Tech

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…)

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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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

BC GradTech: A Week in the Life

They come less often these days, but I still occasionally receive emails to the tune of “I’m not a coder, can I still join the BC Grad Tech Club?”  I respond explaining that we are devoted to preparing our members for jobs in the Tech industry but that these include all disciplines including business development, finance, HR, marketing, and more.  While professional clubs such as the Finance Club, the Consulting Club, and the Marketing Club seem to be pretty intuitive, our own is less apparent.  While this ambiguity has allowed us to pursue a wide and meaningful agenda of activities, it has perhaps made it difficult to understand what it means to be a member.  As a result, I thought I would share what one recent week looked like for me.

Monday, Feb 16

It’s President’s day and a BC holiday.  While there won’t be any classes today the Tech scene rolls on.  I read my weekly email for VentureFizz, a great source of information about Boston Tech, looking carefully for any events our club members should attend or for jobs that might be a good fit.  It would not be uncommon to have a speaking event on a normal Monday but today is a university holiday so I turn off my computer and head out to enjoy the day.

Tuesday, Feb 17

It’s snowing today but the BC Startup Job Fair has already been rescheduled once so we keep it as is.  As I head to campus on a shuttle that promises a snail’s pace at best, I tweet a reminder to club members.  In the startup world especially, it is all about networking as Bobby Gooch reminded us, and we need to mobilize our folks.  I chat with early stage startups, later stage firms, and a slew of incubators and accelerators, at once looking for good fits personally and for opportunities to pass on to the club.  There are a lot of good options and I exchange cards with a number of folks.  I will need to follow up soon, but at present I can’t as I have to rush to Fulton Hall for a meeting.

StartupFair

I slip into the conference room just as my watch hits 3:30.  Google student Ambassador Arev Doursonian is already sitting there and we open up our computers to Google Adwords.  This month’s Digital Marketing targets the popular SEM tool and we begin hypothesizing about the best ways to drive traffic to our site.  The meeting lasts close to an hour and I leave knowing a lot more about the service than I did when I walked in.  Hands on, experiential opportunities to test hypotheses and learn by doing.  That is what this initiative is all about and a week later, we are making some serious progress.

Wednesday, Feb 18

Nothing on the calendar today!  Even with a lighter courseload this semester, days like this are rare and worth taking advantage of.  I cross a number of items of the to do list, one of which is updating bcgradtechclub.net.  I start with the events page but quickly move to the homepage.  For such a dynamic organization it is pretty static and the image is a year out of date.  I replace the image with one from our recent visit to Google Cambridge and then rename the page to “About” in our menu.  I opt to replace the landing page with our blog to better represent the dynamic nature of our organization.  We saw a lift from 1.7 pages per visitor to 2.4 after the change!

Like all Wednesdays, I also send out the Grad Tech Weekly Update.  This week’s emphasis?  Code & Coffee, BU’s Tech Conference, and an opportunity to try out some Google wearables!

Thursday, Feb 10

It’s Thursday evening which means one thing, Product Team Meeting!  This one is particularly special because we have been working for months to identify needs, develop concepts, and test our hypotheses.  We finally have something we are ready to start working on and we have developers joining us for the first time!  We take stock of where we are at and make a plan for the future.

For me it’s off to class and then straight to Landsdowne Pub to support one of our members, Jackie Ouellet!  In addition to being a full time MBA and an Uber driver, Jackie is running the Boston Marathon for charity.  It’s great to see so many Eagles out to support her.  Some even do so vocally…in the form of live band karaoke!

karaoke

Friday, Feb 20

It’s 12:50pm which means I am currently brewing a French press full of coffee to fuel us up while myself and others work our way through CodeAcademy’s intro to Python course.  I blast Pandora “Don’t Stop Believing” Radio and crush lists and libraries.  Normally our weekly Code & Coffee event lasts two hours but today I have to leave early to join a mixed group of MBAs and Undergrads at Highland Capital’s Cambridge office for TechTrek Boston.  It’s an awesome event and I learn a ton!  As you’ve probably come to expect…I blogged about it.

