Ahh, the MBA internship search. I wrote about this earlier in the quarter, and now that the Winter Quarter is ending I feel like I have more insight into the process. One thing my classmates and I are finding out quickly is to expect a lot of rejection, especially when you are a career changer. The above video does a great job of summing up the process of doing a lot of informational interviews and company research, applying for jobs, and then getting the rejection letter. It’s times like this that I really appreciate my fellow classmates who are going through the same process. One nice thing about having a small class is that everyone knows each other and is genuinely happy to hear when classmates get that internship offer letter, but the downside is that word spreads pretty fast. Failure seems much more publicized in our small community, which amplifies social pressure and anxiety.
One thing I’m struggling with is trying not to follow the herd. I came into the Foster MBA program with certain career goals in mind, but it’s really easy to get caught up in what your classmates are doing. It’s a great time to re-read the letter of advice from Stanford. I didn’t understand it in the Fall quarter, but I definitely feel the pressure in Winter Quarter. Here’s the advice from the letter:
“Again, take it easy. Everyone who wanted a summer job got one. I ended up playing picky and landing my ideal job two weeks after the school was out. (Most others had jobs long before that.) If you want a non-traditional job or one that is very different from your past experiences, you may want to prepare yourself for a lot of rejections-something that you may not necessarily be used to. Summer jobs are much harder to find than permanent jobs, due to fewer spots. If you just keep in mind that you will eventually have a job, you can take chances and experiment with the summer job search. This could be a very valuable experience for the permanent job search.”
By now, I’d say at least 33% of the Foster Full-time MBA class of 2016 have at least one internship offer. Due to the nature of MBA internship recruiting, consulting firms and large companies like Microsoft and Amazon tend to recruit much earlier…and they take a ton of MBAs. It’s great to see so many classmates get picked up for these amazing opportunities, but you definitely feel the pressure if you’re looking for something different, or you’re failing where others are succeeding.
I see some classmates panic and start applying to every available opportunity that comes up. I feel the same pressure as well. Luckily, re-reading the letter seemed to help, and I’m extremely grateful to get a lot of advice and help from alumni, second years, and classmates. If you’re struggling with this, I hope you re-read the letter and reach out.
Update 12/7/15: A few weeks after I wrote this, I accepted an offer to intern at Nike over the summer. That turned out to be the best possible result that I could have asked for.
If you’re a veteran and accepted to an MBA program starting in Fall 2015, you should definitely check out some of the pre-MBA industry exploration programs that are available this summer. They are a great way to get a head start on the internship search, and explore different career paths. Plus, they’re pretty much free!
Note that this is not inclusive of all the pre-MBA programs out there, but these are the ones that a University of Washington Veteran MBA would be eligible for. Hope this is helpful for the class of 2017!
Applications open in late Spring 2015
Opportunities in Investment Banking in their New York office.
Applications opened in mid-March, unknown deadline
“As part of Citi’s commitment to recruiting high-caliber talent and in accordance with our Diversity Recruiting Mission Statement, Citi Institutional Clients Group is proud to sponsor the Citi Pre-MBA Fellowship. The program will provide exceptional minority First-Year MBA students (women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, military veterans, people with disabilities and people of Black and Latino/Hispanic descent) with an opportunity to join the Institutional Clients Group with financial support from the Firm.”
Credit Suisse MBA Military Boot Camp (Veteran-Specific):
Application available Apr 2015, deadline 13 June 2015
“The Credit Suisse MBA Military Boot Camp, an educational outreach initiative for prior-military MBA candidates who are entering business school this fall and who are interested in a career in financial services. During this day long program you will learn about careers in Investment Banking, Sales and Trading and Private Banking. You will receive advice from previous Vets who have made the successful transition to Wall Street and will have time to network with members of the Credit Suisse Americas Veterans’ Network, the first such network on Wall Street.”
Deloitte Consulting Immersion Program (Anyone w/3-5 years of work exp, pref in large org):
Application opened in March, deadline April 15th at 11:59PM PST
July 10-12, 2015 at Deloitte University (Westlake, TX)
Open to all incoming Class of 2017 Full-time MBA students. Three-day, all-expenses-paid opportunity to learn the basics of management consulting and Deloitte. One of the key benefits to attending this program is that you can interview early for the Summer Associate role for the following summer internship.
