The Condensed MBA: Part 4

Part 4 of our Former President’s MBA Reflections.

David LoVerme

We’ve passed the halfway point in my six part MBA reflections!  If you missed it, here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  I am full time working on my heritage travel startup Radici Travel as part of the 2015 Soaring Startup Circle so the final three installments will likely come once a week.

First Year: Fourth Quarter

Global Capitalism, Culture, and Ethics

This class was case-based and examined a number of ethical issues related to globalization.  Because of the way scheduling worked, everyone had to take this class but the two sections were essentially divided into marketing people and finance people.  A couple of times I had to go to the alternate section for one reason or another and the general sentiment was often markedly different.  For me, there are a couple of lasting impressions:

  • The banana industry is brutal!  We must…

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The Condensed MBA: Part 3

Former President David LoVerme (MBA ’15) logs part 3 of his MBA reflections.

David LoVerme

Wow, what an amazing response so far…glad everyone is enjoying my MBA recollections (it’s a lot of fun for me too).  If you missed it, you can find parts one and two here.  Now onto Part 3!

First Year: Third Quarter

Strategic Management

MBA courses are, by nature, often discussion based.  While I generally like this format, at times it can be unclear whether we are really on the right track or just blowing smoke.  With Professor Mary Tripsas at the helm, this was never the case.  She had no problem calling out vague or unsupported comments and really forced us to elevate our game and exploration of the topic at hand.  This challenge was energizing and is what really made the class stand out.  Other than Tripsas leaving a normally quick witted classmate speechless after calling him out for yawning in class, what do I still remember?

  • Who made…

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The Condensed MBA: Part 2

Our former Club President logs part 2 of his MBA reflections.

David LoVerme

With my Canadian vacation behind me, it’s time for Part 2 of my 6 part “Condensed MBA” series.  (Click here if you missed Part 1)  Read on to hear about first semester, quarter 2.

First Year: Second Quarter

Financial Management

Like Accounting, the biggest challenge for me was my general lack of familiarity with the vocabulary.  Getting used to a definition of “coupon” that didn’t include cutting something out of a circular was a bit of an adjustment but having Bob Taggart at the helm meant I had an understanding professor who was always available and ready to help.  So what stuck?

  • Time Value of Money- A dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future.  Understanding the basic concept and how to approach calculating it is crucial.  While I am still a little shaky on the calculation part, I have a strong enough understanding of…

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The Condensed MBA: Part 1

Former club president, David LoVerme, shares his thoughts on the first leg of the BC MBA.

David LoVerme

Anyway you slice it, a full time MBA is intense.  You read hundreds of cases and articles, write thousands of words, take hours of exams, and it’s all over in a flash.  Now that I am officially a Master of Business Administration, I thought it would be worth reflecting on the single biggest take-aways from each class I took.

My MBA lasted two years, the first of which uses quarters and the second, semesters.  As a result this will be a six part series of posts.

First Year: First Quarter


With maestros Pete and Carolyn Wilson at the helm, this class was certainly one of the most memorable of my time at BC.  Besides the lowest grade of my MBA career, however, what did I take away from the class?

  • Having the right vocabulary is crucial!  Without a finance background, most of the terms used in the class were…

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2015 Annual Report (Mid-Year Report)

Dear Grad Techers, Alumni, Friends, and Supporters:

A few months ago, in our 2014 Annual Report, I wrote about the Grad Tech Club’s activities throughout the fall.  While that writing feels just moments ago, much has occurred in the interim, including my walking the field at Alumni Stadium alongside the Class of 2015 just three days ago.  We began the year with an ambitious agenda to equip members with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in the tech industry, to raise the overall profile of the BC MBA program within Tech, and to get our members hired.  With the year behind us, it’s time to reflect on how we did. (more…)

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.


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!

What a Techie can learn from Warren Buffett

David LoVerme

Warren Buffett is famous for saying that he does not invest in Tech companies because he doesn’t understand them and cannot predict what they will do in ten years.  He may be a whiz with stocks and insurance companies, but can a Techie like myself really learn a lot of value from him?  Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Warren Buffett Experience with a group of MBAs from BC and five other schools.  I met the Oracle himself and we had a 2 hour Q&A (with a tasty chicken parm thereafter).  It turns out the answer to my question is a resounding YES!  Buffett spoke very little about investing in particular and more about general business and life lessons as applicable to Tech as they are to Textiles (the business from which his Berkshire-Hathaway holding company gets its name).  I have pages upon pages of notes but will…

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Catching Up with BC MBA and Entrepreneur Ryan Traeger

Last week I had the chance to catch up with Double Eagle Ryan Traeger, CEO and co-founder of ACHVR.  Ryan received a BA from BC in 2003 and an MBA from the Carroll School in 2012.  I have always believed that BC is a great place to start a business, yet our MBA program is not always viewed as such from the outside.  One of the goals of the Grad Tech Club is to change that perception and create opportunities for plenty of future businesses to come out of the walls of Fulton Hall.

