My Experience with Standardized Tests*

Mara Walsh is a recent graduate who specialized in Marketing and Leadership & Change Management. Prior to Stern, Mara spent four years working in merchandising at Abercrombie & Fitch, followed by two years in digital marketing at Wayfair. In addition to serving as a Graduate Ambassador, Mara served as a VP of Alumni Relations for Stern’s Management Consulting Association (MCA), VP of Admissions for the Graduate Marketing Association (GMA), and a Block Leader. Mara originally hails from Wilmington, DE and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. Mara now works at Deloitte as a Senior Consultant in its NYC office. 

It’s no secret that the MBA admissions process can be a stressful one. For myself and many others, most of that stress was brought on by standardized testing. I have struggled with standardized tests for most of my life and don’t exactly feel qualified to advise applicants on how to approach them, but I hope that sharing my experiences with the GMAT and GRE will be helpful to those about to embark on the same process. 

When I made the decision to apply to business school in late summer 2019, I chose to study for the GMAT on my own, rather than hire a tutor or pay for a prep course. I purchased a GMAT prep book, studied for about 2 months, and ultimately took the test for the first time in October 2019. Though my practice test results weren’t far off from the score I was aiming for, my performance on the test was much lower than what I thought would be acceptable for top tier business schools. I knew going into the exam that I would struggle with the data sufficiency portion of the quant section, and the anticipatory stress and pressure of taking the exam made matters worse. 

I was determined to improve my score, and subsequently took the exam twice more in November and December. Despite having more studying under my belt and trying new tactics to control my test-taking anxiety, I saw very little movement in my scores. I didn’t think there was much else I could do to improve my GMAT, so I submitted my application to Stern that January. 

In March 2020, amid the beginning of the COVID pandemic, I learned that I had been waitlisted at Stern. I graduated from college with honors and I had several  promotions at reputable companies on my resume, so it didn’t take much reflection for me to realize I needed to improve my standardized test scores to give myself a chance of being admitted into Stern and other business schools. 

I initially assumed that MBA programs had a strong preference for the GMAT over other standardized tests; however, I noticed on MBA message boards that the GRE was a potential option for those who may struggle with the quant portions. From my experience, the GRE’s quant questions are similar in terms of subject matter, but much more straightforward. As soon as I was waitlisted, I wrote to Stern reiterating my commitment to staying on the waitlist and indicated that I intended to take the GRE to improve my overall score. 

I spent a lot of my free time in the early days of lockdown studying for the GRE. Like with the GMAT, I studied from a prep book and took practice exams online. I ultimately took the test twice (from home on my laptop, of course), improving my score the second time. I knew that my application was strong overall, and I wanted to use my commitment to improving my score as an opportunity to prove to the admissions committee that I was going to work hard as a student.  I was admitted to Stern from the waitlist that summer. 

Looking back, I’m proud of the resilience that went into improving my standardized test  scores. That said, I would not recommend taking any (or more than one) standardized test five times! Instead, as you begin the process of considering an MBA, take some time to read up on which exam is best suited to your skillset. If the math section of the SAT wasn’t your thing, consider giving the GRE a try. If you take the GMAT and think you have a reasonable chance of improving your score with more studying or personal tutoring, go for it! But if after one retake you see little movement in your score, I’d recommend giving another test a try (in addition to the GMAT and GRE, Stern also accepts the Executive Assessment Test (EA), MCAT, LSAT, and DAT). 

Finally, if you find yourself on the waitlist like I did, take some time to reflect on what might make your application stronger. Stern places a tremendous amount of value on EQ, so demonstrating your self awareness with respect to your strengths and areas of opportunity can go a long way in the admissions process. 

*Please note we accept the GMAT, Executive Assessment, GRE, LSAT, the MCAT, DAT, and we consider standardized test waiver requests. Visit our website for more on our standardized tests policies.

Reflections on Graduation

Mara Walsh is an MBA2 specializing in Marketing and Leadership & Change Management. Prior to Stern, Mara spent four years working in merchandising at Abercrombie & Fitch, followed by two years in digital marketing at Wayfair. In addition to serving as a Graduate Ambassador, Mara served as a VP of Alumni Relations for Stern’s Management Consulting Association (MCA), VP of Admissions for the Graduate Marketing Association (GMA), and a Block Leader. Mara originally hails from Wilmington, DE and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. Following graduation, Mara plans to join Deloitte as a Senior Consultant in its NYC office. 

It’s hard to believe that as I type this post, I am just two short weeks away from graduating with my MBA from Stern. As I look back at my time here, I am overcome with gratitude for the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced. Before my time at Stern is done, I wanted to share some advice on how to make the most of your experience here. 

  • Join (a) professional club(s): I can’t say enough about how much professional clubs like MCA and GMA helped with the process of finding an internship last year. MCA’s “bootcamp” and study groups taught me and my classmates everything there is to know about case interviews, something I had no exposure to before Stern! GMA does an incredible job preparing students for behavioral interviews during “Mock Madness,” a week-long pre-interview bootcamp in mid-January. We have a special culture of paying it forward here at Stern, meaning that MBA2s really step up to help MBA1s achieve success in the internship recruiting process. I think professional clubs also offer a great opportunity to connect with classmates- I personally met some of my best friends from Stern during the fall of my first semester as I prepared for interviews. 
  • Take courses that challenge you: One of the great things about business school is that many MBA programs (including Stern) have grade non-disclosure policies, meaning that employers cannot know a student’s GPA until a full-time offer has been extended. Though it is important to stay on top of your schoolwork and maintain a certain GPA to be in good standing at Stern, the grade non-disclosure policy gives students the opportunity to take risks academically. For me, that meant challenging myself by taking quant and data analytics courses that aren’t necessarily in my wheelhouse, such as Data Driven Decision Making, Decision Models & Analytics, and Corporate Finance. Though these courses were difficult at times, I feel more prepared for my post-graduate career thanks to the skills I learned from them. 
  • Participate in experiential learning opportunities: I would recommend that any incoming student take at least one experiential learning course during their time at Stern; they are incredible opportunities to learn from senior executives and business leaders and explore NYC and other parts of the world. During the spring of my first year at Stern, I took the Branding & Innovation Consulting Lab course with Fran Gormley, an adjunct professor of Marketing. The course was an amazing opportunity to take on a brand strategy project for a real client, National Geographic, and meet with senior executives from the company on a weekly basis. I learned so much from Professor Gormley about branding and interacting with clients that I will take into my career as a consultant. 
  • Get to know your classmates! Of every suggestion on this list, this might be the most important. A big reason many people get an MBA is to build their network, and my Stern experience has certainly done that. More importantly though, I’ve built so many amazing friendships with my Stern classmates and made memories that will last a lifetime. From studying for finals and preparing for interviews to exploring NYC and traveling the world, most of the highlights of my Stern experience have involved spending time with and getting to know my classmates. Getting an MBA can be a lot of work, but don’t forget to prioritize relationship building during your time here. 
  • Take advantage of what NYC has to offer: Getting an MBA in the heart of NYC is academically, professionally, and socially rewarding. Take advantage of the resources at your disposal by attending guest lectures and club conferences, taking experiential learning courses that get you out into the city, and learning from professors at the top of their fields. In the midst of all that, don’t forget to have fun! Take a break from homework and interview prep and use your free time to go to a museum, attend a free taping of a late night talk show, stroll through Central Park, or see a Broadway musical. Many clubs will subsidize tickets to fun events and shows in the city, which makes it easier to enjoy NYC on a full-time student budget. 

Best of luck to any incoming or prospective students reading this! Applying to business school can be an intimidating and stressful process; it certainly was for me, but I couldn’t be happier that I chose to take the plunge and get my MBA here at Stern. 

 

Now That You’ve Applied

Arthur is an MBA2 specializing in Strategy and Entertainment, Media and Technology. In addition to serving as a Graduate Ambassador, he is also a VP of Academics and Case Competitions for the Entertainment, Media and Sports Association (EMSA) and a Teaching Fellow for Pr. Matthew Lee’s core course, Strategy. Born in Dayton, OH, he has lived in New York City for the past 6 years and loves living in the city. He graduated with a BA from Boston College in 2013 and spent the majority of his pre-MBA career in client services roles at GLG. He will be joining ZS Associates full time after graduation after serving as a summer intern at the firm.

Now that application deadlines for the next cycle are past due, I thought I’d share my reflections about what to do now if you’ve submitted your application and are making your final decision. These are not just from my own perspective, but based on questions that I have received from prospective students in the midst of decision-making.  

  • I’ve applied to Stern and have not yet heard back – what can I do to help my candidacy? 

Honestly – not a lot! Admissions will review your application in due time, so give yourself a chance to relax and have confidence in the work you put into it. The best use of time until you receive an update from admissions could be to continue your research into Stern. What sorts of classes or programs might you want to take advantage of? If there is something you can’t find out on the school’s website, consider taking a look at club websites (professional, affinity or social) and reaching out to the VPs of Admissions of clubs to get a student’s perspective on membership. 

  • I’ve been waitlisted – what do I do now? 

This one is close to my heart – I was waitlisted after applying in Round 1 and was eventually granted admission. First, although it might sound difficult, give yourself some credit – being waitlisted is not bad news! 

My best advice plays into an idea on which Stern places a lot of emphasis – EQ (Emotional Intelligence). One part of having a high EQ is self-awareness. So if you’re on the waitlist, be self-aware about what you can improve on your application, and focus on what you can control. Things like your past experiences or undergrad GPA are set in stone – those things cannot change. Even your professional experience, while ongoing, can only change so much in the course of a couple of weeks or months. Some things you could consider – retaking a standardized test (if you think you can achieve a higher score), enrolling in an online course (MBAMath, Coursera, etc.), or participating in volunteer opportunities (through work or on your own). Don’t try to improve simply for the sake of improvement though – make decisions as an authentic extension of the story you told in your application. 

Finally, be sure to keep the admissions team updated. If there is something new worth sharing (maybe a new test score or an exciting new promotion at work), be sure to share these in the waitlist portal so that they are included in your application’s next review. 

  • I’ve been given an interview – how should I prepare?

Two things to keep in mind: 1) whereas other schools may leverage current students or alumni to conduct interviews, all Stern interviews are conducted by a member of the admissions team and 2) they are NOT blind – interviewers will have reviewed your resume and application in full ahead of time. 

This is a good thing! This means you get to speak with a trained professional and someone who is passionate about making Stern the best place it can be. To echo prior points of advice, be confident in your story and bring your authentic self to the interview. You were given an interview for a reason, and that is the person they want to speak to. 

A couple themes that may come up: your previous experience (personal or professional), why you want to pursue an MBA, why Stern, why New York City, EQ and what class/programs you are excited about at Stern. Also, (and this goes for an interview you participate in): if it is on your resume, be prepared to speak to it. 

  • I’ve been admitted to Stern in addition to other great schools – how do I decide? 

I hesitate to even give advice to this one because it is so intensely personal. Where you decide to go is an undoubtedly big decision, but remember it is unique to you.

Stern is wonderful for a variety of reasons – if you didn’t think that, then you probably wouldn’t have applied. But while it was the right choice for me, the same may not apply to you for a wide variety of reasons. Again, give yourself credit for the achievement (not everyone gets into multiple top business schools) and make the decision that is best for you, your family, and your future. 

  • I have been rejected from Stern – what now? 

Rejection stinks– as someone who has experienced constant rejection through the business school journey (from other schools as well a list of potential employers), I empathize. 

There is also a process for re-applying to the Full-Time, 2-year program. Regardless, the first thing I’d say echoes my advice for the waitlist – leverage your EQ and be self-aware regarding what can be improved about your candidacy. Then, put together a plan on if and how those things can be improved upon by the time you plan to re-apply. 

Finally, take some time to reflect on whether or not the Full-Time program is the right path for you. There is more than one way to crack an egg – the Part-time, Executive MBA, and One-Year Full-Time programs are all amazing options to consider moving forward, depending on your goals. Researching those programs’ websites, attending admissions events, and speaking to students in those programs are the best ways to learn more about them. 

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These are but a few of the questions that have been coming my way – always know, if you need a question answered about these or other questions, that the admissions team and Graduate Ambassadors are here to help! Godspeed!

Common Questions About NYU Stern, Answered by a Student

Brandon Quinn is an MBA2 specializing in Strategy and Business Analytics. Prior to Stern, Brandon worked in financial regulation where he examined some of the largest US-based brokerage firms. At Stern, Brandon serves as a Graduate Ambassador, Career Fellow, VP of Admissions for the Management Consulting Association (MCA) and VP of Marketing for the Business Analytics Club (BAC). Upon graduation, he will be pursuing a role as a Consultant at EY-Parthenon. 

Why did you choose Stern over other MBA programs?

I knew I wanted to stay in the NYC area long-term, so the location of Stern played a huge role in my decision to attend. Additionally, I found NYU Stern’s focus on IQ+EQ in the application process really rings true in the culture at the school. Speaking with current students when I applied, I really got the sense that Stern would offer the perfect collaborative environment for me to reach my full potential. 

 

What surprised you the most about Stern?

I think the strong sense of community in the large city is something that surprised me most about Stern. Given NYC is such a big city, I assumed going into Stern that many of my peers would have networks of friends in the city already. While many of my classmates and professors do have networks already built in New York, the community at Stern is exceptional. This summer I will be attending many of my Stern classmates’ weddings–I think this just shows how strong the relationships are that you will build at an MBA program like Stern. 


Is it a challenge to get the classes that you want, and which specializations should I choose for my career?

NYU does a great job of making sure that everyone gets the classes they want to take. There is a lottery system where you fill out your ideal schedule and then you add up to 2 backup classes for each class in your ideal schedule. I have always gotten my ideal schedule each semester at Stern. Overall, I would say it’s not much of a challenge at all to take the classes that you want to take. 

Stern has many specializations, but the specializations are not mandatory. I ended up taking the classes that interested me most rather than the classes that fit into a certain specialization. I would encourage incoming students to do the same and to not worry about which specialization might look best for their future employer. 


What career related support did you get from the school throughout the program?

I got a tremendous amount of support from two primary resources on campus: the Office of Career Development and the Management Consulting Association. The Office of Career Development provided career coaches that helped me develop a recruiting strategy and revised my resume and cover letters. The Office of Career Development also facilitates a lot of the coffee chats with alumni and facilitates the on-campus interviews. The Management Consulting Association (MCA) provided support to make sure I was ready for interview days. The case interview is a very important part of the consulting recruiting process, so MCA brings in external parties to teach students how to tackle the case interview. There are also study groups led by MBA2s who were successful in the interview process the prior year. Other professional clubs on campus are structured similarly, but focus on the specific type of interviews that are unique to that professional club (i.e. Graduate Finance Association with technical finance interviews). 

 

How NYU Stern Helped Me Transition out of the Military

Grant Ward is an MBA2 specializing in Finance and Business Analytics. Prior to Stern, Grant spent eight years as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the United States Army. During that time, he lived and worked all over the US and Europe, including a three year tour to Germany. He recruited for Management Consulting and plans to join Boston Consulting Group in their Summit, NJ office this coming summer. Grant is a Graduate Ambassador for the Admissions Department as well as an active participant in the Military Veterans Club and Stern Golf Club.

Transitioning from the military into a new career is not an easy task. For those of us that have spent any amount of time in uniform, it can sometimes seem like a different world. After completing my term of service in the Army, I wanted to move back to the NYC metro area to be closer to family and pursue a career that would provide meaningful work and an opportunity to grow professionally. Admittedly, I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, but with the help of the Fertitta Veterans Program and an incredible supportive group of Stern Alumni, I couldn’t be happier about my future at BCG. 

Leading up to my time at school, I spoke to many alumni and veterans who had graduated from NYU and those interactions played heavily into my decision to attend Stern’s MBA program. As a community, this enthusiastic group provided unvarnished feedback on the student experience, as well their post-MBA careers. They answered every question I had about different industries and functional areas and introduced me to several opportunities for transitioning veterans. Before I arrived on campus, I spent hours on the phone with a number of individuals committed to my success and, through that informal research, determined I wanted to pursue a role as a management consultant.

Beginning my MBA as part of the Fertitta Veterans Program has been such an important factor in my success. This program offers unique advantages financially, academically, and professionally. While not all program participants are offered a scholarship, those that do are often able to complete a two year-full time MBA with little to no out of pocket expense. That, coupled with VA benefits, makes pursuing an MBA and forgoing two years of professional work experience an easy choice by removing the number one obstacle associated with living in one of the world’s most expensive cities. Completing two core courses in the summer prior to school was also a huge help going into my fall semester. Many military veterans do not have undergraduate experience in business and taking Accounting and Statistics with a small and supportive cohort of other veterans was a great way to learn two topics that are critical to the remainder of the program as well as your follow-up career. Finally, a number of company treks and corporate presentations offered on Fridays throughout the summer term were a great way to learn about many of the firms that recruit at Stern and network with some of the veterans and alumni there before the fall recruiting cycle.

Completing my summer term as part of the Fertitta Veterans Program is only the beginning of the adventure. It wasn’t until I arrived on campus that I realized the full array of support and guidance available to MBA students trying to pivot into an entirely new career. The Office of Career Development, as well as the student-led professional clubs, were pivotal to informing me of internship opportunities, fostering connections at companies I was interested in, and preparing me for both applications and interviews. The Management Consulting Association was my “one stop shop” throughout application and interview prep and helped me succeed in finding my dream job. I began this process knowing very little about what a consultant actually does and how the biggest consulting firms recruit each year’s class of MBA hires. That lack of initial knowledge did not prevent me from leveraging the resources available to earn an exciting summer internship opportunity with BCG. I enjoyed my internship immensely and plan to start full-time with them this coming July. While I certainly put in the hours, the student and alumni community were the most important component of my success.

My key message for any veteran considering an MBA at NYU Stern is that this community understands what you’re going through and we have the knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to help you achieve your goals. Nowhere else did I interact with such a hands-on group of students, faculty, and alumni. In every encounter, I received open and honest feedback and throughout my student experience, I have been immersed in an abundance of professional and academic opportunities for growth.

Summer Internship Series: EY-Parthenon

Brandon Quinn is an MBA2 specializing in Strategy and Business Analytics. Prior to Stern, Brandon worked in financial regulation where he examined some of the largest US brokerage firms. At Stern, Brandon serves as a Graduate Ambassador, Career Fellow, VP of Admissions for the Management Consulting Association (MCA) and VP of Marketing for the Business Analytics Club (BAC). 

Consulting recruiting is a time consuming process that begins as soon as you step on campus to start the MBA program – or in a pandemic, as soon as you log into Zoom for that first class. Students attend various corporate presentations, coffee chats, and case workshops to learn about the different firms and to prepare for the case interviews. We put in all this effort to land a coveted consulting internship, which will hopefully turn into a full-time post-graduation offer. 

I spent my summer at EY-Parthenon in their strategy summer consultant program. I was assigned to the New York office, but the internship was almost entirely virtual. There were a few days I decided to go into the office to see where I would be working, to meet some colleagues face-to-face, and to attend some in-person happy hour events. 

The first week of the program was comprised of various training sessions to help us get accustomed to the firm, learn about the different types of projects, and build our consulting toolkit. After the first week of training, all the interns (including me) were eager to find out which consulting project we would be working on to start the summer. I was assigned to a working capital engagement at a large cosmetic company. Coming from a finance background, the cosmetics industry was a bit foreign to me, but this is what excites me about consulting. Consultants solve some of the most complex problems at some of the largest corporations and work across various industries that might initially seem foreign to them. 

