Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone in Business School

Sami Abdisubhan is an MBA2 who spent his summer internship at Anheuser-Busch. Sami serves as VP of Marketing & Operations for Stern in Africa (SiA), VP of Training for Stern FC, and Co-President of the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS). He is specializing in Marketing and Business Analytics.

 

 

One of the values of earning an MBA is exploration. Whether it’s exploring a new industry, function, city, or experience, there lies opportunity in an unusually supported manner when at business school. A subset of this value proposition is something NYU Stern’s Dean, Dean Raghu Sundaram, said to us on our first day of LAUNCH, Stern’s orientation: business school is the best time in your careers to fail. Despite the irony that I’m paraphrasing, this was a moment that I’ve cherished from orientation. There is no safer environment to professionally experiment than business school. The stakes will not be lower! This line from our Dean helped me get through an experiential learning class I took in my first year called Consulting Lab: Branding and Innovation.

Coming into Stern, I wanted to pivot my career into consumer marketing with a focus on brand management. While brand management is effectively a general management function, there is a responsibility to own how a brand is portrayed and understood and that has always been my interest and passion in marketing. When available, I jumped at the opportunity to register for Consulting Lab, knowing it was an experiential learning class; experiential learning, as it sounds, is a format of learning obtained through real-life projects and business challenges. I saw this class as a way to train myself before my summer internship, brand management at Anheuser-Busch, in that fail-safe environment that Dean Sundaram mentioned.

When I started the class, I was very excited to hear from the client about the challenge they brought to us. There was a thrill to it: a large financial services firm was coming to us, graduate students, to support a project with which they genuinely needed help! A slight problem arose: I didn’t understand the challenge. The prompt was clear to me and I understood the need for the project from the client’s side – I just didn’t know where to start. For the most part, my project team was in the same boat and as the solutions-oriented people we are, our minds immediately went to products/changes the client could implement to fix the problem. However, we were quickly reminded that we didn’t understand the problem fundamentally and hadn’t gone through the right analysis to get there.

This start was not what I had hoped. Not just because of the slight project-related hiccup, but also because this is my aspired career. I’ve planned for this since I started writing business school essays. Was I wrong? Will my summer internship be a nightmare? These thoughts and questions had me considering dropping the class as some others – not on my team – had done. However, one of my goals before starting at Stern was to create a different experience than my undergraduate experience. In college, I wasn’t really involved in extracurriculars and didn’t challenge myself, both of which I regretted. The 20-year-old me would’ve dropped this class after the second session for no other reason than to avoid difficulty. Not this time. Again, harkening back to the idea of a failing to learn, I made sure to embrace being out of the comfort zone.

This does have a happy ending: in one of our group project meetings, as my team members were brainstorming, all of it clicked. I literally let out a big “Ohhhhhhhhh. I got it. ” From then on, we went to do very well in the class, presented a viable solution to the client’s executives and, after impressing, earned a good mark overall. Coincidentally, my summer project at Anheuser-Busch was incredibly creative in nature, focusing on advertising. My experience doing branding-related work in Consulting Lab was by far the most influential to my success over the summer and converting my internship into a full-time offer of all the classes I had taken first year. For that, I’m thankful I was able to reflect in the moment to think back to my MBA goals prior to starting and we were reminded during orientation that there is no other time to try and fail and to not run away from failure than business school.

Course Spotlight: Stern Consulting Corps

Eric Bauer is an MBA2, who spent his summer internship at at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Eric holds leadership roles on the European Business Society, the Luxury and Retail Club and the Stern Student Government. He is specializing in Business Analytics, Finance, and Management.

 

When I started the process of choosing a business school to attend, location became a crucial part of the decision for me. Being that I had lived in Oklahoma for many years, I knew that if I was going to move away from home, I wanted to move somewhere that would provide me with the most professional opportunities and exposure to potential employers. Thus, NYU Stern became the obvious choice due to its unparalleled location.

Stern’s positioning in the heart of Manhattan has not only allowed me to network with countless potential employers, but it has also given me the option to round-out my curriculum with real world, hands on consulting experiences through the Stern Consulting Corps (SCC) and Stern Solutions courses/programs. Stern’s relationships with potential employers in the city, coupled with the fact that so many company headquarters are just a short subway ride away from campus, made these things possible. Since I had decided to make a career switch and recruit for a consulting role, the opportunities provided through these two experiential learning programs have become extremely vital parts of my course load and have been instrumental in my success with securing a full-time consulting offer.

 In the Spring semester of my first year at Stern, I took part in the Stern Consulting Corps program. As part of this 3-credit course, I had the opportunity to work with a luxury gym headquartered here in NYC to help strategize their expansion across Europe. The semester involved bi-monthly meetings with the client at their offices here in NYC and concluded with a presentation and hand off of our recommendations to senior executives and C-suite members of the company. During our weekly scheduled class time, we received feedback and pointers from our professors, one of which was a former consultant herself, which provided for a no pressure environment in which to ask for help, coaching, and guidance. The Stern Consulting Corps was a great way to gain consulting experience before heading into my summer internship, and I truly feel as though it gave me a leg up when I arrived on day one and was expected to hit the ground running.

The completion of my summer internship validated that consulting is what I want to do upon graduating, and so, after having accepted a full-time offer, I knew I wanted to keep working on real projects with real clients once classes started back up in the fall. This is what led me to enroll in Stern’s Fashion & Luxury Solutions course. With this experiential class, I am working with a Fortune 500 beauty products company to help craft a growth strategy for one of their prestige skincare brands. Similar to the Consulting Corps, we meet with the client at their headquarters and via conference calls as we craft our deliverables, and have our professor to bounce ideas off of and discuss uncertainties with during the weekly scheduled class time. This current project has proven to be a valuable learning experience and is helping me to continue to sharpen my capabilities as a consultant.

 While there are many classes to choose from here at Stern, for me, the ability to ‘learn by doing’ is such a great option and a real differentiating factor of the Stern program. In one short year, I’ve gone from having no consulting experience, to now having three projects under my belt, and I’m not sure this would have been as accessible of an option at many other schools. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here at Stern, and the experiential classes are just one of the many reasons why I’m glad I came to NYU to earn my MBA.