Events, Student Profile or Feature

Darden Students Ramp Up on Tech with Tech Week and Tech Conference!

By Brett Twitty-

Today’s blog post highlights some of the recent tech-related events at Darden. Many thanks to Second Year Vignesh “Viggy” Balagopalakrishnan for his work on this article!  

This year, the Darden Technology Club hosted two flagship events designed to help students chart their career path in the tech industry – Tech Week (1-4 October) and Tech Conference (2 November).

Both events brought together about 150 students and featured a wide variety of programming ranging from tech talks and workshops to career panels and social activities. Vignesh Balagopalakrishnan (Class of 2019), President of the Darden Technology Club, shared more about the purpose of the events:

“Our team spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year thinking about how to best cater to the overwhelming interest in tech among Darden students. Students wanted to know what it meant to have a career in tech, to learn about what’s happening in the industry today and to pick up skills that would help a tech career. And that’s exactly what we strived for with the Tech Week and Tech Conference.”

Tech Week

Hosted in October, Tech Week was designed to be a primer on the tech industry. The week kicked off with a talk by Lalin Anik who spoke about augmented reality and consumer behavior through the lens of marketing and behavioral economics. This was followed by a Data Science 101 workshop where students learned about R code from Casey Lichtendahl (who also leads Darden’s Data Science elective).

Highlights from the week include a session with Brendan Richardson, co-founder of Astraea, about how his company uses machine learning and satellite data to predict solar panel coverage across geographies, a career panel with Darden alumni who work at Amazon, an impressive demo of eye-tracking hardware by Tobii Pro and a Tech Club “Cold Call” complete with a nail-biting giant Jenga showdown. You can find the full Tech Week schedule above!

Tech Conference

Tech Conference, hosted in November in partnership with the Marketing Club, was a day-long, deeper dive, focusing on topics most relevant to the tech industry. It also afforded students the opportunity to interact with companies in a more intimate setting. Participating companies included Mastercard, Walmart eCommerce, Microsoft, Wayfair and Amazon.

The conference theme was “Empathy before Everything: Putting the Customer First” and the program featured two compelling keynote speakers: Mariel Furlong, a Darden alumna who spoke both about her tech journey as well as her career at Google, and Lee Susen, Senior Director Marketing at E. & J. Gallo, who discussed leveraging deep customer empathy to create new brands and products.

Other sessions explored launching a new payments product, defining a marketing plan for an enterprise productivity product, live-testing an e-commerce ordering workflow and using ethnographic interviews to create a new product line. 

Reflecting on both Tech Week and Tech Conference, Elizabeth Maybank (Class of 2020) noted: “Tech Week was universally engaging for anyone looking to learn about tech. I really enjoyed the R session where we analyzed real AirBnB data, and it helped me better understand how data scientists work. The Tech Conference was unique because of the hands-on and interactive workshops. A highlight for me was the lunch session where we were divided into small groups and paired with a company representative or Darden Second Year for a more concrete conversation about the tech industry.”

Tech Activities at Darden

Over the past few years, there has been a strong increase in tech interest among Darden students. In addition, the school has a number of tech-focused initiatives designed to help students build careers in this industry, including job treks to Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area, tech-focused electives (such as Digital Product Management and Data Science), as well as skills workshops (SQL, Programming, Python) hosted by the Tech Club.

These offerings, in addition to efforts by the Career Development Center, the Batten Institute and several student clubs (Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital, Marketing, Data Science, FinTech) have helped accelerate students’ careers and grow general awareness about opportunties in tech.