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Read about all the cool things the BC Grad Tech Club is doing!

2014 Annual Report

Dear Grad Techers, Alumni, Friends, and Supporters:

It is with pride that I look back at the past semester for the Grad Tech Club.  In less than four months, we have accomplished a ton, always toward furthering our mission of equipping our members with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the tech industry, raising the overall profile of the BC MBA program within Tech, and getting our members hired!

Toward the first goal of building hands on skills we have had several initiatives.  Each Friday, MBAs led by GradTech VP Kori Kenerson, plug away at CodeAcademy’s Python course for Code & Coffee.  Likewise, on Thursday evenings, the Product Team gets together to ideate, test, and release a real tech product.  We are currently in the proof of concept phase with a few very interesting ideas.  You can check out our progress here and here.  Finally, each month we take on a new Digital Marketing Channel to explore its options.  So far we have tried Facebook and Linkedin and we are currently exploring promoted tweets on Twitter.  In addition to these, GradTech members are gaining html and web development skills from using WordPress and A/B marketing skills from experimenting with Mailchimp.  We will continue these initiatives as we move forward so that BC MBAs won’t just graduate having done case analyses with hypothetical solutions but will also have applied the skills we learn to real tools and real products in the Technology space.

Our biggest initiative to raise the profile of the MBA program in Tech has been our website and social programs.  We do lots of cool things and then we blog, Facebook, and Tweet about them. From a previous best year of just over 200 visitors, we now get hundreds per month and we hope to break 1000 MAUs in 2015. Among our members we enjoy a sky high Net Promoter Score of 75 and we have had alumni express interest in getting involved, companies reach out to partner with us, and prospect students cite our club as one of the main reasons they are interested in BC for an MBA.  All of these are indications that we are pushing forward but the biggest differences will come from placing our people in meaningful Tech jobs and helping out future Eagles.

To that goal, we continue to push forward.  We have attended job fairs and industry events put on by Microsoft, the Boston Product Management Association, and even sponsored the Startup Job Fair.  We have visited the Cambridge offices or Microsoft and Facebook by ourselves and many more including Spotify and Paypal in conjunction with the Undergrad IS Academy through the TechTrek Boston program.  Furthermore, on campus we hosted Alum Arnie Sookram from XBox and four MBA Alumni from Google, LogMeIn, Hubspot, and Wayfair to talk about the different careers and cultures within the Tech space.  Well attended and highly praised, the Careers in Tech Panel has already led to a number of connections and we hope to hold a similar event featuring even more functional areas in the spring.  Finally, we continue to drive alumni to help our cause through our Alumni Central and Hire an Eagle Page.  We already know of some jobs coming out of these initiatives and we hope for many more.

As we move into the spring we will continue to move forward towards the three pillars of our mission.  Off campus we will visit as many industry events, offices, and career fairs as we can, and on campus we will host another Careers in Tech Panel, an event on What Every Manager Needs to Know About IT, a discussion on Women in Tech, and a Digital Marketing Dinner.  We will continue to develop our product and hope to host a rousing Launch Party in April.

I thank you for all your support thus far and look forward to a fantastic 2015!

Sincerely,

David LoVerme

President, BC Grad Tech Club

David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

Better late than never: the first BC Tech Club Ad Experiment Results

So we completed our first BC Tech Club online ad campaign last month. It’s a bit late, but I’d like to share with you the results of our little experiment.  As I detailed in my blog post of one month ago (link) we dipped our collective techy toe in to the digital waters with a series of Facebook ads with a goal of driving traffic to the Hire An Eagle page of the BC Tech Club website. To recap, below are the three ads we ran from October 8th, to November 8th. In total, between all three ads, we received 50 click-throughs to the Hire An Eagle page, and generated 2,144 impressions, as well as a paltry 9 likes to the BC Grad Club FB page as a result of seeing the ad. In other words, while only a handful of people may have visited the website, 2,144 unique pairs of eyeballs saw one of the three ads. Facebook counts impressions not just from our target audience segment, but also from target audience members’ extended web of connections. So when someone in our target segment likes our ad, that like makes the ad visible to all of that person’s friend via the news feed, dependant of course on varying news feed settings.

