Making it: Taylor Adler '14

Whenever you pull out your iPhone and marvel at how intuitive the design, at how functional the engineering, you can tip your hat (at least in part) to Taylor Adler, an Engineering Product Manager for Apple. Taylor, in turn, tips his hat to what he terms his 'many failures.' When Taylor—historically, a straight-A student who went above and beyond in all of his endeavors—failed physics during his first year at MIT, he felt a bit adrift and struggled to find the right course of study. Within the first few years at MIT, he left the mechanical engineering program in favor of computer science, tried his hand at electrical engineering, and switched to business. While he really liked the business program, he felt like he could learn business at any school and Taylor wanted to take advantage of being at MIT. So, it was back to computer science.

At some point during his search for the right major, Taylor started to doubt that he was smart enough to be at MIT, and he says that he fell back on a skill that he learned at Sun Valley Community School: “Go talk to your teachers.” Taylor knocked on his professor’s office door and shared his doubts and his fears. His professor said, “I don’t subscribe to that form of thought. Everything is a skill and can be improved with time and practice.” No, he said to Taylor, it’s not as easy as simply giving up.

So, after that talk, Taylor decided that if he couldn’t be the smartest student, then he’d be the hardest-working student. He committed himself to the computer science degree, but brought with that commitment the understanding that he’s more of a “jack of all trades” than a specialist. His time in the business department inspired him to start looking at his studies through an economic lens. And fortunately, MIT’s programming caught up with his eclectic studies when they began to offer a new major. Taylor says, “I was afraid I’d graduate a year late, but this new major emerged that combined all my skill sets (and my wayward course selection up until that point).” The new major? Computer Science, Economics, and Data Science. Taylor graduated on time and found his way to Apple, where he’s been putting that MIT education to work for him. But he’s also constantly using the skills and lessons he learned at Sun Valley Community School, including lessons he learned on the Outdoor Program trips—“I constantly put myself in uncomfortable positions so that I can always be growing.”