Asad Farooqi is an MBA2 and spent the summer as a Product Manager at Amazon and will be returning there full-time after graduation. He serves as Co-President of the South Asian Business Association at Stern (SABAS), and holds leadership positions in the Arts, Culture, Cuisine (ACC) and CannaBusiness clubs. He is specializing in Strategy and Product Management.
It would be an understatement to say that this fall semester has followed any traditional or expected path. As the new class of MBAs started rolling it, we realized early on that even with a hybrid approach to school-life, we would be making a lot of adjustments not just to how we approached classes and group work, but also in terms of maintaining a bustling roster of club events. Student-run clubs are one of the most rewarding and engaging aspects of the Stern community and preserving their inherent awesomeness and ability to bring people together through shared interests was top-of-mind as the semester began. Being personally involved with a few of the boards (including the South Asian Business Association, CannaBusiness, Arts, Culture, and Cuisine Club), I got a firsthand view into the planning process during this tumultuous time.
There were a couple of significant challenges that popped up as planning continued. The first was our inability to host in-person events given that the city and university guidelines led to limited options. The second factor was the inevitable Zoom-fatigue that has been all-too-common as the semester progressed, which makes participation and engagement less likely. Our respective boards, in conjecture with Student Government and the Office of Student Affairs, formulated several experimental social and professional club-organized events. Some examples of the type of events that we’ve never had before at Stern include virtual speed networking, online cocktail and food preparation courses, and even a digitally-hosted Stern Speaks (where a handful of amazing MBA students share their life stories). As the situation in NYC started getting better in terms of COVID-19, the school administration eased up on certain restrictions that allowed us to plan socially-distant, in-person events to try to bring back a semblance of normalcy to our city routines. That led to hiking trips upstate, food treks in the city, and the occasional picnic in the park. All with masks and ample precautions.
Given the unorthodox start to the semester, especially for the incoming class, the entire administration and second-year class wanted to ensure that the students in the city, and attending classes virtually from all across the world, could still partake in all of the rich business school experiences. While we are all dearly missing out international trips and large gatherings, the spirit of NYU Stern and its sense of community has been strong throughout the past few months. As we wind down the first fully online semester at Stern, our ability to persevere and maintain a bustling social events calendar has been very rewarding. We hope that the next few months allow us to expand on these activities, but the essence of our experiences is still being captured, albeit in a very different fashion.
Gage Kaefring is a current MBA2 and will be joining PwC Strategy& in their Healthcare Strategy and Operations practice upon graduation from the full-time, two-year program. At Stern, Gage serves as the co-president of OutClass, the LGBTQ student group on campus, and as the VP of Marketing for Stern Chats, the Stern podcast. He is specializing in Leadership, Strategy, and Analytics.
When I was applying to business schools nearly two years ago, I knew it was going to be nearly impossible not to be out in my application. I had served on the board of an LGBTQ advocacy group in Minneapolis for several years and at the time was one of the lead volunteer coordinators for an LGBTQ youth center in Seattle. I was also the head of my office’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group and you really just had to take a cursory look at my Instagram to see a plethora of rainbow flags. Going back into the closet simply wasn’t an option.
It was because of this position that I thoroughly evaluated the prevalence of the LGBTQ student communities for each of my potential schools. Of all the schools I applied to, Stern’s was easily the most engaged. They called me before my on-campus interview and I was able to meet with a current student immediately after the interview concluded to get her perspective. The then-presidents of the organization fielded my questions and made it clear that they would be thrilled should I gain acceptance.
Through a stroke of incredible fortune I did manage to gain admittance to Stern and the notion of a tight-knit, queer family turned out to be far more than I had ever hoped. In business school, recruiting starts early. Like, really early, almost as soon as you set foot on campus. For the LGBTQ students it starts even earlier. The national Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) organization hosts a conference before most on-campus recruiting starts and queer students are tossed immediately overboard into the sea of corporate presentations, networking, and even interviews before their peers. Luckily, the second year MBAs (MBA 2s) at Stern are right beside you, treading water and helping you stay afloat. Their enthusiasm for your success is at the same time endearing and empowering. You feel like you have a genuine cheerleader, or, to beat this metaphor to death, a lifeguard.
This past year, it was my turn to shepherd the MBA 1s through their ROMBA experience. Having been thrown in just last year I knew how exciting, energizing and overwhelming the conference is. More than 30 schools are represented and nearly 100 companies, each bringing their best, most accomplished, most well-dressed queer representatives to network and hear lectures on different industries. This past year the conference took place in Atlanta and I approached my role as the facilitator MBA 1s with an enthusiasm that, looking back on it, probably unnerved them just a bit. Each year Stern turns out one of the largest contingents to this conference and this year was no different. A cadre of MBA2s helped our younger classmates network, get into the right events and, most importantly, truly enjoy the conference. Obviously in Atlanta, this last piece means visiting the Coca-Cola Museum (it was also Atlanta Pride, so I was sporting my best rainbow bandana).
While OutClass may be a powerful example of the communities Stern is capable of building, it is only one piece of the broader community. On the LGBTQ front I have seen some incredible support from my classmates, both straight and otherwise. Everyone on campus gives you license to truly be yourself and not fear any judgement. They celebrate your identities with you and are genuinely interested. There’s no better example of the ally community showing up for OutClass than our end-of-year party. Appropriately named School is Out and So Are We, it is the final celebration of the school year and an absolutely joyous occasion for the entire Stern community to come together. It also helps that there is a wildly entertaining student drag show midway through the evening.
