2018

Stories related to "Technology".

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From Fail to Prevail

When Lotika Pai, ’08, arrived for her first day on the job, she was told to leave. Her role had been eliminated. It wasn’t personal; Pai’s start date was September 15, 2008—the same day that Lehman Brothers, her would-be employer, filed for bankruptcy. After enduring a competitive recruiting process and graduating from business school, Pai looked forward to switching into the fast-paced world of investment banking. The setback was understandably terrifying. “It was the sense of being overwhelmed by something that I had no control over,” she recalled. “I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” In the next few years, Pai got valuable experience as an investment banker at Barclays (which acquired Lehman Brothers days later), but she never forgot the anxiety she felt during the turmoil. “That situation was pivotal for me, in terms of wanting to change the trajectory of my career,” said Pai. That first setback with Lehman inspired Pai to consider entrepreneurship once she had finance experience under her belt. Last year, she cofounded Powwful, a Chicago-based women’s activewear brand that aims to change the conversation around fitness and empowerment. “Ultimately,” Pai said, “I wanted to be more in control of what happened to my career.”

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Flights of Fancy

Twice a month, Yves Dehouck, ’10 (AXP-9), lugs a two-pound mass of finely tuned propellers, circuitry, and a lens out to a plot of land near his home and sends it off into the heavens. Well, not heavens. As an enthusiastic amateur drone photographer, Dehouck is well aware of the safety regulations that come with his chosen hobby. The rule, he said, is “if you fly the drone, you should be able to see it.” So he aims for the sweet spot: low enough to keep out of trouble, but high enough to capture the sweeping vistas of the world below. It’s a pastime he discovered by way of a lifelong fascination with aviation. Born and raised a stone’s throw from Koksijde Air Base in Belgium, Dehouck grew up wanting to fly helicopters. However, as a young child, Dehouck wore glasses, which was a no-go if you wanted to fly. He thought his dream of becoming an aviator had already crashed and burned.

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What Is the Business Potential of Blockchain?

Eric Budish is professor of economics and a director of the Initiative on Global Markets at Chicago Booth, as well as a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His recent paper on cryptocurrency, titled “The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain,” was published in June: "I’m skeptical that Bitcoin—or other similar cryptocurrencies—will become what cryptocurrency believers fantasize about. Some fantasize it will become the global currency or a global store of value like gold. Some imagine it will become an important part of the global financial system, another currency alongside dollars and euros that moves around the world in serious quantities. My paper is trying to make an argument that’s quite skeptical of these possibilities. Satoshi Nakamoto, the anonymous founder of Bitcoin, came up with an ingenious way of creating trust in a database without a centralized, trusted party. I respect it as a computer science innovation, but my research shows it’s a really expensive way to generate trust because it’s only as trustworthy as the cost of attacking it. That cost is within the reach of eccentric billionaires, and certainly within the reach of a nation. Elon Musk could not attack the US Federal Reserve system, but he could attack Bitcoin. <br/>

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Worth the Risk

The Challenge: For most homeowners, buying insurance isn’t a customer-friendly experience. It takes time working with an agent and finding answers to numerous detailed questions. Filing claims can be arduous, and agents might not keep up with clients’ life changes, potentially leaving them underinsured. “They don’t even call you a customer; they call you a policy holder,” said Assaf Wand, cofounder and CEO of insurtech company Hippo. The Solution: Wand wanted to use technology to streamline the customer experience, but first he needed to learn the industry. Starting in 2015, Wand used his Booth training to break down insurance regulations and compliance into their smallest parts in order to understand how to build Hippo’s customer-centric model from scratch. “Basically we locked ourselves in the office for two years to figure this thing out,” he said.

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Game On!

