Category: Student Blogs

The Staircase: Summer Internship Reflections with Alyssa Rinck, MBA Class of 2018

The following blog post was written by Alyssa Rinck, MBA Class of 2018 and former summer associate at Cognizant

Nail the GMAT. Get accepted to a top school. Land your dream internship. Convert that internship into a job offer.

If you’re interested in business school, it’s likely these things are on your radar. They were on mine too when I started my business school journey. These things remain important. There are a lot of resources out there to guide you through this process, and I am certainly not here to tell you what to do. But I am here to give you a piece of advice: how to survive when you have the high expectation to achieve all of these things. Business school is stressful, but if you take a deep breath and take things one step at a time, you will thrive.

While you will be defined by the big decisions you make during your journey, you will be remembered by the combination of small choices you made along the way. Small steps in the right direction lead to great opportunity. People notice the little things.

When I started searching for a summer internship, I was focused on the big picture. I had just been accepted to Simon. Shortly after, I signed on with Cognizant Consulting as a summer associate in their retail practice. For a moment, I felt a huge sense of relief but then was immediately overwhelmed with a rush of anxiety. I landed the internship but getting the job offer seemed like a big feat.

Cognizant is a technology-driven consulting firm, and I was assigned to support an engagement with a top fortune retailer’s innovation lab in Silicon Valley. I knew very little about technology. On top of feeling the pressure to network with executives and showcase my work ethic, I had a lot to learn quickly about the tech world. Instead of taking the mindset that I was at a disadvantage, I took this as a great learning opportunity. I headed in to my first day on the job motivated to make the best of the experience.

When I arrived that day, I met my supervisor. He was a data scientist by trade and consultant by twist of fate. He told me I would be working on a project building machine learning solutions. These solutions would allow our client to add more third party products to their website (in order to compete with Amazon). I had spent several years before business school working for Macys.com/Macy’s Inc. so I was confident in my retail knowledge, but I had no idea where to start with machine learning.

After the meeting, I was stressed. What if I couldn’t add value to the engagement? I was not an expert on the subject by any means. I consciously reminded myself to have confidence, to move forward. I spent my evenings on YouTube researching. I woke up to get into the office early, so I could build a rapport with the main client point of contact. Soon I could speak the language of the software engineers on our floor. Eventually, I felt comfortable asking our client contact for help because we had a standing meeting to grab tea every morning, right after he got settled. By the time I was midway through my internship I had hit a groove.

I used this to accelerate my learning even further. I kept putting myself in positions where I was the least knowledgeable in the room. My perception of consultants before I began my internship was far different than it was at the end. At first, I thought consultants had to know everything and were paid for that expertise. I soon realized that consultants are valued for their ability to continuously ask the right questions and gather the right information.

When it came time to deliver my final recommendation based on the work I had done throughout the course of the summer, I was confident. I knew almost every stakeholder in the room. I was not shy to ask them for help building my final deck. I had their buy in, what could I be worried about? In full disclosure, I was very nervous, but I knew what I had to say was supported by months of hard work. I left that final meeting with several pats on the back and some smiles from the client.

alyssa_rinckThe morning following my final day as a Cognizant summer associate, I packed up for a long awaited trip to Peru. I had plenty of time for personal reflection throughout the trip, but I reached a moment of clarity on a hike along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. About two thirds of the way through the hike, we reached what felt like the billionth stone staircase. Each set of stairs built by the Incas seemed steeper and longer than the last. My legs were already burning–there was no way I was making it to see the end. I wanted so badly for the guide to leave me right then and there to lay down and rest with the llamas. Somehow I found motivation to take on those stairs, and it was so worth it. This staircase was quite literally a metaphor for my summer with Cognizant.

When it all seems overwhelming, remember to take that deep breath. Take that one small step toward your goal. In the end, those small steps add up to something really incredible.

I came back from Peru with an offer from Cognizant, the aptitude to build my own machine learning models, and the newfound confidence to take on the world.

Simon Strong: My First Month at B-School

The following blog post was written by Brett Welcher, 2019 MBA candidate

This week, I will complete my pre-fall quarter at Simon Business School – a five-week session that included orientation and team building activities, along with my first two classes, managerial economics and professional communications. I’m pleased to share that my experience has been challenging and rigorous, exciting and impactful, and totally worth it!

"My experience at Simon Business School has been challenging and rigorous, exciting and impactful, and totally worth it!"

“My experience at Simon Business School has been challenging and rigorous, exciting and impactful, and totally worth it!”

