Michael Graf is an MBA2 who spent his summer internship at Facebook. Prior to Stern, he worked at J.P. Morgan Chase as a Reputation Risk Associate. He serves as Co-President of OutClass, an Orientation Leader, a Leadership Fellow, and a Graduate Ambassador. Michael is working towards specializations in Strategy and Leadership & Change Management. He enjoys crossword puzzles, snowboarding, and reading historical fiction.
This fall, I finally had the opportunity to take one of my favorite classes at Stern, Technology Innovation Strategy. I had been looking forward to learning from Professor Melissa Schilling since I made the bold decision to pursue my post-MBA career in Big Tech. As a career switcher from the financial services industry, I wanted to add new skills to my toolkit to better understand and contribute to the fast-paced changes in the tech sector. I was specifically interested in Professor Schilling’s lectures after I heard her speak on NPR about lessons we can learn from the world’s most famous innovators, from Elon Musk to Albert Einstein and Marie Curie.
Technology Innovation Strategy is a half-semester class that flies by in six short weeks, so I knew I had to make the most of each three-hour session. Our first class focused on sources of innovation, where we explored some of the serial innovators that Professor Schilling spoke about on NPR. I was excited and surprised to learn that while we aren’t all born with genius, we can make use of certain techniques and management practices to cultivate innovation. Teams that can lower the price of failure when brainstorming ideas and providing autonomy to independent contributors – and even a dose of caffeine – can facilitate creativity and allow us to engage in unstructured thinking. I was inspired to make some small changes in my routine, like setting aside a half hour before tackling a group project to go for a walk to set the stage for associative thinking, and jotted down the big takeaways to carry with me when I return to work full time.
A later class on technology platforms and dominant designs helped me think critically about decisions made by Facebook’s Gaming team, who I had the opportunity to work with during my summer internship. I learned that certain industries – especially in the technology space, like video games – benefit from a dominant design, a standard that defines the majority of the products in the marketplace. Dominant designs exist because they exhibit increasing returns to adoption, meaning the more a technology is adopted, the more valuable it becomes. In the video game industry, the more users who adopt a certain system, like Nintendo or Xbox, the more likely it is the other users will also adopt that platform. I began to understand why the team spent so much time trying to attract the best and most popular streamers to the platform and investing time in designing tools to incentivize streaming on Facebook, rather than a competitor. The value of Facebook Gaming to users increases with the number of streamers and ultimately the number of other viewers as well. Facebook’s Gaming team thoughtfully went to great lengths to advertise, through headline placement on its website, when a new high-profile streamer had agreed to use the platform. This way, users perceived growth in others adopting the platform, which actually led to increases in adoption.
Not only do I now feel well equipped to understand the strategies behind technology development, but I also feel confident in my ability to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of tech collaboration, deployment and innovation when I return to Facebook as a full-time employee. Professor Schilling’s class equipped me with an academic framework for thoughtfully dissecting the short- and long-term consequences of choosing innovation projects, working quickly or methodically towards a new technology with a partner organization, and even how best to license or trademark advancements. These skills have set me up for success for a career in Big Tech and I can’t wait to put them to use!
Tiffaine Stephens is a current MBA2 who spent her summer internship at PepsiCo. Tiffaine serves as the Co-President of Stern Women in Business (SWiB). She is specializing in Marketing, Entertainment/Media/Technology, and Entrepreneurship.
This semester has been my favorite thus far! I am constantly thanking the Spring 2019 Tiffaine for choosing classes that genuinely spark my interest and passion. My favorite class this semester is “Branding + Innovation: Consulting Lab” taught by Fran Gormley. I thought I understood branding before this class, but I was wrong. Our class has the opportunity to consult for Spotify (how crazy is this!). The same company I longed for last year is the same company I now have access to. Fran’s teaching style is unique and supportive. She is a reminder that to be successful you have to own who you are. Every Wednesday at 6 pm, I feel like I’m getting two lessons: one on branding and one on how to be fearless in my entrepreneurial endeavors.
While Branding feels more like home to me, I’m taking one stretch course that has definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone, “Corporate Finance” with Anthony Marciano. Long term, I know I want to be an entrepreneur so taking Corp Fin was an intentional decision. I knew that I would not leave as a finance expert, but with enough information to be “dangerous.” This class highlights the power of collaboration at Stern. Before our midterm, which we were all worried about, we got together for a half day and worked through problem sets together, taught each other, and celebrated once we finished.