Sergey Yun, MBA ’18, MS ’18, was one of the first to participate in a new joint-degree program that allows Booth MBA students to simultaneously earn a master’s degree in computer science through the University of Chicago. Yun graduated earlier this year, and shares his experience in the program here: Technology and computers have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I disassembled a cartridge for my video-game console. I was really interested in how this little microchip could produce my experience of playing a game. This is how I became a geek. I never got a chance to learn computer science formally. I always saw it as more of a hobby and not a serious career trajectory. I studied economics and financial management and worked in consulting. Initially when I came to Booth, I thought I might pursue investment banking or another career in finance. But I soon realized I wanted to pursue something I felt more passionate about, and I began to consider a career in technology. So when we got an email announcing a new joint-degree program with the computer science department, it came at exactly the right moment in my life. I knew it would be a perfect fit for me given my interests and my new direction.

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Putting Creativity to Work

These days, companies are deploying creative thinking across departments while replacing strict office policies with opportunities to tinker. Firms are allowing employees time to test out ideas, encouraging new concepts without a fear of failure, and building out collaborative, couch-filled office environments. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and tapping into the potential of creative thinking can be a challenge. Striking the delicate balance between brainstorming ideas and moving forward on a project is one way Ted Wright, ’00, founder of Fizz, a word-of-mouth-marketing agency headquartered in Atlanta, taps into his own creative abilities. When Wright works with clients, one of his strategies is to use hard data as the backbone for creative thinking without heading straight for the answer. In the beginning of each project, he and his team spend hours gathering data on 53 questions in 18 categories to get an idea of the client objectives. Back at the office, teams set aside time for idea generation based on the results. “If you start to care what the answers are, you throw a lid on creativity. The trick is knowing that it’s a journey,” he said. Wright is not the only one figuring out ways to encourage this kind of open-ended thinking at work. Here are some other ways alumni create opportunities for creativity:<br/>

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Distinguished Alumni Awards 2018

Since 1971, the Distinguished Alumni Awards have honored leaders across industries who strive to make the world better by turning ideas into action. This year’s winners have applied their transformative insights to address the challenges of a rapidly changing world—from Singapore, to New England, to Nigeria. Their successes in industries as diverse as oil, biopharmaceuticals, education, and agriculture exemplify the resounding impact of Chicago Booth. Swee Chen Goh, ’03 (AXP-2), is the chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore—the first woman to earn a role that high in the company. Goh wants Shell to continue to play a prominent role in Singapore’s future and contribute as an active member of the Singaporean community. In 2003, Goh joined Shell as chief information officer, oil product, East. Just a year into her tenure, she was promoted to vice president of global IT services, a move that made her the first Asian woman to hold such a senior role. She took on a P&L role in 2011, running Shell’s lubricants and commercial fuels business for Asia Pacific/Middle East. Goh, with her family, relocated to Beijing before returning to Singapore, where in October 2014, she assumed the role of chairman of Shell Companies in Singapore, which currently has 3,200 employees.

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The View From Seattle

Sean Lobo, ’09, will never forget the warm welcome to Seattle he received from the late Nicholas Waltner, ’90, Alumni Club of Seattle president at the time. “He ran it really well,” said Lobo, who moved from New York to Seattle in 2014 to work at Vulcan Capital. Waltner thoughtfully checked in to make sure that Lobo and his wife had a smooth transition to the Pacific Northwest.<br/><br/>“He was willing to open up his heart and time and energy,” Lobo said. “That left a lasting impression.”<br/><br/>Waltner’s life was tragically cut short in a 2016 traffic accident, but his memory lives on in Seattle’s active alumni club. Lobo, now the club’s president, wanted to continue Waltner’s legacy by welcoming Booth graduates who come to work at companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks as well as the many startups with Seattle offices.<br/><br/>“Our vision was to take what Nick had started and take it to the next level. We were focused on getting people back to events, and we did that with exciting and interesting content,” said Lobo.

