Feb 17, 2015

Path to Technology

By Neil Kulkarni T’16

Neil is a first-year student at Tuck who spent the past four years working in strategy consulting at Deloitte advising clients in the CPG and health care industries. Neil is currently the Technology Representative on the Student Board and is also actively involved in tripod hockey and the Business and Society Conference. Neil grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Emory University.

I built my first computer when I was eight years old. Ever since then, I’ve always loved playing with new gadgets and finding ways to make them do things that manufacturers didn’t want them to do. Most of my friends and family call me for advice before buying any new piece of technology—whether it’s a camera, laptop/tablet, smartphone, TV, or something completely new and different.

During my first week at Tuck, I sat in Cook Auditorium with all 279 of the other T'16s and listened to Russell Wolff T’94, EVP ESPN International, talk about his amazing career at ESPN. At the end, he made one comment that stuck with me and truly made me re-evaluate my career path and change my internship search. Russell asked us to think about our hobbies and interests—what we spent our spare time on when we were still in the working world. He then asked us to figure out if there was a way to incorporate those interests into our career. Thinking back to that moment, technology was the first thing that popped into my head.

Before coming to Tuck, I had never really considered a career working in tech. Although tech firms operate pretty much everywhere—I grew up, went to college, and worked in Atlanta—the tech sector (and my network in the sector) is still somewhat limited in the South. I realized that I was starting from scratch and already "behind" many of my classmates and friends at other schools that had written essays about working in tech and had begun networking before even arriving on campus. Tuck’s Career Development Office (CDO) had already hosted a Tech Trek to Silicon Valley over the summer; unfortunately, the event wasn’t on my radar at the time.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only one of my classmates in the same situation. As we began discussing our career goals and dreams during orientation and throughout Fall A, we realized that there was a large group of students interested in the tech sector and we might have enough interest to plan another trip out to the West. Over the next month and a half, we coordinated with the CDO to plan another trek after our final exams in early December. The CDO encouraged us to take ownership and craft a trek that was student-driven and tailored to each of our needs. Lizzie Napier and Mathias Machado from the CDO provided guidance throughout the process and Lizzie even accompanied us out to the West coast. They encouraged us to use this as personal leadership opportunity as well. We distributed surveys to the class to figure out which companies people were interested in visiting, and worked with Lizzie and Mathias to contact alums and recruiters at each company to coordinate the visits. Other T'16s eagerly volunteered to serve as liaisons for the various companies, plan a happy hour event (TuckTails) with alumni, and before we knew it, nearly 20 percent of our class was headed to San Francisco and Seattle in early December.

Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.
—Henry David Thoreau

The trek included some of the usual suspects in the sector (eBay, Facebook, Google, IDEO, Intel, and Microsoft), other established firms (Amazon and Electronic Arts), and some of the up-and-comers in the industry as well (OpenTable, Square, and Tesla). Many of the companies had been at Tuck in the fall for networking events and company presentations and the trek was a great opportunity to reconnect with the alums we had met and actually get a feel for the environment at the firms. Most visits involved a quick tour of the office or campus, a presentation of some projects by recent MBAs or of MBA roles, and networking with execs and Tuck alums. One of the most memorable discussions was with Gary Briggs, Facebook’s chief marketing officer, who discussed the company’s need to finally hire a CMO after nine years as well as his vision for the company. Spending three to four days with other T'16s interested in technology also helped us work together and help each other prepare for upcoming internship interviews in January.

As someone who was late to the game persay, I know that the support of my classmates, the availability and friendliness of Tuck alums, the continued guidance from Tuck's CDO, and amazing experiences like the Tuck Tech Trek, have prepared me to embark on an exciting career and journey into a new field that I have always loved.

(Photo above: Tuck students pay a visit to Google.)