The class that has been the most eye-opening is “Sustainable Food Business” with Hans Taparia, which is cross-listed with Steinhardt’s Food Studies program. Taking a class with students outside of Stern is an interesting experience – we tend to get caught up with a maniacal focus on the bottom line, whereas my classmates think of this lastly. Instead, they prioritize the societal impact of a business, which has pushed me to be more critical of my career plan.
Outside of class, my role as Co-President of Stern Women in Business (SWIB) has been keeping me quite busy. Everyday there’s a new set of challenges that have trained me to be agile but thoughtful in the way that I approach problem solving. I’m constantly learning how to flex my leadership + management style. The co-president structure at Stern gives you an immediate accountability partner and it’s helpful when trying to balance school, extra-curricular activities and life outside of Stern. Although we have a few months left in our term, I’ve gotten the most satisfaction from the small, but meaningful changes we’ve made to change the way our community thinks about gender equity in higher education.
Another leadership opportunity presented itself in the form of Co-VP of Marketing for a new special interest club on campus – CannaBusiness. I’ve been able to get back in touch with my creative and entrepreneurial side while learning about a growing industry that’s been stigmatized and riddled with injustice.
As the semester comes to a close, I’m getting ready to take it easy, connect with family and friends, and reflect on this semester and what I want the rest of the year to be like. At the start of January, I’ll be heading to DBi New Zealand with about 10 other Sternies for two weeks. Afterwards, I’ll be joining a group in Bali for a week to take advantage of the much needed time off!
So much has changed since the start of this program. I am proud of the personal growth that I’ve experienced. I am more self-aware, more solution-oriented, and more vulnerable than I’ve been in a while. Change can be made out to be this scary moment in your life, but Stern creates an atmosphere that encourages change. To describe my MBA experience, I would say “Change. CELEBRATE IT.” I’m looking forward to more celebrations, more growth, and more friendship in Spring 2020. Cheers!
This time I have with me my friend and fellow Graduate Ambassador Kyle Boutin, who is our resident Healthcare expert and Co-President of the Stern Healthcare Association (SHA). Kyle and I got to know each other after teaming up with a handful of others to put together Preview Weekend for admitted students last Spring—and now we’re glad to be working together again as Graduate Ambassadors! Kyle hails from outside Boston and was a research engineer for Reactive Innovations, a small chemical engineering research and development firm where he performed electrochemistry research for NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense. Kyle interned at Pfizer this past summer as a Procurement Associate in their Worldwide Medical and R&D division, and he will be returning there full-time after graduation.
Here’s what he had to say:
Thanks for joining me, Kyle! As someone interested in healthcare, what was attractive to you about Stern?
It was two large factors. First, I wanted to build a strong foundation in finance, and Stern obviously has a strong finance curriculum. I came to school wanting to learn the right way to develop business, and to do that I think understanding how your decisions flow through your financial statements is critical. Even though I was interested more in strategy and operations than in corporate finance, I felt that having these strong finance skills would give me an edge when recruiting at pharmaceutical, medical device, and biotech companies.
Second, when it comes to MBA recruiting, healthcare is a newer industry than consulting or investment banking. Since the opportunities available to students in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are not necessarily acquired through on-campus recruiting, I wanted to be in a city that had as many recruiting opportunities as possible. For that, there’s no better place in the world than New York City because it’s a hotbed for corporate recruiters. There’s a lot of companies that thrive here—Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, BMS, Boehringer Ingelheim, Celgene, Stryker, Medtronic, Genentech, Amgen, and so on. So you can find opportunities, on-campus and throughout the city, and I thought if I could have two bites at the apple, I would have a better shot at getting my dream job.
Can you elaborate on the sort of interactions that you and others at Stern have had with these companies?
MBA healthcare recruiting is pretty new, but I think the pharmaceutical companies are actually really involved, so we have a lot of them visiting us here on campus. Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb, the ones I named before, they’re all here and they all come to events. It’s more structured for them. As you go to more payer/provider, hospital administration, they post listings here, but hospitals still recruit MPHs and MPPs, so there’s competition there. Private insurance companies are starting to become more popular because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations that have created competition for large public insurance companies, so they’re trying to infuse new talent, but they appear later on the recruiting timeline. I say that medical device and biotech are a little between both in that you have some large cap companies that are able to compete with pharmaceutical companies, and then you have some smaller ones where you have to do a little bit more legwork because their ROI from recruiting on campus for maybe one position is just not worth it for them. So they’ll post on a board, or they’ll go to recruiting events in the city. And the Office of Career Development (OCD) is awesome in alerting you to these opportunities and keeping that information in their databases so that you can reach out to them, but you have to do the outreach so that you get on their radar.