Saturday, Feb 21

As a second year MBA, I am used to evening classes.  Maybe that’s why I am still groggy after being up for an hour and a half.  I wait for the shuttle bus that has replaced the green line, pressed against a mountain of snow where once there was a sidewalk and crossing my fingers that I don’t get hit by the passing cars.  Cold and traffic notwithstanding, however, it is going to be a great day!  BU’s Tech Club is hosting their annual TechConnect conference and the theme is Product.  I have worked with these guys before and seen many of the presenters speak in the past.  I know it’s going to be a great event!  Fast forward a few hours and I am enjoying a post conference beer and chatting with some of my Terrier counterparts.  The conference was awesome and I learned a ton.  I congratulate them on a job well done and fail twice at getting the green line shuttle to stop for me at Blanford St, I hail a cab and head home.

Meghan

Sunday, Feb 22

I do nothing Tech Club related today…at least not that I can remember.  We all need a day of rest after all.

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

BC Visits BU for TechConnect 2015!

techconnect-website

Big props to our friends at BU for putting on an awesome TechConnect Conference this year!  The theme was Digital Crossroads: Products and Ideas and featured an awesome array of speakers that really complemented each other and meshed with the conference theme.  It is a ton of work to pull something like this off so my hat is off to Jaymie and her team for a job well done!  A single post is not enough to do justice to the amazing amount I learned, but I’ll do my best to share a couple thoughts from each speaker I saw.

Bruce McCarthy-Effective Product Roadmapping

I have seen Bruce speak several times now at various Boston Product Management Association events and I am always struck by his enthusiasm and desire to help others.  It’s always a pleasure and I always learn something new.  In this case, Bruce emphasized the importance of your product road map telling a story about the value of the product.  He went into detail and shared a lot of knowledge but I will sum it all up by listing the Dirty (Bakers) Dozen common pitfalls of Product Roadmaps:

  1. Being Too Agile
  2. Planning Based on Your Gut
  3. Over or Under Estimating
  4. Not Having Strategic Goals
  5. Inside out Thinking
  6. Trying too Hard to Please
  7. Focusing on Features
  8. Not having a Buffer
  9. Playing Catch-Up (to competitors)
  10. Not Getting Buy-in
  11. Being too Secretive
  12. One Size Fits All
  13. Not having a Story

Want to hear more?  Check out Bruce at ProductPowers.com

Meghan Keaney Anderson-Product Launches

Like Bruce, I have met Meghan a few times before.  Not only is she Hubspot’s Director of Product Marketing, but she is also a BC Alum!  Meghan combined her deck on product launches with real examples from Hubspot to demonstrate her points in a highly effective and meaningful way.  She summarized the role of Product Marketing as coaxing the meaning out of the Product.  She shared with us her Golden Rule of Product Marketing: It’s never about the product, it’s about the person using the product.

Meghan

While I won’t share everything Meghan talked about, one of the biggest take home messages for me was how thorough and methodical an approach good product marketing requires.  Meghan follows a step by step process, ensuring that each necessary element is taken care of, tested, and resonates with customers.  She maintains a product marketing menu of all the different tasks, tactics, and channels they could use for a launch or activity and then selects which are the best for any given time.  Likewise, for a launch event, Meghan and her team actually have everything planned down to the minute or even the word of a keynote.  They maintain a command room at the event to facilitate a smooth launch!  All this effort and preparation can seem overwhelming, but it is crucial.  While there is certainly a lot there, according to Meghan, not all product marketing was created equal.  “The key is good positioning.  If you get that right, everything else is easy.”

