Tech at Stern: Student and Faculty Perspectives

Courtesy of Tech Buzz Ireland

Written by Sumantra Banerjee

Stern has traditionally held a very strong reputation for its finance program, placing third in US News’ rankings. In 2018, Stern ranked 1st for US schools for preparing students for careers in Wall Street, with 3.9% of hires at the largest investment banks being Stern undergraduates. However, with business operations becoming more automated, as well as cloud computing and big data practices being more commonly adopted, roles such as data analyst and data scientist have risen heavily in demand. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics projects that Computer and information Technology jobs will grow by 11% this decade, much faster than the general average for all occupations. Stern has duly increased its breadth of opportunities for students to explore roles in tech in recent years, rebranding its Information Systems concentration to Computing and Data Science in 2016 to suit industry terminology. The concentration is currently the second most popular behind finance.

Professor Panos Ipeirotis, the Faculty Adviser for Computing and Data Science, claims the concentration prepares students well for data science and product management roles. “I think our students get a good understanding of the “why” behind the problems [they are working on], which is 50% of the work in data science,” he remarks. Additionally, self-proclaimed tech enthusiast and current co-president of Business Analytics Club (BAC), Jonathan Edelstein, affirms that “Stern provides a differentiated approach to teaching technology. I’ve seen people at BAC take both technical and qualitative courses, which I think is the true benefit of the curriculum. Students can choose their own paths on the broad umbrellas, which also give them strong foundations.” With classes such as Decision Analytics and Sports, Jonathan feels that students learn “real-world techniques that can be applied both in and outside the context of sports.” An unnamed senior highlights Stern’s tech clubs, commenting “At both BAC and SVS (Strategic Venture Society), we have really great events that keep us informed about non-technical roles in tech that really suit Stern students.” The senior also recommended the “Stern Talks” series for freshman Stern students to learn about alumni’s experiences in industry.

However, Stern’s tech curriculum and professional outreach does have its limitations. For students that seek opportunities in software engineering, Professor Ipeirotis did admit that only needing 4 classes to fulfill a concentration served as a key constraint for introducing more advanced programming courses, which he noted as “more limited to graduate programs.” The unnamed senior argues that the choice of data science courses is quite limited, declaring “In regards to data science, we do learn a lot of skills, but for the conceptual knowledge that we need for higher-level tasks, there is a lot of learning left to do. We need more classes that teach artificial intelligence and machine learning.” Moreover, Jonathan remarks that Stern should provide “more awareness about the ways we can apply our academic curriculum to professional contexts. [Hosting] more events with professionals to give opportunities for student interaction would really help students broaden their understanding. The demand is there, we just need to provide the supply.”

Nicole Ng, a Class of 2020 graduate and currently a data scientist at Aetna, agrees that the limitations of the Computing and Data Science concentration and Stern’s curriculum prevent students from learning “product-type and entrepreneurial thinking,” as “it’s more organizational, business-type, corporate top-down strategic thinking at the undergraduate level.” She suggests that Stern collaborate more closely with CAS’ Computer Science and Data Science programs to provide students with adequate technical skills. However, she notes that Stern “does a good job of introducing where tech can make a difference and how a company can think strategically about tech,” mentioning “that’s where I see the biggest difference [in learning] between me and a Data Science major at CAS.”

This July, Stern announced the launch of its new BS in Business, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (BTE), which will be adopted in its curriculum in August 2021. BTE is the first business program in the US to amalgamate business, technology, and entrepreneurship into a single program. Additionally, the program will incorporate courses from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Tandon School of Engineering to provide students with further technical skills in computer science and data analytics. BTE follows Stern’s Andre Koo Technology and Entrepreneurship MBA, which commenced in 2018.

Professor Ipeirotis believes that BTE will be “a welcome addition to our program” as it will “offer new courses and paths for students.” He contends that the new offering will be especially useful for students interested in product management, as apart from grasping further programming and quantitative skills, students will be able to learn the processes behind designing products. Jonathan feels similarly about the program, declaring that BTE “shows a lot of emphasis on Stern taking it to a whole new level in helping students with exploring the different sides of tech.” 

With technology still a growing field, Stern’s tech curriculum and professional network may not be as broad and comprehensive as its traditionally strong finance program. Nevertheless, students and faculty have both expressed excitement about the various skills and roles Stern offers to those taking and following tech-related classes and co-curricular activities. The BTE program signals Stern’s desire to provide further opportunities for exploration in the intersections of technology and business, and over time, we will likely see continued growth in graduates pursuing careers and further education in tech-related fields.

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