This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Will Hester, an M. Eng. Cornell Tech student in NYC.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite non-school book?
Will: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. I went to the University of Texas at Austin and was conferred two degrees: A Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a focus on Software Engineering, and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.
My favorite non-school book is Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (never read it for school, believe it or not).
Accepted: Can you tell us about the new program you’re in? How did you choose Cornell Tech? Why was it the best match for you?
Will: Cornell Tech is a pretty unique graduate program. In addition to the individual MBA and CS curriculum, there is also a co-curriculum led by Greg Pass, former CTO at Twitter. The co-curriculum consists mainly of exercises and projects done in groups of both CS and MBA students. Most notably during the fall semester, we were all split into groups of 4-5 half-MBA, half-CS company project groups, in which we worked closely with companies like AOL, Bloomberg, eBay, Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft just to name a few. All the while the co-curriculum is conducted in a very fast-paced, startup-like atmosphere (we are constantly encouraged by faculty and guest speakers to follow the startup path, be it start one’s own venture, or join a startup post-graduation).
Cornell Tech was the best match for me because I knew I wanted to pursue my masters in CS, but I also wanted some business education without going all-out trying to get an MBA as well. I always have had an interest in startups, so the faster-paced, smaller nature of the program was extremely attractive. I could not be happier to be at Cornell Tech.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Will: If I could change one thing about the program, I wish we were already in the future campus.
Accepted: Can you talk about your program’s relationship on campus with the Cornell Johnson MBA students? Can you explain why some people would choose Cornell Tech and some Cornell Johnson?
Will: The CS students have a very close relationship with the MBA students. There’s a set time every week for us to work side-by-side on our company projects, and several learning exercises we work together on. The Cornell Tech MBA program is exclusively a 1-year program, whereas the normal Johnson MBA program in Ithaca has both one- and two-year options. The biggest difference between the Ithaca and Cornell Tech programs is that Cornell Tech is much more entrepreneurial/startup-focused. Our guest speakers are mostly serial entrepreneurs, and the projects are fast-paced and you typically build a real product with the CS students.
The Cornell Tech MBA students are in Ithaca for courses with the other Johnson one-year MBAs for three months over the summer before coming to the NYC campus. Additionally, the Cornell Tech MBAs spend a couple of weeks over winter break in Israel, working with Israeli startups.
Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs or competitions on campus?
Will: Since the program is very new, Cornell Tech doesn’t have many official, established clubs. We are in the process of founding them. The most well-developed club is probably the Disruptive Technology Club.
Accepted: What do you plan on doing once you graduate?
Will: I accepted a job with a Boston-based fantasy sports company called DraftKings, where I will start in July.
Accepted: Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve been involved with lately?
Will: At Cornell Tech, I was part of a group with one other M. Eng. CS student and two MBAs in which we spent a semester working on a mobile application for AOL using beacons. At Cornell Tech, we’d meet with the other company project teams every Tuesday to see what everyone else was working on and receive help from industry specialists, entrepreneurs, and each other if we needed it. Once a month, we have a “hack day” on campus. All students participate in a 24-hour hackathon with their company project team and show off what they accomplished at the end. My AOL team developed an Android and iOS messaging application in which users can send messages to a particular user and location combination, so the recipients won’t receive the message until they are physically near where the message was sent to. We placed Bluetooth Low Energy beacons all around campus to provide locations that messages could be sent to.
Outside of school, JustGotGood.com is my most notable project. JustGotGood provides text message alerts for NBA games that are triggered when a particular game is within X points with less than Y time remaining, where the user defines X and Y.
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You can read more about Will’s journey by checking out his About Me page. Thank you Will for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!