News

Career Services Technology Woes

Following the technical glitches with HBS CareerLink in resume uploading and running the lottery process, The Harbus spoke with the CEO of the technology provider-Experience.com.

One of the things that HBS teaches you is that James Burke is God. Indeed, this balding, portly ex-CEO of Johnson & Johnson is held in such reverence that many students could be forgiven thinking that management is as simple as saying you’re sorry. While Jennifer Floren, CEO of Experience.com, will be spared the $100million it cost to pull Tylenol bottles off supermarket shelves, she embraced the take-it-on-the-chin credo with open arms, admitting full responsibility for the recent glitches and apologizing for the inconvenience.

Floren, an ex-Bain consultant, founded Experience.com fivr years ago to provide technology solutions to career service offices at colleges across the country. Today her company employs nearly eighty people, providing administration and management services to over 650 schools and three million students, using an ASP model out of their Boston headquarters. While the company already counts a number of Harvard colleges as clients, this was the first year that they took on HBS. And what a year it has been.

Normally reluctant to take on schools that do not fit neatly into their standard offerings, which work for 99% of colleges and business schools, they agreed to make an exception and started to work with HBS on developing a partly-customized solution for our unique set of needs. The lottery system for assigning a number of interviews is unique to HBS, and one of the custom-made items introduced this year. Floren was impressed with the amount of effort that career services team spent in researching all possible options before committing to work with her company. Reading between the lines, this was one hard sell. She has enormous respect for Acting Director of Career Services Ron Peracchio, and describes the level of detail and thoroughness of his due diligence as “off the charts.”
So what went wrong? Why did we see Jennifer and two colleagues handing round coffee and compassion at 7 am two weeks ago?

It appeared that the system that had been built for the career service office worked as designed, and was beta tested on students and staff earlier this year. Unfortunately, Experience.com did not accurately convey the full set of requirements for the project to their programmers (although full business logic requirements had been provided by Career Services), and this communications failure is what Floren takes the blame for.

The new system did not allow students who had applied to a job during the lottery to subsequently apply to the same job for an open interview (the core system has a built-in safeguard that prevents a student from applying to the same job twice, a rule that should have been adjusted for the custom-built HBS lottery process). About 40 jobs in the bank were affected, and because this was unfair to students who should be given equal chances, it was decided to rerun the lottery manually. (See front page story in the October 29 Harbus)

The other problems experienced by students-excessive waits for document conversions on uploads during a two-week period in September-she ascribed to an unusually high number of viruses and an overloading of system capacity, which has since been remedied.

While it is too late for many EC students this time round, relatively easy solutions to fix these problems have already been identified, and the company is continuously working with career services to rectify these problems.

Maybe they’ll post some vacancies for programmers on CareerLink.

November 12, 2001
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