MIT Circles

Please fill out this 5-minute form by Tuesday, September 29th if you're interested in joining an MIT Circle.

Invitation to Apply

Dear MITCNC members:

Our lives are filled with challenges, dilemmas, stresses, and hard-won lessons. If you would like to have a group of trusted MIT Alums to serve as a personal board of directors or brain trust, read on.

MIT Circles are groups of 7-10 NorCal MIT Alums in similar career or life stages who meet regularly to help one another grow professionally and personally. Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Reflect on questions and ideas with a smart and thoughtful group of fellow MIT alums—outside of existing social and professional circles
  • Get unbiased advice on difficult topics from a group focused on providing mutual support
  • Form long-lasting connections with a trusted and respected group of peers

This initiative requires participants to commit to 1-hour, virtual meetups every two weeks over a six-month period (meetup schedules TBD based on participants’ availabilities).


Interested in joining a Circle? Please fill out this 5-minute form by Tuesday, September 29th.

You may also be interested in this invitation as an event, available on our events pages   



Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to a section of the FAQ:
     Members
     Meetings
     Requirements
     Misc
     for Prospective Leads

What is MIT Circles?
  • MIT Circles aims to help us navigate our careers, professional growth, and personal lives by sharing and receiving advice and perspectives from our very own personal board of directors composed of trusted like-minded peer-friends. Some of the organizers have been / are involved in similar groups and have found it to be rewarding and valuable so we want to offer a similar experience to the MIT alumni audience.
  • MIT Circles is based on concepts like True North Groups and YPO. Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic who grew the company from $1B to $60B and pioneered the concept of True North Groups, has said that his True North Group has helped him to “become more self-aware and open [and] take risks with significant challenges.”
  • Many successful individuals have found participation in similar groups to be some of the most impactful and rewarding experiences of their lives.
Why should I join?

MIT Circles will provide you with the opportunity to:

  • Reflect on questions and ideas with a smart and thoughtful group of fellow MIT alums - outside of existing social circles
  • Get unbiased advice on difficult topics from a group focused on providing mutual support
  • Form long-lasting connections with a trusted and respected group of peers with whom you have had meaningful discussions over the course of months



Members

Who will be in my group?

Each group will include 7-10 MIT Alums in similar career and life stages. We will try to diversify each group’s composition where it makes sense.

Are MIT Circles mainly for folks who work in tech?

We intend to make MIT Circles diverse to enable a more interesting experience for everyone. As a part of that, we encourage all kinds of professions and backgrounds to apply.

Who are the Leads and how are they chosen?

Leads will be selected first and foremost based on their willingness to accept the responsibilities and invest the additional time and effort that is needed to be an effective Lead. If you express interest in being a Lead, the program administrators will reach out with more information.




Meetings

What does a typical meeting look like?

During group meetings, participants will take turns sharing a personal or professional experience or challenge, which the other members of the circle will respond to with questions, advice, and their own reflections. The group may also choose a specific theme to focus on and have a participant present on a relevant situation to set up the discussion. We will provide reference content and suggestions to help the group shape the style that works best for its members.

What do people talk about in Circles?

Meeting structure and topics of discussion vary greatly from group to group, but they can include any issues facing us these days, such as:

  • Career management (e.g. planning, progression, pivots, reentering the workplace)
  • Communication (e.g. for different scenarios and audiences, speaking up, conflict resolution, negotiation)
  • Organizational dynamics (e.g. cross-functional navigation, influence, managing up, unconscious bias)
  • People management (e.g. coaching, motivation, hiring, performance management)
  • Professional development (e.g. executive presence, personal brand, imposter syndrome, emotional intelligence)
  • Business challenges (e.g. strategy, decision-making, business acumen)
  • Personal challenges (e.g. work/family balance, burnout, self-care, relationships)
  • Expand network (e.g. connect with other MIT alums)
Where are Circles meetings held? How does the group meet virtually?

