Month Impossible: Day Sixteen

LFM hat

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Seattle for the annual LFM Alumni Conference. LFM stands for Leaders for Manufacturing, which is a program within the Sloan School of Management at MIT.

I graduated in 1997. I attended a few of the conferences after graduation, and although I always had a wonderful experience — great discussion with other alumni, interesting presentations, cool plant tours of nearby partner companies’ facilities — I skipped more than I attended.

But I looked forward to this year’s conference because it would be the 10 year anniversary for my class, and I assumed a lot of my classmates would also attend, and because the conference was scheduled in Seattle, a city I love.

View from the hotel

Seattle was all that I could have hoped. I stayed downtown, just blocks from the Seattle Public Library where the conference would be held and surrounded by fun restaurants and bars and shopping. We had a nifty view from the hotel room. I paid a couple of visits to Vessel, an excellent bar that I’ve mentioned in other posts, and barmaster Jamie Boudreau fixed absolutely delicious cocktails, including one with his homemade pumpkin ale liqueur. Oh my.

But I was disappointed that very few of my forty-four classmates attended. Even among the half dozen or so who live and work in Seattle, only one attended — and he was giving a presentation! Perhaps it’s telling that, of the four of us who were there, three work as consultants and one owns his own manufacturing company, with the result that we all can set our own schedules and don’t need to get a manager’s approval to attend an out-of-town event.

Those of us who were there spent the time catching up, getting advice on various career and life issues, and talking about the issues of the day. It reminded me how much I enjoyed my time in grad school and how much these folks mean to me.

Seattle Public Library

The conference itself was terrific. Standout presentations included a talk by Jeff Wilke, who is one of the top guys at Amazon, about how they handle logistics and new services like same-day delivery in certain cities. That probably sounds dry, but Jeff is an entertaining speaker, and of course I’m eager to learn anything I can about how one of the leading e-commerce companies operates.

Another great talk: A commodities trader told how he got into trading, how that world has changed as the exchanges have switched from open outcry trading on completely silent, electronically managed trading. Great insights into a world about which I know little.

We toured the manufacturing facility of Industrial Revolution, the company my classmate Keith Jackson recently purchased. They make those ice cream maker balls you may have seen, and a bunch of other products. Keith is so excited to be running his own company, which at about 20 employees is a wee bit smaller than the last place he worked — Boeing — and a lot more personally satisfying.

Class of 1997

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I had a great trip. I was reminded how much my grad school program meant to me.

The hat in the drawing — you’d forgotten the drawing from the start of this post, hadn’t you? — is one I wear mostly when out for a jog. I haven’t given it much thought, but my reawakened connection to LFM has made me a little prouder to wear it.

DrawMo update: I caught up one drawing today. It’s kind of ugly, but you can still see it in my Flickr stream. Only behind by five now I think.

NaNoWriMo update: Ouch. So, so far behind there. I’m hoping to meet up with some other NaNo-ers tomorrow to write. Probably staying in tomorrow night too in an effort to catch up.