Make the Most out of Networking Sessions at Smeal

We are extremely fortunate to be a part of the Smeal MBA program that has not only given us the opportunity to hone our business skills with a rich package of courses offered but has also helped us enhance our soft skills that are as critical as developing the more tangible job skills in the industry. Today, most of the industry recruiters and executives are focusing more on attributes such as communication and inter-personal skills. They strongly believe that an MBA graduate needs to blend well with the organizational culture and give high importance to a candidate being a cultural fit more than being skilled at a specific job or a role. Their assessment of a potential hire starts right from the time they come to our campus for an info-session or a networking mixer. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to follow the most effective approach in those very early interactions.

  • We need to really understand what they have in their mindset when they come here. They do not obviously come here just to talk about their company, but they also believe that an info-session / Networking event is a excellent way to get an feel of the students who could be potential interns/full time employees.
  • This has been said time and again which makes it all the more important. Always, I repeat, always be on time!
  • Follow the dress code instructions. This is noteworthy as different companies depending on their culture prefer more casual/less casual attire. For example, Nike would prefer to see you in a Nike t-shirt/ Nike sneakers while Chevron would like to see you in more formal attire.

Note: Being punctual, dressing up appropriately are things that must be kept in mind as companies are looking for a complete package and they need to believe that you would blend into the company’s culture!

  • Ask good questions! Show them that you have researched the company well and that you are excited about the opportunity. Make sure you are aware of the any latest news about the company such as major structural changes, M & A’s etc.

Never ask about stuff that is very easily available on the company website.

  • Always send a Thank You note to the recruiter/Exec that you met or spoke with. Add them to your LinkedIn connections, Follow up with them as your goal should be to build a long-term relationship with them.
  • Treat every interaction with the execs/recruiters as an interview.

You won’t even realize how just in a casual coffee chat or a dinner conversation, they would find out everything they want to know and might develop a liking for you even before you give the real interview.

-Neha Bareja, Penn State Smeal MBA Class of ’15


Despite multiple flight cancellations at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the Smeal MBA veterans managed to land safely in the “windy city” for the 2014 MBA Veterans Conference. Because of the timing of the event this year, only four Smeal veterans managed to brave “pre-finals week” for the yearly trip to Chicago.

Just as in previous years, over 30 prestigious Fortune 500 companies traveled to the conference in order to recruit top MBA vets from across the country. Having been seasoned in the corporate world through summer internships, all four Smeal veterans were invited to attend private “pre-conference networking sessions” with some of the companies.

Unfortunately, the flight delays caused the vets to miss all of the pre-conference networking events. What to do at 8pm in Chicago then? Find the best wings in the city for the “wing king” Zhen Zhu or course! After identifying “Crisp” as the best restaurant, Zhen consumed 14 chicken wings and proclaimed “these are the best wings I’ve ever had.” It should be noted that he left four wings uneaten.

The conference was in full swing on Friday morning with some guest speakers. Nathan Iglesias, former Army Intelligence Officer and current Google Sourcing Lead was the first to address the veterans. He related his military work with gaining the trust of the Afghanistan population to building trust in the corporate world. He also gave some insight into Nerf gun fights at Google!

The keynote speaker was Courtney Billington, the VP of Janssen Supply Chain within Johnson & Johnson. Mr. Billington served as an Army Officer with the 18th Airborne Corps and is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He shared his career path with the group as well as some challenges he faced along the way. Ultimately he left the crowd of over 300 veterans inspired to do great things in the corporate world.

Following the speakers, some of Smeal’s vets had on-site interviews while others attended industry panels. One of the most interesting panels featured five management consultants (all veterans). The consultants addressed topics that ranged from the career progression of a young consultant to which hotels offer the best rewards programs.

The final event was the career fair. The well trained Smeal vets made connections with several different companies and also bumped into some Penn State alums. During the career fair, Ryan McCool was actually pulled aside for an on-camera interview with local media.

Following the conference, it was time for the annual trip to Lou Malnati’s for some Chicago style pizza. Once again, Zhen ordered BBQ wings and once again he left about 33.3 percent of his wings on the table (literally). Zhen may have lost his title as the “wing king,” but all of the veterans were undoubtedly benefited by attending the conference.


 

“Getting a job” probably is the most important mission for our MBA fellas, and attending a career fair is one efficient way access to job opportunities since it enables you to:

 

  • Explore and connect with MBA students in peer schools.
  • Explore the fields and career paths you are interested in.
  • Meet and talk to recruiters to understand their companies.
  • Gain valuable interview experience and job search advice.
  • Find out opportunities and submit your resume to recruiters.
  • Develop your contacts and networks.

 

Here are the 10 tips in order to participate the Career Fair wisely:

 

1. Dress professionally. Business attire is always required.

2. Have a firm handshake and good eye contact.

3. Prepare your own one-minute pitch

4. Prepare informed questions to ask beforehand.

6. Remain open minded to explore various companies.

7. Have a sense of humor and be personable.

8. Bring multiple copies of your resume and enough business cards.

9. Always inquire about the information of company.

10. Take the initiative and ask what is next.

 

-Shuyuan Ling, PSU Smeal MBA ’16


Finals Week for 2nd Year MBAs

It is hard to believe, but the first module of courses for the year will be finished this week. The module will conclude with a three day period designated for final exams. This examination period is quite different for many second year students than students in the first year of the program, however. This is for a few reasons, but mainly because the concentration elective courses that second year MBAs are mainly taking choose alternative examinations than a single final exam.