Given the current situation, it is recommended that Circles conduct their meetings virtually (e.g., via Zoom or Google Meet). In the future, this may change, as in-person meetings confer significant advantages in terms of immediacy, focus, etc. amongst participants.

How often will my group meet and for how long?
  • Initial meeting: For the first 2-3 sessions, it is recommended that the group meet weekly for one hour each time (or have 1 extended session). This will enable the group members to get to know one another and build the trust foundations to get things going.
  • Ongoing meetings: Thereafter, the group will determine specific meeting dates and times, with the recommendation being bi-weekly meetings of one hour each. Exact timing/dates will be based on the group members' availabilities, but consistent attendance is required. This will enable the group to build deep relationships and drive meaningful discussions.
  • Timeline: Circles groups will run for a trial period of about one six-month, after which each group will decide whether it wants to continue meeting or reshuffle with other groups.
  • Maintaining continuity: Canceling a meeting can and most probably will have a negative effect on the members’ ability to reconnect. In general, it is advised to go through with a planned meeting as long as at least 50% of the group is present.
What happens if I miss a session?

Consistent attendance is expected of all MIT Circles participants in order to maximize the value for participants. If you need to miss a session, please inform your Circle as soon as possible. Circle Leads will be asked to reach out to participants that miss more than 1 session out of the first few (or tend to be late / leave early) and those participants may be removed from the Circle at the program administrators’ discretion.




Requirements

My schedule is unpredictable so I can’t commit to attending all or most meetings. Can I still join?

Participants are expected to join for all sessions barring extenuating circumstances - this ensures a sense of mutual respect and support. After all, the value of MIT Circles is driven by active engagement and participation, so showing up consistently is a key to success.

Are there specific norms that participants are expected to respect?

Yes, participants are expected to respect a set of norms that include the following:

  • Confidentiality: Avoid sharing any information or observations shared during meetings with non-members, whether colleagues, partners, spouses or friends. This helps to ensure that participants can share openly and honestly and that information is not provided out of context or in a way that might make the sharer uncomfortable about sharing again in the future.
  • Openness: Commit to being as open as possible about personal matters with members of the group, with the understanding that everything will be held in strictest confidence. However, please be respectful about not pushing other participants to share beyond their comfort zone on personally sensitive matters.
  • Trust: Join your Circle with the assumption that its members are worthy of trust. Understand that trust is built through honest, open communications and caring for other members of the group.
  • Full Attention: Commit to practicing active listening and to avoiding interrupting others while they are speaking.
  • Withholding Judgement: Commit to withholding judgement of group members and avoid giving unsolicited advice. Try not to impose your values and beliefs on other members.
  • Feedback: Seek to offer and receive constructive feedback from others in the group on ideas, behavior, leadership traits, and communications styles.
  • Attendance: Make every effort to attend all meetings scheduled for the group, to be on time, and to not leave early unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Does it cost anything?

There is no program participation fee, but participation does require that you are an MIT Club of Northern California member (MITCNC). You can become a member here ($50/year), and becoming a member will provide you with access to numerous other MITCNC events throughout the year as well. 

Who is eligible to participate in the program? What if I've moved away from the Bay Area during the pandemic?

All members of MITCNC who reside, work, or have their life center in NorCal are invited to join. We do prefer MIT Circles to be composed of people that are geographically close to enable future in-person meetings, but this is not a strict requirement (especially given the uncertainty of the current situation).




Misc

What if my career/professional situation changes significantly during the 6 month program? Will I stay in the same circle?

Yes, once Circles are in motion, they will run together until the end of the cohort. Oftentimes, some of the most interesting conversations for Circles arise in the context of inflection points / transitions that participants are making.

How do you decide whether to accept an applicant into the program?

We will admit applicants based on their expressed commitment to the program and our ability to match them with a Circle that matches their interests. The first Circles cohort will have a limited scope because it is a pilot (both due to logistical factors and in order to maximize testing objectives). We cannot guarantee everyone's participation.

