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.

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A Week In the Life Of…

Friday company visit to Mars Chocolate
Friday company visit to Mars Chocolate

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.

One Month In – Reflecting On My Summer Internship Experience

It has almost been a month since the semester begun and I am definitely overdue for a post.  This semester has been quite busy. Once again, I somehow ended up doing much more than I intended  – I am working as a Graduate Fellow for the Office of Career Development (OCD), planning the spring break trip for Stern in Africa, and taking an education practicum at Columbia Law that’s worth 12 credits – I feel like all of these deserve their own posts (more to come)!! Of course I love being busy and being active but as I sit in front of this computer, 10pm on a Sunday night, after a weekend trying to catch up so that I can start the week fresh – I know that I definitely need to learn the definition of work/life balance.

Today though, I want to talk about my summer internship! image1I spent my summer in San Francisco working for a tech company.  I was on the sales team, and had an account management role. Funny enough, it took me a couple of visits to our client’s office in San Jose for me to realize that I was in the famous Silicon Valley! You should have seen the smile on my face!!

11162191_10153934936592785_2710319689963526991_n I spent a lot of time recruiting last year, as I was trying to figure out what I would enjoy doing the most. I am a very curious person, and can see myself doing very different things.  Before accepting this offer though, I was hesitating between this and a startup. The startup was in New York, and I would have had an operations role.  This was a great opportunity to do work where I would have immediately seen the impact that I was having. However, I chose to accept the San Francisco offer for two reasons:

  1. The exposure: I was part of a program that was recruiting for African countries – which is where I want to end up eventually. This was a great opportunity for me to be able to learn more about what the company was doing, and to network with people on the ground.
  2. The role: I had never done sales as a role on its own, and wanted to see how it would feel, since that is what most multinational firms recruit for in Africa.  I had a great team, and enjoyed my projects.  Even though I would be successful in sales, I now know that I really do enjoy operations, and that I prefer working with clients on their strategy, operational improvements, implementations models, and such…

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Finally, I had never been to California. Since I am not planning on spending my life in the US (so far), I took the opportunity and played tourist. My sister visited me from Toronto, and we went to Napa. I also visited the Big Sur, Monterey, and went to LA. I loved that I had the time to go to the gym, cook, and explore the city with friends. Overall I loved my summer experience: I learned a lot, had impact on my team, and discovered a new region. I left feeling refreshed and I cannot wait to see what this year has in store 🙂

On Part-time Internships

Hi everyone,

I hope that you are finally starting to enjoy the semi-warm weather outside. On my part, I cannot wait until school is out and I have slightly more time to be outside.  This semester has been extremely busy as I took on a part-time spring internship on top of my full class schedule, and my club activities.  But let’s start from the beginning: Why do people take on part-time internships?

The pros
1.You can try a new industry or a new role
My background is in retail, and I am currently working for a foundation. I have always been fascinated by the work that they do, and wanted to understand how it works.   Now I understand the different aspects of impact investing and how different companies approach their different CSR strategies.  I could even hold my own on agricultural value chains discussion when it comes to crops like palm oil or peanuts.

2. It’s an opportunity to add onto your work experience
Since the work that I am currently doing is different from what I did before, I am using what I already knew differently, and acquiring a new skill-set. This is also an additional story that will come in handy once I start recruiting again.

3. You explore a company that you might want to work for in the future, and extend your network
Some part-timers extend their internships into the summer, and some even get full-time job offers. I now have a new network, especially since I’m new to New York.  Even if my internship ends as just an internship, I have met inspiring people that I hope to remain connected with.

The cons
1. It can be a huge time commitment
My internship required a minimum commitment of 24 hours a week, so 3 full days. However, some of my classmates have internships that are 10-15 hours per week.  This varies depending on the company that you are working for. I thought that this would be a great opportunity so I accepted my offer, but this has definitely affected the way my semester went.

2. Most are not paid
This wasn’t a deal breaker for me since I am an international student and can’t work off-campus. I also considered the fact that I was in school full-time and hadn’t been planning on working during this time. However, as a domestic student you can sometimes negotiate a salary that helps a little with the semester.

3. Work responsibilities
Considering the fact that you are only part-time, sometimes you get stuck with the small odd jobs. People might feel that you cannot work on the pressing priorities since you will not be there to follow up.  It becomes up to you to create your own job, and to show that you can own a project.

All in all, it was a great experience. I may have over-committed myself a bit, but I am so glad I have made some great friends who helped me stay on track this semester. I can already see how what I learned here will help me in the future, and I met inspiring people.

Have a great week,
Michaella

Internship Status Report

When it rains it pours. This week I have made some major strides toward figuring out where I will intern this summer. I have been fortunate enough to receive some offers this week from some of the firms that I am most interested in. However, deciding between the different opportunities will undoubtedly be challenging. Luckily, the Office of Career Development has already been instrumental in helping me manage various relationships. My main dilemma, aside from my innate indecision, is how to proceed with ongoing conversations with companies who are still in the midst of their hiring process. Obviously it is essential to maintain these relationships not only for the purpose of the summer, but also as a representative of Stern and for my long term career. I would like to say that I have an entirely clear vision of what my career will look like, but with so many options at the moment, it is difficult to know.

One aspect of my future that I am confident in is that the Stern name will take me far. Several companies I have spoken to have already mentioned the quality of my education as a distinguishing factor. Moreover, many recruiters have sited Stern’s strong sense of community and how the school fosters a team-building environment. In terms of networking and exploring some less traditional career options, I feel that the Stern brand name has truly helped. But it extends beyond just the school’s image. The further I delve into my course work this semester, the more I see its potential real world application. As an undergraduate literature major, this is a complete 180. Now, as I consider my internship options, I must decide which of my new skills I’d like most to practice. Again, I hope that my decision making skills are not a hindrance, but that’s what OCD (Office of Career Development) is for!

I will be sure to keep you posted on my internship status in the upcoming weeks.