Full disclosure: Kyle is also a Graduate Fellow for the Office of Career Development because he’s an all-star. Care to comment on that, Kyle?
Only that it’s not true! Everyone at Stern is as involved as I am. It’s one on the things I love about Stern!
Spoken like a true Graduate Ambassador. Back to healthcare, what was the recruiting process like for you?
I applied to 12 different firms—six on campus, six off. I would say that’s a pretty common split for someone recruiting for healthcare outside of healthcare consulting. If you’re doing consulting, you can do 100 percent on campus. You can find plenty of good opportunities in strategy and operations, business development at Stern too. Off campus, there are smaller companies that post on the job boards, smaller companies that reach out to the Stern Healthcare Association (SHA) that we post in our newsletter that require students to reach out. If you’re looking for something at a smaller size healthcare company, we would probably have more people contacting SHA directly that we could direct your way.
How does the Stern Healthcare Association (SHA) play a role in students’ career development?
SHA can be a really good resource for students. Something amazing about Stern is that we’re really collaborative and good about passing information and connections from MBA2s to MBA1s year over year. I’m President of SHA, and one of my initiatives is for us to establish an alumni list, so we are tracking alumni from years back so we can get a better off-campus recruiting baseline. So if someone is interested in a position, we have several people to reach out to.
Another awesome thing we do is our healthcare conference. Every year we have companies coming from all over to network at our conference. Last year we were 175 people, and we’re going to break 200 this year, so we’re really increasing our presence in the industry through this platform. We’re really putting ourselves at the forefront, and we’re really growing our membership.
Switching gears a little, what sort of classes are available for students interested in healthcare?
We’re actually making great headway in this. We offer five electives in healthcare. One that’s popular is Topics in Investments: Financial Analysis in Healthcare. We’re also doing a new course this year called Healthcare Markets, which focuses on the economics of the healthcare industry, and I’m really excited about that one. I’ve sat down with the professor of the course—he’s brilliant, and he’s done most of his research on pharmaceutical pricing and health insurance. I think what he’s planning on doing is lecturing on the drivers in each industry in healthcare, because they’re vastly different, and he’ll also invite guest speakers to class. There are two other courses called The Business of Health and Medical Care and Economic Transformation of Healthcare, which are industry overview courses, less in depth than Healthcare Markets, and then there’s a fifth course called Pharmaceutical Marketing (Innovation in Pharmaceutical/Bio Technology). This one is more an “innovations in healthcare” course, but pharmaceutical marketing is so important to the topic because educating the public and raising awareness about innovation is essential to having the market accept the product and necessary for gaining market share. Pharmaceutical marketing and innovation are highly linked.
Those are just Stern classes. You’re also free to take 25 percent of your courses outside of Stern at other NYU schools. For example, there are ACA policy courses you can take at the law school. If you’re interested in payer/provider, the med school does a drug development class that some of our MD/MBAs have taken and said is interesting, and it’s more business-related than technical. Lastly, Wagner [School of Public Service and Policy] has a very good healthcare program, and we partner with the Wagner healthcare network often. Their dean is one of the chief architects of the ACA as well, and she set the curriculum for the healthcare management courses they offer. These courses focus more on hospital and payer/provider systems.
There you have it, from the resident expert on healthcare himself. Thanks so much, Kyle!
Sternspective is a series of interviews with Sternies about the diverse paths they are taking in the classroom and beyond. Check out our previous posts about Stern Signature Projects and Marketing.
Back in January, I traveled with 35 of my classmates to Hong Kong for one of the handful of “Doing Business in…” (DBi) courses offered each semester. With b-school lasting only a short two years, these one- or two-week courses are the most popular way for students to take advantage of Stern’s partnerships with international institutions and to expand their learning beyond the classroom and New York City.
