Education is supposed to be the foundation of your career. The years that you spend learning in a classroom should set you up for the working world. 

When Matt Kressy graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, he had all of the skills and knowledge to be a great designer, but he had trouble finding a job.

Kressy joined Jon Hirschtick’s Masters of Engineering podcast to explain how he created a new curriculum at MIT to prepare designers, engineers, and business people for more responsible innovation with everything they need to know. 

Kressy’s education was entirely focused on design and left out pragmatic skills like manufacturing and marketing. 

“When I went to art school, we were not taught what engineers do. We were not taught what business does. And as a result, we didn’t really understand our role and our value to those other disciplines,” he said. 

Once he started working with people from different fields, he quickly learned that he needed to be surrounded by people in business and engineering to learn how to turn his sophisticated designs into real products that can change the world. 

To ensure that more designers will learn a wide range of worldly skills from school, Kressy founded MIT’s Integrated Design and Management (IDM) program, a master’s degree program, and the New England Innovation Academy (NEIA) for middle and high school students.

Integrated Design and Management at Any Age

Kressy began teaching in 1999 at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). When he started leading a collaborative course between MIT and RISD students, he realized that the students loved the contribution from the other school. The class sparked the idea of creating a graduate program that focused on innovation with design and management. 

MIT IDM students in the Innovation Design Studio. Courtesy: MIT

With the help of professors from MIT, Kressy founded IDM. The program brings faculty and students with experience in business, engineering, and design together to learn from each other. In small interdisciplinary teams, the students learn about a human-centered design process with good practices and responsible innovation. 

More importantly, the program brings passionate people together to continue their learning.

“Product development is complicated and that’s what I love about it. It’s so complicated that it’s rich and you never stop learning and you never stop discovering,” Kressy said. 

Kressy used the curriculum from IDM and the help of his IDM students to create the New England Innovation Academy (NEIA). The school is open for students as young as age 11 and offers both boarding and day experiences. 

In order to drive success at the NEIA, the school emphasizes the importance of creating a reliable and caring community. Kressy ensures that students feel like they are in a safe environment where they can try new things with no judgment.

“When I say we want you to design a product that doesn’t exist, they have a solid platform to spring off of and fail and they know that everyone in the school is also failing,” he said. “So we don’t make fun of each other and that culture is an amazing thing.” 

To learn more about the NEIA, explore their stories at neiacademy.org. 

More Masters of Engineering

Learn more about Kressy’s biggest takeaways from his product development career and how NEIA offers the greatest environment for learning by listening to the full podcast.

Jon Hirschtick posts a new Masters of Engineering episode every month. Stay tuned for more amazing guest stars by subscribing on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, or any of your favorite podcast-streaming services. 

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