The level of commitment that Stern students show to their community has been easily the best feature of business school for me and I am so grateful to be surrounded by such caring people, gay, straight, and otherwise.
Mahssa Mostajabi is an MBA2, who spent her summer internship on the US Consumer Digital team at Citi. Mahssa serves as the VP of Admissions for AHBBS, President of InSITE, and a host of Stern Chats. She is specializing in Business Analytics, Luxury Marketing, and Sustainable Business and Innovation.
As an MBA2, or second year, many students are heavily involved on campus in various professional, affinity, and social clubs and organizations. Personally, I have chosen to divvy up my time amongst: (1) Stern Chats, Stern’s podcast, in which I’m a host, (2) InSITE, an unofficial club that pairs graduate students across NYC with semester-long, startup consulting projects, in which I’m a president, and (3) Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS), an affinity club for hispanic and black students at Stern, in which I’m a VP of Admissions and ally.
All of these organizations have been important to me and my time at Stern. InSITE has been important professionally. Many of the organization’s alumni went onto jobs and careers that mirror my own interests and have served as a great support, sounding board, and network as I try to recruit for product management roles at startups this year. I’ve also made valuable connections with founders and VCs through our consulting work with startups that I hope will be helpful to me during my recruiting process in the spring.
The most impactful experience, however, has undoubtedly been my involvement with and role on the board of AHBBS. I applied to Stern through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an organization that promotes the advancement of hispanic, black, and native students in business. In addition, I attended Stern’s annual Discover Stern Fall Diversity Weekend, which provides a preview of Stern’s culture and curriculum, and Stern Perspectives Day, which presents prospective students with an opportunity to do your admissions interview with an AHBBS alum. All of these experiences were incredibly important during my application process. They gave me a chance to get to know Stern’s student body, determine if their values aligned with my own, and get a feel for what the next two years may be like for me. Consistently, I found incredible community from AHBBS’ members. One student in particular went out of her way to help me with the admissions process, answer my questions, and quell my fears. Ultimately, I decided that this was the differentiating factor for me and I chose to attend Stern as a result.
Coming onto campus, I knew that I wanted to pay back all that was given to me by AHBBS. As a first year student, I applied to AVP roles with both AHBBS and numerous other clubs and, while I received interviews, was ultimately not chosen for the roles. I decided to move forward with my involvement nonetheless and volunteered at the AHBBS events from which I had benefited greatly and continued to be an active member of the community. As a second year, there was an opportunity to become a VP of Admissions for AHBBS and I eagerly accepted the role. I’ve now had the honor of helping to plan the very same events I enjoyed and valued so much. I’m also further involved in admissions as a Graduate Ambassador within Stern’s MBA Admissions office and I’m incredibly thankful that I have the opportunity to give back so directly to the organizations and events that helped me get to Stern.
Coming into Stern and an MBA in general can be overwhelming and there is always a scramble for the multitude of opportunities. However, in my experience, the right opportunities come to you if you stay engaged and pursue the things you value. All of my roles on campus are incredibly important to me and have been critical to my time at Stern. I am now thankful for the lesson that, while it may initially seem like an opportunity hasn’t worked out in the way you imagined, time has the ability to change your perspective and even reality.
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.
For Spring Break, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa for a trek. My experience was nothing short of amazing although I am still recovering almost two weeks later. We started the trek by flying into Johannesburg and then traveling to Kruger National Park the next day. There we spent the next two days traveling in open vehicles through the safari, getting up close to elephants, zebras, and a few rhinos. We ended the Trek by spending four days in Cape Town, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Below are four reasons I think everyone should participate in a trek their first year.
Get to Know Your Classmates
Your first year, you probably won’t meet a lot of students outside of your assigned block. You spend the first semester taking classes, grabbing drinks, and working on group assignments (in that order) with people from your block. Treks are the perfect opportunity for you to mingle with people outside of your block. In addition to meeting other full time students, you also have the opportunity to mingle with Langone students. I met a lot of new people and we have already have a happy hour scheduled for our first mini reunion.Convenience
Planning an international trip is stressful. It’s hard to figure out where to stay, what to do, and what to eat. Signing up for a trek is simple and convenient. After signing up for the trek through a lottery process, I only had to do two things to prepare for the trip: Make a vaccination appointment and pack my suitcase. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Listen. I would never consider myself to be a “nature person”. There are people who plan vacations around hiking destinations and then there are people, like me, who plan their vacations around food and wine. The trek planners catered to both groups of people by making sure the agenda included activities that were a good mixture of adventure and recreation. As a result, I was automatically signed up for activities that I wouldn’t normally plan myself. For example, I never would have made time for a Safari if I planned the trip myself but it ended up being one of my favorite experiences.
Since a lot of students go on a trek during Spring Break, every conversation for the next two weeks will be about treks after your return. You don’t want to be the person sitting in the corner not able to contribute to the conversation because you decided to stay home and catch up on class assignments. You only get the Stern experience once. Take advantage of the many opportunities that will come your way. Besides, there’s always time to study on the flight.