Apart from a pre-departure meeting during the semester, the entire class takes place on location and consists of a balanced blend of classroom learning, corporate visits, and field trips to cultural sites. For my DBi, Stern partnered with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), whose faculty, staff, and students welcomed us onto their campus with great hospitality. In the classroom, we learned about current social issues in China and how they have been influenced by geography, history, culture, and politics. We also examined the major opportunities and challenges that firms encounter, from the standpoints of both the foreign multinational companies, who tend to underestimate the costs of doing business in China, and the local Chinese companies, who are rising to compete against these corporate giants in the global market.
We were able to witness these successes and challenges in action at the companies we visited, which were chosen due to their relation to Hong Kong’s significant travel and tourism industry. My personal favorite was a trip to the MTR, the private Hong Kong-based corporation that runs the highly efficient mass transit railway system in Hong Kong and—as we learned during our visit—in other parts of the world as well. In addition to a quick tour of the control room at Kowloon Bay Station (where the MTR’s headquarters are located), we had the opportunity to hear directly from the Head of Operations, the Strategy and Planning Manager, and the Head of Town Planning about the MTR’s impressive operational achievements, profitable business models, and goals and aspirations moving forward and beyond Hong Kong. The executives also discussed the difficulties they are encountering as they grow their operations, such as meeting customer demands, fighting market competition, and navigating the complications and regulatory webs of foreign places and their governments.
Some of these successes and challenges were echoed at the other companies too. Uber invited us to their sleek new office, where we sat in their open kitchen and met with their regional head (who began at Uber as their first Hong Kong employee). Over the course of 90 minutes, he excitedly shared with us the firm’s successes in Hong Kong, highlighting the uplifting impact Uber has had on the lives of their drivers and customers. He also discussed the developments that have resulted from serving Hong Kong’s residents specifically—a service for the elderly called uberASSIST, as well as the city’s own UberEATS, whose incredible success in Hong Kong has inspired the firm to name each of its new meeting rooms after a food they deliver. Their office mascot also proudly bears the logo:
In addition, a visit to Hong Kong’s flag carrier airline Cathay Pacific exposed us to the company’s approach to addressing shifts in consumer behaviors and fighting off increased competition in a highly regulated industry. Moreover, on the tour of Cathay’s headquarters, led by the airline’s lovely flight managers, we had the opportunity to witness Cathay’s pre-flight crew procedures, sit in one of the pilot seats of a flight simulator, and lay back in the six pods that comprise the exclusive first class cabins of Cathay’s transoceanic planes (or in this case, a replica of one that is used for training). Later in the week, a visit to Ocean Park granted us insights into how the beloved amusement park managed to leverage its local understanding of its customers to differentiate itself from Disneyland and fend off the foreign goliath’s arrival. We were then set free into the park, where we observed various animals, raised our adrenaline on the array of rides, and took in aerial views of the park from the park’s signature cable cars, which also affords views of the South China Sea.
As if the corporate visits were not enlightening enough in themselves, so we could experience aspects of the local culture first-hand, Stern also arranged plenty of Cantonese-style meals and class trips to the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Po Lin Monastery (where the Big Buddha statue sits). Additionally, we had time on the weekend to explore on our own, giving us the chance to create even more memories with one another. For example, I’ll personally never forget that a group of us hiked up [the very steep] Victoria Peak one day to take in the breathtaking views we were promised only to encounter the whims of the weather and smog instead.
Indeed, in addition to the satisfaction of visiting Asia for the first time and getting to do something that I wrote about wanting to do in my admissions essay, I feel very fortunate to have been able to learn so much through these unique experiences and to be able to share them with such wonderful classmates. Whether we were touring a corporate headquarters or searching the streets for pork buns, I don’t think any of it would have been as exciting and memorable if my fellow Sternies were not by my side.
After a 7-week winter break, it feels so good to be back in NYC, to be back at Stern finishing my final semester of business school (!!!?). I’ve spent the past couple of weeks getting back into the grind, and of course catching up with my amazing classmates, some who I haven’t seen in over half a year!
For those of you that don’t know, one of the many reasons I love Stern is just the incredible amount of opportunities it provides its students to work, study, and travel abroad. Whether it be through our short-term Stern Signature Projects (SSP) and Doing Business In…(DBi) programs, or our longer-term semester and half semester exchange programs, there are just a wealth of programs offered abroad. Every year, a good number of students decide to spend a full semester abroad, and here I’d like to introduce you to two of them.
Kimberly (Kimi) Rodriguez and Caspar Di Sun are both second year MBA students with me who spent their last semester as an exchange student at London Business School (LBS) and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) respectively.