A typical day as an intern on a project consisted of a daily check-in call with the team where we laid out all our objectives for that day. After this call, we split into our workstreams to accomplish the goals for the day; I spent time assessing and prioritizing new markets for expanding one of the client’s programs globally. There was also a daily call with the client where we would present recommendations and make sure everyone was aligned. 

In addition to the real-world project assignment, interns were put into case teams where we worked on two mock projects with EYP practitioners as coaches. This was a great experience to get a flavor of the different types of projects offered at EYP—this also aided in building comradery among us interns and helped us feel more engaged and connected in the virtual environment. The work was challenging and EYP offered an abundance of support through functional training, mentorship, coaches, and sector spotlights. Overall, this was an incredible experience and made the time-consuming recruiting process well worth it!

Summer Internship Series: Morgan Stanley

Kushal Mehta is a current MBA2 at NYU Stern. Prior to Stern, he spent 6 years in the Bay Area where he worked at Deloitte in the Audit practice and at Uber in an accounting function. This summer, Kushal interned within Morgan Stanley’s Investment Banking Division as part of their Technology group based in New York City. He holds a Bachelors of Commerce from the University of Toronto.

How intense is Investment Banking? How competitive is recruiting for IB? What do bankers do exactly? After completing my summer internship at Morgan Stanley, I hope I can shed some light onto the questions above –  questions that were on top of my mind as an applicant to NYU Stern, and as a MBA1 during recruiting.

Let’s start with recruiting. Make no bones about it – recruiting for IB is not easy. But, with the right attitude and preparation, you will set yourself up for success. There are 2 key factors to keep in mind: 

  • First, stay organized. IB recruiting is networking heavy, and there will be countless interactions you have with each bank during the process. From managing your calendar, to taking notes post-coffee chats, to sending thank you e-mails – find a method that helps you stay organized through this process.
  • Second, do not overlook coffee chats. Many coffee chats (especially early on) may seem casual and non-judgmental, but every interaction with the bank is an opportunity for them to assess whether you are a right fit for them and vice versa. Doing well in these coffee chats is critical to landing interview invites and job offers! 

I spent my summer within Morgan Stanley’s Technology group based in New York. Under “normal” circumstances (pre-COVID), MS operates a Generalist Pool model, where all Summer Associates rotate through 2 or 3 different groups of their choice over the course of 10 weeks. Since our internship was mostly virtual, we were placed directly into our top-choice group. Our 10 weeks had 4.5 weeks of training and 5.5 weeks of “on-desk” time (i.e. real work). 

When we “hit the desk” in July, each of the interns within the Tech East group was placed on 3 live deals. The best part about this was that every task that I worked on delivered immediate value for my team and the client. There was no business development work or “summer projects.”

Overall, I worked on 1 buy-side process, 1 sell-side process and 2 equity financing deals. It was fascinating to see the different ways in which investment banks deliver value for their clients. For example, we worked with the founders of an 8-year-old startup to help translate their vision into an enticing and attractive pitch for potential investors. In contrast, we also worked with a large public company and its C-Suite team, which comprised of seasoned executives with 20+ years of experience. Getting to work with founders and veteran executives as a junior banker is an experience that is unparalleled and was one of the highlights of my internship. 

If you have your eyes set on recruiting for IB, go all in. With the right effort and dedication, nothing is out of reach. Feel free to send me a note out if there are any questions, always happy to help – kushal.mehta@stern.nyu.edu!

Summer Internship Series: Amazon

Gordon Fan is an MBA2 specializing in marketing and brand management. Prior to Stern, he worked in Cartier’s 5th Ave Mansion Client Experience Team and Retail Innovation Lab, and also served in the Taiwan Military Coast Guard as an event/graphic designer. At Stern, he serves as the Co-President of Luxury Retail Club and President of NYU Buddhism Club. He holds a BFA in Stage Design from NYU Tisch. He loves painting Buddhas and making dance reels!

