Forging a Career in Tech: 3 MBA Alumni Share Their Stories

Recently, we welcomed back MBA Alumni Chris Campanella, Brenna Dion, and Kimberlee Bachman for our Spring Careers in Tech Panel.  Representing three different functions and three different company cultures, they were able to lend a lot of wisdom to help guide current students toward the career that is right for them.

Chris, Program Operations Director at Boston Scientific, talked about how he started as a project manager and now leads a lot of large projects, often related to supply chain and technology adoption.  Initially an engineer, then a consultant, Chris came back to business school because he wanted to get into finance but his internship made him realize it wasn’t for him.  He chose Boston Scientific because being in the healthcare industry allows him to have a significant impact on people’s lives and the company has continued to offer him new challenges and opportunities to develop.  Chris urged us to put our emphasis on having a general direction as opposed to a specific plan to make sure we were open to the opportunities that present themselves around us.

Brenna, Community Operations Manager at Uber, spends her days wrestling with the question of how to scale the business.  Managing service support for the East Coast she is constantly working on ways to make the support system more effective.  A JD/MBA, Brenna realized that her passion was more for business than for law and she liked operations because of the emphasis on how to do things better.  She has always liked the tech industry but wanted a physical component as well.  The fact that Uber is powered by great tech but is also moving real people and things is one of the main reasons she was attracted to the opportunity.

Kimberlee, Senior Product Marketing Manager at RSA, spends most of her time thinking about identity and access management and how to tell the product story.  She spends her time pricing, crafting messaging for sales to use, going to and organizing conferences, and meeting with customers.  An alum of TechTrek West, Kimberlee was inspired by the trip and set her sights on a marketing role in the Tech Industry.  The cross-functional nature of her role and the strong BC presence at RSA made the job and the company a great fit.

CareersPanel

Key Skills

While the three have vastly different roles, there are a few key skills that they each identified as critical.  Problem Solving, Communication, Adaptability, Relationship Building, and the ability to stay calm.  Brenna mentioned the challenges of managing and incentivizing remote employees and the need to be constantly seeking new and innovative solutions.  Kimberlee seconded problem solving as a skill, talking about the need to develop meaningful frameworks and referring lovingly to her MBA as a degree in decision making.  Kimberlee also emphasize the importance of good communication and delivering information in the way that people want to receive it.  She credited Bob Radin’s class and the DISC training as having had a major impact on her ability to communicate effectively.  Brenna was in agreement, adding the importance of anticipating people’s questions or issues and addressing them before they are asked.  No surprise in the Tech Industry, all three talked about the need to be adaptable and take a positive attitude towards change.  Chris mentioned that Boston Scientific, like most companies, is moving to be more agile and people who can embrace this are the ones that will be most successful.  The three also rallied strongly around the idea of relationship building and earning influence.  Kimberlee and Chris both talked about the importance of grabbing lunch or coffee early and often, when you do not need anything so that you can develop strong ties and influence that will allow you to be effective within the company.  They also pointed out that you should keep networking outside of your company as well to stay abreast and relevant in your industry.  Finally, Brenna emphasized the importance of being able to stay calm.  She likened Uber employees to ducks on a pond, from the surface everyone appears calm but its totally nuts underwater.  Keeping calms helps in being able to maneuver through ambiguity to find a good path forward.

Company Culture

While they may have agreed on skills, the culture at the three companies is very different.  Kimberlee shared that RSA has an interesting culture because it is a smaller, division in a big company (EMC).  It is fast-moving but also has some of the perks, advantages, and occasional drawbacks of a large enterprise.  Collaborative in nature, the company is full of BC people who seem to thrive in that environment.  In contrast, still a new company and experiencing rocket ship growth, in many ways Brenna says that Uber is still creating its culture.  Quadrupling in size in the last year, the culture is a hodgepodge of the different experiences of its employees.  On thing that has been constant, however, is the creed that the CEO reminds employees of every few months, “You need to step on toes to be successful at Uber.”  Every decision is data-driven and the best idea wins.  The company is full of extremely passionate and devoted people who live and breathe Uber, often working long hours to address the constantly changing needs.  “You probably won’t be the only person in the office at 9pm,” Brenna offered, “…or midnight.  I can see the light though, because everything I am doing is to make my job easier.”  Unlike Uber, Chris told us that you probably won’t be working until 9pm at Boston Scientific.  A bigger company with a strong emphasis on quality, decisions take longer and tend to get more siloed.  The company is not the right fit for people who want quick, reactive decisions, but it does offer a great work-life balance and lots of opportunities backed by great resources.  It is a culture that has changed a lot as the management changes, Chris alone has seen four CEOs, and he encouraged us to remember that big changes in management, funding, IPOs, etc. change a company’s culture so we should look at where a company is in its life cycle and try to anticipate what might change.

Takeaways from their time at BC

All three panelists have different responsibilities, company cultures, and career paths, but one thing they share is an appreciation for their BC MBAs.  Each credited their time in the Heights for helping prepare them for their current success.  So what was the single most valuable thing each took away from their time here?  For Chris it was the Team Projects and the Business Plan competition that taught him to work effectively with peers and separated him from coworkers with prestigious MBAs from other schools.  For Brenna, it was the people and friends “by far” as well as the opportunity to test and confirm her skill set and find the right fit.  Finally, for Kimberlee it was the BC Network, the relationships she made both with her classmates, and with alumni that helped her find a job and have continued to be a resource for mentorship, engagement, and even giving back.

A huge thanks to Chris, Brenna, and Kimberlee for sharing their insights with our club and continuing the longstanding BC tradition of giving back!

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