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My Culture Collection: Bill Meyer and Sarah Perkins

Bill Meyer, ’18 (XP-87), who graduated in April from Booth’s Executive MBA Program, dreamed up DesignerShare after noticing a huge peer-to-peer gap in fashion-sharing businesses such as Rent the Runway. Knowing he needed someone with fashion expertise to partner with, he asked longtime friend and lifestyle journalist Sarah Perkins to team up. Perkins had frequently loaned her designer items to girlfriends in her college business fraternity and thought the idea of creating an online platform where women could monetize their own closets was “genius.” They joined forces, and DesignerShare launched in spring 2017. We asked the cofounders what keeps them current as they manage their uniquely two-sided marketplace.

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A Workday With David Lee, ’11

As the vice president of innovation and UPS ventures at Atlanta-based United Parcel Service, David Lee, ’11, helps one of the world’s largest logistics companies think like a startup. He doesn’t fear a robot-filled future. Robots can have the boring jobs, according to Lee. Humans have more important creative and problem-solving work to do. Lee believes anyone can bring forth game-changing products and technologies, no matter his or her job title. He even gave a TED Talk (which has 1.6 million views and counting) on the topic. Here’s how Lee inspires innovation at UPS throughout a typical workday.

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To Your Health

The Challenge: In the early 2000s, a 50 percent failure rate for mental-health-drug trials meant the Food and Drug Administration approved few new treatments for psychiatric diseases, says Amy Fershko Ellis, ’80, who cofounded MedAvante in 2002 to analyze how the pharmaceutical industry tested psychiatric drugs. Her team found the root cause of trial failure was measurement variability and investigator bias in subjective assessments of trial participants. MedAvante created a holistic methodology to improve testing, but the company encountered industry resistance as outsiders looking to change the way clinical trials had long been conducted. The Strategy: Ellis applied universal principles to product development. Because drug trials are conducted in various parts of the country and around the world, companies pay investigators to find, evaluate, and enroll patients. But differences between investigators result in unreliable outcomes. MedAvante, however, proposed a way to control and centralize the evaluation process, using the internet to connect remote clinicians to patients to ask the same questions in the same way and characterize patient responses identically. MedAvante also digitized the process and made it cloud based, so researchers would have instant results. To build credibility, MedAvante enlisted key medical and scientific leaders who believed in their strategy and concept—mostly academics who didn’t have an economic bias. In 2005, MedAvante’s first two trials involved drugs that had previously failed. The new methodology showed significant results demonstrating the drugs worked, and the treatments were approved. Even with those results, industry skepticism of MedAvante’s nontraditional approach meant slow methodology adoption. But by 2009 the psychiatry industry embraced the system, and MedAvante dropped the 50 percent trial failure rate to the low teens. In 2014, MedAvante expanded the platform for use in all medical drug trials, using new technology to enhance data quality for drug developers. New services were quickly adopted beyond psychiatry, especially in studies of Alzheimer’s disease, where the company now holds a leadership position. “We benefited from the halo we had from our success,” Ellis said. The Takeaway: A great strategy can work in all sectors, even if implemented by industry outsiders. If the strategy and results are sound, don’t be discouraged by naysayers.

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A Workday with Erez Mathan, ’16 (EXP-21)

London-based payments company GoCardless aims to simplify direct debit for small businesses and large enterprises alike, but it’s more than simply a direct-debit venture to COO Erez Mathan, ’16 (EXP-21). “GoCardless allows businesses to get paid on time, improves their cash flow, and allows them to focus on their customers and offer additional services that they weren’t able to offer before,” said Mathan, who moved to London from his native Israel five years ago. “Hopefully, we will grow to a size that we can say that we have impacted many businesses across the world.” That ambition translates into a busy but rewarding workday.

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What Will Your Workplace Look Like in 2028?

Jonathan Dingel, assistant professor of economics and James S. Kemper Foundation Faculty Scholar, teaches Managing the Firm in the Global Economy. If I were looking 10 years out, I would say the changing nature of work will particularly reward talent living in some of the world’s biggest cities. The concentration of college-educated workers is already increasing in big cities, including San Francisco and New York. That contributes to an increasing inequality of life between larger cities and less populated areas. As computerization causes routine work to be automated, certain types of nonroutine, cognitively intensive tasks will offer an even bigger reward. It’s becoming more important for us to interact with other highly skilled people to get innovative results.

