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Alumni Share Insights Into the MSIM Program

Four MS in Innovation and Management alumni discussed their experience in the program and offered words of wisdom to prospective students.
From left, Rahul Chavan, MSIM '18, Sarah Drury, MSIM '17, Konstantinos Tzortzakis, MSIM '19, and James Aronson, MSIM '19.

During a recent panel, four MS in Innovation and Management alumni reflected on their experience in the program, discussing why they chose it and how they leveraged the hands-on, experiential learning to launch their careers.

The alumni included: 

  • James Aronson, E18, MSIM ‘19, Co-Founder of Rezzi
  • Rahul Chavan, MSIM ‘18, Product Manager at Oracle
  • Sarah Drury, MSIM ‘17, Senior User Researcher at DraftKings
  • Konstantinos Tzortzakis, MSIM ‘19, Co-Founder & Chief Business Officer, Anodyne Nanotech

The MSIM program, which prepares students with transformative skillsets and exposure to the full innovation lifecycle, is a full-time program for recent graduates that can be completed in as little as one year. At the end of the session, the group offered advice to prospective students; here’s what they had to say.

 

Why did you choose the MS in Innovation and Management program?

James: Following undergrad, I got the feeling that I had built a lot of the technical skills I needed to design or create something, like a solution that I envisioned, but I didn’t really have the business skills or experience needed to bring it to market. When I started looking at graduate programs, that was kind of the forefront of what I was looking for. One of the things that really drew me in was not just taking the classes that you needed to gain those skills, but actually continuously applying them as you went through the program. 

Rahul: I remember thinking that I wanted to go back to school and do a master’s program, but I was very unsure of what I wanted to study. I plotted on a whiteboard of what I liked most in college, and what resonated with me the most was tech because obviously, I had a technical background. I had also done a bunch of marketing projects in college. So, I liked marketing and business. Additionally, I wanted to learn a little bit more about UX, which I had a very little background in, so when I was searching for master’s programs, I was interested in finding a combination of all of these things. 

Sarah: I worked in a bunch of labs doing research during undergrad. I wanted to know how to bring that to the real world and have an impact on products, people, and things at a faster pace than it was happening in academia. I had a really wonderful conversation with Kevin Oye (Executive Director of Tufts Gordon Institute; Director of the MS in Innovation and Management Program; and Professor of the Practice) when I was interviewing, and the sense I got of the world ahead of me, the big opportunities – I felt like there was this wide door that opened.

Konstantinos: I worked a little bit in systems engineering and design with a focus on the internet of things. I was always curious to do the next step and make different products, but similarly to James, I realized I wanted to learn the business skills … Through the MSIM program, I got all of these great skills that changed my mindset to first understanding a problem and then building something cool – not building something cool and then trying to figure out the problem. 

 

How did the MSIM program help you define what your career goals were and what you wanted to do after you graduated?

James: What MSIM gives you the skillset to do is look at things from a holistic perspective and prioritize which initiatives you really need to focus on and make progress towards. The other thing is building your network. And in the MSIM, part of building your network is the cohort that you go through the program with and people from previous cohorts. 

Rahul: The MSIM program, I like to think, spoils you because you do everything in it. You are doing the innovation, the product development. You’re doing the user research with your teams. You’re doing the marketing. You’re doing the finance. You’re doing all of the components of launching a business. 

Sarah: Walking into it, I didn’t realize what was available to me in the world, so it completely opened my eyes to the options. I didn’t have a fluency in the world of product management or product design or creating your own company from scratch. So, first of all, it gave me the right vocabulary, the right fundamentals of how the world works outside of school. Second, it introduced me to a career path I didn’t know existed that matched almost 100% with what I wanted to do in my life, but I didn’t know was an option. I had the right contact and mentor established through the program to know what it takes to go from being in the MSIM program to actually working in the field.

Konstantinos: For me, especially coming as an engineer, the program completely changed my mindset and exposed me to things outside of my comfort zone. You have to speak with a lot of people. You have to be calm. You have to do all these steps to understand how to create something that someone really cares about and then get all the skills, like finance, to understand how I can build a business plan, how can I make milestones that I can justify, and how, at the same time, to be attractive enough for my investors or customers. 

 

What does the day-to-day look like in the MSIM program?

James: The way that the MSIM program is structured lets you take on as much as you want to. If you want to explore an extra interest or something else as you’re going through the program, you’re free to. During the program, I worked part time as well. 

Sarah: I lived with three other MSIM classmates, so it was a 24/7 experience. I loved it. You tend to be in class for about half the day and it’s very interactive. For class, you did your readings beforehand, and you go ready to discuss. It was not by any means a one-way lecture. It was open ideas, questions, and then we would break out into groups to work on things together. Then, we would spend the rest of the day working with your Sprint team or doing your finance homework. I just remember it being such a social and interactive experience. You know everyone in your class. You know who to go to for whatever type of problem or challenge that comes up and you have access to the teachers and professors. I felt like I could just go and talk to anyone.

 

What advice do you have for any prospective students?

James: This is an opportunity to take on as much as you want to and explore all your different interests. There’s the entire MSIM ecosystem that you can take advantage of: other students in your cohort, professors, mentors, or guest speakers in the program. Then there’s a greater Tufts community – it’s in the greater Boston area; it’s in New York; it’s in California; it’s across the world. In the city of Boston, there’s a big entrepreneurship community there, too, that you can reach out to. If you have the opportunity, take advantage. 

Rahul: Have more fun while you’re [in the program]. During the program, it’s very natural to feel a little bit of stress at some point. I’m sure a lot of other people were experiencing the same amount of intensity in the program just given how fast-paced it is, and this is what sort of the day-to-day life as an entrepreneur feels like.

Sarah: There are moments when I found myself uncertain about what does this all mean or what direction this will take me in, and it taught me that moments of uncertainty are never going to go away. It’s actually a wonderful experience because it means that there are many possibilities out there, so you’re not stuck in one path. I would tell myself to enjoy those moments and take full advantage of all these opportunities that are in front of you. Embrace the network and the people around you. Get used to being uncomfortable.

Konstantinos: It’s very important to have and understand your options, so the earlier you figure it out, the better. And enjoy the uncertainty, of course, because without it, it’s boring. I really liked working with so many different people from so many different countries who are working towards the same goals and learning with you.

Applications are being accepted for the Fall 2021 MS in Innovation and Management cohort. To learn more, visit: https://gordon.tufts.edu/programs/m-s-in-innovation-and-management