Most classes in the first year of the program end with a traditional final exam that cover the information and concepts taught in the course over the prior seven weeks. Second year courses are less likely to give these tests. Instead they tend to utilize business case examinations or group projects as the final examination for the module. These evaluations are more interesting than typical tests and force students to work in a team and directly apply the concepts they have learned to find a solution to a business problem. Many times, the cases students are given are problems that real-world companies have encountered in the past. The Business-to-Business Marketing course concludes with a case study such as this. Possibly the most interesting part is when teams present their solutions to the class and everybody can see the variety of perspectives used to solve the problem.

Another alternative evaluation that is common among second year classes is to do a team project (not a case) and present the results of this project to classmates and professor. The Consumer Behavior marketing elective gives students this form of evaluation. Teams of 4-5 students are asked to create a small consumer behavior study to examine beliefs or behaviors that lead to product purchases. Then, these studies are conducted in Smeal’s behavioral lab with undergraduate students. Teams analyze the data that is gathered in these tests and present their findings to the class, along with a recommendation about how findings such as this could be used in marketing strategy. Interesting projects like this are very good at engaging students in the concepts that they have learned throughout the module.

-Scott Robbins, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


I can’t believe that I am preparing for final exams just two months after joining the MBA program. The first two months have passed in a flash and the first module will be over in a week.

We have two modules per semester, five courses in the first module, and eight classes of two hours each in a week during the first module. Two hours may sound very long for a few of us, but the classes are so full of energy that I did not realize how time flew. Smeal College of Business has faculty who set very high standards in terms of achievement and commitment. One of the defining characteristics of the faculty members in this Mod has been to invoke thoughts in the students by giving them real life examples. Most professors here have decades of industry experience. My colleagues in the classroom also possess loads of experience in diverse industries. Both my professors and classmates share their experiences relevant to the topic being discussed and this is what makes the learning experience so good. I get to understand different perspectives for a topic that we discuss in class. This has really helped me to think differently.

The learning in classrooms happens not only by sharing experiences but also by participating in many individual and team based activities. The professors closely monitor our performance and behavior during these activities and help us learn from our mistakes. We have many quizzes and tests that are conducted on a regular basis to help us assess ourselves on where we stand. The professors also involve our seniors, the second year MBA students, in some of our activities to give us an idea of where students usually make mistakes and how to correct them early on.

Yes! I will not be seeing, as often, some of the faculty members, towards whom I have developed a liking, but I am looking forward to meeting more professors in the next module. So much has happened in these two months, so many new things learned, new friends made, new possibilities explored. I see this as a great start to an awesome journey ahead of me.

I have learned many things in this period. Most important of all, I have enjoyed learning here!

- Naveen Raj, PSU Smeal MBA ‘16


WMBA HayrideThis past weekend, WMBA celebrated fall with our annual hayride and bonfire. For those of you who have never experienced it, fall at Penn State is spectacular. Not only are the mountains and trees surrounding campus stunning, but some beloved fall traditions return in full force. The WMBA Hayride and Bonfire allows MBAs to escape studying and appreciate some fall fun.

Of course, many international students are experiencing these fall traditions for the first time. It is always interesting trying to explain why anyone would want to ride around in a wagon full of hay or roast marshmallows over a campfire. However crazy it seems, everyone always has a good time with these American traditions.

This year we were lucky to work with Nittany Mountain Trail Rides, who took us out on a hayride pulled by a tractor through some beautiful scenery. Once we got to our bonfire site, we were treated to food, apple cider, and s’mores. Nittany Mountain Trail Rides also provided us some live folk music at the bonfire.

It was great to take some time off right before finals to talk and socialize with one another. We were reminded again that taking the time to relax, enjoy life, and form relationships with other students is as crucial to the Smeal MBA experience as any classroom lecture. As a second year, I know I will be missing the annual hayride this time next year!

 

-Beth Robinson, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


Before my MBA journey started, I heard from many second year students that time management is the very first and must-have skill for MBA students to survive the two years study. I didn’t buy it because as a sales manager I was busy enough and I could still handle work-life balance well. Now it’s already one month into the program and I must say that maybe I was wrong. Here is how a day in MBA looks like.

From Monday to Thursday, our classes begin at 8:00 AM sharp. Every morning we have two classes and one half hour Coffee Buzz from 10:00-10:30. In the afternoon and evening, I have GA work, personal and group assignments, company info sessions and appointments with the career services office or alumni. I am lucky if I can head home around 9PM after all that. Back home, there is still tons of reading waiting for me. After another 2 hours of reading, it’s still not bed time as I have tens of emails to read and reply. A new day begins before I go to bed.