We thought it would be fun to experiment with Facebook’s A/B testing feature by offering all three ads with the same copy, same target audiences, and testing three different ad images. It was our postulation that the ad with the photo of Gasson Hall would be the most successful of the three. Since we were targeting specifically Boston College alums, it stands to reason that (hopefully) positive memories and associations of would draw them like a magnet to click on that picture.

Alaina1

We discovered however, that we’re terrible at prediction.

The most popular ad by far was the group photo ad, with 22 clicks and 1,734 impressions. It’s impossible to say for sure why this picture piqued the most interest among our target. My best guess is that the photo shows individuals clearly working in a business setting which best matches the subject matter of the ad. The Gasson photo on the other hand, while it might make alumni swell with Eagle pride, does not in any way reference recruitment or business. So the Gasson photo might not stand out amongst the other BC-related FB ads that our alumni audience is probably seeing.

And Now Onto January…

And with these lessons being learned, we’re ready to launch another Digital Marketing Experiment. For the month of January we are going to turn our ordinary ol’ BC Tech Club Twitter account into a PROMOTED Twitter account! The way it works is simple, we set the parameters for the segment of Twitter users that we want to target. These individuals then will see “BC Grad Tech Club” appear under the “Who To Follow” section on their homepage, and our account will show up higher in related searches. The targeting options for promoted accounts are relatively limited, presumably to ensure clients maintain a broad reach. We can segment by targeting twitter-users similar to a specific account’s followers, for example we might want users similar to those who follow @TechCrunch. We can also segment by interest category, and within the Technology & Computing category there are plenty of interests to choose from. And that’s basically it. It’s a very straightforward service to use, and clients are only charged per new follower so we are paying explicitly for desired outcomes, rather than for less meaningful interactions.

Alaina4

The goal here is audience building; we want to enhance discovery of the BC Grad Tech club among those individuals who would be interested in learning about our activities at Boston College, and who might want to hear what we have to say. We want to increase overall engagement with our Twitter account and increase our followers. Every new twitter follower is a new touchpoint for the BC Grad Tech Club, and a new potential networking contact for all our members.

– Alaina Tucker is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the VP of Marketing for the Grad Tech Club

Catching up with the Product Team: Failing Forward

One of the Tech Club’s three goals is to build the key skills that will make our members successful in the Tech sector.  Since many of our members are interested in Product Management and Start-Ups, we decided to start our own Product Team.  The goal?  Go through the entire product development process from identifying pain points to testing hypotheses to prototyping to launching a product.  In our last update, we had arrived at five different hypotheses to address two different pain points.  Since we don’t have the resources to build all of them, we needed to figure out how to test the concepts for user acceptance early on in the game.

The First Concept

Our first concept was a service you could check before leaving the house that would remind you of what you needed to bring with you.  It would adapt to your preferences and to current trends.  This would address the pain points of being unprepared as well as forgetting things when you come home since you could cross-reference the list to see what you brought before leaving your location.  We felt very good about the value and confident that people would be interested but wanted to make sure.

Defining Success

While we were confident that people would see value in a product like this, it would not be enough for them to be interested, we would need them to demonstrate a willingness to take meaningful action.  Ultimately, we determined that users could demonstrate this by adding their emails to the Beta list so they could be the first to try the app when it was ready.  If we could get even a few people to give their emails, we determined, that would be enough of a token of interest to be worth pursuing a minimum viable product.

Testing the Concept

In order to collect email addresses, we built a simple landing page on our website explaining that “ForgetMeNot” is an app currently under development that reminds you of what you need and learns your preferences so you never leave the house unprepared.  It contained an embedded Google form to collect emails.  While we have seen a substantial increase in web traffic, it would not provide enough organic traffic to give us a good indication of interest.  As a result, we ran a $25 Facebook ad campaign to drive young urbanites to our page.  The ad would run for five days.

