The Coolest Job At MIT Is Now Accepting Applications

You’ve likely heard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You may have even heard of the Media Lab. If not, here’s a quick summary:

The Media Lab is a place where the future is lived, not imagined. Our domain is applying unorthodox research approaches for envisioning the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life—technologies that promise to fundamentally transform our most basic notions of human capabilities. Unconstrained by traditional disciplines, Lab designers, engineers, artists, and scientists work atelier-style, conducting more than 350 projects that range from neuroengineering, to how children learn, to a stackable, electric car for tomorrow’s city. Lab researchers foster a unique culture of learning by doing, developing technologies that empower people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all societies, to design and invent new possibilities for themselves and their communities.

The Lab is supported by more than 60 sponsors, including some of the world’s leading corporations. These sponsors provide the majority of the Lab’s approximately $25-million annual budget. Businesses represented range from electronics to entertainment, furniture to finance, and greeting cards to telecommunications.

In the recent years, the Lab has undertaken several new research initiatives: the Autism & Communication Technology Initiative, which utilizes the unique features of the Media Lab to foster the development of innovative technologies to enhance and accelerate the pace of autism research and therapy; the Center for Future Civic Media, a joint program with MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program, funded through a grant from the Knight Foundation to create technical and social systems for sharing, prioritizing, organizing, and acting on information, and for developing new technologies that support and foster civic media and political action; and the Social Health Living Laboratory, focused on developing a proactive, social health system: a network of organizations and tools to give people the knowledge and support they need to maintain health, vitality, and happiness throughout their entire lives.

Position Summary

The Director is expected to artfully guide the Media Lab through its next decade of innovation and world influence—and inspire a powerful Lab vision made possible by a highly interdisciplinary, exceptionally talented, and creative body of faculty and students. The Director will serve as an effective organizational leader, and be a poised and creative fundraiser for current and future Media Lab programs.

Working closely with the head of the Media Arts and Sciences academic program, the Director will also further develop the Program’s contributions to both undergraduate and graduate education at MIT and will help to mentor junior faculty.

Ideal Experience

The Media Lab is seeking a dynamic and visionary leader of internationally recognized accomplishment with a history of active global engagement in work that encompasses some combination of technology, human interaction, and creative design. The Director should have managed a large, interdisciplinary organization or research program and must be capable of (though not necessarily experienced in) inspiring and leading closely intertwined research and academic programs. The new Director could be an academic, a researcher, or a practitioner, and should possess a body of work that has significantly changed the way people think about and operate in his/her area of expertise. Equally effective in intellectual and industry environments, the candidate should possess exceptional communication skills that are effective both within the Media Lab and externally to the larger MIT community and beyond.

  • Ideally, the candidate will demonstrate strategic as well as operational leadership. He/she will be capable of:
  • Being a model of inspirational leadership, including the ability to articulate a compelling vision and mission for the Lab that will inspire excellence and galvanize support from key constituents.
  • Raising significant financial support for key initiatives from individual, corporate, and/or institutional sources.
  • Effectively building and supporting systems and structures that enable cross-disciplinary activity.
  • Building community and effecting cultural change in a creatively driven Lab.

Critical Competencies for Success

Global advocacy: The Director will serve as the leading public voice for the Media Lab. He/she will do this by:

  • Inspiring and pushing the organization as a whole to broaden its impact on society.
  • Seizing opportunities to showcase the work of the Media Lab’s faculty as world leaders in their fields.
  • Working diligently to build and reinforce the Lab’s reputation nationally and internationally through active participation in media appearances, conferences, seminars, forums, and other speaking activities.

Resource builder: In an increasingly competitive environment for financial resources and human talent, the Director will build support for the Media Lab and ensure that it maintains its place as a premier organization for advancing leading-edge innovation. To do this, he/she will:

  • Actively engage and build relationships with corporations and individuals, and leverage those relationships into Lab support.
  • Be highly strategic in developing and implementing new funding models for the Lab that are mindful of and maintain the organization’s fundamental independence and grounding in highly creative, undirected research.
  • Work to attract top-tier faculty members, students, administrators, and staff to the Media Lab.

Institutional leadership: The Director will lead an organization whose culture is fiercely independent and thrives on autonomy, freedom, and, in many ways, a lack of traditional structure. While respecting and preserving this culture, the Director will be responsible for effective strategic, operational, financial, and academic leadership for an organization comprising more than 350 faculty members, graduate students, undergraduate researchers, and staff. To do this, he/she will:

  • Work with faculty, students, staff, and sponsors to continuously challenge the community to chart a bold path for the Lab’s research and academic agenda and themes.
  • Create a culture of trust and accountability where information sharing, crisp decision-making, teamwork, follow-through, and open communication are rewarded.
  • Reach out to form strong and mutually beneficial relationships with MIT leadership.
  • Actively recruit world-class researchers at the junior faculty level and provide the guidance and resources necessary to forge a successful path toward tenure.
  • Advocate in the tenure cases of faculty members whose interdisciplinary work is nontraditional and unconventional, and be a strong and influential voice in support of faculty members seeking broader visibility or responsibilities within the larger institution.

Other Personal Characteristics

  • Exceptional communication skills—a compelling speaker who can articulate a vision that propels action on the part of his/her audience.
  • Generosity and selflessness of spirit. One who is able to stand back when appropriate and allow others to shine.
  • Action-oriented–both a thinker and a doer.
  • Global perspective.
  • Collaborative and creative.
  • Intellectually vigorous and curious.

A Unique Environment

MIT shieldIn March 2010, the Media Lab continued its tradition of architectural innovation when it officially opened its new building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki.

Located in the heart of the vibrant MIT campus, the six-story, 163,000-square-foot building is adjacent to and carefully integrated into the prior home of the Media Lab, known as the Wiesner Building, designed by MIT alumnus I.M. Pei, also a Pritzker Prize winner. Together, the two landmark buildings create an exceptional environment for research, creativity, and discovery.

The new building features an open, flexible, atelier-style layout designed to support the unique cross-disciplinary research style of the Media Lab and other related academic programs from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Labs and workspaces are arranged around light-filled central atria with spectacular views of the Charles River and the Boston skyline.

The building’s several double-height, glass-enclosed research labs—home to research groups such as Camera Culture, Lifelong Kindergarten, Opera of the Future, and Tangible Media—are vertically offset from one another, making possible long and often surprising vistas through the building—horizontally, vertically, and diagonally—that serve to make the Lab’s work highly visible. This open architecture also enhances the sense of community throughout the building.

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Want to see what the Media Lab looks like? Be sure to see this video showing off the terrific new building for the lab: