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Thea Sokolowski

Degree:

MBA

Location:

United States

Industry:

Social Impact

Year:

2014-15

By Thea Sokolowski

Where Tech Meets Tradition

Sunday dinner got a bit of an upgrade last weekend, when I found myself facing a table filled with Bob Goodson, Co-founder of Quid, Christian Lanng of Tradeshift, the DiNucci family of Silicon Valley fame, a myriad of SBS alumni and successful entrepreneurs, and of course, Dean Tufano and the Vice Chancellor of the University.

The annual Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford conference went off with a bang this week. Crowds gathered early Sunday morning to kick off the event. After hearing from Professor Ian Walmsley, Oxford’s own Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research, on the innovation and technological research going on within the university walls, we heard from a successful alum who has made a significant splash around the world.

Bob Goodson, formerly at Yelp and now founder of big data analytics software Quid, opened the conference with a look into the future. “We are a quarter of the way into a 100 year revolution in what it means to be human,” he ventured. This is all based on the way we think. He discussed the ways of thinking that he feels are in the process of change – to know, to communicate and to problem solve. Citing the extreme progress we’ve made in just 30 years, from the need to research questions we have in library books to the ability to discover anything within 6 seconds using our phones, he left us with some inspiration, encouraging everyone to imagine bigger. “There’s still so much to do.”

Day 1 was filled with panelists from a wide range of industries sharing their experience and fielding difficult questions. Sonny Vu, CEO of wearable technology startup Misfit, stressed the importance of culture, sound hiring practices and finding the right fit as essential elements to making a business successful. We heard from angel investors, innovators in biotechnology, representatives from incubators and international foundations, from Angellist and Greylock. Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, filled the Edmund Safra Lecture Theatre discussing the art of bold decision making, while social entrepreneur Leila Janah captured the audience with her story of Samasource and the dream she dared to make a reality.

Day 1 closed with a classic debate at the union around augmented reality, arguing the topic “This house believes that humanity’s augmentation with technology creates a better world.” The proposition team came out with a narrow win.

Day 2 was filled with master classes specifically for MBAs and EMBAs, diving deeper into topics meant to help us shape our own futures. Torsten Reil of NaturalMotion discussed the art of scaling a technology business, while Joe DiNucci and Maria Sendra helped us imagine our passions, picturing ourselves in 2065 looking back on what we’ve accomplished, and finding what it we wish to pursue. Topics from deeper business to machine learning and sales techniques were explored in detail before the conference was brought to a close with discussions on innovations in healthcare technology.

This conference offered the opportunity to sit in a small room and interact with some of the Valley’s biggest players without needing to leave the halls of SBS. More importantly, it deepened our relationship with the tech world while continuing to open doors for those still searching for their future paths. The idea of an MBA is still received with a bit of apprehension in the tech world, but hopefully discussions like this will continue to debunk that criticism and open the minds of both sides to the potential of this ever-growing space.

This has been by far one of the highlights of my year here, an extension of the Silicon Valley trek and an experience I will certainly take with me in the future.

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