Excel & Solver”
  • Organizational Processes: Analyze Using 3 Lenses”
  • Communication for Leaders: Know Your Audience”
  • Marketing Management: “Remember 5C’s & 4P’s”
  • Introduction to Technological Entrepreneurship: “Follow Your Passion”

For MIT Sloan students who want more in-depth wrap-up notes, I’ve created my personal takeaway documents for every class I’ve taken. Send me a message and I’ll be happy to share them!

My Core Team:


Everyone is assigned to a core team. Your core team is who you will spend most of your time with. You take all of your first semester core classes together and work on all group projects and in-class activities with this team.

My team, the Penguins, are amazing. We come from Argentina, Australia, Boston, DC, China, California, and Brazil. We have backgrounds in Marketing, Sales, Finance, Engineering, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability. We are action-oriented, efficient, and always supportive.

From building (upside-down) rafts to PowerPoint decks, from evaluating optimization models to Boston-area restaurants, and from playing board games to negotiation simulations, we’ve been through a lot together. These are the people that helped make my first semester so enjoyable and memorable!



Leading a Panel at the MIT Hacking Arts Conference:


Hacking Arts is a two-day festival designed to highlight and inspire technical innovations in the creative industries: music, performing arts, film/video, gaming, virtual reality, design, fashion, and visual arts.

This year I was on the organizing committee for Hacking Arts and responsible for creating a discussion panel for it. Because my background before MIT Sloan was in video game development, I designed a panel around Virtual Reality Storytelling. The panel focused on new techniques and technologies that make storytelling more immersive and interactive. I partnered with an Executive MBA student, who had similar passions, and we brought together a group of incredible panelists. We invited industry leaders from animated film, live-action film, and media to talk about current challenges they face working in this rapidly changing medium and where they see virtual storytelling headed to in the future.


Competing in a Business School Volleyball Tournament at Harvard Business School:


The MIT Sloan Volleyball Club meets to practice every Sunday. We played in an all-day tournament against volleyball teams from other top-tier MBA programs. We beat University of Chicago (Booth) and UPenn (Wharton)’s B Team! We lost to Northwestern and Harvard’s A Team, though, but we put up a good fight.

Composing a Short Piano Song:


I am currently staying in an MIT graduate school dorm. The dorm has 4 pianos, one of which is a beautiful grand piano. Here is a short piece I composed on it:

Entrepreneurial Activities:

Entrepreneurship is everywhere on MIT campus. Here are 5 things I did this semester related to Entrepreneurship:

I pitched a Virtual Reality for Sleep Improvement Startup Idea in my communications class.

“SleepVR is a new startup that develops virtual reality and augmented reality content that is clinically proven to help people sleep better and to reduce the risk of sleep disorders. Our mission at SleepVR is to eliminate all sleep disorders and to improve the quality of sleep for every person in the world.”

For my organizational processes class, I led the analysis of an early-stage Boston area startup in the Parking and Data Analytics space and helped them decide on a new organizational structure to use for doubling the size of their company.


I presented a successful video game company I cofounded in 2009 to my entrepreneurship class.


I cofounded an Expert Network startup with 2 fellow MIT Sloanies and we brought in funding and revenue in the first month that we created it! We developed our marketing strategy in my Marketing Management class.


(Since it didn’t line up with my long-term personal passions, I ended up parting ways with the company, but it was still a great experience and my cofounders are still kicking butt growing it.)

I am now starting a new company called StackedTeam. The mission of the company is to use AI and Data Science to help top tier students form killer teams and startup ideas with other classmates.


What’s Next?

It’s been a crazy first semester at MIT Sloan, and a very rewarding one. I’ve met awesome people, worked on exciting projects, learned a lot, and had fun along the way.

Now it’s time for me to gear up for my next semester—only one and a half more years to go! I have many things in the pipeline for 2017. Stay tuned to hear all about it in my next MBA-experience update.

– Ryan Pijai


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