This blog is a repost from the HBS Recruiting blog.

An engineer by training, Stan Chang, MS/MBA 2020 candidate in the SEAS/HBS joint degree program, came to Harvard to “balance a business curriculum with an advanced engineering education. When I saw the curriculum here and the focus on ways to help people start companies, I knew that this was the best program for me.”

Stan had already gained an impressive amount of experience at Microsoft where he worked on operating systems and with online payments technology, responsibilities that “shaped my view on software development and how to make the process better.” Yet the possibilities for state-of-the-art enterprise B2B software utilizing SaaS business models inspired him to seek more. Going to HBS, with its start-up support system, would give Stan, “a guided experience into the world of entrepreneurship.”

Gaining an insider’s view of start-up culture

Although Stan had no commitments to any particular industry, he saw his internship as a gateway to entrepreneurship. “Microsoft was immense,” he says. “I wanted to work at a smaller company.”

While following the social media account of HBS’ Career & Professional Development Office, he learned about Sidewalk Labs, a unit of Alphabet (Google) with “a grand vision of developing the Toronto waterfront using advanced technology to make a better city, one with more efficient transportation and a more sustainable environment.”

Further investigation revealed that a recent HBS graduate, Justin Ernest (MBA 2019) had interned at Sidewalk Labs. Stan reached out to Justin for coffee and conversation. “He said the culture was great,” Stan says. “Justin had a great experience there working on deals to invest in other urban innovation companies.”

At the same time, Stan pursued the possibility through another angle, seeking advice from Thomas Eisenmann, co-chair of the HBS Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and faculty co-chair for the MS/MBA program. Professor Eisenmann knew two previous students who now led the Product team at Sidewalk Labs and put Stan in touch with both.

After submitting his resume, Stan participated in a series of interviews that began during finals week, a challenging time made more so by a number of obligations that took him out of the country. “I really appreciated their flexibility.” The extra effort by both parties paid off: by January, Sidewalk Labs made an offer.

Stan started in June with an official role as Product Manager Intern with responsibilities he describes as “a mix of technology development and business analysis. I work with a team focused on developing products aimed at lowering energy usage in commercial and residential buildings. On the development side, I am leading a team to design an app to optimize energy usage in buildings. On the business side, I’m looking for players in this space who could be potential partners with technology we can leverage.”

As he had hoped, interning at Sidewalk Labs has proven very different from his previous work experience. “At Microsoft, I was responsible for decisions at the feature level. But at a smaller company, I’ve been given a larger mandate; I’m responsible for the entire product, to come up with plans to lead teams through the design, development, and commercialization process.” Stan’s responsibilities include anticipating the end-user’s experience, gathering the resources needed for development, and building a business model to understand the value of the investment for the company.

On a more personal note, Stan says that before going to school in Boston, he had never lived on the east coast before. “I’m getting to try out New York City – it’s been wonderful exploring the many facets of this world-class city!” Although his post-graduation career plans remain open, he knows his future explorations will involve “learning how public agencies and private enterprises can work together at city, state, country, and global levels.”