The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

M&Ts Hack their Way to China

M&T students are always working on the next big thing. One of the ways they test out and hone their innovation skills is through the many campus-wide competitions at Penn. Four M&T students entered the Huntsman Hacks competition this last year and won, scoring a trip to China! We asked M&T Akshay Malhotra (’20) to share his experience.

1.) Tell us a little bit about Huntsman Hacks. What’s involved in the competition?

Huntsman Hacks is a “business hackathon” for freshmen and sophomores that the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board (WAB) put on for the first time this past February. It’s a competition that poses a variety of real-world business challenges to teams of students.

Akshay (right) and his team at the Alibaba headquarters

Last year’s major sponsor was Alibaba, so the questions were based on challenges that Alibaba faced. There are three rounds, including a presentation after the final round, for everyone. The final round presentation was for the top five selected teams, from which the top three teams are chosen by Alibaba’s judges. The grand prize for the winning team was announced the morning of the competition as a trip to Hangzhou, China to visit Alibaba’s headquarters.

2.) Who was on your team and how did you go about working together?

Taking part in the competition was both thrilling and fascinating! Aside from me, my team consisted of Wesley Sheker, Roshan Benefo, Alex Lichen (all M&T ’20) and Brook Jiang (Huntsman ’20). Each round was a little over an hour in length. Since we needed to work fast, we split up the work pretty early.

In each round, we would begin by doing some quick research individually or in pairs and then discussed our overall approach as a team. We subsequently crafted our response and split into pairs to create the slides. During presentations, we were able to identify what everyone knew best and split up the tasks accordingly. Overall, we were able to work very well as a team, despite the fact that some of us had not met before that morning!

3.) What a thrill to win! How was the trip to visit the Alibaba headquarters?

We had our trip to China in early August. Despite some travel difficulties, we finally ended up making it to Hangzhou! On the first day, we toured two of Alibaba’s campuses in the city and got to learn more about their businesses. One of the highlights of the day was visiting the Alibaba Museum, which was built last year for the G20 Summit and is usually closed to the public. The next day, we got a tour of Hangzhou, from the famous West Lake to the amazing green tea plantations. On the final day, we visited Shanghai. We were also able to get an amazing taste of Chinese culture through performances, traditional cuisines, and interesting interactions with locals. It was a splendid experience!

4.) Anything else you’d like to add?

I really enjoyed both competing in Huntsman Hacks and visiting Alibaba in China! It has been a great experience, and I’m very grateful to everyone who was involved in organizing it and putting everything together. I encourage M&T freshmen and sophomores to take part in this competition in the future and hope they enjoy it as much as I did!

Akshay Malhotra (’20) is a computer science major concentrating in finance and statistics. His favorite thing about the M&T Program is the chance to interact with so many friendly and fantastic individuals.

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