We caught up with Andrea Coravos (HBS 2017) after a Q&A she did with the MBA Voices blog during her second year at HBS. Coravos reflects on her time at HBS and how she transitioned into digital health and engineering following a career in healthcare consulting and private equity. She discusses the steps she took while at HBS to strengthen her technical capabilities and how it led to the career path she’s on today.

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 and effective operators need to have deeper technical skills. In a similar vein, HBS’s student-run newspaper, The Harbus, published a piece on why coding is the new business literacy. When I looked at the leaders that I admired, I realized that many had a stronger technical backgrounds 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? 
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 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 how Harvard supports my work in tech/startups. For instance, this past year a few friends 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, LifeHacker 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.

Harvard also provided many academic opportunities during the Second Year to build my technical and digital health skill set. Last fall, Julia Austin, a Senior Lecturer at HBS and CTO of Digital Ocean sponsored an independent project where I worked alongside the engineering team at Akili Interactive, a start-up in Boston that is developing a digital therapeutic for ADHD. I cross-registered across the river in MIT's Revolutionary Ventures class, which is part of the Synthetic Neurobiology Group at the Media Lab. In the spring, Yuval Gonczarowski (HBS '17) and I worked on an independent project on Cryptography and Ethereum sponsored by Marco Iansiti, who heads the Technology and Operations Management Unit and the Digital Initiative at HBS.

Can you tell us about the internship you did following your first year at HBS?
I interned as a software engineer at Instacart, a same-day grocery delivery service. My team’s job was to handle everything that related to the ordering process: we worked with Stripe, our payments API, built the discounts infrastructure, and created 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 was fortunate to work with some of the best engineers in Silicon Valley. 

Can you describe what you’ll be doing post-HBS?
I'm working full-time on Elektra Labs, a venture that Sofia Warner (HBS/HMS '17), Brian Smith (HBS '17) and I launched while in school. Elektra Labs is a digital health platform that enables people to participate in digital health research from the comfort of their own homes. Our first test market is with sleep tech. We spun the venture out of a MIT Media Lab neurotechnology class that Brian and I took in the fall of 2016, and then incubated it this past spring through the Harvard Innovation Lab and Rock Accelerator programs. We're looking forward to supporting the next wave of digital medicine.