University of Southern California

Adam Koniak
Title
Finding the Right Fit
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Graduating Year
2009
Undergrad Institution
University of Buffalo
Hometown
New City, New York

Adam Koniak initially planned on becoming a doctor but quickly found a calling in the field of human/computer interaction – a blend of psychology and computer science. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Buffalo, he joined the university’s super-computing center, where he specialized in urban real-time visualization. He describes the three-dimensional models of city landscapes, buildings and bridges he developed as “Google Earth meets Grand Theft Auto.”

While he enjoyed his work, he found little upward mobility and decided to pursue an MBA. He had three criteria in choosing a program: a highly ranked school, located in a big city, and where he could focus on technology. “I went through the top-ranked schools one by one, and Marshall made that list,” recalls Mr. Koniak, who grew up 20 miles north of New York City and never intended to move west. But after visiting USC and meeting second-year Marshall students, he says, “I was sold on the people I talked to and what being out on the West Coast would actually offer me.”

One of the most beneficial things Marshall offered was its network. “Everyone talks about the Marshall network, but I had no idea how vast and far-reaching it was,” he says. He also was surprised by the diversity of his classmates. “I was expecting a certain type of person in business school. Instead, there was such a huge, diverse cross-section of people from so many different countries. Every single person had a different perspective on the cases we looked at.”

He was able to gain his own international perspective through the Pacific Rim Education (PRIME) program, his favorite part of the Marshall experience. “PRIME is a huge selling point, a differentiation from other schools,” he says. Through PRIME, he traveled to Thailand and Vietnam, where his team consulted with a telecommunications firm planning to enter the U.S. market. They also visited Vietnam’s trading floor. “A lot of people visit places like Thailand and Japan, but fewer people choose Vietnam as a destination,” he says. “It was really interesting to observe an area that is on the cusp of becoming a developed economy.”

While he knew going into Marshall that he wanted to work in technology, he was less clear on the job function he wanted. That changed after he heard Shawn Ellis ’05 speak about his experience in the marketing department at Apple, through a presentation arranged by Marshall’s Career Resource Center. “I thought that’s exactly what I should be doing. You don’t even need to tell me what the salary is,” recalls Mr. Koniak, who served as chief technology officer of his class and president of the High Tech Association at Marshall.

Following a summer internship with Hewlett Packard, he garnered a full-time position with Cisco in Silicon Valley, where he will be a product manager. Down the road, he hopes to launch a startup or become a chief technology officer at a major tech company.

Of the Marshall program, he adds: “I was coming from a nontraditional background for business school, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it. It has been an amazing experience.”