V: Hi Guys! It’s so nice to have both of you back at Stern! Did you enjoy your time abroad? K: Yes of course! London was amazing. I mean I love New York, it will always be exciting, but there’s just a completely different feel about London. It’s slightly slower than hectic NYC for one, and it is a bit more international- LBS itself has a 92% international student body! C: Being originally from China, there’s just no place like home. I also have plans to move back to Hong Kong post-graduation, so it was great to be there, learn the city and create a network while still at school.
V: Can I ask what in particular made you decide to study abroad? And why you chose where you did in particular? C: I believe studying abroad enriches and enhances my overall MBA education. Hong Kong is a gateway to doing business in China and China is not just a buzzword in today’s globalized economy but also a true battlefield in today’s business competition. HKUST is a world-renowned education institute. Hong Kong is one of the busiest metropolitan cities in the world. Hence, it was not a hard decision when I factoring those reasons together. K: I am an international student, and one of the main reasons I came to Stern was that I have family and friends in New York. However, I came knowing that I also wanted try going somewhere that would force me out of my comfort zone, where I would be living somewhere completely new and get to meet an entirely new set of people. Furthermore, I understand the importance of planting seeds in different countries, of expanding my network geographically.
V: What would you say was your favorite thing about being abroad? K: The ease of traveling within Europe. (see more of Kimi’s adventures here!) C: Terrific friends I made from the world MBA community.
V: Would you ever go back to London/Hong Kong to visit or live? C: I’m definitely moving to Hong Kong after graduation. And since I will be living in there, I would like to be the “friendly ghost” in Hong Kong for any Sternies on the exchange program in Hong Kong and will try be as helpful as I can when you need. K: No plans at the moment, but definitely would be up to go back and visit!
V: Words of advice? K: If you plan on recruiting in New York full-time in your second year, make sure that you understand the risks and opportunity costs of spending 25% of your MBA in another country. Ultimately though, I believe it was more than worth it.
And that’s it! Hope everyone enjoyed having these two amazing friends of mine drop-in as much as I did. Till next time!
The sun is shining. The air is hot. The open area in front of Stern that is Gould Plaza is once again a concrete quad where hundreds of students cross paths daily, colliding at will—conversations shared, smiles exchanged, waves projected from afar.
Through the familiar swoosh-swoosh of the revolving doors is a hive buzzing with activity. Students run to and from class, meetings, and meet-ups. The first-years are rushing to their core classes and club kick-offs, as they feel the pressure to dive in and take in as much as the school has to offer (which can certainly feel like too much at times!). The second-years happily reconnect after three months of time apart, before breaking away themselves, away to their elective classes, away to lead the club meetings for the first-years, away to find full-time jobs.
As a second-year, things are a bit different, of course. I miss the ex-MBA2s who I looked up to as mentors. I miss taking classes with my block. I miss my dual-degree classmates who are off fulfilling requirements at their other NYU schools this semester.
Yet I love having another 400 people to meet and talk to. I love being able to offer my time and experiences to them. Even within my year, while our disparate schedules sometimes mean that my usual friends and I see each other less, I love that it is allowing me to continue to meet people who I had not yet had the chance to meet before.
Of course, it is a lovely feeling to be able to return to school with rich relationships already in place. Just this summer, I had the chance to meet and become closer with dozens of Sternies. If you’ve read my earlier post about the Cannes Film Festival class, you would know that I spent a week running around the French Riviera with 25 of my classmates, only five of whom I would say I knew well before the trip. Then right before school started, along with 20 Sternies (and seven Stern Partners), I attended the wedding of one of my best friends at Stern (despite having met him only a year ago!). In this case, almost all of us knew each other well already because we recruited with each other and/or are in the same block, but I still came away from that weekend feeling that I had taken part in something special with my classmates, something that will connect us for life.
Indeed, every time I reflect on my network I’m amazed at how much it has grown, how quickly it continues to grow, and how strong and healthy it is. I imagine that if one’s network were a wholly tangible thing, watching it grow would be like watching an oak tree grow from a sapling to maturity in two years.
And the growth continues. So far, I’ve had the chance to interact with the MBA1s at LAUNCH (orientation), where I met about a fifth of the class at the Club Expo and another nine on their LAUNCH Day of Service.
