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TechCon: Tech To the Future

The Stern Technology Association (STA) is one of the most active student-led clubs in the school. They are known for their industry-focused events, career resources, and alumni contacts. The club has over 700 members and has become a must-join for students looking to build or grow their tech career.

The Tech Conference is an annual flagship event hosted by the STA. Organized by the student board, it brings together enthusiastic students and industry professionals in a number of panels over three days. This year the conference was organized by Zoë Barth-Werb (Full-time MBA2, VP Flagship Events), Aya Philémon (Full-time MBA2, VP Flagship Events),  Anushka Kurra (Full-time MBA1, AVP Flagship Events and incoming STA Co-President), Laura Ding, (Full-time MBA2, VP Flagship Events), Mary Vergara (Full-time MBA1, AVP Flagship Events), Sara Mahini (Full-time MBA1, AVP Flagship Events) and Jimmy Kepner (Full-time MBA2, STA Co-President). I caught up with Jimmy and Anushka to learn more about TechCon: Tech to The Future.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Could you tell us a little about TechCon? What made you choose the theme ‘Tech to the Future’?

The Stern Technology Association’s annual TechCon brings together graduate students, alumni, and leading industry professionals to discuss current topics in the business and technology industry. The 2022 conference, entitled Tech to the Future, focusing on emerging technologies, was hosted virtually over Zoom from March 22nd through March 24th.

When choosing our theme, we wanted to focus on new technologies and how recent trends and innovations were affecting business and society. Every industry conference discusses technology nowadays in one way or another, so STA wanted to differentiate this conference from others by discussing what the new technologies are. Last but not least, we wanted to examine how established tech companies are coping with the rapid innovations in their sector.

You have had a very unique experience with the MBA, often straddling the virtual and in-person world. How has STA managed to make the most of this when it comes to planning this flagship event?

This past year has highlighted the need for us to be both flexible and resilient. We cannot thank the Flagship team enough for working around the clock the past few months to put on a stellar conference that STA, Stern, and NYU can be proud of. We sought to make this conference as in-person as possible to allow networking across MBA1s, MBA2s, Langones, and Tech MBAs and minimize Zoom fatigue.

Planning a hybrid event was challenging but necessary to give everyone the maximum flexibility required when planning an event during Covid. The team worked hand-in-hand with OSE and other Stern departments to keep abreast of new Covid policies and put in place contingency plans in case the conference had to go fully virtual at the last minute. We appreciate all the support and guidance the administration provided us along the way, helping us think outside of the box when it came to planning this hybrid event.

What was on the schedule for the conference?

STEM to STEAM (how good design builds a more effective product)

  • Dressing Robots: An exploration of the functions of clothing for robots
    • Natalie Friedman, PhD Candidate in Information Science at Cornell Tech
  • Why humanizing users is important for both business and creativity with Samanta Shi, Senior UX Designer at Equinox
  • STEM to STEAM in Education with Jennaca Davies, Assistant Professor at Rhode Island School of Design

“New Technology at Scale” (how larger companies can innovate to prevent being disrupted)

  • Future of 5G by Verizon
    • Moderator: Rosa Ma, MBA Student at New York University Stern School of Business
    • Mike Haberman, Vice President – Technology Development & Planning at Verizon
  • Innovation at Scale: Challenges & Opportunities
    • Moderator: Michael Impink, PhD Candidate of Strategy at New York University Stern School of Business
    • Venky Chandrasekhara, Senior Vice President at Acuity Brands
    • Chris Ieva, Head of Data at Anheuser-Busch
    • Aiwa Shirako, People Innovation Lab Lead at Google

“Web 3.0” (blockchain, cryptocurrencies, DeFi, NFTs, etc.)

  • NFTs: Are They Here to Stay?
    • Moderator: Amal Shehata, Clinical Associate Professor of Accounting at NYU Stern
    • Dan Heyman, CEO at Palm NFT Studio
    • Jeremy Drane, Co-Founder & COO at Monax Labs
    • Gabriel Dantas, Senior Product Manager at ConsenSys
    • Elyse Fulcher, Creative Director at Palm NFT Studio
  • Cryptocurrency: Hype vs. Reality
    • Moderator: Grace Hartley, Strategic Projects Lead for the Office of the CTO at ConsenSys
    • Rob Dawson, CTO at ConsenSys
    • Greg Markou, Co-Founder and CTO at ChainSafe Systems
    • Sean Moss-Pultz, Co-Founder and CEO at Bitmark Inc.
    • Evin McMullen, Co-Founder & CEO, Disco.xyz

The conference covered a wide variety of topics from robots to innovating at scale and Web 3.0. What was the thought process behind picking the topics and speakers at the conference?

Hosting the conference over three days gave us the opportunity to dive deeper into three specific, relevant topics. We also pushed ourselves to come up with topics that are not usually covered in other MBA technology conferences, hence the choice to include STEM to STEAM. For Web 3.0, we wanted to showcase Stern’s strength in this topic, with its location in New York City and strong finance and technology faculty. When it came to picking speakers, we would like to thank our advisor Professor Robert Seamans , and the broader NYU community, including the administration, classmates, faculty, and alumni who helped us each step of the way.

How was the reception for the event? How did it go?

TechCon went really well! We had over 270 people register for the conference, and folks joined virtually or in person when they were able to throughout the week. The most popular session was the Future of 5G with Verizon, which had about 80 attendees. These attendance numbers signal a strong interest amongst Sternies in learning more about tech. It was rewarding to provide our fellow classmates with opportunities to learn about the bleeding edge of innovation in various technology sectors. Furthermore, the three-day hybrid format worked well given the circumstances, providing panelists,moderators, presenters, and attendees maximum flexibility.

What was your favorite session? What is something you learned from the conference?

I loved both the sessions on Web 3.0. Particularly the one on NFTs. I think all the drama with the Bored Ape series has given NFTs a bad rep. I found Elyse Fulcher’s comments on the ability of NFTs to become tools of social good really interesting. The concept of NFTs giving power back to creatives was something that came up quite a bit in the panel, and it really got me thinking. It opened my eyes to the possibility of its application in music, film and art media. This was my favorite session of the conference!

What is coming for the STA for the rest of Spring?

We host a lot of cool networking events and panels throughout the year. We have a TechTalk coming up. Stay tuned on CampusGroups for more information!

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