Business Transformation Consultant, IBM (New York, NY)
M.Eng., Technical Entrepreneurship, Lehigh University, 2015
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Lehigh University, 2014
Soon after receiving his master’s degree in Technical Entrepreneurship (TE), Kris landed a job with IBM in New York City. He was hired by IBM in large measure because of the unique blend of product design and business acumen inherent to the TE curriculum, the competencies he acquired as a result, and the people he met along the way.
As I neared the end of my bachelor’s degree, I knew I wanted to continue my education, but was torn between pursuing TE and going for my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. Once I realized that entrepreneurship figured prominently in all of my long-terms goals, the answer became obvious. TE seemed like the right path for me.
It did! The TE program really is what you make of it, which I found to be a good fit for me. The overall process of starting my own "business" over the course of the TE year, a very practical hands-on academic project, really prepared me for what I was going to be doing in my professional life.
Coming into the program, I knew next to nothing about how to get a business off the ground or how to run one. That all changed quickly. Learning the business side of creating products and launching a startup is something that continues to benefit me because so much of what I learned has spilled over into my consulting career.
I also gained proficiency in more specific skills. For example, knowing how to use Adobe Creative Suite (Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, and more) has turned out to be very useful at work and in other aspects of my life.
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I told myself “just keep an open mind about everything that you’re doing, because you never know where it can take you.” And I was glad I did.
I’d say that my mindset changed significantly in terms of applying creativity in a professional context. For instance, during the TE year, we learned about the Blue Ocean Strategy, a creative thinking technique that has helped me to think more like a consultant. Interestingly enough, it was recommended reading when I first started at IBM, so I was already ahead of the game.
And, of course, in the same way that it nurtured my creativity, the TE program taught me how to be enterprising and apply basic principles of entrepreneurism. I try to embody those ideals every day and let them show through my work.
Let me first say that I’ve been very fortunate. My educational choices truly positioned me for what’s turned out to be an amazing opportunity. Said to be the world’s largest consulting organization, IBM operates across 17 industries in more than 170 countries. I started at IBM just months after getting my master’s degree.
The Consulting by Degrees program is a two-year leadership development initiative designed to groom top entry-level business consultants for future positions. The idea is to provide focused training, mentoring, and experiences which will help participants remain agile in a fast-paced world.
Well, I work at the intersection of technology and business. I’m assigned to IBM’s Global Business Services (GBS) division, which is organized into units called practices. Many of my IBM GBS responsibilities fall in the areas of project management, marketing, and user experience design.
When I was first hired, I worked as a Business Transformation Consultant in the Business Analytics and Strategy practice. Its focus is on growth and business model innovation strategies, merger and acquisition support, social business consulting, and customer experience and market strategies.
Recently, I’ve been undergoing a rebranding of sorts as a UX (User Experience) Design Strategist Consultant, and I’ve moved into a new practice of consulting within IBM GBS called Digital Consulting. This practice focuses on cognitive business support – basically helping businesses that use IBM’s Watson software to address specific needs. I also collaborate with professionals from other GBS practices when they need my skill set or perspective for a particular project.
My hope was to use the skills I’d acquired and my new-found business sense to get a job in the tech sector… and that happened. At IBM, I’m actively applying what I learned in the TE program. The creativity techniques that we learned are incredibly useful. They allow you to keep a fresh perspective when dealing with work that requires a good amount of critical thinking. Ultimately, I may opt to apply these to my own venture.
In the meantime, I have another application in mind for when the time is right. I’d like to get involved with a non-profit offering entrepreneurial education for minorities and inner city youth. This is a personal goal with roots in my own past. Growing up in the Bronx, I was chosen to participate in a unique entrepreneurship program that taught high school students basic business principles and gave us the opportunity to develop and pitch our own companies. I gained a lot from that, and I’d really like to use my TE knowledge to give back.
Yes! I’m still in close contact with some of my classmates. When they’re in New York City, we’ll often meet for dinner. Given the size of the TE class, you inevitably form strong bonds. It’s almost like a family, of sorts.
Photography actually started off as a hobby that I picked up as an undergraduate at Lehigh. I’ve basically been doing it ever since. During my TE year, I thought about turning it into a venture.
As explained on my website, krislynchvisuals.com, I’m currently doing professional headshots, event photography, photo shoots, and product photography. We learned about the latter in TE. Professor de Vinck [Professor of Practice in the TE program] had us do a project that focused solely on product photography, and I use those skills all the time! I find this really enjoyable, and I value providing a service that allows me to exercise my creative muscle.
Clearly, TE was very instrumental in terms of advancing my photography interests as well as my role in the tech sector!
The skills I learned and the relationships I established truly changed my life. I’m grateful for the experience and proud to call myself a TE alum.