ForgetMeNot

Interpreting the Results

After a little over 5000 impressions we had a click through rate of 0.55%, representing a cost per click of $0.86.  While this is not up to par for agency ads, the CTR is actually above the average for external site ads, but the CPC is more costly.  Still however, taken alone, these results seemed to suggest that ForgetMeNot had similar appeal to existing and successful applications currently on the market.  There was one more step though, would people take action by adding themselves to the Beta list?  Of the 29 people who clicked our ad, only one took this action.  That represents just 3.5% of our clicks and a miserly .02% of impressions.  Viewed in this light, the foundation for pursuing this idea further simply does not exist.

Failing Forward

While the results were disappointing to a degree, they are also extremely exciting.  For $25 and no development, we were able to get a good handle on user demand and pivot to the next idea without wasting time or money.  With 4 more ideas left to test, we will continue to move fast and fail forward!

 

David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

 

Cyberposium and Why an MBA Matters

Earlier this month, several members of the BC Grad Tech Club attended the 20th Annual Cyberposium, presented by our friends at the HBS Tech Club.  As we have come to expect, the event featured solid speakers and was very well run.  A huge thank you to the HBS Tech Club for a job well done.

For me, the highlight of the event came early in the day during the first keynote which was a tag team effort  by Jenny Fleiss of Rent the Runway and Scott Friend of Bain Capital Ventures.  Many of us visited RTR’s NYC offices last spring as part of TechTrek NYC and I was impressed by how much growth the company has seen in such a short amount of time.  This particular presentation was eye opening because Scott was the VC who met with and funded Jenny and RTR and therefore we had the unique opportunity to hear the story of the company from both the Founder and Investor perspectives.  Among the key take-aways were the concepts of “do it first, scale it second” and using B-School profs as advisors, after all they have to listen to us!  From the VC perspective, Scott said that one of the first things that impressed him was that Jenny and her co-founder stood up when presenting and had already done the legwork to prove the concept.  I note this because good presentation skills and due diligence are key attributes we develop and polish as MBAs.

The marquee keynote for the day was Y-Combinator President Sam Altman.  I am one of the many folks out there following his “How to Start a Startup” course via YouTube so it was particularly neat to see him speak in person.  One of the things Sam noted was that in many ways you actually have to untrain yourself.  He was a particularly interesting speaker because he gives the impression, sometime quite straightforwardly, that he does not think particularly highly of business school and MBAs.  When asked where MBAs can add value to a startup, he suggested once they really hit the acceleration point on the growth curve and need to scale quickly.  Other key take-aways: “If you don’t have an idea, don’t start a company,” and “Startups commit suicide far more often than they are killed.”

sam

While I really enjoyed the event on the whole there were a couple of recurring themes with which I took issue.  To some degree, despite the location there was some advancement of the idea that B-School is a bad investment or toxic to starting a startup.  Obviously, as an MBA myself I have a biased perspective but I firmly believe that an MBA can be an extremely powerful asset, if for no other reason than it requires you to think about a number of different businesses and to go through some serious self-examination for at least two years.  If taken advantage of properly, this can give the time needed to identify an issue, a suffering population, and some hypotheses to address it.  Indeed, a little digging reveals that a full third of Unicorns (Billion dollar companies founded in the last 10 years) have at least on MBA founder, and more than half have an MBA executive.  (http://bostonvcblog.typepad.com/vc/2013/11/unicorns-and-mbas.html)

Another (perhaps more prevalent) theme was that an MBA is only worth it if you go to one of the top 5-10 schools.  Certainly these are over-represented in executive positions, etc. but as I approach the end of my two-year B-School journey I can honestly say that the experiences, skills, and time for reflection has made me a much more effective professional and I would not trade it.  I am working on two different products at the moment (read about one here) and have chatted with CEOs at the likes of Etsy, WePay, ThredUp, Rethink Robotics, and IBM, and other executives at companies like Apple and VMWare.  Furthermore, I am a firm believer that education in all its forms is generally a good thing and an a strong appetite for learning is a key tenet for success.  I found a kindred spirit at the conference in Jeff Engler, cofounder of Podimetrics.  His positive energy and passionate defense of the value of MBAs, Accelerators, and any opportunity to work hard alongside other driven people was inspiring.  (Not surprisingly he is a fellow Columbia History Undergrad-long live the liberal arts!)

