Carroll School of Management

A science experiment for the BC Graduate Tech Club (and my wallet)

I’ve been an Uber driver for about a month now. I’ve logged a total of 7.5 hours on the road, chauffeuring people around Boston and the burbs. About a quarter of the people I’ve driven around have asked me how I became an Uber driver and why I’m doing it. I tell them it’s for two reasons. The first reason is to help pad the wallet a bit while I readjust to living without an income. The second is for BC.

Jacqueline Oullet, BC MBA ’16

I was lucky enough to be accepted to go on this year’s Tech Trek West, a field study to visit tech firms in Seattle and Silicon Valley (more to come on that experience in my next blog post.) One of the firms we’re visiting is Uber. I figured some inside insight wouldn’t hurt when we have the chance to talk to BC alumni during our time meeting with the company. I was also incredibly interested in how Uber got so popular, why it works the way it does, and some rider and driver pain points.

Arguably the biggest pain point for riders is surge pricing. As an Economics major (BC ’09!), I immediately liked the concept of surge pricing. Not that I’m willing to spend the money for 4x the normal fare, but it makes perfect economic sense. If you’re willing to pay for it, you should be able to get a ride across the city, even if you are paying top dollar. Many riders hate this, feeling as though they are being taken advantage of when they need a ride the most. Well as it turns out, Uber drivers are real people, too, and also would prefer to go out to dinner on a Friday night or be sleeping at 2 AM when the bars close. Surge pricing gets more drivers on the road when more people need rides. Simple economics, hence the appeal.

On the driver side, my biggest frustration is that I’m not able to choose an area within which to drive. All drivers are at the whim of the riders – drivers aren’t actually shown the destination of the rider until the rider gets in the car and the driver swipes “start trip” or asks the rider, “where to?” This means if things go poorly, as a driver I could potentially end up in New Hampshire towards the end of the night, an hour or more away from home with no guarantee a request will come through for a ride back to Chestnut Hill.

While there are a couple possible improvements in logistics, the ease of use is top-notch. The driver app, like the rider app, is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. Uber certainly makes it easy for drivers to know how much money they’re making and how they compare against the top drivers out there. As you can see in the screenshot below, I’m making better money per hour than the top drivers (because I only drive during times of surge pricing), but I’m working fewer hours and taking many fewer trips. This dashboard makes it easy to see how I’m stacking up against other drivers and definitely provides an incentive to stay on top and keep driving.

Uber Driver Review

The screenshot below makes it easy for me to see when the busiest hours are and when I’m most likely to see surge pricing. This is mostly intuitive, but it’s nice to have a visual. It also makes me wonder why 4 AM Monday – Thursday is one of their busiest hours.

Being involved with the company on a new level like this really got me spending a lot of time thinking about small tweaks they could make to the app to help alleviate rider and driver pain points. As I’m also involved with fundraising for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, it also made me wonder about opportunities to drive for charity. I’m sure there’s a segment of the population out there that has limited funds to donate to charities they’re passionate about, but has a car and time and would be willing to drive people around knowing the money earned would go directly to their favorite charity.

All in all, it’s been a good experience so far. I’ve picked up other MBAs from both BU and Harvard and have even been able to do a bit of networking while driving people around. If nothing else, it’s great practice talking about any topic under the sun with a stranger. More to come on this in my next post!

Reposted from the Carroll School Admissions Blog.

Jackie Oullet is a first year MBA and member of the Grad Tech Product Team.

A Zillion Things Home (And the Data Behind It)

Last week, I was lucky enough to join BC’s Grad Tech Club on their visit to Wayfair. I was excited for the office visit for a few reasons. First, it was due to Wayfair’s unanimous rank as one of the best places to work for. Because of that, I have been keeping a keen eye on their job board for any potentially openings. I wanted to get a good sense for the culture and work environment before submitting an application. Prior to BC, I worked in a very early stage startup in San Francisco’s SOMA district at a shared workspace with several other startups. After working in an environment like that, it’s hard to me to think about going back to a strictly corporate office environment. Wayfair, although now a public company with thousands of employees, they have somehow managed to maintain the vibe of a startup. It was incredible walking around. They have maintained the culture and environment of their early days while growing into a billion dollar company. After our visit and seeing what they were about and what really drives them, I’m 100% going to apply for a job at Wayfair and would be thrilled at the opportunity to work there.