As I reflect on my first month, I’ve been most impressed by the high degree of collaboration and teamwork the school has emphasized – both in the classroom and in the Rochester community. This mentality is known as Simon Strong, a shared belief that we’re stronger when working together and supporting each other. It’s a defining characteristic of the Simon MBA program and one of the key reasons I chose to pursue my degree at Rochester.

Strong teamwork was displayed during our first week, when the Class of 2019 participated in a case competition focused on customer privacy and Apple (“Building a “Backdoor” to the iPhone: An Ethical Dilemma,” Harvard Business Review). By articulating both sides of the argument and effectively presenting the case, my teammates (Danielle Adamson, Thea Le, Dinesh Rajput, Edward Threlfall) and I were awarded first place. It was an exciting way to kick off our MBA journey, but more importantly, the competition fostered an abundant exchange of diverse ideas across the classroom and challenged us to expand our understanding of the business world.

The following week, Simon Business School partnered with Flower City Habitat for Humanity to build the frames for two houses in the city of Rochester. Spending half a day working together with my classmates, while making a positive and lasting impact in the community I grew up in was especially meaningful and something the entire class took great pride in. (Fun fact: students across the University of Rochester are deeply involved in service and collectively volunteer 30,000 hours a year!)

Habitat Build

An additional highlight from my b-school experience has been the relationships I’ve formed with my classmates. One of the underlying strengths of Simon Business School is its longstanding commitment to creating opportunities for diverse candidates. As one of the Top Ten Most Diverse MBA Programs (U.S. News & World Report, 2016), our class includes students from the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Forté Foundation, and Management Leadership for Tomorrow. We also have students from 18 countries and several top employers represented by our previous work experience. In short, the student experience at Simon is incredibly rich, and the creativity and innovation that’s coming from our multiple perspectives is helping us become impactful and inclusive leaders.

These past five weeks have been an exciting preview of what will likely become the most transformational two years of my life. I’m extremely proud to be part of this community and I can’t wait to begin the fall quarter. Let’s keep up the momentum!

Lessons in Excellence: My Summer Internship at Google

Treadwell Singfield, MBA Class of 2018, is spending his summer interning on the product operations team at Google developing a beta testing program playbook. Here’s his take on his first month on the job.

I have always wanted to be impactful and excellent. In earliest stages of my internship, I did my best to focus on a flawless output. But perfect isn’t realistic or efficient, and in my experiences, developing that perfect level of work isn’t actually excellent.

If that’s the case, then what is excellence?

Merriam-Webster would define excellence as the “quality of being outstanding or extremely good,” but what does “outstanding” or “extremely good” entail? I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating that this summer. During the aforementioned early stages of my internship, I thought of excellence as an individual contribution, a measure of the quality one person’s output, but there are several dimensions to excellence. There is no perfect definition; there are both solo and team aspects to being excellent.

Based on my internship this summer, I’ve narrowed down five common components of excellent people:

  • They define what they want to achieve in great detail.
  • They leverage the brainpower of those around them.
  • They execute quickly.
  • They adapt quickly to change.
  • They can operate in ambiguity.

treadwellWhen I began my internship at Google, I put my head down and started working and meeting with people. I strayed away from the first component of excellence that I listed earlier: I didn’t define what I wanted to accomplish. Fortunately, Google makes you form those definitions. But as they say, the devil is in the details. The definitions are useful, but being able to define what success looks like in a measurable way is important for success during the summer. In any professional environment, showing the impact that you make is critical. The difficult thing about driving impact in a new environment is that you often have a rather steep learning curve.

The best way to understand more about a company and the problems its facing is to speak to people who are close to the work being done and to leverage their insight. Research is crucial to being able to navigate your way, but proceed with caution. There are two ways people share information: oversharing and undersharing. People rarely give you exactly what you need. In the case of undersharing, you need to make sure you ask the right questions and, if needed, find additional people to speak with. In my case, I experienced a lot of oversharing. Oversharing is typically a sign that people may be interested or passionate about how your work relates to theirs. Excellent people hone in on the information needed to provide structure to the problem.

Once the problem has been defined, you need to execute quickly. One reason for working fast is to get work done, but the other reason is to mitigate the risk of failure. If your solution doesn’t work, you will need time to adjust, iterate, and relaunch. This applies in any environment, primarily dynamic environments that are prone to change.

Excellent people navigate change well by planning and embracing change. It is important to understand the purpose of the change more so than the change itself. If an environment is changing, that means something isn’t working and you need to know what that is.

