MIT TechX: A Dude’s Journey Thus Far.
Extracurriculars here at MIT are very optional, but they can be infinitely meaningful. They are not something that will make or break your career as an engineer, but it has the ability to shape and define your MIT undergraduate experience. I was a clueless freshman when I first joined MIT TechX, a student organization that seeks to bring tech culture here on campus in order to empower MIT students. We organize and run HackMIT, MakeMIT, xFair, ProjX, THINK, and Blueprint among other things.
Looking back, it was one of those inconsequential decision in your life that ends up being one of the most important, like marriage. When I first joined TechX, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I wanted something to do here at MIT, and be a part of something. What I got out of it was a strong sense of community, and a group of people that shares similar interest and passion for technology and innovation. Without TechX, my MIT experience would be like Han Solo without Chewbacca, and a Jedi without the force.
There are also not many times in your life where you’re given full control of an organization, and the direction it takes. Being the director of TechX is one of those times. This year, I was fortunate enough to find myself as the managing director of TechX, a legacy left behind by MIT students and friends that I look-up to. This post is a mid-year review of my journey as director thus far.
The Vision O.O
THINK is TechX. HackMIT is TechX. xFair is TechX. MakeMIT is TechX. Projx is TechX. All of which are one in the same, and same in the one :).
One thing I wanted to tackle even more this year is creating an united environment for people to get together and work on anything. Over the years, the structure of TechX has evolved from a career fair organizing committee that did just Techfair (now renamed to xFair) to a conglomerate of committees that each run and operate differently. HackMIT runs a hackathon, MakeMIT runs a makeathon, ProjX funds MIT student projects, THINK organizes a high school competition, xFair throws a career fair and etc .
The individual missions and visions for all these initiatives are likely to differ, and thus unity becomes an issue. It is my job then to unite these committees in some form, and to get everyone invested in all of TechX as much as possible. The best way I think to have people invest in a student group like TechX is to build a culture, a mission and a community that student members can be a part of. We have a clear mission but the culture and community can definitely be improved.
I recently read an article about “Engineering Serendipity” , and it resonated with me in regards of what the vision of TechX should be.
Serendipity is defined “as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way”. My vision is for TechX to be a place where random cool shit happens in everything that we do.
These committees should be able to operate on its own, but at the same time there should be fluidity for them to come together for “Serendipity” to happen. I think this has happened to some extent so far. HackMIT is sharing tools with MakeMIT on software projects to make the event run more smoothly. ProjX is getting sponsorship advice from xFair, MakeMIT and HackMIT. As a group, we cleaned up our storage office, and now it is an amazing hangout space where people can come together and work on cool things. I would like to see more and more of that stuff happening as we move deeper into our initiatives this year.
TLDR: Cool shit happens when there is a mission, a community, a culture that people can be a part of.
Crisis Management and Impact |._.| :)
My associate director and I are the last safety net if all hell breaks loose with regards to each initiative. Sometimes random things will pop up that I did not expect, and I will need to solve them in a timely manner. I would say about 49.2412394% of my job so far is dealing with issues that pop up. A loose example is that if a member drops the ball on things, the ball eventually trickles down to me. And I’ll have to deal with the ball, which is fine but I need to make sure the ball never gets to me in the first place.
One thing I’ve come to realize is that part of going against this norm of things popping up is not to be reactionary. I need to constantly think about the potentials, the what ifs, and the unexpected. I needed to instill in myself a sense of forward thinking that I did not necessarily have before. I think I am learning more and more about the idea of forward thinking as the job goes on.
At times, I think I spend more time thinking about TechX than some of my actual classes, which is probably not the best thing in the world but it is a good escape from the typical MIT grind. I find it worthwhile because of the impact it has on the MIT community and the members of TechX. One of my personal goals in life is to dramatically change 10–20 people’s lives for the better, and TechX is something that is somewhat in line with this goal. I wouldn’t say we are some messiah that is going around creating miracles, but I would argue that we are creating a positive impact in the MIT community.
I can also say wholeheartedly that I am very proud of the things that TechX does, and the past directors of TechX should be very proud of as well. Without their involvement in TechX, there wouldn’t be my involvement, and the biggest end goal of any crisis management is keeping that legacy going at all cost so that the MIT students that come after us can get to experience it as well.
TLDR: Shit happens, deal with it | Keep the train running so that more students can get on board and experience the TechX express. Chugachugachuchu.
Self-Development :( , :|, :)
To be completely honest, I am not the most social person. I am introverted, and I am fully comfortable with that. If you met me in high school, you would not think I would be someone that would be in a position of leadership. Your first impression of me would probably be: a fairly dorky guy with a slight Chinese accent, which wouldn’t have been too off. However, college has played a huge role in changing that, and being a part of TechX has allowed a sense of professional and social growth that I think has changed me for the better.
When I took the gig of being the director of TechX, I saw it as an opportunity for self-growth, as selfish as that may sound. I saw it as an opportunity to to learn more about working with people, how to make myself more presentable, and to just run one of the biggest student groups here at MIT. Not everyday do I get a chance to try a lot, fail a lot, and learn a lot (as cheesy as that may sound).
One of the most valuable parts of the job so far is working with people constantly, and I’ve come to realize that is something that I can enjoy a lot. My favorite thing thus far was making an effort at the annual TechX retreat to learn everyone’s names and get to know the new members better. I also let them know that if they need anything here at MIT, they can reach out to me. In the end, putting myself out there has allowed me to learn that being social is really just caring about the people you engage with. Obviously, social growth is not the only thing that I’ve gotten out of TechX. It is just something that illustrates TechX being a catalysts for my self-development.
TLDR: Best way to become better is force yourself into situations you’re not necessarily comfortable with.
TLDR DISCLAIMER: I am not socially inept, I am just introverted.
MIT IHTFP OTL
One of the biggest thing I did when I first arrived at MIT is look for a community, and I cannot stress how important that is after going through 2 ½ year of the place that I have come to love (after a gigantic octopus amount of struggles of course). When things get hard, it is the people you know here at MIT that will help you through those hard times. At MIT, We’re busy people, and a student group might take a lot of time but if you can find the right one, it is really really really worth it.
We find community in many ways here at MIT: sports team, fraternity and sorority, your living group, your research group, your student group, group groups. I found a community in TechX among other ones. If you haven’t found your community here at MIT, keep looking, don’t stop.
TLDR: Find your community here at MIT. Anything really. Join TechX if you want ;).
Special shoutout to Rachel Wang and Richard Ni, past directors of TechX, as well as Jennifer Yu for being the grounded associated director that you are.