This summer, I had the opportunity to choose a hybrid-in person option for my Amazon Retail Leadership Development Program Internship! My role was Vendor Manager in the Kitchen Retail Team (Hot Beverages). My summer project was to manage and improve sales, profitability, and customer experience for four high-priced coffee machine vendors: De’Longhi, Jura, Technivorm Moccamaster, and Bunn. I was also responsible for onboarding a new luxury espresso brand, providing a recommended strategy and roadmap to attract luxury kitchen brands, and updating the vendor-facing pitch deck for new potential brands.

A typical day would be filled with weekly check-in meetings with my vendors. In meetings, we would discuss areas of improvement. The main goal for all my vendors was trying to secure ample inventory for Q4 and holiday shopping season. This was challenging, as port congestion issues and COVID-19 outbreaks delayed shipping for products. We had to find the right balance between our forecasted amounts, how much our fulfillment centers can take and how much allocation vendors can give to us. There were a lot of back and forth negotiations.

I would also recommend marketing options that can help brands have more discoverability and visibility on the storefront webpage. Some things to look at weekly were the number of products that were out of stock, gross merchandise sales, NetPPM, bottom line profit margins, and vendor’s confirmation rates. With a vast number of teams in Amazon, you have to know the right people to ask and also depend on internal wikis, pitch decks, and info docs. Finding a strategy also required a lot of information gathering – similar solutions that I would come up with for my strategy might have been started or in the process of being implemented. So it was eye-opening to interview a lot of people from different groups and understand the experiments and research they did to implement new products. My strategy was a combination of creating a separate UX subpage between regular and high-priced kitchen products, adding a pre-sale live chat function for users and refining internal materials for vendor outreach.

At Amazon, we were not required to go to the office, and you could tell very fast that Amazon relies on working virtually. As long as you have your laptop and a double screen, you are all set. Everything is communicated by email, Slack, and Chime (Amazon internal Zoom tool). During the summer, I would frequent the office twice a week either to socialize with other interns and colleagues, enjoy a walk at the Spheres (Amazon Greenhouse Planetarium), or do some painting at the Expressions Lab (art classroom open to all employees to destress).

As a New Yorker, moving from NYC to Seattle for 3 months was quite an experience. Although work was stressful and busy mostly, I was grateful to experience the nature that Seattle has to offer, meet other Sternies at Amazon, and meet other MBA interns! It was fantastic to get to know other interns from other MBA schools, learn about their school’s cultures and the things they’re working on in their team at Amazon. The highlight of my internship was making new friendships and visiting the Olympic and Mount Rainier National Park. I’m glad I made the trip for an amazing Seattle summer!

Summer Internship Series: ZS Associates

Arthur Heitz is an MBA2 specializing in Strategy and Entertainment, Media and Technology. In addition to serving as a Graduate Ambassador, he is also a VP of Academics and Case Competitions for the Entertainment, Media and Sports Association (EMSA) and a Teaching Fellow for Pr. Matthew Lee’s core Strategy. Arthur was born in Dayton, OH and graduated with a BA from Boston College in 2013. He spent the majority of his career pre-MBA in client services roles at GLG. 

Most choose to pursue their MBA to progress in their career, but getting into business school can feel like a job all in of itself. You study for the GMAT, research schools, speak to alumni, attend presentations, update your resume, write essays and interview all in the hope you end up at a school that’s right for you. Then, what feels like immediately, you get to school and you reenact that process ALL OVER AGAIN: you recruit. You choose your industry(s) of interest, research firms, network, update your resume (even more), and interview all while taking in your class work. All told, upon eventually receiving an offer, it occurred to me I had spent nearly two whole years of my life preparing to become a consultant. I had spent so much time working to get the job, though, that I spent precious little time thinking about the job itself. And with the approach of my internship, it was time, I realized with a mixture of exhilaration and anxiety, to actually consult. Eager, excited and with undeniable nerves, I approached the first week of my internship this summer with a question I dared not ask out loud: So what does a consultant actually do?

