Women in the World and Stern

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Women in the World Summit, which was presented by my former employer, Newsweek Daily Beast. The experience is unlike anything that I can put into words. At the Summit, moderators who include people like Hillary Clinton, Diane Von Furstenberg, Angela Jolie, Barbara Walters, Meryl Streep, and more, help women from countries near and far testify to some of the atrocities they have experienced or witnessed in their lives. Atrocities that I could never imagine – honor killings and beatings, genital mutilation, rape, not being allowed to work or leave the home, being denied education, and the list goes on. A former Stern part-time student/former coworker of mine provided tickets for myself and another classmate. Knowing my interest in women’s issues, he was happy to extend the invitation to the Summit. Much like Stern, this gathering is a transformative experience. It brings perspective to my MBA as I stress over a quiz that is worth 10% of my grade in one course. Moreover, to see a media company create such a forum for women’s issues reminds me that corporate America can participate in meaningful corporate social responsibility (CSR) beyond the purpose of branding or the bottom line.

My friend who accompanied me has a particular interest in CSR, whereas I am simply a person who was inspired by the conference last year and as  a woman, finds these issues fascinating and engaging. As I sat at the conference this year, I found that I was looking at it through a different lens since attending Stern. I thought about the ways that pressure could be placed upon companies to improve not only women’s rights, but also human rights. I considered some of the management techniques we have discussed in my Leadership in Organizations (LiO) course that could be applicable to some of the organizations represented at the Summit. I further considered the role that celebrity played in branding the conference and how it was leveraged for good rather than to simply sell tickets to an event. I considered the way that macroeconomic conditions colored the lives of many of the women presenters and how the decisions made in the US could have far reaching effects that often go unseen globally. These are all things that hardly crossed my mind last year when I was simply awestruck by the conference.

Again, I was thrilled to share this experience with fellow Sternies. In fact, next I might suggest partnering with Stern Women in Business to have a greater presence at the conference. I feel that Women in the World presents a great fusion of EQ and IQ. You can check it out for yourself here.

Personal Life Meets Stern

While many of my classmates spent their spring breaks in far off exotic locations, I decided to take a more localized, educational approach to my week off. As I may have mentioned in an earlier blog, I am in a distance relationship. Aside from my personal desire to remain as debt-free as possible (and not spend money on a vacation), I preferred to spend time with my boyfriend over the break and visit with some college friends in Washington, DC. As we toured the monuments and museums, I reflected on my choice to have a quieter spring break than many of my classmates. While I was admittedly somewhat jealous of their travels, I knew I’d made the right decision for myself – one my fellow Sternies had even encouraged me when I grappled with the choice. Again, my friends here serve as more than just classroom comrades. They are advisors and confidants.

One of the things that struck me most when I began at Stern was the number of people in committed relationships. We instantly found common ground and were able to openly share about the challenges of balancing our new lives in business school with our loved one. Make no mistake, it is challenging. There are tradeoffs for sure, but I have seen the way the Stern community is willing to adopt partners. I was concerned that my desire to sometimes spend time with my boyfriend over my classmates would cause a social stigma. Instead, I find that they encourage me to do so. My cohorts understand that business school, even without classes on Fridays, does not make it easy for my boyfriend and I to spend time together. As I agonized over how to spend my spring break, my friends listened and sympathized with my dilemma.

I know there are many horror stories about relationships going awry in business school, and trust me, some do. But if there is one thing that surprised me about Stern, it’s that my classmates, single or otherwise, support me far beyond the classroom and workspace. Given the big transition that business school is for any couple, I must say that Stern has made my relationship more manageable than I anticipated. Even the career counselors helped me determine my recruiting timeline so that I could plan our anniversary. Not to be sappy, but the support of the Stern community for my relationship warms my heart.

Consulting Corps Squared

It’s the fourth week of classes. How did we get here? It may seem like a cliché to say that time flies by in business school, but it’s no exaggeration. Somehow, I’m back in a place where finding even 30 minutes of free time in a given week can be a challenge. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy, and dare I say, even thrive off of this kind of hectic lifestyle. Many students at Stern will openly admit that they over commit. However, I’d like to see this level of involvement as a tradeoff. I’ve traded sleep and relaxation for two years where my life is dominated by FOMO (fear of missing out). For this reason, I’ve taken on two consulting projects in addition to my usual club activities and alumni volunteering.

The first project I’m working on is part of the Stern Consulting Corps (SCC). We are working with NYU’s Langone Medical Center to help their Department of Integrated Health develop a workable business model. Although my team has yet to delve into the details, I’ve already learned a tremendous amount. While the healthcare industry in the US is obviously fraught with woes, this project in particular has brought to light the disconnect that exists among between medicine, patients, and business.  The goals of the department are admirable and I truly believe our partners are some of the best-intentioned. However, it is clear they are seeking guidance and support to become self-sustaining. Over the next 8 weeks, it will be interesting to see how our group is able to answer some of the departments’ more trying questions. The prospect of making an impact at a world-class health facility is exciting and I look forward to sharing our results!

As if the ten hour per week time commitment from the SCC project wasn’t enough, I have also signed on board to work with Gilt Groupe, specifically with Gilt City as part of the Luxury and Retail Consulting Corps. While the Langone project is one of personal fulfillment, my motivation for this project is purely professional. As I look to enter a career in retail, I am thrilled to gain insight from one of the leaders in e-commerce and email marketing. I am hoping that this project is the perfect fusion of my minor technical background and my newly acquired analytical skills from Stern. Regardless, it will undoubtedly be an amazing experience to work with a company that is growing so quickly, yet still able to maintain its entrepreneurial spirit.

I can’t wait to contrast the two consulting roles!