Deloitte Career Opportunity Redefinition & Exploration (CORE) Leadership Program (Veterans w/4-8 yrs):
See deadlines below:
April 30-May 2 (deadline March 26),
June 4-6 (deadline May 1), or
November 5-7 (registration deadline Oct 1) at Deloitte University (Westlake, TX)
A three-day all-expense-paid program tailored to help veterans “define their personal brand, identify their strengths, and be able to tell their own story.” Seems like a good networking event and leadership development course for transitioning (or still active) military. One of my friends took it and said it was a great experience – met lots of contacts who gave a no-holds-barred account of consulting.
PwC EDGE Program (Anyone with 3 yrs work experience):
Deadline last year was 4 May 2014, not sure when applications opened up.
As a MBA EDGE intern, you will have a one of a kind experience deployed on an actual client assignment in an international location where you will respond to client issues and present recommendations to the client management team. The skills and knowledge obtained through this distinctive experience can give you an edge both professionally and personally as you continue your education and launch a career in consulting.
Google Student Veterans Summit (Veteran-Specific):
Applications will open March 30, 2015, with a deadline of 1 May 11:59PM PST. Last year, decisions were communicated to applicants in June
8-10 July, 2015 in Mountain View, CA
Competitive! This year they will take up to 50 student veterans, and I believe this is also open to undergrad Veterans as well. This Google Student Veteran Summit includes a professional development curriculum designed to help veterans brush up their business skills and ensure a smooth transition to the civilian workplace. Participants will also meet members of Google’s Veteran community and get an inside look at the company’s unique culture of impact and collaboration.
Procter and Gamble Marketing MBA Summer Camp (Open to everyone):
Applications open until June 12 2015, Interviews as early as March
Cincinnati, Ohio, last week of July 2015
A six day, all expenses paid, action-packed look at P&G Marketing opportunities shaped for students entering their first year of a two year MBA program and graduating in 2016. This pre-MBA program is designed to attract top diverse talent. During the week you will learn about P&G’s Corporate Strategies and Brand Building and how they touch the lives of the world’s consumers. You will have the opportunity to spend a day on the brand and preview the key roles you could play in Marketing after completing your MBA. You will also interact with P&G Executives and recent MBA graduates that work for the company throughout the week.
After a quarter in the MBA program, it’s been really eye-opening to see just how well being a 6X-series in the Air Force can translate into the civilian world. However, since there are so few 6X-series officers (development engineers, scientists, acquisition managers, financial managers, contracting officers, etc) in the Air Force, even members of our own service don’t know what we do.
I remember the day my recruiter told me that I was selected to be an Acquisition Manager. I almost turned the Air Force down because I thought I’d be using my engineering degree to order supplies, which is in line with what the Air Force’s career site advertises. My recruiter had no idea what it was, but eventually she got me in touch with an actual Acquisition Manager who was able to convince me to join.
8 years later, when I was looking to transition out, I was frustrated with the new military skills translators that thought that I know inventory management and purchasing methods. This is a shame, since this kind of information gets sent out to potential employers who use military skills translators to match veterans with potential jobs in their company.
So hopefully this will help the ~4500 Acquisition Managers and Developmental Engineers out there, or anyone looking to understand what we do.
Weapon Systems, not Office Supplies
Based on military skills translators and the Air Force’s own career web site, it seems like we are some kind of office manager or purchasing officer, responsible for managing equipment and supplies. The truth is that we help develop and deliver the latest products to our users. These products could be a new satellite constellation, a new generation of bomber aircraft, upgrades to existing weapon systems…and so on. These products tend to be incredibly complex and could require years or even decades of development and investment before they can be delivered. Hundreds to thousands of engineers, scientists, financial managers, other professionals could be working on this project. There are government decision-makers at all levels of these projects, many of whom are military.
What kind of responsibility do you have?
In short, it’s all about providing government oversight (“trust but verify”) and managing cost, schedule, and performance. We represent the American taxpayer and make sure that we are good stewards of government funds. We also represent the warfighter, to make sure that they can get the tools to do things better and potentially save lives.
Why can’t you just let (insert contractor name here) do it?
There was an effort in the 90’s to decrease the amount of government oversight on these acquisition programs, but then this happened. The debate continues to this day and won’t be discussed much in this post, but let’s just say that being laissez-faire caused some major issues in the past.
But (Insert Contractor Name here) just does all the work, right?