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Fintech at the Crossroads

When it comes to innovation, the finance industry usually moves along like the proverbial tortoise: slow and steady. But sophisticated computer algorithms have come along and strapped booster rockets to that plodding reptile, rocketing the industry into the twenty-first century at blinding speed. Recent studies of alternative finance around the world underscore the rapid growth. The Asia-Pacific online alternative finance market, including peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding, grew 323 percent in 2015 to $102.8 billion, led by a fourfold increase in China to $101.7 billion, according to the study, “Harnessing Potential: The 2015 Asia-Pacific Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report.” Another study, “Moving Mainstream: The European Alternative Finance Benchmarking Report,” noted that the European alternative finance market grew 144 percent in 2014 to €2,957 million.<br/>

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Out of the Box

Full-Time student Julia McInnis was mingling with a crowd of partygoers at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival when she found herself a stone’s throw away from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix. It would have been daunting enough to introduce herself to Hastings alone, but he was flanked by Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, and the comedian Chelsea Handler, the latest star to join the streaming service’s fast-growing constellation of talent. It was a triumvirate of industry heavy hitters that can make small talk at Sundance an act of daring. “It took me a good 15 minutes to work up the courage to go over there,” McInnis said. Fortunately for McInnis, she didn’t have to pester Hastings with a standard elevator pitch. The documentary she helped produce over the past four years, Unlocking the Cage, had already been snatched up in a distribution deal with HBO. She wanted to speak with Hastings as a curious student of the entertainment industry, and she spied an opportunity just as Handler headed for the bar. “I said to him, ‘Hi, my name is Julia McInnis, and I’m an MBA student at Chicago Booth. We just did a case study on Netflix in my accounting class. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your numbers.’” Hastings laughed, McInnis recalled, and said, “‘Yeah, you probably saw we’ve had some ups and downs over the years.’”

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Building Trust with Blockchain

For the fintech industry—for all financial institutions—trust in transactions is essential. To increase trust in online transactions, software technology known as blockchain creates a higher level of accounting transparency than in standard transactions, where all parties aren’t privy to the accounting ledger. There are many forms of blockchain, but they generally operate the same way, by creating digital signatures of each transaction and sharing them among a network of computers. Each computer can use the signatures to continuously verify who owes what to whom. <br/>

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The View From the Bay Area

Is the Golden Gate Bridge looking a little maroon lately? Perhaps. More than 2,600 Chicago Booth alumni now live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though the tech scene dominates, large numbers of alumni also work in consulting, marketing, and investment banking—bringing a data-driven sensibility to the start-up hotspot. Alumni who attended Polsky Center’s West Coast Demo Day at Google headquarters (see “Something Ventured,” page 26) shared how they’re bringing The Chicago Approach to the city by the bay.

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A Workday With Michael Farb and Avi Stopper

Avi Stopper, ’06, and Michael Farb, ’09, cofounded CaptainU to create an easier way for high school athletes and college coaches to connect and build meaningful relationships. The CaptainU suite of products allows the athletes to promote themselves to recruiters, and the coaches to control the recruiting process from start to finish and improve their teams. The company’s roughly 60 employees span two offices, with CEO Stopper based in Denver and COO Farb settled in San Francisco. In the last eight years, CaptainU has helped more than 1 million students connect to more than 10,000 college coaches and over 2,000 tournament directors.<br/>

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Treasuring the Earth

Few in the world understand risk better than Henry M. Paulson, Jr. As the 74th secretary of the treasury for the United States during the final years of the Bush administration, Paulson was there when the credit bubble burst. He saw the United States enter the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. And as the chief financial executive for the government during that time, he knew the risk of political dithering—the potential consequences that awaited every American had the US government allowed the financial system to collapse.