Alumni and Students Interact Via #SimonGlobal

The following blog post was written by Kelly Valente ’19S (MBA)

#SimonGlobal is a speaker series that connects Simon Business School alumni with current students to provide career insights and strategy. Prospective business students will also benefit from this insight, so I’ve provided a summary of the conversations with three of our recent speakers:

  • Kevin Elguer Viana ’17S (MBA), Management Associate, Thomson Reuters
  • Cesar Garcia Brena ’04S (MBA), Principal, Arthur D. Little
  • Rahul Gupta ’17S (MBA), Senior Pricing Analyst, Thermo Fisher Scientific

The Power of “Soft Skills”

All three speakers emphasized the importance of “soft skills” in their daily careers after leaving Simon. Cesar encouraged students not to underestimate the power of soft skills and went on to emphasize the importance of negotiations, leadership, and influencing abilities.

“At the end of the day, attitude and energy are what will set you apart,” he said.

Kevin noted that behavioral interviews can actually be more important than case interviews because if you lack a technical skill, you can be taught. Behavioral interviews target qualities that are more intangible and allow employers to answer the question: “Do I want to sit next to you for eight hours a day?”

Rahul Gupta '17S (MBA)

Rahul Gupta ’17S (MBA)

Rahul agreed, and he added that soft skills “have gotten me where I am in the first six months.” He believes three attributes in particular set him apart:

-People skills. The exposure to different functions in Simon’s MBA program enabled him to communicate effectively with people in different roles.
-Presentations. Rahul raved about the Market Research class at Simon, which taught him to create concise and informative presentations.
-Prioritization. He noted the time management skills he built at Simon are helpful to him every day on the job.

Job Search Best Practices

During business school, most students will engage with alumni at some point. The three speakers shared their advice for current students now that they have alumni perspective on the interactions. Cesar emphasized the importance of finding a relevant connection to an alum and expressing it during your initial interaction. Take the time to read about their background and interests to see if there is a commonality you can build off.

Rahul shared best practices, such as drafting emails at night but only sending them out during working hours and thinking of the job search in bite size pieces, allocating dedicated 15- and 30-minute windows to the process. Finally, he noted you need to be prepared to answer the question: “Give me five reasons I should hire you over x-y-z and pay you 50% more than them.” If you can make a confident case for yourself, you will be better prepared to communicate your value to employers.

Kevin Elguer '17S (MBA)

Kevin Elguer Viana ’17S (MBA)

Kevin emphasized the importance of company fit. He discouraged applying to all the firms in your area of interest and advised taking the time to find companies that have a culture that resonates with you. Kevin found research in the Simon library to be extremely helpful in this process. In an interview, be sure to understand the question being asked and answer it directly. He gave an example: “If I’m asking you why you like cereal, don’t tell me that you like waffles.” Know your answers to what he calls the “why questions” by heart: Why your school? Why this company? Why this role?

Advice for International Students

Each speaker also shared some specialized advice for international students, after reflecting on their own experiences. Rahul emphasized the importance of understanding your target position first and your path to get there second. He realized that if you can’t start out in your “dream job,” it’s okay to start somewhere else and work toward your eventual goal. What matters most is finding a place where you feel you can thrive, as he has at Thermo Fisher.

Cesar Garcia Brena '04S (MBA)

Cesar Garcia Brena ’04S (MBA)

Cesar encouraged students not to narrow their search to only US-based firms. In fact, his own firm is currently hiring for positions in Texas and Mexico. Additionally, he advised if English is not your first language or strength, work to polish it because it’s the first thing employers notice. Fortunately, the University of Rochester offers a language partners program to help international students further refine their English language skills. Additionally, Kevin recommended that everyone take moments of pause during an interview, but he noted if you have a heavy accent, speaking slowly will be key.

“It’s the journey that teaches you.”

That’s how Rahul summarized his insights from his time at Simon and how the lessons he learned here have benefited him. His final advice was to take advantage of the time in business school to discover what you’re good at and strengthen your weak points—you have all the resources you need to be successful.

If you’re interested in viewing the full videos for each speaker, including industry specific advice, they are accessible on our YouTube channel.

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