How the Silver Scholars Program is Helping Me Develop a Career at the Intersection of Technology, Business, and Art
Kalen Beacham ’24 shares why he chose the Silver Scholars Program at Yale SOM and how it has positioned him to succeed on a unique career path.
For my entire life, I’ve been an avid learner. Upon entering college, I knew that, whatever I majored in, I would continue my education beyond my undergraduate years. However, I never imagined the unique and rewarding path that I would embark on as a Silver Scholar.
Prior to my first year in the Silver Scholar Program at the Yale School of Management, I neither took business courses nor participated in any extracurriculars related to business. As an undergraduate at Yale University, I pursued a B.A. in computing and the arts, an interdisciplinary major that combines computer science with a fine art of the student’s choosing. My discipline was virtual reality, where I developed immersive experiences that were driven by coursework in 3D modeling and programming. Outside of academics, I was a core leader and treasurer for the Black Church at Yale, the vice president and board member of the Nu Gamma Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and a volunteer math tutor for a local high school in greater New Haven.
Although these experiences were quite different from each other, they were all connected by a people-centric mindset. Whether it was the experience users would have in the meticulously crafted worlds of my virtual reality projects or the professional workshops I hosted alongside the brothers of my fraternity, I was deeply invested in people-centric opportunities that sought to elevate the experiences of others. However, it was not until my internships that I knew how I wanted to realize this ambition as a graduate student.
I had the opportunity to work at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. for two consecutive summers as an analyst and software engineer intern on products from start to finish. These roles required constant communication with stakeholders and careful coordination with peers to maximize the success of our deliverables. It was in those moments that I realized that I enjoyed collaborating with people across roles and driving problems toward solutions that benefit customers. Before these internships, I saw myself pursuing a graduate degree in computer science, but working at a financial services institution like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. broadened by horizon and piqued my interest in the intersection of the technical and product marketing spaces. As a result, these experiences inspired me to enter the realm of business, but at the same time, I still wanted to retain my roots in technology and art as I transitioned to a business education.
In my search for graduate programs that could support this multifaceted ambition of mine, I ultimately found the Silver Scholar Program at Yale SOM. The institution’s mission of educating leaders for business and society quickly resonated with me, as most of my undergraduate career was people-driven. Also, the opportunity to build core competencies in business for a year, work for a gap period, and bring back experience to the academic context to lean into the wisdom of professors and peers was invaluable to me as a prospective student. This experience would immerse me in an academic yet professional environment that gave me the necessary space to be introspective and experimental with my passions in a low-stakes setting.
Though my first year as a Silver Scholar was entirely remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of community that was fostered by passionate students and professors alike transcended virtual boundaries and made my time with the School of Management a memorable one. Admittedly, it can be challenging at first to thrive in the classroom setting with peers whose wealth of work experience affords them extraordinary perspectives to contribute to class discussions. However, it is because Silver Scholars enter into an MBA program without full-time work experience that we have the distinct advantage of enriching our own knowledge of the professional world at an early age as we absorb the professional wisdom of our older peers that took them years to accumulate.
Outside of academics, I had the honor of serving as the technology and operations chair for the Class of 2022. In this role, I aided in the founding of the Sustainability Committee as an arm of the Technology and Operations Committee that I co-led with my second-year counterpart. I also worked with faculty to ensure that our facilities and classroom technology met students’ needs in the hybrid-teaching system the school had adopted. In addition to my work in student government, I was able forge bonds with fellow students in the Christian Fellowship, Black Business Alliance, and Design and Innovation Club.
The student organization that was the most influential in my plan for the gap years of the Silver Scholars Program was the Technology Club, which is a fantastic student-run organization that prepares students with or without experience in the technology industry for career opportunities in the field. With a budding interest in product management, I had the privilege of connecting with second-year MBA students who had experience in the role, and through their mentorship, I felt empowered to apply for product management roles at several firms. After months of preparation and interviews, I was blessed with the opportunity to work full-time for Microsoft Corporation at their headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
Today and for the next few years, I have the privilege of working with talented and passionate colleagues as program manager on the MARVEL Team, a customer-facing organization within the Commercial Software Engineering division whose work rests as the intersection of technology and art. As a team of program managers, engineers, designers, content writers, and data analysts, we drive the development of products under an empathy-driven lens, which is refined by our customer relationships and research that we curate to match our products to our consumers’ needs. To have my lifelong goal of combining my interests in technology, art, and business come full circle over the span of my first year of the Silver Scholars program has been nothing short of a blessing, and for that I thank God. I am also grateful to the career coaches, professors, and club leaders for the time and energy they have invested in me. Upon my return to the Silver Scholars Program, I look forward to the opportunity to bring back my professional experience to the classroom setting and further investigate how I want to apply my talents and newfound skillsets toward more leadership opportunities in the technology and art industries. My path so far is a testament to the possibility of an accelerated career path afforded to students by the Silver Scholars Program, and for those who put in the work in this program, there are satisfying rewards to be reaped that will take one’s career and personal growth to new heights.