Alumni Connections: Sebastian Benkert

Last semester Sebastian Benkert, an alumnus of the Whitman MBA program, rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange along with other representatives from ARK Investment Management. We reached out to him to learn about his experience at Whitman and what he has done since earning his MBA:

Benkert01If I had to describe my time at Syracuse University in one word, it would be opportunity.

I came from Germany in summer 2012 to start as a graduate student in the MS New Media Management program at the Newhouse School. One semester into the program, the opportunity became apparent to combine my degree with an MBA from Whitman. In exchange for one extra year in school and additional workload I could receive a dual degree to give myself a competitive edge in the future.

I needed approval from Fulbright for a second year scholarship extension, but once they gave me green light, I knew it would be the right move. The Whitman School provided great support financially and academically – one of the biggest challenges was restructuring my curriculum so I could manage to graduate within just two years.

Benkert and colleagues from ARK ringing the opening bell of the NY Stock Exchange.
Benkert and colleagues from ARK ringing the opening bell of the NY Stock Exchange.

During my time, I also had the opportunity to work on two early startups (Elbowroom and Regattable). Being actively involved in the startup scene was a goal that I set prior to my arrival in the US. The University and its entrepreneurial community offers plenty of classes, competitions and programs to join teams and develop new ideas. I competed during Startup Weekend, IDEAcuse, Student Sandbox and StartupLabs, which broadened my skill set and especially my network of smart and inspiring people.

Finally, I was able to use one of my classes at the Whitman School for an individual study to help organize a media seminar in NYC. Part of my responsibility was securing keynote speakers for the event. I reached out to different industry leaders at Facebook, IBM, Google, NYT, and Foursquare. One of our speakers was Cathie Wood, CEO at ARK Investment Management. She presented her vision of modern active investment management that focuses on disruptive innovation and combines transparency with open source research. I was hooked, received the opportunity to join her startup and moved to NYC.

Today, I am still actively involved with Regattable (also relocated to NYC) while I work full-time for ARK, leading our digital marketing strategy and online development. Back in early 2013, I had little idea how soon my MBA degree would come in handy. I never thought I would end up at a financial startup to work in the field of thematically focused exchange traded

Benkert and his colleagues from ARK after ringing the NYSE opening bell.
Benkert and his colleagues from ARK after ringing the NYSE opening bell.

funds (ETFs) and, in particular, I never thought I would be on the podium of the New York Stock Exchange to ring the Opening Bell.

Besides all the amazing people I met and experiences I enjoyed, I believe it was the amount of opportunities at Syracuse University that led me here. Therefore my only advice can be: Seek opportunity and grab it when you see it.

–Sebastian Benkert

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