Even before his MBA, Ryan was no stranger to entrepreneurship, running a small web design firm out of college before taking on some marketing agency firm jobs.  While he loved marketing, Ryan started to feel the entrepreneurial itch again and decided to go back to BC for an MBA.  He hoped in the time to either start something or find a fledgling business to join while there.  In his first year, Ryan was a member of Professor Gallaugher’s TechTrek West class which he says was the pivotal experience in his MBA program.  It really invigorated him and was the true impetus to making him really dig in and start exploring ideas with new vigor.

The idea for ACHVR came to Ryan early in his second year and he ran with it.  ACHVR would be an app that would gamify the experience of setting and pursuing life goals.  It would also generate significant and valuable data for marketing and advertising uses.  Passionate about pursuing the idea, Ryan approached the Dean of Graduate Programs and got permission for himself and a few others to approach the business as a class.  He further developed the idea and then spent his second semester raising money.  Ryan recruited a BC heavy management team tapping an undergrad classmate as CMO and a fellow MBA for the CFO.  In October of 2013, ACHVR raised $1.3 million in seed funding!

Clearly Ryan made great use of his time and skills at BC but was there anything he wishes he would have done more of?  Of course!  Ryan says he did not do enough going out to the slew of entrepreneurship events happening nearly every night in the Boston area.  These events can sometimes be dominated by Harvard, MIT, and Northeastern and could certainly use an infusion of Maroon and Gold.  In particular Ryan suggests the Drinks on Tap meetup for Mobile entrepreneurs and the Greenhorn Connect calendar for discovering other events.

Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to talk and for his willingness to help out BC entrepreneurs!  I look forward to chronicling more BC MBA startups over the next few weeks and to seeing more arise over the next few years!

Interested in learning more about ACHVR?  Check out this video interview conducted by BC’s own Greg Stoller.

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

TechStars Boston: the Right Place, the Right Time

Last Friday, members of the Grad Tech Club joined forces with our undergrad counterparts to visit TechStars Boston in their headquarters downtown.  The visit was a great experience where we learned a lot about one of the most prestigious accelerators out there.  Like most accelerators, TechStars provides space, resources, and mentorship for the 1% of applicants it accepts as well as some upfront capital and the promise of more in a convertible note should the company get funded later on.  More than just great companies, however, Techstars is committed to producing great ecosystems.  One way they do this, which I found to be particularly interesting, is by bringing on not only startups but also coders and young business professionals as Hackstars and Associates.  These people serve as floaters so to speak, and resources available to the different Techstars companies.  This gives an on demand labor force for the companies and the opportunity to plug in to the Techstars ecosystem for the Hackstars and Associates.

We also got a good glimpse into what sort of startups Techstars is looking for:

  • Team first–Since most companies have some kind of pivot it is important to invest in good teams.  If you invest in an idea and then the idea changes…what did you really choose?
  • Very rarely take single founders, instead look for 2-4 person groups with at least one business and one technical co-founder–A Hustler and a Hacker
  • Look for founders who are passionate about what they do, where at least one has significant domain expertise
  • Ideally, the founders will have acute experience suffering from the pain point their product is trying to solve
  • Companies that already have traction in the form of a working prototype, some revenue, an established user base, and a functional business model
  • Companies that get shit done
  • Since Techstars is an accelerator they are looking for companies that are primed for that growth curve.  They often take companies from incubators or more early stage accelerators like Mass Challenge, and sometimes even take companies on their third or fourth time applying


The real highlight of the visit, however, came by happy accident.  One of our group asked a question about hardware startups.  As we were sitting in the open, various people had been shuffling by all afternoon and at that moment, our host stopped the gentleman walking by and asked if he had a moment to answer a question about hardware startup.  The guy turned out to be Harish Kamath, cofounder of Headtalk the makers of Magnet.  In the next 5-10 minutes Harish managed to give us a succinct and anecdotal summation of the real value of doing Techstars.  His product, Magnet, is a bracelet with a pair, designed for long distance significant others.  When you tap your bracelet, it lights up and vibrates its counterpart to let your significant other know you are thinking of them, regardless of the distance that separates you, helping people stay connected.  Although they had a crude prototype, Harish and his co-founder are engineers not designers but one of the mentors Techstars paired them with was the design firm IDEO.  With the help of this mentor, they learned to understand their users better and develop form factors that really met their users needs and preferences.  The next task however, was to produce multiple prototypes for testing and time was in high demand.  Founders juggle a million and one tasks at a time, as Harish put it, “they don’t call it an accelerator for nothing!” and therefore assembling the prototypes was a task that was hard to find time for.  Once again, Techstars could help!  Techstars has a 3d printer and one of the Hackstars had an interest in hardware and was happy to help, assembling dozens of prototypes so that Harish could focus on other aspects of the business.  Finally, there is the value innate in being part of a cohort.  The Magnet team decided to do a Kickstarter campaign and needed to create internet buzz about their product.  Once again, however, these guys are engineers and not web marketing experts.  It turns out, however, that fellow Techstars cohort members Fortified Bicycle had already successfully executed two Kickstarter campaigns and social marketing was literally Mavrck‘s product!  This gave Harish and his team the resources and advise they needed to tackle the digital world, even with a hardware product.

