Cornell Tech MBA Update


Cornell Tech launched its first TEDx conference in New York City this month, and Johnson Cornell Tech MBA students helped plan the event right from conception.

TEDx is a community-driven version of the well-known TED Conference. TEDx events are modeled on the TED Conference, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

For its first TEDx, Cornell Tech hosted seven diverse and exciting speakers, ranging from the director of the Art Genome Project, to the founder of 2U, a leading online education technology platform.

Planning the TEDx event fit well with Cornell Tech’s mission of driving cross-functional collaboration within the New York technology community.

Five Cornell Tech students comprised the planning team for this year’s event, including four Johnson Cornell Tech MBAs, and Sindhu Ravindra, a first-year Connective Media student.

“Our intention is for this to be passed on from year to year,” says Eric Conti, MBA ’16, one of the student organizers. “Since four of the five of us are one-year MBA students, we hope that Sindhu will be able to carry the torch as a returning student and help ensure that we have this event next year as well.”

This year’s organizers appreciated the many aspects of coordinating such a complex event, from working with a diverse panel of speakers to soliciting corporate sponsors.

“Through the Cornell Tech MBA program, many of us are pursuing a start-up business,” Conti says. “Pitching the TEDx event to potential sponsors was a great exercise in learning how to present the same product in different ways, depending on who you were talking to.”

The organizers’ classmate, Ian Folau, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ’16, spoke at TEDx Cornell Tech on how he leveraged his past experiences as an Army officer and his current graduate business studies to launch a new startup company.

“Ian has lived a couple of different lives before coming to Cornell Tech,” says Rachel Flynn, MBA 16. “He was a former Army officer, he graduated from West Point, and he has his own rugby ball business. He also participates in numerous philanthropic activities, particularly tying back to his familial roots in Samoa. He’s just a fascinating guy, and we thought he’d represent Cornell Tech students very well alongside the rest of our esteemed panel.”

“One of the biggest struggles I had in my life was living up to the leadership role models that I grew up with,” Folau says. “I graduated from West Point with high expectations of becoming a great inspirational leader. I finally came into myself as a leader, when I realized that leadership was about caring about people. So my talk focused on my personal transformation in going from a by-the-book leader to a human-centered leader.”

Folau’s TEDx talk resonated with numerous people, who later contacted him by e-mail, LinkedIn and Twitter with follow-up questions about specific leadership issues.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to prepare for this TEDx talk, learn more about myself, and reinvigorate my dedication to being a caring leader as I start as CEO of my new company, GitLinks,” he said.

The Cornell Tech TEDx Conference was held on Saturday, April 23, 2016, at the offices of venue sponsor Infor in New York City. Video recordings of this year’s Cornell Tech TEDx will be available for viewing at the event’s website:
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