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The Stanford AIM Certificate in Product Creation and Innovative Manufacturing

The Cisco Story

Relevant Education for a Changing Field

Manufacturing in the United States has broken from traditional twentieth century parameters—in the kinds of products and the process of manufacturing itself. The Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing (AIM) at Stanford University collaborates with industry partners to offer educational opportunities that will help tomorrow’s leaders to understand these changes and to define and drive the future. 

Stanford University’s graduate academic certificate, Product Creation and Innovative Manufacturing, delivers cross-discipline components to update and broaden professionals’ manufacturing knowledge.  Sponsored by AIM, the four-course program is offered online or on-campus through the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD). It combines targeted graduate engineering and business courses to give expertise in three crucial aspects of manufacturing: Methods and Processes, Management and Strategy, and Economic Modeling and Finance.

Company Perspective: Cisco Systems, Inc.

Cisco Systems, Inc. - worldwide leader in networking for the Internet, aggressively supports ongoing training and continual career growth. The company’s membership in AIM is an integral part of that commitment, according to Edward Erickson, Sr. Manager of Global Transformation and Supply Chain Architecture for Cisco.  Erickson also chairs AIM’s Advisory Board.  “From my perspective the certificate program is an important element of the whole AIM affiliation,” he says.  “Cisco places a special value on our AIM fellows; high potential employees are selected by senior management as people we want to invest in. It’s been a way for employees to update their knowledge, allowing some to actually change careers— it is an important element to their development.”

Erickson and three Cisco Systems employees who completed the program discuss their experiences and the broader benefits of the AIM certificate program.

Doorway to Career Change

Anne-Sophie Seigneurbieux, Demand Planning Manager, changed careers through a class project. “When I started the certificate I was a software engineer, but I had always wanted to move to manufacturing,” she says. “I had a master’s in EE, but no manufacturing background. The thought of committing to another master’s program was overwhelming.  It was motivating to know that after only four classes you get a certificate of achievement —there was a clear objective and an end in sight.  When I actually started the AIM certificate, though, and had to do a class project, I knew no one in manufacturing.”

Seigneurbieux approached the Director of Manufacturing during her second course, MS&E 264 Manufacturing Systems Design, and told her that she was willing to work in the evenings and that she wanted a project within the company. She was sent to Erickson, who worked with her during the course.  “Then he hired me for a program manager in his group,” Seigneurbieux says.  “The certificate literally helped me to change my career.”

Seigneurbieux says that the broad-based curriculum provides a solid base of knowledge in all three areas of manufacturing, which could help others make a similar move.  “Engineering and manufacturing are not really far apart.  It was not so hard to move from world to the other.”

Industry-Relevant Courses

Erickson points out that Seigneurbieux’s experience completing a company-based project is not isolated. “I’ve sponsored twelve projects and we get very good alignment with the professors,” he says.  “In particular I’ve found the modeling work with students for Professor Ehrun’s Manufacturing Systems Design course particularly useful.”

Most courses draw from case studies or incorporate both theory and application.  Seigneurbieux says that once she transferred to Erickson’s group, she was able to use material from other courses. “MS&E 261 Inventory Control and Production Systems with Dr. Hausman was excellent; I finally understood the theory behind the numbers that I used every day.”

Mike Ruddick, a manager in Manufacturing Test Development Engineering, learned to think about the product development process differently, and to appreciate the science behind process.  “Professor Carlson’s MS&E266 Management of New Product Development was well-designed, with industry-slanted case studies,” he says. “It highlighted for me where I understood cross-functional new product issues and where I did not. Most importantly, Professor Carlson's class gave me the vocabulary to more clearly identify my strengths and weaknesses.”

 “Professor Savage’s MS&E207 Interactive Management Science opened me up differently” Ruddick continues. “While I had a good sense of what the applied statistics could tell me, he fleshed out some of the science behind it without being overwhelmingly mathematical.  I could better understand a statistics-driven problem after this course.”

Filling in the Gaps, Deepening Knowledge

Unlike Seigneurbieux, Ruddick had years of experience in manufacturing, but lacked a management background.  “This whole idea of teaching management from the manufacturing viewpoint really has something to it,” he says.  “Many of us at Cisco have moved through the ranks because of functional leadership abilities, not because of any management training.  The program helped me build my toolkit to more effectively manage, as well as to more clearly communicate upwards.” Stanford’s Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) courses offer a “management analysis” focus that is useful to managers like Ruddick, allowing them to make crucial links between functional leadership and broader management processes.

Future Leadership

Nick Rustad, a program manager, offers a different perspective.  Having completed a Stanford master’s degree program in manufacturing systems engineering, he needed only one course to complete the AIM certificate. “It gave me the opportunity to take a new class and get an academic refresher, while filling a void in my past curriculum, MS&E260 Analysis of Production and Operating Systems which involved applications of linear programming to optimize processes and design.”

Rustad already had a strong undergraduate background in manufacturing, but says that Stanford took his knowledge to a higher academic level.  “I had to find my own answers at Stanford. The professors lay out the instructional concepts step by step, but you need to link the fundamentals in a practical manner to solve problems independently.  I found it  a fantastic learning experience.”

He believes that the certificate program is also a good fit for future manufacturing needs. As companies like Cisco increasingly outsource their manufacturing, they will need engineers with new skill sets.  Rustad says, “We will to a lesser degree require production engineers who would traditionally work on the manufacturing floor,  but will to a greater degree need systems engineers with strong communication skillswho can analyze  and optimize manufacturing  systems and manage outsourced supply chains.  By requiring a course from each of the specific key categories, the certificate represents a well-balanced curriculum and academic foundation, which  can be tailored to the person’s particular niche or interests that can pay off down the road.”

For more information on The AIM Certificate in Product Creation and Innovative Manufacturing visit  To enroll for courses through SCPD, visit 


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