When Annie Kotz was taking her first accounting course in ESTEEM, she wondered, like many math students, how this would help her in the future. Now she does end-of-month accounting for the startup where she works in Houston.
Kotz, who earned a science-business degree at Notre Dame and joined ESTEEM in 2011, worked as a marketing intern for F Cubed in Innovation Park while she was developing her capstone thesis on a microfluidic testing platform with Professor Hsueh-Chia Chang of the Department of Chemical Engineering. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I had classes at Innovation Park, so I would just walk across the hall and work there too.”
When she graduated, Kotz went to work for PROS, a decades-old software company in Houston that had started in airline revenue management software and expanded into pricing optimization software for manufacturers and distributors. She worked for about two years as an implementation consultant for medical device manufacturing companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Zimmer, then two more years in product management with development teams, sales teams, and strategic innovation teams to ensure the sustained sales of established products as well as the introduction of new products for large companies with large product portfolios.
When a colleague at PROS left to start Sycamore Life Sciences, a lab supplies distributor, Kotz became the first employee, starting with multiple responsibilities and specializing in marketing strategy as the company has grown. “We’re really focused on e-commerce,” she says. “We’re trying to figure out how to get into that market.”
Her education in ESTEEM – accounting, patent law, other courses, and especially the capstone business and commercialization plan for technology – continued to pay dividends, at the well-heeled established company as well as the scrappy startup where she has honed negotiating skills.
“The coursework was fantastic,” she says. “I borrow from what I learned at that time on a daily basis now. My thesis made me think about looking at technology through a different lens. Especially in my job now, the pace of innovation is just so quick. I learned in my graduate school year how to maintain that and really push that piece, so now I’m the one that’s setting that tone and putting that culture in our office and in our company. It came out of the program, absolutely.”
Even the accounting helps, Kotz says: “When I was taking it I wasn’t sure I would use this again. You’d better believe I’m using it.”