The final quality I’ve observed in excellent people is that they operate well in ambiguous and uncertain environments. They do this by providing structure to the issue at hand. There is no perfect science for operating in the unknown, but they make sure to know what needs to be done, why it needs to be done, who needs to do it, and how it will get done.

Striving for excellence is important, and Simon has prepared me for excellence by placing me in those scenarios. I look forward to returning to the startup environment in the future to pursue more of a marketing and analytics role. Regardless of how my journey or interests have changed, Simon has helped me to attain my goals and to continually pursue excellence.

I’ll leave you with a final question: How do you define excellence?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Simon MBA program, attend our MBA information session webinar at 12 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 9. 

MBA Summer Internship Reflections: Mars, Inc.

Tite Jean-Pierre, MBA Class of 2018, is spending her summer as an associate brand manager at Mars, Inc. She shared her perspective on her first month on the job.

What was your first day like?
The first day was phenomenal! Although I had visited the Mars Petcare office twice before, it was never as a full-time employee and an official 2017 summer intern. Mars is a learn-by-doing company with structured learning scheduled throughout the internship. On the latter half of day two, we went to our desks and I received a better ‘welcome to your desk’ reception than anyone else. The office is an open setting and is dog friendly. As I arrived at my desk to greet my marketing team, the cutest dog ran up to greet me. He was at my feet jumping and wagging his tail and would not leave until I gave him some love! I found out a few seconds later that his name is Allister, the mini schnauzer of one of our marketing directors. I’m not sure if the marketing director put him up to it, but it was a welcome for the books!

What were your first few weeks like in general?
The first weeks consisted of many meetings, kicked off by a meeting with my line manager and a briefing on the scope of my project and expectations for the summer. The saying ‘drinking out of a fire hose’ is sorely overused, but information certainly was coming quickly and steadily as we strived to get an understanding of our brands, a deeper understanding of the company culture, and attend the continual training on our calendars. It was refreshing to attend the events to unwind, get to know our fellow associate brand managers, and familiarize ourselves with the cities of Franklin and Nashville.

What are you working on?
I am working on a product within the company’s GreeniesTM brand – pet treats and dental care for pets. I am working on the Pill PocketsTM product “a nutritious treat for dogs and cats that contain a built-in pocket, for hiding a tablet or capsule.” My project is well within the realm of a typical marketing role, as I strategize with my team to raise awareness of Pill PocketsTM.

What is the culture like?
The Mars culture centers around building strong relationships. The results and bottom line are not the only things that matter to the company – how you achieve those results are also crucial. The company is privately owned by a family that fully believes in the Mars Five Principles. Mars is one of the pioneers of the open office setting, as associates in all levels have the same style and size desk as a VP would. Our executives are either connected to a multi-desk with us or are just a few steps away and always open to dialogue. Although there are moments of brief silence, the office is usually buzzing with conversations between the marketers and teams. As a person who deeply values relationships, Mars is a great place to be!

What is one concrete way Simon’s curriculum has prepared you for your internship?
What I learned throughout the progression of the Communicating Business Decisions sequence comes to mind. In particular, something that Professor Carol Shuherk would say in the persuasion course (that I was originally skeptical of) was “consensus is key.” Getting your team to buy in — not to just agree with your statement but to fully believe in it with unanimity — were the strong overtones of that class and are concepts that also ring true at Mars. The company truly believes in building relationships and collaboration. What I learned in that class over the entirety of my first year as an MBA student was crucial to understanding and seeing the fit for myself in a company driven by those same beliefs.

What are you liking most about your internship?
I am loving the day to day surprises that can come with being a marketer. Although I start my day with an agenda, I have learned that the ability to deal with the unexpected and adapt to ambiguity are important skills. Unexpectedly, I was tasked with a project for my brand that included tapping into my creative skillset to brainstorm a slogan. Marketers don’t typically go into brand management for the creative aspect of the career, but having a creative mind and being able to jump-start creative conversations and give direction that fosters an environment for creativity is certainly a component of the career, and I have loved seeing the level of engagement required to balance the art and science of marketing in my role.

What are you finding the most challenging about your internship?
My internship, like most summer internships, is only about 10 weeks long. As short as that sounds, it becomes even shorter when you are balancing your time for work and your project, making quality connections, and getting to know the city you might permanently move to in just a little over a year. My project is stimulating and challenging, but having worked full time for a few years before business school, I find the challenge of hard work and high expectations welcome and invigorating. I am finding that maximizing the 24 hours we are all given in a day –and not being able to add just one to two more! — is the most challenging part of my summer.