It's rare to find a program that matches MBA and Ph.D. students together to help bring business ideas to life while offering credit towards a degree. TI:GER (Technology Innovation Generating Economic Results) is just such a program, providing hands-on experience in innovation and entrepreneurship, including work with actual ventures.
The program, housed within the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business, allows Full-time and Evening MBA students to earn a STEM concentration. It also enables Georgia Tech Ph.D. students from the Colleges of Computing, Engineering, and Sciences to apply their credit hours toward their minor
We sat down with Carlisle Withers, MBA '22, business program manager at Microsoft, and former TI:GER student to hear how her experience in the program changed the trajectory of her career.
How did you find out about the TI:GER program?
I learned about TI:GER while attending informational sessions and exploring Scheller's website. It was one of the main reasons I was attracted to Georgia Tech.
What made you decide to enroll in the program?
I came into business school knowing that I wanted to focus on entrepreneurship. My career goal is to have my own company. TI:GER was a perfect fit since it was a structured way to explore how to bring a solution to market.
Did you already have an idea/product/invention that you wanted to work on within the program? If so, what was it?
When I started TI:GER, I did not have a product or solution in mind. I was very excited to be paired with a Ph.D. student to learn about their work. I have a STEM background, so I was thrilled to work closely and learn the details of their research.
When you finished the program, did you have a product ready to go to market?
We did not. As much as I would have loved to have been market-ready, discerning our technology's market fit was a great experience. Our technology was an AI-based financial algorithm intended to predict movement in the equities market. Given how competitive that market is, we explored adjacent markets such as cryptocurrency, utilities, and commodities markets.
What were your major responsibilities as an MBA student in the program?
We were tasked with exploring possible markets, evaluating their TAM (Total Addressable Market), SAM (Serviceable Addressable Market), SOM (Serviceable Obtainable Market), and interviewing potential consumers in those markets through customer discovery. Our focus was to test hypotheses on what customers needed our solution.
What do you consider to be your major takeaways from being in the program?
One of my major takeaways is the importance of customer discovery. Even with great technology, you must meet some customer needs. There are many ways to start a business, either with an idea, a technology, or a solution, but each relies on deeply understanding your end customer.
Can you describe how your experience enhanced your career after graduating?
I leverage a lot of the skills I learned in TI:GER in my daily work! For example, as a strategic advisor to Microsoft's customers, I often support them as they want to bring a new product to market. I use the customer discovery methodology and market analysis skills to build business cases for new products. TI:GER helped me think critically about any business venture, which has helped me better support and advise Microsoft's customers.
Would you recommend the program to others? If so, why?
I would recommend TI:GER! If you are interested in starting a business, this is a great way to learn some methodology behind entrepreneurship, which can often seem ambiguous and intimidating. Beyond those individuals, I think TI:GER helps anyone learn to develop a customer-centric mindset.