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.