Before matriculating at HBS, Damjan Korac (MBA 2017) had a plan to combine his interest in technology and management. Damjan interned as a product manager at Microsoft after his junior year at Princeton, and as a senior was accepted into the 2+2 Program at HBS.
Knowing that HBS would help him hone his business and leadership skillset, Damjan planned to spend the next two years focused on engineering. “I knew it wasn’t enough just to be a strong software engineer. It might be enough to build a great product, but it’s not enough if you want to build a great company,” he noted. Damjan spent the years before HBS working at AppNexus in New York City.
While working as an engineer Damjan never lost sight of his ultimate goal: to found and grow a business. “I was curious to work at a startup on the front lines, and I enjoyed being in that real world environment,” he said. “On a day-to-day basis I was always observing the managers that inspired me–and trying to understand what worked (and why) when leading a team.”
When Damjan made the move to Boston, he had the chance to explore the intersection between technology and business management in the classroom. He took advantage of classes like Launching Tech Ventures, Strategy & Technology, Scaling Tech Ventures, and Entrepreneurial Sales and Marketing.
He also spent much of his two years at HBS working on his own startup and taking advantage of the school’s entrepreneurial resources. He was a Rock Summer Fellow; participated in the Rock Accelerator Program and the Harvard Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program; and pursued an Independent Project—a second-year faculty-supervised project for academic credit—focused on the development of his startup. Damjan also worked closely with professors like Tom Eisenmann, Jeff Bussgang, and Karen Mills; and gleaned leadership lessons on a daily basis from the cases and curriculum.
Given Damjan’s combined interest in technology ventures and leadership, and his background and work experience in the engineering field, the new MS/MBA seems like it would have been an obvious fit. When we chatted with him about the new joint degree he was excited to know this would be an option for future students with similar interests. “I definitely would have applied to this program,” he told us. “I think it’s great that students will graduate with two degrees in two years, and will have the chance to combine these two skill sets in a really structured way.”
Though there are many students interested in technology and entrepreneurship at HBS, Damjan admits he would have appreciated the cohort experience that the new MS/MBA will offer. “Bringing together a group of 30 people with a deep interest in technology is extremely interesting to me. I occasionally felt isolated as a developer at HBS, and I definitely could have used that community. I think the capstone project looks incredibly interesting, as does the chance to work closely with small groups of your peers throughout the two years.”
“I’ve learned it’s hard to successfully bring together sales and engineering in a way that’s very productive,” he continued. “That is often what separates new companies that succeed from those that struggle to gain meaningful traction. It’s an important challenge when building a team. I think that having an MS/MBA would help you reprioritize, balance resources between sales and engineering, and manage both of them simultaneously. I think a huge gap will be bridged in tech ventures by these graduates.”
Damjan also noted that there’s some skepticism around whether entrepreneurs should even attend graduate programs. He counters, “For two years at HBS, my full time job was learning about business, meeting people, and working towards my own startup. It was an incredibly safe environment to start my own company with Harvard’s resources and network at my fingertips.” For applicants who also want to continue to develop their technical expertise, this joint degree is even more compelling.
So what’s the plan for Damjan now he’s graduated from HBS? He and his cofounders and HBS classmates Gerrit Oren and Andrea Fantacone will continue to work full-time on their startup Magpie. And as he starts to do more recruitment, Damjan notes: “When looking at applicants, an MBA who also has an MS (and that technical background) would definitely stand out.”
Photo credit: ©Susan Young for Harvard Business School