Internship Status Report

When it rains it pours. This week I have made some major strides toward figuring out where I will intern this summer. I have been fortunate enough to receive some offers this week from some of the firms that I am most interested in. However, deciding between the different opportunities will undoubtedly be challenging. Luckily, the Office of Career Development has already been instrumental in helping me manage various relationships. My main dilemma, aside from my innate indecision, is how to proceed with ongoing conversations with companies who are still in the midst of their hiring process. Obviously it is essential to maintain these relationships not only for the purpose of the summer, but also as a representative of Stern and for my long term career. I would like to say that I have an entirely clear vision of what my career will look like, but with so many options at the moment, it is difficult to know.

One aspect of my future that I am confident in is that the Stern name will take me far. Several companies I have spoken to have already mentioned the quality of my education as a distinguishing factor. Moreover, many recruiters have sited Stern’s strong sense of community and how the school fosters a team-building environment. In terms of networking and exploring some less traditional career options, I feel that the Stern brand name has truly helped. But it extends beyond just the school’s image. The further I delve into my course work this semester, the more I see its potential real world application. As an undergraduate literature major, this is a complete 180. Now, as I consider my internship options, I must decide which of my new skills I’d like most to practice. Again, I hope that my decision making skills are not a hindrance, but that’s what OCD (Office of Career Development) is for!

I will be sure to keep you posted on my internship status in the upcoming weeks.

Another Great Week

Since I last posted, a lot has happened. It has been an incredible week. Last Friday was the Stern Women in Business Conference. We heard from some amazing women who were quite open with the audience about balancing a high-powered career and a family. I found their candor refreshing. It was great to hear some of their anecdotes regarding childcare and learning to adapt after having kids. I attended a panel about creative innovation and the ways that women can create leadership opportunities for themselves. It was inspiring to listen to women with a range of backgrounds from finance to marketing to fashion. It was also interesting to hear about the risks these women had taken to advance their careers and how they learned to be more vocal about their career advancements and getting raises. The conference certainly gave me a lot to think about for the future.

From the conference, I made my way to Gilt Groupe where I will be working on a consulting project for the newly launched Gilt City. Again, I found myself inspired by the company’s energy and passion for what they do. I am excited to see how I will leverage my digital background for the first time since starting business school. Moreover, it is the first opportunity I will have to combine my prior work experience with my strong interest in e-commerce. In fact, I will likely pursue a career in luxury and retail, if all goes according to plan.

This brings me to another reason why I’ve had a great week. On Tuesday, I attended my first fashion show as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. It came about when I contacted a former coworker and fellow Sternie regarding any industry connections he may have. He generously offered me his seat at the show to aid my networking. I was amazed with his selflessness, which truly speaks to the Stern spirit and community. Additionally, I have had three other alumni offer their time to discuss their experiences at various fashion and retail firms. For some reason, their willingness to meet in person or talk over the phone never ceases to amaze me. I think this week especially, I am reminded why my decision to attend Stern is one of the best I’ve made.

Round 2

It’s the start of my second semester and it’s hard to believe I’m back after a roughly six week hiatus. I enjoyed the long break and the opportunity to travel and reflect on my first semester. At the same time, I’m excited for what’s to come during this week alone. This Friday is the Stern Women in Business Conference. I attended this conference last year when I interviewed and it was a turning point for me in the decision process. I met so many bright, friendly, and enthusiastic women, I was convinced that Stern was the place for me. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store!

In addition, I will begin my Stern Consulting Corps project. This semester, I will be working with the Langone Medical Center on a project about integrated healthcare. As someone who works on an annual health and wellness fair in Harlem, NY and has a chronically ill parent, this opportunity resonated with me on a personal level. I am also excited because healthcare has always been an interest of mine, but I don’t necessarily see myself working in the industry (subject to change). This gives me a way to experience an industry which I might otherwise  have never gained exposure to. I’m looking forward to the possibility of helping people through this opportunity. I will be sure to report back on my experiences.

Lastly, I’m thrilled to be taking my first elective this semester – foundations of entrepreneurship! I took one class in undergrad where I was required to write a business plan. Since then, I have always been interested in the possibility of starting my own business. I have some ideas in the retail space that I plan to explore. I’m hopeful that this class will give me a good starting place to put my thoughts into action. Stay tuned for an exciting semester!

One Semester Down

So the first semester is shockingly coming to a close. I cannot fathom the fact that I’ve been in school for a whole semester. While I’ve enjoyed my whirlwind of experiences, it saddens me to think that I am a quarter of the way through my business school experience. I feel like I was sitting in Launch meeting all of my new friends just yesterday. Now, I’m faced with the harsh reality of finals and internship applications as time keeps ticking. Although this may be one of the less enjoyable aspects of business school, I find that I’ve learned a tremendous amount. As an undergraduate literature major, I’m learning more practical, applicable skills in the classroom for the first time. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade my reading, writing, and theorizing experience for anything, but I’m enjoying the contrast here at Stern. In many cases, I’m saddened that my time in the classroom with certain professors has come to an end. You might not think that topics like accounting, foundations of finance, and statistics could be interesting at an introductory level. Yet somehow, the professors I’ve had this semester have made us laugh and smile. I think the faculty is one of the distinguishing factors here. Although I expected great teaching in electives and upper level courses, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the outstanding professors I’ve had right out of the gate. Classes aside, I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about myself and how I function under new, stressful situations. I’ve found the challenge of having nearly every day completely booked enjoyable. I’ve experienced a range of group dynamics and learned how to navigate a wide range of personalities.  For the first time, I’ve learned how to study. Most importantly, I’ve learned to be more adaptable than I ever imagined. The past few months haven’t always been easy, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.