What is the timeline?

Milestone

Date

Application survey
submission deadline     

Tuesday, 09/29/2020

Circle formation

Saturday, 10/17/2020

Circles kickoffs

The week beginning Monday 11/2/2020

(specific dates TBD by each Circle)

Circles wrap-up

Saturday, 5/1/2021

I have a conflict of interest/direct competition/prior conflict with someone in my Circle. What should I do?

Please let us know after your first Circle if you fear that background/prior history with someone from your circle will make you feel uncomfortable sharing challenges openly and honestly. The program administrators will make best efforts to address these situations appropriately and on a case-by-case basis.




Prospective Leads

One member of each Circle will be a Circle Lead, an important role that requires additional time and effort but also provides additional meaningful opportunities to enable the success of your Circle.

How will I know what to do?

Circle Leads will receive:

  • Special trainings and coaching from expert facilitators
  • Support from other Leads via regular syncs (in addition to regular Circles meetings) and other channels
  • Suggested session agenda, content templates, and other materials
What’s in it for me? 

Circle Leads will have opportunities to:

  • Create a small community of meaningful personal and professional relationships, both with the group you lead and other Circle leaders
  • Instill communication and facilitation habits that are useful in everyday life  through moderation training and expert support from a professional facilitator
  • Give back by cultivating a learning, inclusive, and connected MIT community
As a Circle Lead, am I strictly a facilitator or do I also get to participate as a Circle member?

Leads are Circle members first and foremost - we expect the experience to be every bit as rewarding for a Lead as for a non-Lead participant (perhaps even more rewarding!). However, Leads do take on additional responsibilities to help ensure that their Circles run smoothly and effectively.

What does leading a group require from me? 
  • Kick-off the group: Schedule the first few sessions.
  • Facilitate the meetings: During meetings, Leads are expected to help the group bond, align on goals/regular schedule/norms, and stay on track. That being said, there are no strict requirements on curriculum to cover and over time we expect facilitation needs to become minimal. Circles operate on a voluntary, collaborative model where everyone is expected to pitch in to support the group’s activities. We will also provide the needed guidance and content to support the Leads.
  • Be the liaison: Be the person in charge for communications with the broader program
What is the timeline?

Below is the same timeline from above with the Lead-specific milestones added in bold.

Milestone

Date

Application survey
submission deadline     

Tuesday, 09/29/2020

Lead selection

Saturday, 10/10/2020

Circle formation

Saturday, 10/17/2020

Lead training

During the week beginning Monday, 10/19/2020
(specific dates TBD)

Circles kickoffs

The week beginning Monday 11/2/2020
(specific dates TBD by each Circle)

Circles wrap-up

Saturday, 5/1/2021

 

What is the typical time commitment for a Lead (outside of meetings)?
  • Training workshop: 2 hours
  • Coordination prior to first few meetings: 30-60 minutes per week
  • Additional intermediate Leads meetings: Optional check-ins with other Circle leads
When will I know who is in my group?

Once we confirm your ability to lead a group, we will share with you the details of your group to ensure its composition makes sense to you.

Can you reshuffle the people in my group?

The program administrators will make every effort to create MIT Circles that will have the potential for positive group dynamics, so we will not reshuffle people unless there is a very good reason to do so. Please reach out to us if you think there is a very good reason to reshuffle the group and we can discuss.

Can I add a new member to my group?

To maintain fairness, please do not unilaterally add people to your MIT Circle. If you have questions about this, please contact the program administrators.

Someone in my group has missed the first two meetings. What should I do?

Please reach out to the person and ask them to provide some context and request a firm commitment that they will attend future meetings. If they continue to fail in meeting the attendance expectations, please let the program administrators know and we will let them know that they will be removed from the group to preserve the group norms and improve group dynamics.