C. Todd Lombardo-Ideas Lifecycle

C. Todd runs the InnoLoft at Constant Contact and had both an awesome presentation and a superbly aesthetically pleasing deck.  Most people are familiar with the concept of an MVP or Minimum Viable Product from the Lean Startup approach.  C. Todd suggested that before and MVP, you should pursue an MVC or Minimum Viable Concept.  Unlike an MVP, this doesnt even have to work, only to do a good enough job demonstrating the concept to get a sense of what it does.  He used IDEO’s Elmo Monster Maker prototype as an example. At this point you can test with 5 to 7 customers to get a sense of whether it is worth pursuing an MVP.  C. Todd suggested doing design sprints, or few day deep dives into a problem using the Define, Understand, Ideate, Build, Test cycle repeatedly.  He talked about the importance of being a “Designtist,” a creative designer that nonetheless approaches their design using the scientific method of testing hypotheses over and over to arrive at the right ends.  It’s a messy process and certainly not too straightforward.  C. Todd suggested that it is more like the design squiggle than a straight line.  “If it feels too linear, you are probably not doing it right!”

Ctodd

The other thing I really liked about C. Todd’s presentation was the concept of Job Stories.  We are all familiar with user stories and the amount of Jira tickets I have written stating “As a salesperson, I need to be able to…” could fill up more than a few Excel spreadsheets.  Job stories are different in that they lend context to the request and are thus more powerful.  They take the form “When (situation) happens, I want/need to (action), so I can (benefit).”  This format forces you to think about whether you are really addressing the pain point and makes it hard for anyone to misinterpret intent.

C. Todd left us with a few key take-aways that I will reproduce here:

  • Your opinion doesn’t matter
  • Talk to customers. Listen.
  • Check your assumptions. Again.
  • Think like a designtist.
  • It’s not failure if you learn.
  • F*** It, Test it.

Allen Murray-Agile Methodology

Allen is an SVP at Mobile Device Management company Apperian and his session was perhaps the most fun all day, not only because he is charismatic and approachable and I learned a ton about small aircraft flight, but also because we did the marshmallow challenge.  For those unfamiliar, it involves working in groups to form the tallest possible tower using spaghetti, tape, string, and a marshmallow on top.  MBAs typically perform terribly at this, while kindergartners do much better because the task lends itself well to trial and error and iteration and not advanced planning giving the time limits and lack of expertise in most participants (architects as the exception do quite well when planning).  Happily, we outperformed most MBAs and even kindergartners but learned that most of our assumptions were ill founded.  Allen used the activity as a jumping off point to talk about effective teams and Agile product development.

Marshmallow

Key Take-Aways from Allen’s Session:

  • Diversity in Teams matters, need leadership, facilitation, and specialization.
  • Incentives magnify outcomes.  With the right team, great things are possible but incentivizing a team without the right skills will only magnify the failure
  • The crowning moment in your professional career is when you see your customers truly satisfied with something you have given them.
  • If you can manage four things you will be successful using Agile:
    • Visibility
    • Adaptability
    • Business Value
    • Risk
  • Declaring work done is crucial to a successful scrum cycle.
  • You are not working on a technology, you are working on a business problem.
  • Must create dynamic on teams to want to improve.

Dan Cobb-Creating a Culture of Innovation

The final keynote of the day came from EMC SVP Dan Cobb who was slated to talk about creating a culture of innovation.  To be honest, to me his talk was a bit of a let down.  Dan spent the majority of the time educating the audience about EMC and essentially making a pitch for the company.  As a BC MBA, I am very familiar with EMC as they are a top recruiter on campus.  Nonetheless, Dan did hit on some points that I found very interesting.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Big companies must balance innovation and disruption
  • Innovate through internal R&D and aquisitions
  • When you aquihire you must empower the talent to stay on.  EMC does this by involving its acquisitions in future M&A decisions.
  • 3 Major Keys to Innovating Successfully:
    • Develop a brutally candid view of the world.
    • Align innovation agenda with strategy
    • Institutionalize feedback loops and then step back to listen, partner, engage, and measure.
  • EMC is “absolutely, positively, the most paranoid place in the world” and that is a good thing.
  • Innovation is a strategic means to an end.

