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University of Pennsylvania: Wharton School - Technology Club

Co-Presidents Christine Schmidt and Jessica Tam think the time has come for solar energy, and tell us about the incredible tech industry folks they brought to Wharton this year

We recently caught up with the Co-President's of Wharton's Technology Club: an ambitious pair of women in a male-dominated industry, who filled us in on the most important technologies of the coming decade, and the potential for colonizing the moon!

Before embarking on an MBA, Christine Schmidt worked at McKinsey and VMware. Jessica Tam has a degree in Electrical Engineering from Northwesterna nd was a colsultant at Accenture.

The pair are involved in other clubs such as Women’s Water Polo and the Media and Entertainment Club, but the Technology Club has top priority as they want to build build careers in technology when they graduate. 

What is the main aim of your club?
The Wharton Tech Club is a professional club for students who are interested in technology. Firstly we work to centralize networking opportunities with other students and companies. Our weekly newsletter goes out to over 400 students, disseminating information about social events, employer information sessions, case competitions and workshops.

We also prepare our members for the professional world. We strive to communicate the opportunities and positions that are available for MBA students in technology, and arm each student with the tools to successfully recruit for their target careers.

We aim to educate our members on the technology industry regardless of their incoming level of expertise. This includes everything from Tech and Startup 101 information sessions to Advanced SQL workshops, with the goal of providing something for everyone.

Finally, we attract external speakers and professionals to learn about their experiences. Over the course of the year, we will have students speak about past experiences, alumni describe their career trajectories, and professionals teach about a company or industry trend.

Who has been your most exciting speaker this year?
There have been so many incredible speakers this year. My favorite was probably Marc Lore, the Founder and CEO at Quidsi, one of the keynote speakers at the Biztech@Wharton Conference: http://biztechwharton.com/.

It was fascinating to hear about his journey, and to have him show us the growth of his company in pictures and video. Some of the first pictures literally depict selling out of their garage and now they're one of the most technologically advanced supply chain and warehouse systems anywhere in the world.

The Conference also had over 30 professionals as panelists throughout the day ranging from a Senior Director at Microsoft to the co-founder of Points.com.

Some of the other speakers this year at the Tech Club, the BizTech Conference, abd the Career Management and the Wharton Leadership Lecture Series included:
• Andrew Trader, Cofounder of Zynga, speaking about this experiences as a founder, developing sales channels to put the company on the gaming map, and managing business development at an early stage startup.
• Kunal Bahl, Founder of Snapdeal (India’s #1 deal site), speaking about his experience in creating India’s leading e-commerce site, raising >$50M from leading VCs, and his search for innovative and disruptive e-commerce models in India.
• Judy Faulkner, Founder & CEO of EPIC Systems, a company which provides health care management software that integrates financial and clinical information across inpatient, ambulatory, and payer technology systems
• Ted Vasquez, Deloitte Consulting Senior Manager on ecommerce, speaking on Strategy as Opportunity: Amazon vs. Multi-Channel Retailers.
• Ben Relles, YouTube's Head of Creative Development discussed the future of entertainment and how YouTube is impacting traditional media; how YouTube is leveraging analytics for monetization and content distribution strategies.

What new technologies do you think will make the biggest difference to humanity in the next decade?
The rapid dissemination of information on the Internet and wireless technologies have already changed the way we live.

I think the next big change that will impact our lives will be in the development, storage, and consumption of energy.

For now, battery storage, recharging, and infrastructure prevent the widespread adoption of electric vehicles: renewable energies are limited by capacity of the grid and installation expense. But did you know that if we covered 2% of the United States with Solar Panels - that's about the amount of paved roads we have today - that in a single day, we would generate enough energy to power the country for an entire year?

These technologies are so exciting - it will be incredible to see how they develop and change the way we live.

Do you think it’s the responsibility of the government to fund advances in technology?
That's difficult to say. The Federal government used to have capabilities beyond most private companies - say NASA in the 1960s - but that is no longer the case, as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic slowly take over.

Without federal funding and support, those initial advances may not have taken place for many more years.

On the other hand, involving federal funding limits the creativity of a technology company. While solar companies are begging for subsidies and applying for land permits, Google is jumping out of planes with Google Glass and Apple is creating tablet markets.

Is the sovereignty of space going to be captured by the wealthy nations?
Maybe initially, but the world is shrinking, the knowledge base expanding, and wealth of nations increasing. Creating a commercial space program is going to take very deep pockets, but technological innovations can come from anywhere. If the technology ever becomes pervasive, there's no reason why a less wealthy nation couldn't imitate and leap frog.

For example, most parts of Africa skipped straight to cell phones, and now they have a much more advanced mobile banking system than we do.

It's probable that the wealthy nations/ corporations will create the first space stations, but I doubt we'll be fighting wars over moon colony locations. Then again, we already have dibs on the Sea of Tranquility.

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Monday 20th August 2012, 17.50 (UTC)

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the divide between technical and non-technical people is the biggest challenge facing all businesses - non-techies need to be better educated about technology so that they can make sensible decisions

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