Mass Big Data Tech Trek Launched

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

300 Students, 21 Big Data Companies, 36 Speakers

Top students from Massachusetts institutions "trek" to local Big Data companies to meet with company founders, hear from leading data scientists, connect with other students, and experience incubation lab environments.

Clockwise from left: Students gather at Thomson Reuters; Mona Vernon of the Thomson Reuters Data Innovation Lab hosts a startup panel; Endeca founder Steve Papa talks with students at the CIC; Trekkers in action; Atlas Venture's Chris Lynch speaks at hack/reduce.

In September and October, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative piloted an innovative series to expand the Big Data community in Massachusetts by connecting top university talent with the founders, CEOs, and technologists at the Commonwealth's leading data-driven companies.

The Mass Big Data Tech Trek, part of the Mass Big Data Initiative, is designed to engage talented students in Massachusetts and introduce them to local Big Data companies in order to effect an increase in the graduates that choose to stay in the Commonwealth post-graduation to start Big Data firms or take jobs in the sector.

The Trek drew overwhelming interest from nearly 300 Massachusetts undergraduate and graduate students from Babson, Bentley, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Tufts, and UMass Boston who were eager to interact first-hand with executives in the local big data community. 

Over the course of 6 days, students visited Big Data startups and large firms in Boston and Cambridge. The pilot provided access to the greatest number of student participants by focusing on companies situated along the MBTA's Red Line corridor, including:


Host companies provided visibility into their corporate identity and highlighted what makes Massachusetts a great place to start and grow a big data company.


The series featured an extensive group of CEOs, Founders, CTOs and Data Scientists, including:

Steve Papa Connects Students to Founders


Big data entrepreneur Steve Papa shares his story and founder's advice with students at the Cambridge Innovation Center.

Steve Papa, noted big data entrepreneur and a champion of the Tech Trek series, added a personal touch to the October trek dates by personally leading students to each Tech Trek host company. As a graduate of two local institutions and as the founder of Endeca, prior to its acquisition by Oracle in 2011, Steve sees the Mass Big Data Tech Treks as a key connection between the Commonwealth's tech community and its next generation of entrepreneurs. As Papa noted during his visits, the Trek enables local entrepreneurs, data scientists, and founders to share and inspire current students with their personal stories of why they stayed in Massachusetts to build their careers and companies.



Chris Lynch Encourages Trekkers to "Pursue Your Passion" 


Chris Lynch, hack/reduce co-founder and partner at Atlas Venture, shares his perspective and passion for the Massachusetts big data ecosystem.

"Follow your passion and apply Big Data to it", was the key message shared by Chris Lynch, a partner at Atlas Venture, during the Trek to hack/reduce, a collaborative hackerspace in Cambridge which Lynch helped found. Lynch spoke with deep regard for the unique big data ecosystem in the Boston region. Lynch noted that with over 35 universities located within ten square miles, and over 5,000 computer science graduates a year, the region provides a plethora of opportunities to engage in innovation, both in big data directly and in other disciplines as well. Students in attendance connected with Lynch's message, to focus on an interest area and to drive innovation by applying analytics to that sector. 



Students React

The Mass Big Data Tech Trek was met with overwhelming praise from students, who liked that the Trek provided a hands on experience to the type of career opportunities that await in Massachusetts' surging big data sector. Trekkers especially liked how open and excited companies were when speaking about their work and the local technology community. 

Graduate students just stepping into the recruiting process indicated they will look beyond the typical firms and reach out to some of the companies they visited on the Trek, pointing to the innovative work they are doing in big data, analytics, and machine learning.