Andrew Benson (BSBA ’17) shares how an early interest in computer programming and technology eventually led to a degree in management information systems from Fisher and a present-day interest in cybersecurity.
What is your favorite business school-related memory from Ohio State or Fisher?
My favorite business school-related memory was Fisher’s Centennial Celebration in December 2016. My freshman roommate, Michael Inman, was selected to deliver the event’s opening and invited me to come along. Mr. Les Wexner, of L Brands, and Dr. Fareed Zakaria, of CNN, were the featured guest speakers.
Mr. Wexner reflected on his time at Ohio State and recounted his friendship with his mentor, Max M. Fisher. Dr. Zakaria spoke about the changing global landscape that defines the business world today and the role that an individual’s sense of confidence has in their contribution to the world. In Dr. Zakaria’s on-stage interview of Mr. Wexner, Mr. Wexner shared his insights on globalization, principled leadership and the role of business education. President Drake and Dean Makhija also spoke and recounted the college’s rich history. This event highlighted the global reach of Fisher and celebrated some of the great achievements of its alumni.
What are your professional plans following graduation?
In the long term, I am pursuing a career in privacy and information security law with the ultimate goal of becoming a chief information officer (CIO) of a large firm. After completing a cybersecurity graduate program at Stanford University, I will be matriculating into law school. As the landscape of technology and information management become more complex in both a technical and legal sense, I hope to leverage my technical background in information security with a legal education to deliver specialized insight to IT departments at large firms.
Which Ohio State or Fisher programs made a significant impact in your life? Why?
My involvement in both Greek Life and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Morrill Scholars Program have had a transformative effect on who I am today. In addition to philanthropic and social opportunities, Greek Life provided me with an opportunity to build a large network of peers from different backgrounds, majors, interests, beliefs, causes and personalities. I served as the president of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and became further involved with the Greek community by serving as chief justice on the Interfraternity Council, the governing body of Greek Life’s 37 fraternal member organizations representing 2,400 undergraduates. In that role, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work closely with Ohio State’s fraternity presidents and senior university administrators to improve and uphold our community’s standards and values.
My involvement with the Morrill Scholars Program began shortly before my matriculation to Ohio State, when I received the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Morrill Distinction Scholarship. As part of the scholarship program, I participated in a series of diversity education initiatives on campus that included learning how to best foster diversity and inclusion, both on campus and in the business world. The Morrill Scholars Program also facilitated a series of speaker seminars where we had the opportunity to participate in small-group discussions with prolific authors, thought leaders and speakers who the Office of Diversity and Inclusion invited to campus. The Morrill Scholars Program also included a mentorship and networking aspect that enabled me to further build a diverse network of fellow campus leaders and diversity ambassadors.
Why did you choose your area of study at Fisher?
I developed an interest in computer programming and technology at the age of 11 when I started tinkering with TI-BASIC on a TI-73 calculator to create simple calculator programs. My passion for technology only grew over the following years as I learned to create web applications. In 2009, I started a web development company, DJAB Networks (now Benson Media), that grew to serve clients throughout the country. I eventually expanded into providing web and application hosting space when I started DJAB Hosting in 2010. The company grew to provide enterprise-class web and application hosting to more than 10,000 business clients in about 90 countries before I sold it in 2013.
It was through these experiences that I learned that I wanted to focus my studies on the intersection of applied computer science and business. Fisher’s Management Information Systems program provided this precise exposure to computer science and business, which made MIS an easy choice.
Do you have a favorite business faculty member or mentor who helped shape who you are today?
My favorite Fisher faculty member was Mr. Bruce Barnes. I got to know Mr. Barnes in my final semester at Ohio State when I enrolled in his Information Systems Planning & Management (AMIS 4670) course. Prior to lecturing at Ohio State, Mr. Barnes served as the CIO of Nationwide Financial Services. He brought his industry experience, knowledge and insight into the classroom, which he integrated with the course’s lecture content. His insight went beyond traditional academic theory and often included stories, advice and management lessons from his career that any young person going into the business world should know. He also leveraged his professional network and invited other business leaders from the central Ohio area to guest-lecture in our classes, which widened the breadth of content covered in his course.
Mr. Barnes holds his students to a high standard and continuously challenges them to think critically about what is being discussed. He encourages active participation through rigorous classroom discussion that makes for a dynamic and stimulating learning environment. Through his class, I learned a great deal about what it takes to be a successful business leader and a next-generation CIO.