Despite having just walked the stage two months ago, recent Texas MBA graduate Justin Key is already well on his way to leaving his mark on the tech world. Prior to his time at McCombs, Justin entered the Texas Venture Labs Scholarship Competition with the idea for an app that would allow friends to compete against each other while watching Netflix by answering trivia questions pertaining to a specific show or movie. His idea won first place and after being accepted to McCombs as a part of the Class of 2016, Justin was able to make Plot Guru a reality. He and the rest of the Plot Guru team launched the app in November 2015 and have already had tremendous success. In order to continue to develop his entertainment tech skills, Justin recently made the move to Seattle, WA to embark on a new exciting adventure and join the team at Amazon.
We recently caught up with him to see what he’s been up to since graduation and to learn about his reasons #WhyMcCombs.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA and why did you choose McCombs?
After six years in consulting I was ready for a change. I had been working on a startup idea on the side for some time, and was looking for a program where I could pursue a top-tier graduate education while also pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors. I found the experiential opportunities at McCombs to be just what I was looking for. After visiting the campus and getting a sense for the student culture I was hooked – no pun intended!
What were you doing before you came to McCombs for your MBA?
I was a strategy consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers for about six years. I spent the latter three years based in their Zurich, Switzerland office, and was based in Washington, D.C. prior to that.
What was the most valuable lesson — inside or outside of the classroom — you learned while completing your MBA?
Two things: The value of hands-on experience and the importance of networking. Both are instrumental in getting a job and succeeding once you’re there.
How has your McCombs MBA experience helped shape your success?
The Texas MBA Program gave me the opportunity to explore new career paths, including entrepreneurship, while I was still in school. The classroom experience was important, but the opportunities that McCombs gave me outside the classroom really helped prepare me for the next stage in my career.
Tell us a little bit about Plot Guru. How did you come up with the idea for it?
Plot Guru is all about making the television-viewing experience more interactive. Our app syncs with the show you’re viewing online and sends you games and trivia in real-time based on what you’re watching on-screen. The idea for Plot Guru started during a weekly gathering of friends to watch one of our favorite shows. Before the episode started we would always compete to see who could guess what would happen next in the show. At some point my wife suggested, “What if we made a game out of this?” The rest is history.
What is your role at Amazon and what will you be working on?
I recently started a new job as a Sr. Product Manager at Amazon. I’m working on a new platform called Amazon Video Direct, which is a self-service program for content creators, such as independent film makers, to make their content available to stream online through Amazon Video. I’m really excited to use my experience in strategy, technology and entertainment to help small film producers get their content in front of millions of viewers on Amazon Video.
What else have you been up to since you graduated from McCombs, outside of work?
I’ve been pretty busy with the move up to Seattle, starting the new job and continuing to work on Plot Guru in my spare time. Besides all that, I always make time for travel. In the past couple months I’ve visited seven states and two countries!
What advice do you have for future Texas MBAs?
Figure out what you’re interested in and get as much hands-on experience in that area as possible! Take on MBA+ projects, fellowships, internships, and independent studies. You’ll never have a better chance to try out new things like you will during your time at McCombs.