Summer Internship Series: My Journey to American Express

image2Mansi S. Allison is a rising MBA2 and interning at American Express this summer. She is specializing in Finance and Strategy and is a member of Stern Women in Business.

NYU Stern’s “Summer Internship Series” sheds light into Sternies’ internship experiences. Posts are written by rising MBA2s who are currently working at their summer internship. 

The past year has brought about many firsts for me – starting business school and now beginning a 10-week summer internship with American Express. As a prospective student, I was always curious to learn about the summer between year one and year two. How do students secure internships? How do they know what they are interested in? What skills are required of MBA interns? I hope this post helps you to start thinking through some of these questions.

Prior to business school, I worked in strategy and operations consulting at Deloitte and later at an enterprise technology startup, where I led their Customer Success department. I knew that I wanted an MBA to round out my foundational business skills and pivot into corporate strategy or internal consulting. I was open to pursuing these roles in a variety of industries because the most important thing to me was the function. Accordingly, I cast a wide net in my initial search.

I found that the best way to explore different companies and careers was to meet with people, so I took a two-pronged approach. First, I made a list of people in my personal network who were currently employed by companies I was interested in. Second, I made sure to attend each on-campus event held by that company, whether it was a corporate presentation, coffee chat, or other event. By interacting with employees and asking thoughtful questions, I was able to learn a lot about each company’s priorities, initiatives, and plans for the future. Of course, I complemented all these meetings (“coffee chats,” as we call them in MBA lingo) with extensive solo research as well.

Preparing for MBA interviews was an intense and time-consuming—but ultimately rewarding—process. Stern’s winter break spans six weeks (from mid-December through the end of January), so I was lucky to have a big stretch of uninterrupted time to prepare for interviews without worrying about schoolwork. The biggest difference for me between interviewing for an MBA internship versus my previous jobs was the level of technical and company-specific knowledge you were expected to have in order to stand out. For example, how does the company make money? How is the industry currently being disrupted and how is the company responding to that? What key developments came out of the company’s latest earnings release?

After interviewing with a number of companies for strategy roles, I was thrilled to receive an offer from American Express to join their internal consulting team for a summer internship. As I write this, I’ve only been there a little over a week, but I am excited to apply the technical and theoretical skills I have learned in the classroom to problems in the real world. While it’s too soon to tell what challenges I will tackle this summer, I am confident that my first year at Stern has prepared me to have a fun and successful summer.

IMG_3208

Facing My Fear of Finance

Hey everyone,

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.

Best of luck,
Jon

Don’t Fear Finance

One of the reasons I decided to come back to school was fear — fear of finance. One glimpse at a stock symbol or supply-demand curve and a wall of incomprehension quickly rose until it froze my brain, forcing me to flee to lighter news topics. I didn’t get Finance, and I didn’t think I could.

But fear is no way to live life, and as my career progressed, I realized the need to confront this fear. In my chosen field — corporate social responsibility — there’s the need for individuals who can work cross-functionally and make convincing cases for ethical and environmental practices in the “language” of each department. Finance is no longer something I can avoid.

So this semester, I am in Professor William Silber’s Foundations of Finance class, one of Stern’s core courses but also one of its most popular. Professor Silber has been teaching this class for a while, and he has the ability to lay out complex concepts in a way that is clear and comprehensible. At the end of each class, he asks one of his favorite questions: “How would you explain this concept to your old aunt?” Breaking down the lesson into simple take-aways is a great way to hammer in the class’s concepts.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Finance is easy, nor am I saying that I completely understand it — yet. But I trust that by doing the work, I’ll prove to myself that I can get there and that there was nothing to fear.