All in all, I thought the event was great and very insightful.  While we at BC tend to be more collaborative and less cutthroat than some other business programs, we certainly are determined and can be competitive.  At the Tech Club in particular, we love bucking conventional wisdom and I am excited for the great startups that will continue to come out of Fulton and combat these notions.

Other Key Take-Aways

  • Customer Success is very different than customer satisfaction. Cant be successful without it.
  • If you’re not having fun in business school, you’re blowing it. -Mark Wallach
  • Keep a keepers list of the best ppl you work with then use that to hire when you start a company. -Sam Clemens

-David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

Code and Coffee

As part of the Tech Club’s goal of creating opportunities for students to further develop their “hard skills” through practical learning experiences, we’ve recently been hosting weekly Code & Coffee sessions. We had our first meeting two weeks ago, and it was a great success as we crushed code and rocked out to “Don’t Stop Believing” Pandora radio.

These meetings are primarily designed to promote a collaborative learning experience for those trying to learn programming. Instead of individuals tackling it on their own, the idea is to create an environment where students can seek help from each other as they move through the same curriculum.

The sessions are essentially structured as a self-directed study group that meets on a weekly basis to go through a set curriculum together. The curriculum we’ve been following is the Python tutorial on Codecademy. Python is a great introductory coding language due to its heavy emphasis on readability. It also appears to be the language of choice among data scientists. The Codecademy platform is highly interactive and especially intuitive / user-friendly for beginner programmers. The entire tutorial only takes about 13 hours to complete, and we’ve already made solid progress during our last two sessions.

Grad Techers getting their code and coffee on!

Grad Techers getting their code and coffee on!

Setting aside a weekly meeting time is also intended to maintain a higher level of discipline when it comes developing these hard skills. From my own personal experience of attempting to teach myself programming through an online course, I’ve struggled to keep up with it. Something more important or pressing always seems to come up—it’s so easy to push off going through that next online lecture or exercise without a set schedule. We’re hoping that working alongside others in a collaborative group setting that meets regularly should make it easier (and hopefully more enjoyable!) to keep up with the material.

Once a group of us is able to develop a decent comfort level with Python, the longer term goal of these sessions is to work on a Kaggle project together to really put our skills to the test. Kaggle is a platform for predictive modeling and analytics competitions on which companies and researchers post their data and then data miners/statisticians compete to produce the best model (essentially the data science version of TopCoder). Tackling one of these real-life projects would provide a great opportunity to practically apply the skills we develop.

We’re hoping that interested students will take advantage of the opportunity to develop their technical “hard skills” to supplement the conceptual material and softer skills of BC’s MBA program. Join us on Friday afternoons at 2:30pm—if not for the coding, then at least for the free coffee, good music and good company! What better way to spend a Friday afternoon?

Also all levels of programming experience are welcome! In fact, advanced programmers are particularly encouraged to attend. If you have any other projects you’re working on using languages other than Python, please don’t feel restricted at all – this group is truly designed to learn and collaborate as much as possible.

If you have any suggestions for our group, please don’t hesitate to let me know. These sessions are definitely a work-in-progress! Email kenersko@bc.edu for any questions, suggestions, etc.

Kori Kenerson is a 2nd Year MBA and VP of Analytics for the Grad Tech Club

ALUM ARNOLD SOOKRAM FROM XBOX VISITS THE HEIGHTS

Last week, I had the pleasure of hosting BC alum Arnold Sookram on behalf of the Graduate Tech Club and Undergraduate Career Services. Arnold is a Senior Business Manager of Free-to-Play Digital Games at Xbox and spoke to a group of undergraduates and MBA students interested in gaming and technology. I interviewed Arnold and we discussed the breadth and depth of his impressive career in wireless and digital media. We were all really fortunate that Arnold came to share his career insights with us.

Arnold told us that gaming has exploded into a $70 billion industry across all platforms. We discussed the competitive landscape and how Xbox fans are embracing the digital-download revolution. Arnold walked us through his regular interactions with content producers, and how he attempts to maximize the impact of the release of each game add-on. For those who aren’t familiar with the model, free-to-play games are made available at no cost and generate revenue through add-on content that is made available for purchase.