Taking a tour of Wayfair's offices with other members of the GgradTech Club.

Taking a tour of Wayfair’s offices with other members of the GradTech Club.

At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to think of Wayfair. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a home furnishings enthusiast, so was weary at the thought of working behind a product or business that I wasn’t sure I could get 100% behind. But we had a chance to sit down with BC alum David Aaron and his colleague Chris Roe who really broke down the business intelligence and data science that really gives them a competitive advantage. I saw, firsthand, that the passion David and Chris have is not necessarily for home furnishings, but rather for understanding and predicting user needs and behavior. They are 100% behind their work and their enthusiasm was obvious. Combined with their talent and that of the rest of the Wayfair crew, this passion for data is clearly what has driven Wayfair to be at the forefront of ecommerce analytics, giving them a clear competitive advantage.

I’m thankful to Grad Tech for not only allowing me a sneak peek into working at such an awesome company, but also for giving a rare peak under the hood of a thriving company. It’s a unique experience that we MBAs have access to, and I encourage others to take advantage of future BC Tech Club outings.

-Emmett Shipman is a 2nd Year MBA at Boston College and a member of the Grad Tech Club

Digital Marketing Experiment 2: Marketing on LinkedIn

Having had some success driving traffic to our site using Facebook Ads, we decided to target LinkedIn for our next experiment.  As a professional social network, LinkedIn has significant information about education, work history, and industry that could help us target BC Alumni in the Technology Space.  Our goal with this campaign, therefore, was to find decision makers in this space, and bring them to the Alumni Central landing page of our site.  From this page, they can learn more about how to help the club including checking out the Hire an Eagle profiles, following us on social media, and even signing up to be a resource.  All in all, we expected that LinkedIn would provide a great opportunity for us to learn a new channel and gain some significant alumni exposure in the process.

linkedin

Initial Experience

In beginning the process, the first thing I noticed was that the flows to set up an ad do not make for a great user experience.  It was not immediately apparent to me how to get started, and when I did get on the right track I ran into issues uploading images and making edits that required backtracking.  Despite this, however, I eventually got the ad set up how I wanted it proclaiming “Help out an MBA at BC!” and directing them to our Alumni Central page to find out how.  Once the content was written, I moved on to setting up the parameters.  LinkedIn requires you to set a minimum budget of $10 per day.  The lowest I could set my max bid for impressions was $5.73 should anyone click the ad.  This was not particularly well explained, so it took some time to figure out the settings.  With a total budget of just $50, I was worried that we would exhaust our funds very quicky and with only a few folks clicking through to our site.  While some clicks were better than none, my expectations were that we would only get a few visits to our site and even fewer responses to our contact form.

The Ad in Action

As it turns out, my fears about burning through our whole budget immediately were misplaced.  Despite a target audience of more than 6000 individuals, we only got 3 impressions over the course of a month, none of which resulted in any clicks.  As a result, the campaign was costless for us, but it was also resultsless.

li2

Adjusting

My first indication that something was wrong came in email form from LinkedIn, where the Ads Optimization email showed a whole lot of zeroes.  Despite the name of the email, however, the only guidance given was a suggestion to widen the audience.  This begged the questions of how much and who to include?  Widening the audience would mean making tradeoffs regarding target industries or the level of decision-making power.  At the end of the day, the tradeoffs simply didn’t seem worth it and the user experience was not pleasant enough to continue.  Instead, I shifted my strategy to personally post in a number of BC related alumni groups.  Theoretically, the exposure would be less as alumni would only see the post when in the group as opposed to it appearing whenever they browsed, but in practice, BC’s active alumni presence actually led to wider exposure, and organic visits to our site.  Four alums even signed up to help out the club.

Key Takeaways

While we had high hopes for LinkedIn ads, it turns out they were not a great choice for our purposes.  With a small budget, and less experience in the realm of social marketing, the constraints and user experience made it difficult for us to launch a useful campaign.  Likewise, the reporting and optimization insights are far from prescriptive.  Overall, it seems that LinkedIn advertising might be useful for companies with experienced digital marketers and high budgets, but that smaller bootstrapped organizations such as our own are better off using the organic channels that LinkedIn provides such as groups and stories.

Up Next: Targeted Tweets!

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

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