We break from the traditional one-on-one interview with an individual student to chat with a duo – 2019 MPS graduates Kathy Wang and Anita Xu, who recently launched the startup, Uplift.
How has the MPS program furthered your career goals?
Kathy Wang: Since I did undergrad here at Cornell, choosing to pursue a Masters degree here was a very intentional decision, as it would mean that I’d be staying in Ithaca for another year. I decided to pursue the MPS program because I wanted to strengthen my design skills, as well as dive into the entrepreneurship world.
I thought one of the best ways to strengthen my design and entrepreneurship skills was through hackathons. Thus, I competed in the Fintech, Hospitality, and Digital Transformation hackathons in my first semester as an MPS student.
I was also on Cornell Design and Tech Initiative, a project team that creates apps to help the Cornell community. I was a designer on Flux, an app that gauges the crowdedness of dining halls, study spots, and gym facilities on campus. Throughout this past year, I helped build out the app from conception to launch. Throughout this entire process, I was able to use both my design and entrepreneurship skills.
Moreover, through the Digital Technology Immersion (DTI) track of the MPS program, I took NBA 5640, Entrepreneurship and Business Ownership. It was here that I met the rest of the ArcAffinity team. We applied to eLab (a competitive incubator program) together, and got in. It was through eLab where I was first exposed to customer discovery, venture capital, and the entire startup process.
After eLab came to a close, I began Uplift with Anita. We actually came together one day in the Rhodes lab, when we were both doing homework. I told her I wanted to enter this competition, and she said she was down to do it with me. And thus began Uplift. We proceeded to enter into more than ten competitions (including the Engineering Innovation Competition, MIT Grand Hack, NYS Business Plan Competition, TAMIDTank, etc.). In the course of one semester, we built out a business plan and a design prototype.
The MPS program has allowed me to really engage with the Cornell community, and I’ve learned that design and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand in so many ways. Not only has the MPS program given me a chance to work at IBM, it’s also allowed me to start my own journey of entrepreneurship. I’m very excited to see what the future holds.
Anita Xu: The interdisciplinary nature of the MPS program has enabled me to develop my technical, design and business skillset. It has also challenged me to think more critically about the moral, ethical and social implications facing the development of next generation technologies and how to develop solutions that are conscious of potential harmful effects.
The curriculum’s design and course selection were instrumental to my professional development and personal growth. Courses such as “Business Intelligence Systems”, “Learning Analytics” and “Introduction to Python” helped me to improve my data analysis and programming abilities. I was able to hone my understanding of finance and entrepreneurship through “Entrepreneurial Finance”, “Valuation Principles” and “Leading Agile Innovation”. Many of the courses taken to complete the program require team-based projects, and I found these to be extremely enriching experiences.
More importantly, the MPS and Cornell community were extremely caring and invested in my success. From peers being highly supportive during recruiting and exam season, to the hands-on career and program advice from Cynthia Todd, Barbara Woske and Gilly Leshed, I felt empowered to push myself out of my comfort zone. I am very thankful to the MPS faculty, staff and my peers for supporting me on my journey. I hope to use the learnings and experiences gained through the MPS program for good in my next chapter and beyond.