Amazon Web Services, Amazon Alexa and Grupo Once Challenge Students to Answer Vulnerable Customers’ Needs
MBA students wed tech skills, business strategy and social impact to develop solution in the Tech Lab.
A group of IE Business School students won the spring edition of Tech Lab that sought to answer a real corporate challenge presented by IE collaborators Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Alexa and Grupo Social Once to create a disruptive, feasible and profitable business case.
AWS and Amazon Alexa asked the teams participating in the five-week corporate immersion component of the International MBA program the following question: “How to leverage on AWS and Alexa technologies to support the needs of the vulnerable customers?”
The winning team gains a significant network of partners from AWS and Once to leverage for future opportunities, along with the Tech Lab diploma. They also earn AWS training and certifications and a recommendation letter, in addition to the opportunity to join the IE Tech trip, in which students will travel to Berlin and Amsterdam to visit companies and network.
“With this initiative, trying to solve a real social problem hand-in-hand with expert mentors from organizations like Social Group Once, Amazon Web Services and Amazon Alexa, students’ digest their understanding much more efficiently. It’s not a theoretical case, but speaking directly with real clients, working to understand their needs and working with tech experts to help find solutions,” said Pilar Torres, Head of Spain & Portugal, AWS Public Sector.
AWS Customer Manager Alejandro Campos Ruiz agrees the challenge’s approach gives students the real-world experience to help them in the future by teaching the critical skill of connecting business and technology, while focusing on social impact.
“IE Tech lab is a 360 degree experience where all the actors in professional life are involved—manufacturers, integrators and clients.”
Alejandro Campos Ruiz, AWS Customer Manager
“Everything is under the umbrella of education and with a social focus in a practical format so that the students can learn about technology– even if they have no prior training—and open minds to create new ideas and improve the world.”
He said the students surprised him with their “way of working and collaborating, their eagerness to learn and their ability to come up with such great ideas for projects from zero in record time.”
According to International and Tech MBA Associate Director Igor Souto Araujo, the experience lets students learn through hands-on work.
“Through an experiential program the Tech Lab offers students the opportunity to expand beyond the traditional management curriculum through a series of modules that help students to better understand technology, leverage technology to create business opportunities, develop innovative solutions and go beyond status quo,” he said.
Each of the 9 participating teams had a mentor from Once supporting the team. Almudena Alcaide Raya, Director of FOnce’s R&D team, mentored one of the participating teams.
“During mentoring sessions, students shared their experiences, or those of their families and friends, when being confronted with technology while having some type of disabilities in dealings with technology,” she said.
“Also, bringing accessibility and inclusion into the students’ technological solutions has broadened the way diversity is considered and has placed the concept accessible-by-design at the core of their research and development activities.”
Almudena Alcaide Raya, Director of FOnce’s R&D team
The winning five-person team Fonetix proposed an interactive and playful communication coach for deaf children to learn how to speak.
Team members praised the experience as unique and highlighted the opportunity to see the entire value chain related to the project as well as contribute to a current problem that affects the company and real people.
“While in the first two terms we learned the basic economic concepts, we could now directly apply them working with a company and an NGO,” said Fonetix team member Stefanie Rehberg.
“In the Tech Lab, I gained a unique and humbling perspective into the life of deaf people, their challenges in life but also their dedication to overcome those. Business knowledge is important, yes! However, one can only learn how to interact and build relationships with clients based on practical experiences,” she said.
Teammate Nicole Jackson said the lab offers high stakes in a protected way.
“The Tech Lab allowed me to explore the tech sector and its career options in a safe environment,” she said. “Having a real company as a client to work with gives us the opportunity to face real stakes, real problems and real clients with expectations with the freedom of being within a learning environment. This experience is invaluable.”
All the mentoring and lecture hours conducted by the AWS, Amazon Alexa and Once collaborators were donated to Fundación Once thanks to their volunteer collaboration and pave the way for future such challenges.