Arnold also spoke to how Microsoft has been transforming for the mobile-first, cloud-first world under the new CEO, Satya Nadella. He reminded us that Nadella’s first major acquisition as CEO was Minecraft creator Mojang, a sign of Microsoft’s continued commitment to great gaming content.

arnie

When the audience Q&A session that followed the interview began, students had a lot of questions for Arnold. It was clear that the everyone present were very knowledgeable about the industry and eager to learn more, continuing to prove that #BCisTech.

On behalf of the Grad Tech Club, I would like to thank Arnold Sookram once again for engaging with us last week! It is great to have such loyal Eagles in our alumni network who are so excited to speak with current students. I am looking forward to visiting Arnold and the Xbox team in WA this January with the Graduate Tech Trek West field study program and potentially hosting him again in the Spring.  If you’re interested in hearing Arnold speak the next time he is on campus, sign up to be notified here.

John Dentinger is a first year MBA and member of the Grad Tech Club at Boston College.

Product Team Kicks Off!

One of the Tech Club’s three goals is to build the key skills that will make our members successful in the Tech sector.  Since many of our members are interested in Product Management and Start-Ups, we decided to start our own Product Team.  The goal?  Go through the entire product development process from identifying pain points to testing hypotheses to prototyping to launching a product.  Ambitious?  Yes.  Doable?  We think so.  Fun?  Absolutely!

So where are we now?

With a small group of 7 MBAs from backgrounds as diverse as travel, finance, sales, history, and engineering, we have a diversity of talent, opinions, and skills.  We meet weekly and started at the very beginning.  Our first task was to frame our thinking by talking about apps or websites that we like and why.  Among the apps we liked were Opentable and Box and we noted that we liked them because of ease of use and because they allow us to control things like when we pay a bill that we could not control before.  Empowering users though an easy and beautiful user experience emerged as the key to impressing us and a guidepost for us to strive toward.

Listing Pain Points

Our next step was to identify and prioritize pain points in our lives that we could consider addressing.  We came up with 18 different areas and the each chose the five we were most interested in addressing.  Finally we chose all the pain points that received multiple votes and began hypothesizing ways to address them.  The ones we chose to address were Real Time Networking and Company Visibility, Forgetting Accessories, Grocery Price Info, Unsustainable Class Reading Amounts, MBA Shared Calendar, Car Valuations, Funding for Higher Ed, and Network Dead Zones.

Whiteboard of Pain Points

Whiteboard of Pain Points

Hypothesizing

Our next step was to begin hypothesizing different ways we might be able to address these pain points and brainstorming how we could test them to see which are worth green-lighting to the prototype phase.  To date we have only focused on the Forgetting Accessories pain point and came up with three approaches, each focused on a different dimension of the issues.

  • Reminder app to make sure you don’t leave the house without what you need.  You would specify what you are doing and depending on the response the app would serve up a list of what you should bring.  Future iterations could learn your preferences and adapt recommendations.
  • RFID chips clipped to important items that communicate with phone and let you know in real time if they are separated.
  • A pick-up service that will retrieve your lost items from bars or restaurants the next day and deliver back to you.

Testing the Concepts

As a group, we were most excited about the RFID chips and team members were quick to start browsing for chips.  The keeper of our (very limited) finances, however, I had to lay down the law saying I won’t spend any money until I have evidence that there is a strong desire for the product.  Understanding this, we felt that surveys were the best way to test the market for RFID and the pick-up service.  For the reminder app, we felt that survey’s may not be the best choice but are going to run a FB add to see if people would add emails to a waitlist.

Next Steps

At present, we are still in the hypothesis testing face.  We will address a few other pain points and then use the results of our tests to determine which ideas to pursue further.  Check back in a couple of weeks to see where we stand!

-David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

Grad Tech Summer: David LoVerme

E-Mail: david.loverme@bc.edu
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/davidloverme
Twitter: @davidloverme

-Where did I work? What does the company do?
I spent the summer at Continuum Managed Services working on the development and launch of an IT Channel specific file sync and share product called Sync247.  Continuum provides white label IT software and support that allows Managed Service Providers and IT Consultants to provide easily scalable and unparalleled value and support to small and medium businesses.