In the first two weeks, I felt I could never finish a job even as a new job came in. And still there are many exciting games, activities and socials that I miss. It’s like being overwhelmed by all the tasks. After talking to my teammates, I realized no one could take them all. I needed to prioritize and focus on my goals. To schedule my time carefully, I made a timesheet by ten minutes and allocated my time according to the priority of tasks. Gradually, things are getting back in order. Although still extremely busy and exhausted, I am gaining control of my own time. It’s a good sign I am moving on the right track. Also I must thank my team members. Every time I was drowned in assignments, someone always had my back.

The first month of the Smeal MBA is busy and inspiring.  With the support from my team members, I’ve strengthened my time management skills and have adopted to my MBA life.

-Hao Wang, PSU Smeal MBA ’16


This summer I worked at Sears Holding Corporation (SHC) at their headquarters in Chicago. I worked as an MBA intern in their inventory management department and I should say it was one of the best learning experiences I have had since I came to the US. I had a great learning experience because of the effort their leadership put into structuring the internship and the time they invested into mentoring their interns. I was assigned two projects during the internship and they gave me good exposure to their vast supply chain network and deep insights into the working of the retail industry.

On the other hand SHC is located in Chicago which was the other best part about interning there. Chicago is an amazing place to live and especially during summer because of the many summer festivals. I attended a block party with friends and a carnival on the 4th of July.

For an international student, summer internship is not only the best time to experience the work culture in an American company but also the best time to immerse in American culture. That being said nothing is better than having your friends from MBA interning in the same city.

-Sreekanth Boppana, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


As 1st year MBA students, one of the most important tasks we have is to land an internship offer. After tailoring our resumes and shopping for business attire, we were ready for the two most important career fairs coming our way— the Smeal Supply Chain Career Fair on campus and the National Black MBA Association Career Fair at Atlanta. I was lucky enough to attend both of them.
The Supply Chain career fair lasted for 3 days, and there were more than 60 companies that participated. These companies offered both internship and full-time opportunities for MBA, master, and undergrad students. The list of the companies included: BD, Boeing, Deloitte Consulting, Dow Chemical, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, PNC Financial Service, Procter & Gamble, PWC, Dell, EY, PepsiCo, etc. One great thing about the career fair is all the companies love Smeal students and they all have positions suited for the Supply Chain Management concentration. It was my first real career fair. At the beginning I was very nervous. But the recruiters were actually very nice. They listened to my pitch carefully and introduced their program as they had already seen me as a candidate. If the program didn’t suit me, they still took my resume genuinely and encouraged me to look into their career website. By talking to the recruiters, I felt more and more comfortable about my pitch and conversation. Also, I got to better understand the companies that I was interested in.
From September 17th to 20th, my classmates and I flew to Atlanta to join the National Black MBA Association Conference, which is the biggest career fair nation wide aiming at MBA recruitment. Compared to the Supply Chain Career Fair, we found more opportunities in other functions such as Finance, Marketing, Strategy and IT. There were more Fortune 500 companies who didn’t come to the SCM Career Fair such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, 3M, Bank of America, etc. The  National Black MBAA Conference was not as productive as the SCM career fair because I had to invest more time asking companies if they had SCM internships, and also the fact that there were always long queues in front of popular companies’ booths. But we always  had the opportunity to meet more recruiters and students from other schools. During the waiting time, I had an opportunity to talk to a few students from Harvard, Darden, Foster and Carrey. We shared our MBA study life and our job searching experience and they all recognized Smeal as one of the best business schools in the country. During the career fair, some of our students even got interviews onsite! At the end of our trip, we visited the CNN headquarters, the Coca-Cola world, and the Georgia Aquarium. For us, the National Black MBA Association career fair was not only a career fair, but also a great opportunity for networking, exploring, and some adventure.

I was fortunate to do my summer internship at Novartis, one of the big pharmaceutical companies in the world. I worked in the strategic sourcing division, specifically in the Category Country Organization (CCO). I worked on several projects such as pricing analysis, co-designing e-Auction structure, issuing GSA (General Services Agreement), and RFP (Request For Proposal) end-to-end process etc. I wouldn’t have done a good job in the internship if it weren’t for the core and elective classes I took. BA 517 (Communication Skills for Leaders) was the most important class I took that helped me a lot in the internship. I gave several presentations to my project managers as well as for the senior leadership team, and I wouldn’t have been able to communicate and deliver the project processes and results without the valuable skills I received in BA 517. Other core & elective classes such as BA 510 (Supply Chain Management), BA 531 (Introduction to Finance) and SCM 566 (Demand Fulfillment) were crucial in having a good supply chain and finance foundation.

The Novartis strategic sourcing employees were very nice and took time from their busy schedule to explain about the projects in detail. I believe one can get a lot from a summer internship as long as you have the right attitude and one is open about what you want to get out of your internship. I also networked with other Novartis employees from different divisions (such as finance) and that was instrumental in getting a holistic view of the company as well as the company’s wholesome functions. My summer internship was the best thing that could happen after my 1st year of MBA and it is a good feeling to see all the things you have learned in 1st year MBA classes apply in some way during the internship.

- Nahom Woldemariam, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


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