ORIE's Amy Chen '10 Is an Inaugural Year Kessler Fellow
|Kessler Fellow Amy Chen '10 helped Thevaki Thambirajah '97 reorient her company.
The Kessler Fellows program was established in Cornell Engineering in 2008 to give a select group of students the chance to learn how to make their technological innovations into working businesses. Amy Chen '10 was one of 10 students selected to participate in 2009, the first full year of the program. She and several other Kessler Fellows held a symposium in April at Entrepreneurship@Cornell's Celebration 2010, an annual event that brought together more than 700 students, alumni, faculty and staff involved with entrepreneurship.
Students in the program, established by Andy Kessler EE '80, get an opportunity to learn the business side of entrepreneurship as undergraduates. In their junior year they take a course, featuring alumni entrepreneurs, in the essentials of entrepreneurship. They then spend the summer interning with a start-up, and in the fall they present a symposium series to share what they learned with the engineering community. Students seek out companies for their internship, which Cornell helps arrange, and facilitates by paying the salary and travel expenses, thanks to Kessler's generosity.
Through a Cornell website, Chen located a company, Thevi Cosmetics, owned by Thevaki Thambirajah AEM '97, and spent her internship with the company. She did market research and planned and executed a social media marketing plan. In fact she helped change the direction of the company from being a brand targeted to Indian women to an "Indian lifestyle-inspired" brand that "had a wider appeal", according to Thambirajah.
"I love Kessler," Chen told the symposium audience. "A huge part of the value [of the program] is the mentorship - personal and professional advice - it provided." She was advised to "follow my dreams, despite what others say," she said.
Chen, who in a previous internship at Kodak had done work with social media, found the culture of her start-up employer quite different. "I worked out of the CEO's apartment", she said, noting that it "got hectic" at times when she shared her work space with Thambirajah's "adorable twins."
"Amy has a strong drive toward tackling tasks which have uncertainty in intangible outcome, and she has the flexibility to adapt a project to meet our end objectives," said Thambirajah. "These two qualities are essential for a startup company." Following graduation at the end of May, Chen will go to work for another startup company, one that is based on the idea of the semantic web.The list of Kessler Fellows for 2010 includes two ORIE juniors, Joshua Moskovitz and Jonathan Liu. Working with Cornell alumnus Bill Trenchard, Joshua created an internship at Readyforce, a start-up founded by Trenchard. According to TechCrunch.com, Readyforce is developing “applications that will create a virtual marketplace for on-demand labor.” Jonathan "wanted to pursue a summer experience within finance and I originally thought that finding such an opportunity within a startup environment" would be possible, he said. However "such a combination in the industry was extremely difficult to find" so he opted to accept an offer from Citigroup.
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