For the most part, yes, and that’s why they get paid the big bucks. They get to turn wrenches, order parts, and do the fun engineering and design work. If there was no government oversight, they could probably do everything and deliver a working product without any issues. However, the Air Force isn’t buying office supplies here. It’s buying (or modifying) huge, technically challenging, innovative and state-of-the-art products, and things don’t always go according to plan. That’s where the government Acquisition folks can help resolve problems – whether it’s a technical or a business challenge.
In my role as an Acquisition Manager, I’ve had the opportunity to influence the decision-making process by providing information and recommendations to leadership. I also had a chance to develop my technical expertise by helping resolve complex engineering challenges, and also got a chance to develop my business expertise by leading major program/contract modifications. Like many jobs, it is what you make of it.
However, like all large organizations, there’s a possibility that folks can get very comfortable and do as little as possible in their role. In Acquisitions, I’ve found that the majority of folks in the career field are motivated to do the best job that they can for the taxpayer and the warfighter, and anyone who isn’t will get sidelined very quickly.
What Do they do, then?
We team up with engineers and contracting personnel to oversee the cost, schedule, and technical performance of a government product development contract. From the government’s perspective, we ‘own’ the product and are responsible for all decisions regarding it. We’re expected to be the expert on our product and an advocate for the product and our product’s customer. Particular job details beyond that vary greatly from product to product. We attend plenty of meetings to stay up-to-date on product development status, and whenever possible we watch the product get developed in-person. I was fortunate enough to be co-located with the Boeing Satellite Development Center for my first assignment, so I got to watch my product get built every day.
When technical problems arise, we bring to bear a variety of government resources to help keep the product on track. We can leverage technical experts on the government side, government research facilities, and our own background to tackle engineering challenges. We can advocate for additional funding or schedule relief.
We work closely with finance and contracting to manage the product budget. I’d say I spent 40% of my time working through technical issues, 40% funding/contract issues, and 20% doing other activities like government internal processes, additional duties, and other military responsibilities. Everything is done in teams, and we constantly communicate or provide information to internal stakeholders (management) and external stakeholders (ranging from the customer to Congress).
So what Key skills do Acquisition Managers Need?
Cross-functional Team Leadership is the name of the game. You do all your work in cross-functional teams, with specialists in finance, contracting, engineering, and other disciplines. At the lower-mid level ranks, you need to use your soft skills (relationship building, building trust, emotional intelligence) to influence without any formal authority. We don’t have formal authority over the defense contractor outside of what’s stated in the contract, so ordering people around won’t get you very far. I’ve always worked hard to establish credibility early on, and build trust and nurture relationships with folks from all stakeholder organizations (and at all levels). These relationships become invaluable over the long term, and I think they are the primary drivers in job effectiveness.
As far as hard skills, you’ll get most of what you need from the Air Force (program/project management, critical path analysis, etc). Having a technical background helps, but I found it’s more important to have a growth mindset and a willingness to learn, and learn quick. You don’t need to be an aerospace engineer to effectively lead a satellite program, but you need to be able to communicate what’s going on with your program to a variety of audiences.
Note that this isn’t a be-all end-all list, typical military skills like general management, dealing with ambiguity, leadership, communication, and having a strong work ethic are all important as well, but just wanted to highlight what the top two are for this career field.
So what kind of Entry-level roles do you fill?
Brand-new Acquisition Managers can go to System Program Offices (or SPOs, the units that are responsible for a particular product system, like the F-22 Raptor or the Atlas V Common Core Booster) and be put in charge of a particular subsystem or modification/upgrade program. In smaller SPOs, you might be responsible for an entire product line. This means that you get cost, schedule, and performance responsibility right off the bat, and you are given very little direction in how to achieve these goals. There are sets of internal/external government processes to manage, but I’d say the majority of your time will be spent working with the contractor and other stakeholder organizations, and breaking down barriers to progress.
Acquisition Managers can also be assigned to research labs, where they will get to manage research programs. Similar to being in a SPO, but instead of working with a large defense contractor, you could be working with an internal research organization or with smaller contractors. Work is a little irregular, and depends a lot on the availability of research funds. Lots of variability here in terms of experience.