-What was my role?
As the Product Manager MBA Intern, I worked closely with the Product Manager to help facilitate our Alpha, Beta, and Limited Availability programs.  My duties ran the gamut of Product Management and Marketing writing requirements documents, performing competitive research, drafting a pricing and packaging guide, and most importantly communicating with Beta partners to collect, analyze, and operationalize feedback to provide meaningful value.

-How did I find the internship?
I met the product manager at the Boston Product Management Association’s Product Camp conference.  Between tweets and a wall posting we connected to talk about a Product Marketing internship at Continuum.  While that wasn’t the right fit, we made a good connection and Continuum called a few days later asking if I would be willing to interview for a Product Management internship…yes please!

-What are the top 2-3 classes from BC that have been most helpful?
Brand Management with Jerry Smith was tremendously useful.  It gave me a lot of tools and frameworks that I use regularly.  Finance is also key to any product and a strong understanding helped prioritize the what and whens of Product Management.  Data Analysis is key to Product Management and Marketing Research was crucial in developing the tools and skills needed to prove a concept in the market.

-How will my experiences this summer inform my final year?
Having the ability to have such an influential and hands on product management role solidified my decision to pursue the field and helped me laser focus on exactly what sub-sections of Tech would make the right fit.  The culture at Continuum is great and reinforced how big a difference that makes.

-What energizes you about the Tech field?
Tech is full of really smart and ambitious people who push each other to be best they can be.  The idea that nothing is impossible is more than just a saying in Tech, people really believe it and the impossible truly does become possible every day.  The opportunity to be on the cutting edge of innovation is exciting to me and attracts me to the industry.

-What advice would you give to MBA looking to break into Tech and/or your particular space?
Network and talk with as many people as you possibly can.  Ask them to share their story, then shut up and listen!  Not everything people say is revolutionary but the more people you hear from, the better a picture of the industry you can get.  Go to conferences and career fairs, use social media, and apply widely…you never know what is going to be the difference maker.

-David LoVerme is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the President of the Grad Tech Club

Let The Marketing Begin!

October Marketing Move: Facebook Ads

Now that the semester is in full swing, and our official Tech Club website is up and running, it’s time to start a little marketing to draw some eyes to the content that we’ll be developing throughout the school year. As the VP of Marketing for the club, I’ve been working with David LoVerme on some ideas for how to raise the online profile of our website and there’s a great many options to choose from so…

As you know, our club mission is to develop and solidify concrete skills through hands on experience, and digital marketing is a huge part of that! Every month we will try out a new digital marketing approach to increase interest in the BC Grad Tech Club through our various online channels: our website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. We’re kicking it off this month with a goal of driving traffic to the Hire An Eagle page of the website using Facebook ads. I don’t know if any of you have ever given Facebook ads but it’s surprisingly easy for a first timer like myself.  The interface is simple and gives step by step guidance for setting your targets, writing the copy and laying out the ad. We’ve decided to make use of the native A/B testing function built into the interface because, why not? For those unfamiliar, A/B testing involves having two or more versions of an ad, and keeping all elements of the ad constant save for the one element that you’re testing. Often it will be a headline, and image, or a call to action. This allows you to zero in on how each of the small pieces of your advertisement affects audience engagement. We are testing three version of the ad with different pictures, as below. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be using FB Ad Manager to look at the impressions and click rates we’re getting on the three versions. Which of the three do you think will be the most successful?

BC FB ad 1 BC FB ad 3 BC FB ad 2

If you’re looking for jobs/internships…

Our ad is targeting Boston College alums who work in the technology, business and IT industries. We’re looking to reach potential employers who may still feel connected to BC, and the more Eagles we have available for hire the better! If you’re still looking for internships or full time positions please email us and we’ll add you to the roster!

Do you have any ideas or suggestions for new online marketing methods we could try in the coming months? Our budget may be small, but our ambition is huge!

– Alaina Tucker is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and the VP of Marketing for the Grad Tech Club