“Pay attention to what you are drawn to. Make moves long before school ends to find out about what opportunities are out there and what the gap is for you to secure such opportunities.”
We meet our alumni Aaron Lewis and catch up on his progress since finishing the MSPI program.
Hi! Who are you?
My name is Aaron Lewis. I’m from Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada; which is on Canada’s east coast. I currently live in Moncton, New Brunswick – a small bilingual city close to PEI.
I’m currently the Product Manager at alongside.com, a software-as-a-service company with a mission to help employers and applicants better discover each other. We were three people when I joined three years ago. We’re now 13 and we’ll be growing soon again. The journey from where we were as a company when we started to where we are today has been an incredible ride.
My partner is Amanda Hachey, who also went to BTH. She graduated from MSLS program in 2010. When I returned to Canada, both from the same area and both being alumni from BTH we wanted to connect. We met and the rest is history! Choosing BTH has brought me many great fortunes but Amanda is by far the treasure the cherish the most. We’re getting married this summer!
When did you attend the MSPI program at BTH?
I started in the fall of 2010 and I said goodbye to Karlskrona and the many friends I made there in the summer of 2012.
What did you do before the MSPI program?
I studied Computer Science in my undergrad. My first work experience in that field was in a dank basement. I learned a lot from that experience but I was unhealthy and unfulfilled. After that, I wanted to get away from that and tried to do a career change. I was interested in environmental issues but I didn’t know how I could contribute and I struggled to find work. I went back to school for a bit but I more or less went from job to job with some travel mixed between there until I found the MSPI program.
I was immediately very interested when I found the MSPI program. I was struggling to find work, let alone something that I enjoyed or that had impact. The MSPI program offered me to gain employable skills in a profession that would have the impact that I wanted to have on the world.
“The MSPI program does a good job of connecting with industry and trying to understand its needs. Exposing students to a greater variety of industries is key.”
Did the MSPI program deliver on that promise?
It did. It gave me everything that I needed at that time. It didn’t give me full the technical skill set that I was expecting. It did give me many processes and tools though that I use on a daily basis in both personal and professional contexts. It also gave me confidence in myself. It gave me a peer and mentor network that believed in me. And who to this day continue to inspire me. It also got me interested in startups and transportation issues by way of my thesis, which paved the way from BTH to where I am today. I am very grateful for what I gained through the MSPI program.
What was your thesis on?
My thesis with Mark Simmons was on peer-to-peer (P2P) carsharing. We mapped out, analyzed and made recommendations on how companies in the space could improve the user experience. P2P carsharing was very new on the scene in early 2012 so it was really cool to be the first in the world documenting this new industry that was changing transportation systems and opening up doors for new business models. The MSPI staff was tremendously supportive in setting us up with the world’s foremost scholar on carsharing, based out of UC Berkley, as a secondary advisor for our thesis.
What did you do after you finished the MSPI program?
I returned home. Originally, I had the intention of returning to Sweden after a few months. When I arrived home, a couple friends were starting a ridesharing service, Maritime Rideshare. Essentially the same thing as BlaBlaCar in Europe. My friends asked me to join the team. We got some government funding shortly after. The next year and a half of my life were dedicated to making Maritime Rideshare a success.
We weren’t able to make it financially sustainable for ourselves in the end but it was fantastic learning experience. I learned so much in that year and a half about starting a business, coding, design, marketing, accounting and people relations. Maritime Rideshare was acquire by Pop a Ride about a year ago so the service that we started is now part of a ridesharing community that spans coast to coast.
“A lot of the curriculum was centred on “process”. That process has become ingrained in me and has helped me many times over. Everything we do is at some stage within that process, being aware of that context has been very helpful in my thinking.”
How have the skills and experience you gained from the MSPI program helped you in your career?
The MSPI program gave me a full range of skills to start my career. All assignments were done in groups of a whole variety of sizes which made for a fantastic learning experience to work with different personality types and backgrounds in a team environment. Succeeding in business is all about people relations and I owe a lot of credit to the MSPI program for what I learned about myself and other people, in my time there.
A lot of the curriculum was centred on “process”. We were given open ended projects. They were challenging but rewarding. Our team had to collaborate and navigate from ideation to converging on a shortlist of ideas to researching and prototyping and for some assignments implementing. That process has become ingrained in me and has helped me many times over. Everything we do is at some stage within that process, being aware of that context has been very helpful in my thinking.
The other big thing for me was that we did a lot of presentations, which I didn’t have a lot of experience with previous to MSPI. Public speaking isn’t something that I’m naturally comfortable with so working on that comfort level was really beneficial. I would not have been able to present to a roomful of investors for Maritime Rideshare a year later if not for that experience.
What are some of the memories that you have from your time at BTH and in the MSPI program?
Definitely some of the funnest parties and times I’ve ever had were in Karlskrona. The MSPI and MSLS program just seem to attract year after year of the most wonderful people. Aside from all the laughs we had I was inspired by them to love myself more, to love life more and to give gratitude for life’s gifts by living each more fully.
“Sweden is an amazing country. Soak it up while you can. Or stay!”
Why did you choose MSPI and BTH?
I just had a sense that it would be more applied and less theoretical than other programs I was looking at. I really wanted a program that delivered a solid skill set that would help me be industry-ready.
Which was your favourite courses or sessions in the MSPI program?
The sessions on Design Thinking were great. We did some workshops on biomimicry which were super interesting. We did a project with Dynapac that was really cool. They’re a global road paving construction equipment company headquartered in Karlskrona.
Since our thesis was technically a course, I’d have to say that was probably my favourite course. I loved the flexibility it offered and I just really enjoyed the work we were doing.
“The MSPI program focuses on several major trends that already are and will continue to be for a long time at the forefront of shaping our collective future. Those that understand these trends and their associated toolsets will be the ones who forge this future.”
The key areas for the program is Sustainability/sustainable development, Product-service systems and Innovation. How do you think engineers can benefit from mastering these perspectives?
Engineers can benefit immensely from these concepts. The MSPI program focuses on several major trends that already are and will continue to be for a long time at the forefront of shaping our collective future. Those that understand these trends and their associated toolsets will be the ones who forge this future.
What would you recommend our current and future students to think about while studying and preparing for the real life?
Being able to communicate with others is incredibly important. Take the time to hone this skill.
Pay attention to what you are drawn to. Make moves long before school ends to find out about what opportunities are out there and what the gap is for you to secure such opportunities. Life and cashflow come quick after school. Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s hugely advantageous to reach out to people who work at companies or organizations you are interested in, before you graduate. You’ll find people are more open to talking (and impressed) when you ask before you are looking for (read: in need of) a job. You’ll learn where the opportunities are (and where they aren’t). They’ll also give you direction and tips on your next steps of how to secure the type of job you want.
Sweden is an amazing country. Soak it up while you can. Or stay!
What should we in academia – educating tomorrows engineers and leaders – focus on to be relevant for the real life of industry?
A lot of academia struggles with knowing the needs of industry. Relatively speaking, the MSPI program does a good job of connecting with industry and trying to understand its needs. I still think there’s room for improvement though. Exposing students to a greater variety of industries is key.
“Karlskrona is a beautiful little town with amazing and beautiful people. You will not regret spending one or two years of your life there.”
Is there anything else in particular from the education in MSPI that you would like to highlight?
Karlskrona is a beautiful little town with amazing and beautiful people. You will not regret spending one or two years of your life there.