The second class of Johnson Cornell Tech MBAs graduated in May 2016, and members of this cohort are already immersed in new careers, armed with the resolute product focus gained during their single intensive year at Cornell.
Greg Brill, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ’16, entered business school following careers in risk management at Deutsche Bank in London, and as an executive recruiter in the technology industry. The Johnson Cornell Tech experience empowered Brill to combine his love of technology with his passion for helping children with autism. Brill co-founded Thread Learning, a data platform for autism and special needs parents, educators, and schools, and one of the 2016 winners of the Cornell Tech Startup award.
“Autism education is incredibly evidence-based and data-intensive,” Brill says. “Teachers take thousands of data points each day, and right now it’s all done with pen and paper. You can imagine the amount of time it takes to analyze that data, and coordinate among a team of teachers, clinicians outside of school, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and other stakeholders.
“We’re making a tablet application that does the collection and analysis, and some care coordination. Our eventual goal at Thread Learning is to be the platform for all special needs data.”
As a winner of the Startup award, Thread Learning received $100,000 in start-up capital and use of co-working space in the New York Times building. The company is currently in beta testing with the largest autism school in New York State, as well as thirty teachers around the country.
Ben Duchac, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ’16, is also looking to make an impact in health care technology. Duchac brought a wide-ranging, non-traditional background to Johnson Cornell Tech. He holds an undergraduate art degree, has taught English in Japan, and worked as an emergency medical technician. Duchac went on to complete nursing school and worked in the burn intensive care unit at Weill Cornell Hospital in New York City. While there, he “tinkered” with the hospital’s computer system and devised a better way to share burn diagnostics quickly and accurately among medical staff. Duchac caught the digital bug and decided to make a career in healthcare technology.
“To me, it’s almost not an MBA,” Duchac says. “It’s something new, like MBA 2.0, or MBA for startups.”
For these recent graduates, program features such as accessibility and practicality differentiate Johnson Cornell Tech from more traditional business schools. These attributes reflect two of Cornell Tech’s core brand pillars: “Drive for Action” and “Connected to the Real World.”
“The entire program is created around designing and building startups, being nimble and agile,” says Duchac. “It’s a one-to-one application between what I’ve learned to what I’m doing at work.”
Former students marvel at how little bureaucratic red tape there is at the school, as well as the rapid and positive response to student feedback.
“They take feedback from students constantly, both at the administrative and classroom levels,” says Brill. “We had a class where you did a brief survey halfway through, and the instructor would literally change how he was teaching it the next day.”
According to Duchac, Johnson Cornell Tech is teaching students core competencies for the digital world, which include “communication, the presentation of ideas, and the execution of product into the real world.”
“If you can’t build something and sell it,” Duchac adds, “it doesn’t matter how good your projections are or how accurate your valuations are, you don’t have anything.”
Another recent graduate, Kate Bodden, Johnson Cornell Tech MBA ’16, holds a psychology degree from the University of Michigan and previously worked in the fields of data analysis and customer engagement. Now she has begun a new career as a Technical Product Manager with Amazon.
“I would not have gone to business school if it hadn’t been for Johnson Cornell Tech,” Bodden says. “I had the ambition, drive, and desire to be a leader in the business world, but the traditional business school did not appeal to me.
I was interested in a program where I could be myself, where an individual with my experience and background could actually be an impactful voice in the community.”