Lying in bed each morning, Emily Batt (MS/MBA 2020) yearned to sleep a little longer, but had no way of knowing when her roommate would finish her seemingly endless shower. That frustration inspired a team project in the new MS/MBA: Engineering Sciences Program, offered jointly by HBS and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). With just three days to complete a prototype, Batt’s team created a connected device and mobile app that delays a smartphone alarm from sounding until the shower is free.

Batt’s ingenuity is emblematic of the 29 students from around the world who comprise the first cohort, which started in the fall of 2018. The two-year program confers both an MBA and a Master of Science in Engineering Sciences. It is designed to train future leaders of technology ventures by combining their passion for innovation and engineering with an in-depth understanding of management and leadership.

“These students want to build things and lead companies that make the world a better place. The program gives them the insights and tools to take their ideas to the next level,” notes Thomas Eisenmann, faculty co-chair of the program and the Howard H. Stevenson Professor of Business Administration at HBS.

Through courses in business and engineering, as well as specially designed integrated courses co-taught by HBS and SEAS faculty, students hone their technical expertise and gain the business skills needed to commercialize an idea or lead a tech venture. They practice design thinking, build proto-types, and pitch their ideas to potential investors. During the summer, they work on their own startup concepts or intern at technology ventures.

Eisenmann explains some of the distinctive characteristics of the program: “The students have access to a host of entrepreneurship resources, including HBS’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship and the Harvard Innovation Labs; the chance to experience five design cycles; and the opportunity to tap into Harvard’s vast network of leaders and founders.”

All of the students bring strong technical backgrounds to the program—from fields including computer science, aerospace, health care, robotics, and the military—as well as experience in designing or developing technology-intensive products. For Adar Arnon (MS/MBA 2020) and Mark Gakman (MS/MBA 2020), both of whom gained their technical experience by serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, being at HBS and SEAS has exceeded their expectations. 

“As engineers, we’re excited by new technologies, pushing the limits, and building sophisticated things, but sometimes we might miss early mistakes,” says Gakman, a former R & D team leader. “In the MS/MBA program, we learn the more structured way to avoid failures, such as doing customer research, ideating with a minimum viable product, then seeing how people react to it—steps that lead to success.”

Arnon hopes the engineering, design, and innovation management concepts and skills emphasized in the program will help him expand on the cybersecurity work he did in the military. “For nine years, I concentrated on defense work, and I wanted to come here to get a broader experience and understand more of the business side—to see how thing are done in the B2B context,” he explains.

Batt, a former product manager and mechanical engineer, thought that the MS/MBA program would suit her wide-ranging interests. “I didn’t want to abandon the technical rigor and science that I love,” she says, “but I wanted the big-picture perspective and the opportunity to determine how I can best use my strengths to make an impact.”