Infinite Careers is a new collaboration between Career Services (CAPD) and the MIT Alumni Association to explore career paths and the non-linearity of career decision making. Read profiles of alumni with unique career paths, hear their stories and network at a series of talks.
Adriana is a MIT Math and Computer Science alumna. After witnessing multiple coworkers struggle after returning from maternity leave, Adriana knew she wanted to design products to help new moms.
She got her Masters in Integrated Product Design from the University of Pennsylvania, where she began working on the Lilu Massage Bra.
Adriana is from Mexico City, a devout pescatarian, an avid bicycle commuter, and sort-of-speaker of four languages.
What influenced your choice of undergraduate major? How has it shaped your career choices and professional ability?
Growing up I thought I'd become an architect, an archaeologist, a writer, a psychologist - I really liked many fields. Then I came to MIT thinking I'd be course 9. I briefly considered course 8, and course 6 was top on the list too, but I chose 18C (Mathematics with Computer Science) because I felt that Math is the foundation for many things, even for art and architecture, and I just really like it! It has allowed me to stay in the tech sector and do tinkering in hardware, software, electronics, etc.
What influenced your choice of graduate program/programs? How has it/have they shaped your career choices and professional ability?
I did product design for my masters because I wanted to complement my software knowledge with hands-on work with physical products. It combines so many of the things I love - design, art, programming, UX, etc. I think a lot of people don't necessarily see the connection between product design and math with C.S. but for me they truly seem complementary; I see building a program or solving a C.S. problem very much like thinking how to design and build a product.
What do you wish you'd done differently or more of while you were at MIT?
I'd take more classes just for fun - one of my favorite ones was Introduction to world music, can't recommend it enough! For homework I'd have to go to concerts! Or another one was to take an acting class - I hated myself during the class but now that I have to do a lot of public speaking, I often think back to that class and how it helped me get comfortable being really uncomfortable. Also, I’d sleep and exercise more! It was Prof. Winston from A.I. class that first made me realize how important sleep was, but that didn’t happen until junior year! I really can't imagine how much damage I did to my mind and body from sleep deprivation, and I really hope that is something that changes in generations to come.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
Meeting so many fantastic people throughout my career and being able to travel around the world (starting of course with moving to MIT from Mexico, working in Germany for 2 summers with MISTI, and now with my current company travelling to Asia to look for manufacturers). MIT really opened lots of doors and continues to do so.
What motivates you to do the work that you do?
I love technology and want to use my skills and time to build things that bring joy to people or that make their lives easier.
Making decisions, especially important-feeling career decisions, is really challenging. What strategies have you used to make career decisions?
My parents always told me that it's completely valid and ok to say "I made a mistake, or I changed my mind" and to change course of action. Unless it's like having kids or something that affects someone else's life in a deep way, I try to make the best decision I can, with the constraints and information I have at the time understanding that even if a decision is not perfect or optimal, it's always better to make a decision than none and stall!
What professional development experiences or opportunities shaped your early career?
MISTI and traveling abroad was amazing. I think being exposed to different cultures and work ethics is really valuable and freeing.
What career advice to you have for current MIT students?
Get out of your comfort zone - and if you're thinking of starting a business do it while at school.
What does "work-life balance" mean to you, and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance?
Prioritize the things that you care about - there's always going to be work and things to learn, and things waiting for you to get done. But I've seen friends burn out and it’s turned me into a big believer in self care and prioritizing yourself before you can do and help others. So for me, a big part of it is giving myself time off work at least once a week, (I'd even do that at MIT), spending time with friends, and making exercise part of my daily schedule - I even have it on my calendar and will avoid scheduling meetings or signing up for things that will disrupt that time. Think about what's important for you- what replenishes your energy levels - and treat it like you'd treat an important class or job!
What do you like to do outside of work for fun/relaxation/inspiration?
I like exercising; it helps me build a routine, while also a good outlet for stress. In particular I enjoy long runs and rides - they help me clear my mind, and I like that at the beginning, it may feel like wow how will I run 12 miles today - but you just break it up in chunks and get it done.
Surprise! Richard Branson called and gave you $10 million to start a business. What's your heart telling you to do?
Pour it into Lilu, my current company were we build technology to empower new moms- for expanding the team, new products, growing our sales channels, and global expansion!