Also, this past Saturday I had the chance to chat with even more first-years at our MBA1/MBA2 mixer. While I was there, another MBA2 and I were especially delighted to run into the new MBA1 roommate of one of our dear friends, who was not present at the time. We promptly sent said friend the following message:
And so we’re back! A new year. New connections. New possibilities.
There are a number of MBA students across the country who feel uncomfortable or apprehensive about registering for certain academic subjects; typically, financial courses top that list. Needless to say, I was one of those students for the first 3/4 of my MBA journey. But then I had an epiphany of sorts, and decided to challenge myself in this daunting field. First, however, a bit of background.
I knew that finance was arguably my achilles heel when it came to subject matter comfortability. I had taken a couple of required finance courses in undergrad, and I admit that I was not the student receiving the highest accolades from my professors after each quiz or mid-term. So when I was considering applying to NYU Stern, the strength and popularity of its finance curriculum flat out scared me. Would I feel uncomfortable amongst the masses of future I-Bankers? Would I constantly be falling behind in said courses? I even told myself that I would only take the Foundations of Finance core course, which isn’t even required. But that would be it. I never saw myself working in a financial position or working on financial models, so why even bother to use course credits in a subject matter that would not be directly applicable to my future career endeavors?
And then my epiphany occurred sometime in late October or early November when we all had register for our last semester of classes. What was this epiphany? What was this blaring realization staring straight at me? It was that I had one more semester, one more shot, to make the most of an incredible and fortunate opportunity set before me. I had three and a half months before I graduated with an MBA – an MBA from a top school highly regarded for its finance program, nonetheless – and I had only taken ONE finance course! There was no way I could take pride in my degree and accomplishments without pushing myself to be at least a little more well-versed in this subject matter.
With that rude awakening, I put aside my fears and enrolled in two of our school’s most popular financial courses – Corporate Finance, taught by the legendary Aswath Damodaran, and Financial Services Industries, taught by former Head of Investment Banking at Credit Suisse Charles Murphy. I am halfway through the semester at this point, and I cannot believe I am saying this, but it so happens that these two classes have been some of my favorite while at Stern. Who would have thought?
This new-found interest is not to say that I am sitting in the center of the front row, and am making the highest scores on exams, or am now considering a major career change. But I can now comprehend with a better financial understanding top headlines in the Wall Street Journal; I now understand the relationships between Private Equity firms, Hedge Funds, and Investment Banks; I can now hold at least a basic conversation around financial events in networking scenarios. Above all else, it was naive of me to think that I wouldn’t touch finance at some point in my future career. It will happen, and I will now be prepared. I will at least be a little more knowledgable, and comfortable, when sitting at conference tables with finance managers.
So for those of you out there who are like me, and have apprehensions about a certain subject, whether its finance or not, I would highly recommend stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself. You have an amazing opportunity within an MBA program, and it is what you make of it. For me, I want to graduate as a very well-rounded business leader, and in order to do that, I had to face my fears of that daunting subject that is finance.
The timing of this post is not a coincidence. There is plenty of discussion happening in school regarding the U.S. News & World Report rankings—what happened; why it happened; what the administration, faculty, and students can all do to address the situation. I did not intend at all to write a post about it, but the other day I was inspired by some of my professors, who have privately voiced to us the efforts they pledge to make to ensure that we the students do not suffer as the result of one slight but unfortunate oversight.
Honestly I did not expect my professors to get involved, and when I was applying to Stern I definitely did not even think about how important it might be to have professors that do care about a situation that might adversely affect their students. So I feel very fortunate.
I can tell you what I did think about though when pulling the trigger on which school to attend, why I had (and have) no regrets about leaving behind my past life and why I turned down a considerable scholarship at another top MBA program to go to the school that I saw as the best fit for me and the best fit for my future:
I chose Stern because I saw unparalleled opportunities.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN WHAT I WANT:
One of my professors today pointed out that Stern weirdly doesn’t advertise the number and diversity of the courses you have access to as a Stern student—so here I am to fix that. Stern has over 200 electives and over 20 specializations. This semester alone, about 140 electives are being offered, among which are nine “Doing Business in…” (DBi) courses (one- or two-week experiential study abroad courses that you can read more about in my classmates’ blog posts). Check out more details in the graphic below:
You first need to get through your Core Classes (two “required core” classes plus five out of an available seven “menu core” classes) within your first year. As someone who had no business background but who wanted flexibility and choice when it came to what I was learning, I appreciated the concept of the menu core. Meanwhile, if you do have some experience and want to jump ahead, I can say that many of my friends were able to test out of their remaining requirements and take all electives by their second semester.
