Jacob Clifton joined the Marines out of high school, a young man with an entrepreneurial spirit still seeking an outlet for his entrepreneurialism. “I had ambition,” he says, “but I lacked direction. And the Marine Corps gave me that. I also developed some skills during my time as a Marine which led me to get my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering.”
After going on to complete an MS in electrical engineering as well, he then landed a position at Lincoln Labs at MIT on their technical staff, working on the design, development, and field-testing of radar systems. It was a great position and the work was extremely interesting, but the entrepreneur in Jacob continued to make its voice heard. More than just a position in a lab, he wanted to start out on his own and build a start-up. He was full of ideas for what he wanted to do, but his contract limited the scope of his personal endeavors. And so he left the lab and accepted a position working as a quantitative researcher at a hedge fund in Boston.
“The truth is, I’ve always been fascinated by finance,” Jacob says. “And as an electrical engineer I’d developed the computer skills you need to do quantitative research. More importantly,” he adds, “the new position allowed me to work on my own projects on the side.”
Asked how he has time to both work at a hedge fund and develop his own start-up, Jacob says he doesn’t need to sleep that much. He also suspects that time others might spend vegging out in front of their television sets is time he spends at his computer improving his code. His digital marketing start-up targets small businesses who are seeking to fine tune their advertising campaigns.
Once he was firmly ensconced in the world of business, Jacob began thinking about the advantages business school might stand to give him. He saw it as a way to round out his skill set while more intensely studying the strategies used by start-ups to succeed. With his strong technical background and the experience he already had, it seemed clear that a business education would provide him with plenty he’d find useful.
There was no question of becoming a full-time student again, however, and so Jacob started looking around for part-time programs. His eyes quickly alighted on Booth, both for the strength of the program and its emphasis on technical skills. But living in Boston meant getting to Booth on a regular basis posed something of a problem. The GSALB program gave Jacob the perfect way to test the waters and see if he could make it work with his schedule.
“Taking classes through the GSALB was the perfect way to sample what being a student at the University of Chicago would be like,” he says. “It really gave me a feel for Booth—a feel for the whole experience actually.”