December, 2010

A light at the end of the tunnel

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The summer before beginning the Foster MBA program, graduation and the job hunt seemed a long way off.  Though I knew in the back of my mind that pursuing an MBA would change the career opportunities available to me, the return to school in itself seemed like the impactful change I needed, not so much the new job I’d take on afterward.  Just over a year after joining Foster, I’m fortunate to have landed a post-graduate job I’m thrilled about, though the process of getting there was not what I expected.   

Figuring out the right position and right employer begins the moment you set foot on campus.  For my first two quarters, I felt like I kept adding options instead of narrowing my search.  Anytime I spoke to someone who was passionate about their past or future career, I began to add it to the list to explore it as an option for me.   Looking for the ideal post-graduation fit became a process of elimination.  At Foster, you will feel like you have too many options, from clubs to internship choices to social events.  You’ve certainly heard before that you should take advantage of as much as you can handle, and I agree with that.  But pay special attention to how these experiences make you feel.  When you’re working in your core team first quarter, what role do you naturally fall into?  When you try to push yourself outside of that role or take a lead on a project that is not in your traditional skill set, how do you feel – does it excite you, make you want to work harder, or just frustrate you? 

In the end, what made the biggest difference was to try things I wouldn’t normally label as “me.”  Though I had initially focused on product management internships and a few positions with logistics companies, I decided to work with a small marketing strategy consulting firm, Bridge Partners Consulting, as part of a work stream for a beta launch with Microsoft.  I had been adamant that consulting was not a good fit for me; and as a late-adopter, I never thought that technology was right either.  By the time Fall quarter began, I felt as though all the little discussions I had with classmates, team experiences, and mini-projects I had taken gave me the confidence to know that what drove me. 

Reflecting on my summer internship, I realized that the things that made me tick there were the same that had made me tick in my previous work; the people.  I spoke with a number of alums and contacts at a variety of consulting companies, spoke with the mentors I’ve made through the years to discuss the ways they’ve seen me be successful in the past, and made the decision to join Bridge Partners.  Having a job lined up after graduation is of course a weight off of my shoulders.  I’m afforded the chance to continue to strengthen the amazing friendships I’ve made here, and begin to plan a fantastic summer trip.  At the same time, there is a bittersweet edge:  signing the contract has made me come to terms that my stint at Foster is almost over.  It’s a mix of excitement and pre-emptive nostalgia, that I think will make me appreciate the next few months that much more.

Guest blogger – Lacey McCann, FT 2011

How to describe the first quarter of an MBA?

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Let’s see… imagine this: After months of preparing for a bareback horse riding lesson, you finally arrive at the stable to see a shiny new horse staring you square in the eye.  You’re excited for the lesson and only a bit nervous about the size of this behemoth ahead of you.  You swing your leg over this jet black stallion and no sooner do you get your hands on its mane than it bolts off at breakneck speed.  Your fists turn white with intensity as you struggle to stay on board.  With each gallop the pace quickens and before you know it everything around you has blended into an indiscernible blur of colors and amorphous shapes.  The only thing that keeps running through your mind is “don’t let go… Just Don’t. Let. Go.” In one instant you begin to feel like you’re hitting your stride and in the next the horse gives a kick and you begin to feel yourself slip…. Your fingers begin to cramp and you think you may be in for a quick introduction with the ground.

It is in this moment that you take a look around and realize that you’re not the only one on this horse.  You lift your neck a little and see there are just over a hundred others on this crazy beast and each one has the same crazed fear-stricken determination to survive.  Just as the last vestiges of strength are sapped from your body and you feel yourself begin to fall, a group of hands from all sides push and pull you back into position and your strength is renewed.  This same dance plays itself out over and over.  Sometimes you are the one about to fall to the dirt, more often you’re a helping hand to save an unknown fellow rider.  As you begin to forget what it feels like to be in any other situation the horse rears up and with one giant kick you use all your strength to hold on…

The horse slows to a walk and you realize you have come further from the stable where you started than you ever could have imagined.  As you gaze into the faces of your companions, you see that not only have your surrounding changed but yourself as well.  You realize that each step of the horse was a measured step to push you to your limits without ever giving you more than you can handle.  You have created a bond with your fellow riders that can never be broken and know that this is only the beginning.  You give the horse a spur and begin quarter number two…

Okay maybe it’s not really a whole lot like riding a horse bareback (not that I would know, I live in cities) but you get the impression.  It’s fast, it’s crazy, and without a bunch of other people all in the same situation you would never make it out alive. 

The greatest about this program is how much you learn in such a short period of time!  I hear the words coming out of my mouth now and think, “I wouldn’t have understood a fifth of this 4 months ago.”  Working in the “real world” you forget how easy it is to fall into a routine where you are not challenged and just keep on earning that paycheck (and yes, I really miss that part) but at Foster, you can’t sit idle.

There are too many opportunities to spend a moment without direction. Is this for everyone? No way, you must love the intensity.  Could anyone do it forever? Not a chance, there’s a reason that an MBA only lasts 2 years.  Would I go back home if I could do it all over again? Never.

- Guest Blogger: Trent Huntington, FT 2012