Straight out of my own admissions essay, what I loved about Stern is that when I visited the school I got “the sense that Sternies coexist happily with one another because each has been given the capacity to pursue his/her own personalized goals.”
THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WHERE I WANT:
We all know that networking is key, and so I knew I had to pick a school that would allow me the most touchpoints with the companies I’m interested in, whether through official events and/or alumni. Geographical area was also a factor, but it was a preference for me rather than a necessity (though you seriously can’t beat the location, as my classmate Alex will tell you in his blog post, “Downtown New York – Why It Matters”). Upon arriving at Stern, as I did with my classes I decided to take advantage of the slew of possibilities before me and expand upon my initial target interests. I participated in investment banking recruiting with over 100 of my classmates, and I must admit that the access I had to people at these firms is not for the faint-hearted (I also need to mention that IB recruiting is as extreme as it gets, and that it was my choice to take on as much as I did):
Including the case competition (at the very top), that’s 16 touchpoints with 11 different firms in one week (admittedly my busiest of the semester). If this is what you want, regardless of industry, I really don’t know many other schools where you could do this. And I can’t even tell you how many different people I met at these events, although many were alumni eager to recruit their own.
Indeed, lest the outdated belief that we’re “just a finance school” still persists, Stern alumni are active across all industries. As an admitted student at Preview Weekend (which I highly recommend you attend if you can), I was impressed by the accomplishments of our alums and the sheer number of them who came back to campus to share their positive Stern experiences with us. Personally, I felt that the best indicator of the quality of a school is how willing students and alumni are to give back and help each other succeed—and I haven’t been proven wrong yet.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONNECT WITH GREAT PEOPLE:
On that thought, while meeting those alums at Preview Weekend reaffirmed for me that I had chosen the right school, the Sternies I’ve met since then have only continued to surprise me with their magnanimity. After Preview, but before I moved back to New York from Los Angeles, a friend introduced me to an “MBA3” who had just graduated and was moving out to L.A. Unsure of what awaited me in the Fall, I requested a coffee chat, and he was more than happy to meet with me. He also introduced me to two MBA2s, who were out in L.A. to intern for the summer. Seven months later, when I lost out on a summer internship opportunity I really wanted, I contacted him again for general advice, and he responded immediately. His busy schedule required him to reschedule our phone call about seven times, but each time he apologized profusely to me, telling me that he didn’t want me to get the impression that helping out a fellow Sternie wasn’t important to him. When we finally did have the phone call, he gave me the most helpful, relevant advice I had received in my job-search process, something I had hoped for but couldn’t have possibly expected to receive when I was making my decision to attend Stern.
That may be an above-and-beyond example, but it isn’t too far off from the kind of support I’ve received since being at Stern. As I mentioned in my first blog post, “Block 2, I Love You,” my classmates have only helped me be better than I would have been without them. They’ve encouraged me and helped me prepare for interviews, they’ve kept me posted about events and opportunities, they’ve stayed up studying with me the night before an exam in the Starbucks Lounge, pushing me to get through a practice exam even as I was so physically exhausted from recruiting that I was nodding off at the table as they spoke to me.
So there you have it. Opportunities I knew I wanted but didn’t know how or when I would take advantage of them. To that point, as much as you think you know what you want when you’re applying and choosing to go to business school, it’s impossible to know exactly what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less, but when you’re taking into account the slew of decision factors, know that making the “wrong” choice isn’t the end of the world, but making the right one, the best one, can introduce you to a world you never knew before. When making your decision, ask yourself what really matters to you and your future, where you foresee yourself having the fewest or no regrets, and if possible, choose your best fit based on that.
The question that I get asked most often since I started my MBA at Stern was “So what’s a typical day like?”
Sadly, (as cliché as it may sound) there is no typical day here. My schedule seems to fluctuate from hour to hour, each one jammed packed with academics, recruiting, interning, club events, social life and of course sleep. Therefore, in an attempt to give a more holistic view of what it’s actually like to be a full-time MBA student at Stern, we’ll go over what a “typical” week looks like.