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

Two Hours at Highland Capital

Anyway you slice it, getting a meeting with a leading VC is tough, and getting to spend an hour plus is almost impossible. Yet as members of the BC Grad Tech Club and the overall BC Community, we have had the great fortune of having it become almost commonplace.  Only a few weeks ago, we were able to spend an hour with Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet, and a number of our student entrepreneurs recently discussed business ideas 1:1 with Highland General Partner and BC Alum Peter Bell.

Last Friday was no exception as a group of us were fortunate enough to spend almost two hours in Highland’s Cambridge office on the top floor of One Broadway.  BC Alumni Dan Nova and Chris Protasewich hosted us, answered our questions, and dropped some serious knowledge.  While my notebook contains several pages of scrawled notes, I’ll do my best to distill it down to my impressions of a few key takeaways.  A huge thanks to Dan and Chris as well as the whole Highland team for being such staunch supporters of the school and our programs!

highland

Key Take-Aways

On what type of companies they look for and fund:

  • Highland is looking for revolutionary companies that seek to reshape an entire industry such as Uber with transportation, HourlyNerd with Consulting, and Rent the Runway with high end fashion.
  • This requires founders with big ambitions who are a little bit crazy.  In often cases, these are people with goals to start a movement or reinvent the future.  For successful entrepreneurs, opportunities to make a few million by selling early can be hard to say “no” to but can also hamper the potential of a company.

On Highland’s People First Approach

  • Highland evaluates opportunities with a People, Market, Product, and Deal Terms approach-in that order.  They sees themselves as selling a relationship based on trust and value-add and therefore the most important element is people.
  • Highland looks for solid, smart, and hard-working people.  They believe that if they find the right people, they will be able to adjust successfully to the changing market.
  • Of more than a thousand meetings each year, Highland will only fund about 15-20 companies after a great degree of due diligence on the people.  As Dan says, “There is no substitute for time when you are investing in a relationship.”
  • They look for people who can communicate well and honestly even when its bad news.  In Dan’s words, “We make a living dealing with bad news.”  Highland has a lot of experience and can often recognize patterns that allow them to provide sage advice as long as the founder comes to them honestly and in time to take action.

On Corporate Venture Funds

  • Dan is not personally a fan because there is often a disconnect in alignment between them and companies like Highland.
  • Corporate Venture groups move less slowly and they usually have a strategic interest that can alter the natural course of business development.

On Continued Investment

  • Highland recognizes that companies often require more than one infusion of cash, as a result they set aside a dollar for every dollar they invest initially to be used for further investment.  This allows the company to continue to support its portfolio companies as needed.

On the Future

  • “We are in the Golden Years of Major Marketplace Shifts.”  Transport, Housing, Fashion, Consulting, are all being rocked at the core and Dan believes this will continue to take place.  There are a lot of entrenched but ridiculously inefficient industries out there and the market and technology is now prime for disruption.  We can expect to see a lot more of this.
  • Immersive 3D Virtual Reality is here and will be huge.  Dan believes that the moment is here though he admits he is awfully bullish on it and my may be a bit early
  • VCs do not know all.  In an admirable moment of self honesty, Dan also admitted that VCs have a lot of experience and insight but certainly do not know all.  He asked about what are the most popular technologies on BC’s campus and was surprised to hear the anonymous social app Yik Yak was among the leaders.  He admitted he isn’t big on the anonymous thing, calling it “…the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” but appending his statement with “but I said that about Twitter…”

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

Some Initial Thoughts on Landing a Job at a Startup

Our own Bobby Gooch shares his thoughts on landing a job at a startup!

Unstructured Data

Trying to get work at a startup has become a popular goal for a lot of people in today’s job market. And for good reason: small technology companies tend to attract smart, motivated people and allow you to do work that can actually have a pretty significant impact on the business. But how do you go about getting a job at a company like this, especially with little to no background in coding? While there is no definitive, step-by-step process, I hope my experiences can give you a bit of an idea of how you may want to go about trying to get a job at a startup. I’m planning to do a couple of posts on this; here’s number one:

First, a little background on me: I spent 3 years working at a fin-tech company where I learned the basics of SQL. I’m now finishing up business school while…

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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

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