By Rachel Mayer, CEO at Trigger Finance, Master of Computer Science '15
My motivation to pursue engineering and business at the graduate level stems from two disparate yet equally important childhood experiences: being raised by a salsa singing, mechanical engineer father, and growing up in an unstable country, Venezuela.
My father planted the seeds of engineering, business and artistry early in my life as tools to achieve any career goal. During this time, I lived firsthand through Chavez's socialist revolution, which resulted in severe economic deterioration and grave social insecurity. The dangerous condition of my home country was the push I needed to apply to top engineering schools abroad in search of a brighter future.
Now having lived in New York and in the United States for more than 10 years, first as an undergraduate studying mathematics at MIT and later working as a trader at JPMorgan, I finally discovered an institution that could satisfy my intellectual curiosity and entrepreneurial itch to grow my thought capacity exponentially – and that was Cornell Tech.
Cornell Tech's impact on my life, as well as the impact that my fellow colleagues (and now partners in business) had on me, has been tremendous. We were a part of the M.Eng. beta class – those early adopters who see the potential before others see it.
I was first struck by Cornell Tech's different approach to evaluating incoming students for their engineering program. They understood that any person with a background in science could learn how to study computer engineering, even without the formal undergraduate degree. This, I thought, was a different way of thinking, a younger and dynamic mentality that reflected how the greatest companies today think about skills and hiring great people.
During my first few months at Cornell Tech, I met incredible students and faculty from all different backgrounds – academic and skill related – who all shared the common goal of making our NYC community and the products and services that cater to it stronger through technology.
My time at Cornell Tech was one of pure creativity, openness, learning, joy and inspiration. I got an education not only in relevant computer science practices but also on product management and idea iteration. It was late in the fall semester when my partners and I started to think about the idea for what became our current company, Trigger.
Trigger is an award-winning, mobile-first investing platform that helps remove emotion from the investing process by investing through simple "if this, then that" rules. Users link their existing brokerage accounts and set if/then rules around the portfolio and on a wealth of unique data sets, to trade when triggered.
Through the Startup Studio in the spring semester, we got the opportunity to work on our idea – prototyping, creating a business model, customer development and how to pitch our idea to a large audience. We won a Startup Award, and Cornell Tech gave us the support we needed to go out into the wonderful world of entrepreneurship. Being exposed to all kinds of industry leaders and their experiences via the weekly Conversations in the Studio seminar also helped me learn from their mistakes early on and try to incorporate their tactics of success at Trigger. Those lessons led us to win startup competitions, have tens of thousands of customers using our product, and speak with some of the most respected journalists about our mission and company.
The future of any organization always relies on the people who work to support it. Cornell Tech has the ability to attract a wide array of thought leaders – the kind of people who want change, who want NYC to be a leader in tech, who want diverse groups of people working on challenging ideas.
In an environment where political instability in our country is growing – and reminders of my childhood's nation are ever more present – it is important to invest and support those institutions that put people first. That is why I believe Cornell Tech will be the biggest driving force for change NYC has ever seen.
Rachel Mayer, M.Eng. '15, is the founder of Trigger, www.triggerfinance.com.
This article originally appeared in Ezra Magazine.