Monday My week starts off typically with lots of groaning, a full breakfast, and coffee. Then at 10:30am, I make it to my first class, Corporate Finance, taught by one of Stern’s best, Professor Damodaran (PS. A few of is lectures are recorded and online for free, so you should all check him out). Afterwards, I typically catch up with friends over lunch regarding the weekend before heading to my next class, which is taught by another superb professor, Dolly Chugh: Leadership In Organizations.
I have a short break from 4:30-6pm, where you can find me either at a group meeting or catching up on emails while eating dinner. From 6 to 9pm, I have my last class of the day, Entertainment Media Industries, which also happens to be the core requirement class for the EMT specialization here at Stern. Mondays are my busiest days, so I’m always happy to be back home and in my bed at the end of it.
Tuesday I don’t actually have class until 1:30pm on Tuesdays (Foundations of Finance with the amazing Professor Silber), but one of the great perks of Stern is its location and the endless opportunities that NYC brings. I’m interning this semester at an indie film distribution company, so I actually head to work first thing in the morning, then straight to class.
Before my 6-9pm night class, I have a good 3 hour break where I can attend club events (which are often training or info sessions), go on coffee chats, go to the gym, and even cram homework.
Wednesday I’m back in Corporate Finance at 10:30am on Wednesdays, and then straight to work after class, where I’ll be for the rest of the day.
Thursday I love Thursdays because I have nothing scheduled until class at 1:30pm! You’ll still typically find me on campus around 10am latest though, where I’ll be attending various group meetings, club and recruiting events.
Thursdays are also amazing because they are Beer Blast days. Beer Blast, for those unfamiliar, is a four hour open bar (beer and wine only) hosted a different club every week from 6-10pm in Stern, and is open to all full and part time MBA students. After class gets out for me at 6pm, that’s where we usually end up. After the week of classes, recruiting, and meetings, beer blast is the best way to unwind, catch-up and get to know your classmates better over some food and drinks.
Friday Stern doesn’t have any classes on Fridays in order to accommodate all the other activities that we have going on. If there isn’t a student club hosting a conference that week, then there will be some sort of trek, company visit, symposium, and/or coffee chat set up. It’s also a great time to catch up on work, school and sleep. Personally, if I’m not at some sort of student club event or a trek, then I’d be at work Fridays.
My alarm clock jolted me awake at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, December 19th. Having completed the last exam of my first semester at Stern just a day earlier, I was feeling relieved to have a relaxing, if temporary, respite from the academic demands of business school. With tickets in hand to see a morning showing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I was ready to slip out of MBA mode and into the “home-for-the-holidays” state of mind.
A few minutes later, my friend Sam, who I was visiting up in Boston, poked his head into my room. “Hey man,” he said, “I’m heading to the gym before the movie – there’s some Special K cereal in the cupboard and K-Cups for the Keurig if you want anything – oh, and feel free to eat in the living room, Apple TV’s all hooked up.” He started to walk out the door then added, “also, I figure we can grab some Chipotle after Star Wars if you want.”
As Sam shut the door behind him, I sat there, surprised at the thoughts that came rushing into my head. While on the surface, our morning exchange might have seemed rather innocuous, for me, it was the first time I truly realized just how much Stern has changed my perceptions of the world. In the time it took Sam to utter a few quick sentences referencing everyday items and brands, my mind was making linkages back to all I had learned and experienced in one short semester.
Rather than just thinking about which flavor K-Cup I wanted to make, I was again pondering Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ acquisition of Keurig, as I had been just a few days earlier in Strategy. Mention of Special K cereal took be back to another case study on big companies like Kellogg contracting out excess production capacity to make store-brand cereal products for retail stores. And of course Apple, a company that, as Professor Scott Galloway eloquently puts it, has “moved down the torso” from the consumer’s head, to the heart, and beyond, to maximize margins while transforming from a tech company into a luxury brand.
I always believed that undergrad was where you “learned how to think,” and grad school was where you gained a specific set of technical skills. But my early morning exchange with Sam was revealing that at Stern, your way of thinking and perceiving evolves as well, and there is no such thing as “slipping out of MBA mode.” Where I once saw brands, products, and prices as a consumer, I was now seeing the fruition of behind the scenes business processes – strategic decisions, supply and demand analyses, complex pricing models, and the like – as an MBA.
Of course, as a result of my first semester, I can comfortably put together a CFFO, build a game theory decision tree, and analyze a regression. But more importantly, I can now see the world in a whole new light, and think in a way that would have never been possible without my Stern experience.