Nathan Portlock ’18

Post-SOM Position: Cofounder, The Switch

When I began my research into MBA programs, I was exploring how I could apply my design background in other fields. I’d been working in Europe, so I looked at both European programs and American programs. It was very interesting to see the different focuses. Yale SOM really stood out as a school that would have other students from very creative or design backgrounds who are interested in improving the world, whether that means working on refugee housing or on self-driving cars. It all seemed very possible at Yale.

The resources of the core curriculum are phenomenal. All of these skills that you didn’t realize you were building become like a language that you’re fluent in. During my internship at United Airlines, I realized I could pretty much do anything they asked me to do. When my boss asked me to parse some data, I just said, “Yes, of course.” And that’s given me the confidence to pursue anything I’m interested in.

In the spring of 2017, I took a seminar at the School of Architecture about self-driving cars. It’s a technology that has huge potential to transform cities. My student group prepared a three-minute pitch video about how architects can be part of the conversation about the deployment of self-driving cars. I continued working with the group over the summer to create a startup venture, and then we applied for funding with the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. We were one of 15 teams selected to receive funding and coaching. We spend about 15 hours a week now with mentors at the center. We’re developing a pitch for a platform of transportation-related services that we want to develop in the next five years, by partnering with companies like Google, Lyft, Uber, Tesla, and whomever else would be a good fit.

Interviewed on October 26, 2017