Boston Students Make a Splash at Dublin’s Web Summit

MBA Scholars at Web Summit
Eleven MIT Sloan MBAs were selected as part of Web Summit’s MBA Scholars Program, of which ten are pictured. (Image courtesy of Takuya Takizume)

Nearly two dozen graduate and undergraduate students from Boston area universities participated in the Web Summit’s MBA and Student Scholars Program, including representatives from MIT, Harvard, and Northeastern. Web Summit — taking place annually in Dublin, Ireland — is one of Europe’s largest and fastest growing technology conferences.

The program awarded students a complimentary pass to the Summit and featured a number of exclusive events, including a reception at the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s Mansion House and a tour of Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College. The Boston-based delegates were amongst 200 selected students, chosen from a pool of 7,000 applications for the program, after nearly 1,000 phone interviews with applicants from 137 different academic institutions around the world.

I’m proud to say that MIT Sloan had the largest representation of MBAs at the Summit, including second year Sloanies (as pictured above from back row to front, left to right): Erica Swallow, Rupali Chawla, Anita Kibunguchy, Megha Jain, Perihan Abou-Zeid, Cherry Liang, Pongpun Laosettanun, Michael DiBenigno, Stephanie Cheng, and Samir Luther; not pictured is Cheryl Silveri, the only first year Sloanie to attend Web Summit. Alexandre Bouaziz, a Master’s in Engineering graduate, also represented MIT at the Summit.

Harvard Business School MBAs included Ed Rogers, Rutika Muchhala, and Adeola Ogunwole, while Northeastern’s lone ranger, Cory Bolotsky represented his undergrad school and MassChallenge, where he is a strategic growth analyst. Though I heard there was representation from Boston University and Babson College in the Student Scholars program, I didn’t run into anyone… In any case, go Boston for having so many talented representatives!

Student Scholars at Web Summit
MBA and Student Scholar delegates at the Lord Mayor of Dublin’s Mansion House (Image courtesy of Takuya Takizume)

The students not only saw and interacted with some of the world’s most notable innovators, including those from Boston, but a few also took to the stage themselves.

Rutika Muchhala, HBS Class of 2015 MBA Candidate, spoke about “unleasing the power of women in technology, focusing on why the world needs more women founders, what the challenges women face are, and how to inspire more women to join tech. “Seventy percent of mobile gamers are women, although traditionally gaming is male-dominated; 70% of e-commerce purchases are controlled by women; and 60% of Facebook’s membership is women,” she pointed out. “But only 13% of VC backed startups have at least one female co founder, and only 3% of all tech startups are founded by women.” Muchhala implored the audience to do their part in getting more women involved in technology, pointing to her own experiences as anecdotes. In short, she suggests that people not only support the girls and women in their lives who want to be technologists, but also reach for their own dreams. If you’re a woman in tech, she suggests starting early, forming a strong mentor network, speaking up about your journey, and lastly, “be the change you want to see, be a women in tech.”

MBA Panel at Web Summit
Three Boston area MBAs join a Canadian MBA and Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave on stage for a chat about college and grad school life. (Image courtesy of Stephen McCarthy, Sportsfile)

Three Boston-based MBAs – HBS 2015 Adeola Ogunwole; HBS 2014 dropout and Alfred Club co-founder and CEO Marcela Sapone, and MIT Sloan 2015 Erica Swallow (me) – joined by HEC Montréal Class of 2014 MBA graduate Thomas Sychterz and Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave on the main stage to speak with 5,000 Dublin area high school students about post-college and graduate student life. Sapone, the lone (or shall I say, token?) dropout on the panel, made the case that taking a leave of absence is the best path for an entrepreneur on the verge of ramping up a company. Indeed, she and her team are gearing up to launch Alfred Club; staying in school would have meant splitting her focus, an option likely to slow down the startup’s progress.

Ogunwole, who came to business school with 10 years of experience, urged the audience to spend time trying as many new experiences as possible, while Sychterz cautioned students to be active and engaged, rather than passive learners. Come to the classroom with a purpose and direction, he said. Don’t expect professors to feed you the answers; know what you want to get out of your program.

The biggest piece of advice I offered to students came within the last 30 seconds of the panel: Ditch their homework when necessary to follow your passions, I encouraged. After all, some of my most memorable and educational experiences from NYU undergrad and my current time at MIT include studying abroad, learning a new language, interning with my favorite professors, and getting into late-night philosophical debates with my friends and classmates. The accounting exams and communications slideshows, sadly, turned out to be helpful, but not as life altering as the auxiliary experiences student life affords.

All in all, the Boston student showing at Web Summit was not only significant, but also inspiring, as we banded together to make a meaningful impact through panels, conversations, and experiences.

Erica Swallow

Erica Swallow is a technology writer, startup entrepreneur, and status quo wrecker. She is currently an MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management and her thoughts have been published in a number of esteemed outlets, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post, among others.

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3 Comments

  1. You guys /rocked/ it up there, and made us scholars proud. (I was also proud to find out that you were an NYU alum! )

  2. Erica,

    It sounds as if MIT Sloan had an impressive presence at the Summit. I’m thrilled for you with the outcome after all the work you all put in to make the trip to Dublin happen.

  3. Ruthika
    Words would fail to express how proud you make us feel.
    Wishing you all the best always and good health and happiness.
    You proud Masa

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