Turns out, they do a lot of things. First and foremost, they do what their clients ask. Consulting is ultimately a service business so interacting with and advising clients is required. These are professionals, mind you, whom if they are not former consultants themselves have built a life in their industry or company. This makes learning as much as possible about your clients and their projects essential, both to instill confidence and reassure your client that they are in capable hands. You obviously cannot become an expert overnight, but consultants have a pithy phrase that describes the bar to which you must strive: “know enough to be dangerous.” Furthermore, it turns out those hours (read: days) ((read: weeks)) you spent practicing case studies for consulting interviews actually come in handy. Consulting is also about assessing situations in the moment and problem-solving on the fly. That could mean practicing effective time management, working in Excel or Powerpoint, or figuring out the story being told by a set of data. It could even mean navigating the mine-filled landscape of scheduling a meeting among stakeholders who have a total of zero common availability in a given week. Some problems take days to solve, others may take just minutes. Each day is invariably different in consulting, which can be exhilarating or harrowing, depending on the day.

Reading this, you may think I have reached a place of comfort in the role. More comfortable than when I started, certainly, but I still have a long way to go. Luckily, I work for an organization that understands my plight and is dedicated to supporting me. I was fortunate and humbled to receive an offer to intern at ZS Associates, a firm that works across industries but specializes in consulting for healthcare clients. Despite this focus, they work on as wide a breadth of project types as you would expect to encounter at other leading firms. They understand you are an intern, so try not to push you directly into the deep end. You’re brought onboard for a reason, though, and are given the opportunity to contribute directly to live project work. To help, ZS provides you with resources in the form of trainings, coaches and peer-buddies to help you wade slowly but surely into the oceanic waters of consulting. I’m learning that becoming a great consultant does not happen overnight, so am constantly reminding myself that improvement can come but one day at a time.

Consulting is, on one hand, a natural progression of everything I’ve learned during my career and at school. But on the other, it can be really, really hard. You could say something similar about business school, by the way. Ultimately, like getting into school or recruiting, I see it as another obstacle to overcome, another problem to solve. With some help, determination, and maybe a little bit of luck, I may just yet learn enough to be dangerous.

How Sternies Helped Me Prepare for Virtual Recruiting

Rizwana Iqbal is a current MBA2 at Stern. Prior to Stern, she was woring with the Government of India to develop the national healthcare innovation commercialization ecosystem. She is a technology enthusiast by profession and singer by heart. Bookworm, fitness freak, self-confessed foodie (and cook!). An explorer and incurable dreamer!

 

 

In my previous blog post, I had written about securing my summer internship through SternWorks. I knew I would have to recruit for a full-time job in the summer, through the pandemic. A lot of companies had stopped recruiting and many outright refused to hire international students. So, I knew I would have to bring my A-game for every coffee chat and interview. There was no place for the second best. However, most of the networking for consulting opportunities actually happens when applying for an internship. I did not know that. So, I was stumped. I had to re-energize my skeleton network and reach out to a few people with whom I had connected quite well during the internship process last fall. I knew this was not going to be enough. I had to hustle. I reconnected, expressed my interests, but most importantly, I did not pressure myself to impress anyone.

To keep my sanity while dealing with the stress of recruiting during the pandemic and being an older candidate, I promised myself that every day I just would keep one foot in front of the other, (ie, network, apply and give my best when called for interviews) but be detached from results. I chose to believe that the job where I would be happy would find me in due time. So, in the meantime, I just had to keep my head down and do what I needed to do, without worrying about the outcome.

Then, one fine day, I got an interview invite for a team, a role and an office that was my top priority. Sternies rallied behind me. Five of my fellow Sternies would take 2-3 hours out of their schedules per week for 4-5 weeks continuously to coach me, so I could succeed. They prepped and prepared me while constantly reminding me that I had a strong personality and should bring forth my humorous side. They gave me the confidence that when I interviewed with the firm, I was not afraid of showing my true self and it also allowed me to be confident. Consequently, when I received the final offer from the firm, I realized that my success was not the mere culmination of my efforts, but so much more. There is no alternative to hard work, but hard work alone is not enough for achieving your goals. Having the right people around you, who support you and to bring out your best self, is critical to one achieving his/her goals. Recruiting through the pandemic made me feel eternally grateful for being a part of the Stern community.