We could not have had a better case study in the value Techstars brings and the reason for doing an accelerator.  BC already has some strong ties to Techstars through previous hackstars and associates and we look forward to an MBA startup slingshotting out of the program sometime soon!

Today, Tomorrow, and the Future: Navigating the Tech Landscape

We all know Tech Startups have many differences from traditional businesses but identifying them and how to navigate these differences to build a successful career can be challenging.  That is why we were so fortunate to have industry veteran and NDT VP of Recruiting Larry Kahn visit the Heights last Tuesday!  With more than 20 years experience recruiting for high tech, he brings a great perspective on how to break in and make it in the industry.  I have done my best to summarize some of his key insights here.

A huge thank you to Larry for taking the time to share his knowledge and experience with us!

On Interviewing

  • Companies are increasingly hiring on consensus, with more than just one “decider” you need to pay extra attention to how you come across during your entire time in the office and to anyone with whom you interact.  This can be particularly difficult as interview length is shorter now on average than in the past
  • It is key to let interviewers know all the relevant info about you.  If you cannot fit it all in during the interview, you can use your thank you email, second paragraph to pass on some relevant information that may not have come up.
  • Even if you don’t have anything else to add, send a follow-up thank you.  It really matters.
  • Video interviews are also becoming more common and you must treat it like an in person.  Dress like you would for an office visit, choose a quiet place, and make sure there are no distractions in the background.  Little things make a difference.
  • Make sure your shoes are shined, your clothes are clean and free of lint, in short-make sure you look good.  This does not mean wear a suit however.  For some companies you should–for others that will make you awkward and out of place…if you have any question at all, ask!
  • Companies will search you, look at your social sites, and your online presence.  See building your brand below.
  • Eat well beforehand, including protein.  You don’t know if the interview will last longer than expected and you need to keep your energy level throughout.

On Offer Letters and Job Choice

  • Startups offer a fair compensation package that may be lighter on salary but should have meaningful equity
  • Mid Sized companies should offer higher base salary and a bonus up to 30%, perhaps with some equity
  • Regardless, do not simply pick the highest paying job, but one that provides the best opportunities for work experience to put you on the right path to where you want to go.
  • Try to balance your experience between big and small companies–if you’ve been at enterprise businesses, try a startup and vice versa.  This will avoid becoming typecast.  Look for transferable skills.

Building Your Brand

  • You need to control your brand.  Have a professional photo on LinkedIn that is different from Facebook.  Post articles or work samples that reflect your strengths on LinkedIn.  Content is key!  Maintain an active and professional Twitter handle.
  • Companies are looking for interesting people so you need to demonstrate how you are different from you peers.
  • Don’t short sell yourself!
  • Company loyalty is not what it used to be on either side.  For most companies, 2-4 years is a good tenure and staying much longer will get you typecast.
  • You must stay current by reading voraciously, following trends online, and taking classes whenever possible.  Blog, Tweet, etc. to keep yourself relevant.
  • Give back!  Look for opportunities to mentor and help others

Finding and Maintaining Mentor Relationships

  • People are generally willing to help but you have to try
  • Reach out to a person three times before giving up, including over the phone.  Sometimes messages fall through the cracks.
  • Say thank you!  Send emails, follow-up with news, and generally emanate an attitude of gratitude.
  • It does not need to be an equal relationship.  It’s okay if a mentor helps you more than you help them, just pay it forward!

Growing Jobs and Trends in Tech

  • Product Management
    • A/B Testing
    • Agile
  • Digital Marketing
  • Social Marketing
  • Professional Services
    • Training
    • Consulting
  • Engineering
    • Ruby
    • Pearl
    • Java
  • Healthcare and Tech
  • Big Data
    • Companies that help other companies harvest and interpret big data are flourishing
  • Technology as a base for business
    • If you want to stay in Mass, work in SF or in the Pacific Northwest, get a job at a tech company because those companies are the ones who are going to dominate the economies in these areas

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