There are a variety of other options, to include a ‘career-broadening’ assignment where an Acquisition Manager gets ‘operational’ experience as a Maintenance Officer, Logistics Officer, Space Operations Officer, and so on, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Some folks get farmed out to defense agencies like the Missile Defense Agency or the Defense Contract Management Agency, and some folks get to be on test programs and run/manage flight tests. The list goes on, but typically they all involve some kind of responsibility for a program to either develop or modify a particular product or technology.
I attended two industry panels over the weekend at the 2014 MBA Veterans Conference in Chicago, and they did not disappoint. Here are some notes from the Brand Management panel, and how military experience can help or hurt you.
What do Brand Managers at a Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) firm do?
According to the panel, it’s 70% General Management (financial performance, cross-functional team leadership, reading Profit & Loss statements, etc) and 30% Marketing Communications (packaging design, working with creative agencies, etc). So you do some of the creative stuff, but you spend more of your time on managing costs, increasing market share, managing brand health, increasing market penetration, etc. Cross-functional team leadership is the name of the game here: you’ll be working with creatives, finance personnel, designers, manufacturing/operations, without any formal authority. They use the 4P’s every day.
One panelist said that it’s like running your own little business that’s focused on the consumer. In Army terms, you’re like the Company XO. You handle a lot of day to day stuff and execution and the boss charts the mission and the overall direction/strategy.
You get to do a little bit of everything: you get to manage creative agencies (does the big idea for our ad campaign drive us closer to our strategic goals as a company?), exercise analytical skills (retail analysis, macro trends, define next business objectives, strategy, read Profit and Loss statements, etc), operations (R&D, work with finance partners, supply chain/route to market, line tests, product launch) and so on. They really do use the 4P’s!
What are the key skills veterans have that translate well to Brand Management?
Your leadership skills and experience set you apart. Be sure to focus on occasions where you had to lead without formal/positional authority…i.e. you had to convince more senior folks on a course of action, lead a team of your peers on a group project, lead organizational change, etc. Be specific, and think about exactly how you did it. Work your story around these leadership skills.
You might be a few years older than your peers, and have some pretty amazing experiences under your belt.
Veterans are comfortable with making decisions in the face of ambiguity. You’re adaptable and you can deal with change. There’s a saying in the military that I love: “An 80% solution on time is better than a 100% solution too late.”
You have professional maturity. Stress management skills and risk/uncertainty management skills are a given, and you are highly resilient.
Strong work ethic. Self-explanatory.
Effective communication. Think about all the times that you used clear communication to drive results.
What are some of the key challenges for veterans looking to be brand managers?
Culture Fit. Part of this is due to unspoken biases and perceptions of veterans from media and popular culture. There are two big misconceptions: that all veterans are damaged and are going to go crazy, and that veterans just order lower-ranking people around. Veterans make up a very very insignificant percentage of the US population, so it’s up to you to change these perceptions.
Lack of relevant experience. You might not have any Marketing or CPG experience, so you have to work hard to get that experience through consulting projects, internships, etc. Or, you need to look closely at your military experience and find the connections.
I came away from this industry panel super excited about marketing – if you’re a veteran interested in this career field, just know that we can make that transition!
Fellow UW Foster MBA students! The “Meet the Firm” schedule has been posted through November, and by now you should all have your resumes and profiles up on our various career sites (if not, check your emails for instructions!). I reviewed the list of upcoming info sessions and split them up by industry/job function as best as I could and sorted them by date. Every company has full-time, post-grad, and internship opportunities unless otherwise noted. Hope this helps you with your career exploration and internship hunt!
McKinsey & Co: Sep 29, Management Consulting. FT/post grad hire only. Learn about consulting careers and how McKinsey approaches client assignments and utilizes frameworks to solve unique client issues and uncover opportunities. Speaker is Alex Rawson, HBS MBA Grad. Learn more about him on the McKinsey site, here.
Point B: Sep 30, Management Consulting. Consulting Mag #2 best firm to work for overall.
Arryve: Oct 8, Consulting. Seattle top 100 places to work for.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG): Oct 23, Consulting. Ranked #3 on Fortune Magazine’s 2014 list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This session will talk about what to expect in a case interview with BCG.
Bridge Partners: Nov 20, Consulting – Marketing, Sales & Channel, Business Transformation.
Intel: Oct 1, Tech. Full time positions, second years only.
Walt Disney Co: Oct 3, Media/Entertainment. Full time position only. Disney is seeking candidates to their Disney Technology Management Rotational Program. The positions are full-time professional with strong support from their senior leadership team and C-suite.