Today, we’re catching up with Andrea Coravos (HBS ‘17). Before coming to HBS, Andrea worked in private equity at KKR Capstone. She also spent three years at McKinsey in the Houston and then DC offices. This summer, she interned as a software engineer at Instacart
Can you tell us about what you’re doing this summer?
I’m working on the payments engineering team at Instacart, a same-day grocery delivery service. My team’s job is to handle everything that relates to the ordering process: we work with Stripe, our payments API, build the discounts infrastructure, and create an infrastructure to deal with fraud and debt. Working on payments is a critical function, and any bugs or badly-written code hits the bottom-line. I’m fortunate to work with some of the best engineers in Silicon Valley.
When did you first become interested in tech and decide to pursue a position as a software engineer?
While I was at McKinsey and KKR, it became increasingly clear to me that all companies are transitioning into tech-enabled companies
. When I looked at the leaders that I admired, I realized that many had a stronger technical background than I did. I worked in data-science-heavy roles before HBS, so I decided to dive deeper and go to a coding boot camp.
Can you tell us about your involvement with CODE? The Tech Club?
When we arrived at HBS last year, a few friends and I realized that there wasn’t a community to work on technical projects together, so we launched CODE
. Our mission is to bring technologists together at HBS. We want to keep our technical skills sharp and create accountability to learn and build while getting our MBAs. We’re an all-levels club.
What classes are available to those interested in tech?
recently published a piece called “Coding is the New Business Literacy
,” which outlines how to incorporate greater technical literacy within the HBS academic curriculum. Many professors are championing these changes, and I expect to see many new courses in the next few years. Aside from student clubs like CODE and Tech Club, in the second year, HBS offers courses like the popular CS50
, and HBS students can also cross-register at MIT and at Harvard College.
What CPD resources (or other HBS resources) did you use to find your internship? Is the timeline different when recruiting for more non-traditional positions?
Today, most of the CPD resources for tech companies are targeted toward product management and business-facing roles, but I believe this will shift with time. Because I wanted to be an engineer, I had to take a non-traditional path. I worked with my coding boot camp’s career center and also with friends in the industry. I was introduced to Instacart via Diana Kimball (HBS '13). She has a blog
about becoming more technical while getting her MBA.
What would you say to skeptics who suggest that you don’t need an MBA to work in the tech/startup scene?
I agree that an MBA isn't a requirement for a successful career in tech. Likewise, someone no longer needs a computer science degree for a successful career as a software engineer. However, because a degree is no longer a requirement, it doesn't make it worthless.
I can only speak to my own experience, and Harvard supports my work in tech/startups. For instance, this past year a few sectionmates and I started working on a side project called Ummo
, a personalized speech coach. Harvard provided the initial capital to get the project off the ground, and Ummo turned into something bigger than any of us expected. Our app got picked up in The New York Times
, Business Insider
and many other publications. Somehow Apple found out about it, and showcased Ummo in the App Store as The Top 3 "Apps We Love" in the US, UK, Canada and India. It was crazy.
At the end of the semester, we pitched the company in front of 1000+ people. Our classmates and professors helped us refine the business -- and now we are incorporating the company.
What advice would you give to prospective students with similar interests?
It’s never too late to develop technical skills. The engineering community is brimming with people who want to mentor and bring up newer developers. Even experienced developers have to learn new skills at some point -- there’s lots of collaboration.
What do you wish you’d known about HBS?
People attend MBA programs for various reasons, and many have a perspective on what the experience “should” look like. It was helpful to find my own voice
amid all the noise. Sometimes that path looks different from the traditional path, but perhaps is more rewarding, too.