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I took a risk in committing the time and money to attend the Net Impact Conference at the end of October, and the payoff was immediate. I feared that being cooped up in a car for the 7-hour drive to Ann Arbor had the potential to suck, but the road trip was actually one of the best parts of the experience. Being “stuck” in a car with my classmates was both fun and really quite liberating. All we could do was talk and joke and listen to music – a precious luxury in the life of an MBA. I rode out with Susan Slopek, Matt Jones and Alex Rosenthal and rode back with Ryan Mallet, Rangarajan TC and Alex. We all share an interest in and a passion for sustainability in business, and we were excited about the networking and career prospects that lay ahead.  The seven hours went by fast! Rama Murugan and TC made the same drive out to Ann Arbor after Diwali, arriving around 5 am, and like true rock-stars of business, they were ready to go the next day for the kickoff of the conference at 7:30 am. Bottom line, we had a great and diverse Net Impact crew on site, and our mutually reinforcing energy lifted us all up.

Net Impact sets the bar very high for career development conferences. The Net Impact Conference is so much more than a resume drop.  We had multiple keynote speakers, more than a hundred industry panels, happy hours and yes, a career expo. The differentiator is the fact that it is common interest, a sense of mission and shared vision that unite the participants and sponsors. So much good can come out of that kind of environment, whether you land a job or not. Collectively we are moving the dialogue on business, the environment and sustainability forward, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

That said, the career expo was very exciting. It was a moment when my career aspirations were concentrated in to just a few rooms. The feeling of potential was incredible. I would not be surprised if my summer internship has something to do with what happened in those rooms. I came away from the conference with new certainty in my plan to pursue a position in corporate sustainability or to work for a company where I can make an impact through resource efficiency and the reduction of waste. I met fantastic people from the Environmental Defense Fund, DuPont, Herman Miller and the National Park Service – organizations for whom I would be proud to work.

There were so many takeaways from the Conference, but the one that sticks out the most is the concept of the cradle-to-cradle product lifecycle. William McDonough, one of the opening keynote panelists and co-author of the book, “Cradle to Cradle / Remaking the Way We Make Things” presented this new paradigm – zero waste and 100% recyclability – in the context of the bottled water industry. Speaking with co-panelist, Kim Jeffries, CEO and President of Nestle Waters North America, McDonough showed how working with and through – not against – the world’s most powerful businesses we can move towards the critically important goals of preserving the environment and conserving our finite natural resources. Companies like Herman Miller and DuPont have embraced the zero waste, 100% recyclability concept. They are making these goals fundamental to their operating strategies. The Environmental Defense Fund leads the way by embedding its MBA Climate Corps Fellows in Fortune 500 companies to help uncover energy savings that ultimately reduce the consumption and waste of fossil fuels. This is inspiring stuff!

I am excited for what is to come this year and over the next summer during my internship. The Net Impact Conference has given me what I had hoped for: an expanded knowledge of the issues and opportunities in sustainability and clarity in my vision of how I can make an impact. Now it’s time to get embedded!

–          Ezra Nanes, Smeal Class of 2012

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For a day it was easy to forget that women are a minority in the MBA program and in the workforce. Everywhere I looked I saw women in business professional attire, shaking hands with recruiters and going in and out of the ladies room for a make-up retouch. I, along with other first year classmates, was at the National Women’s MBA Conference held in Stamford, Connecticut.

My day started at 8 a.m. where I met the national officers and talked to fellow members at the National Leadership Conference Breakfast. We spent an hour discussing the goals and initiatives of the organization and the value it has brought to women MBAs. By 9 a.m., it was game time. Armed with a bundle of resumes and everything I have learned – and practiced – in our career search preparation, I was off to cajole, woo and charm my target companies.

After hours of walking around and pitching my story to recruiters, I managed to secure a couple of interviews. While I am yet to land my dream internship, the conference was a great opportunity to hone my interviewing and networking skills and meet fellow MBAs who are as passionate as I am about developing myself as a future captain of industry — who can wear a skirt, heels and make-up.

-Margret E. Ortega

Penn State – Smeal MBA Class of 2010

Last Thursday and Friday, I went down to Orlando with a group of 1st and 2nd year classmates for the annual National Black MBA Association Conference. Generally, I shy away from these events because they seem like meat markets to me but this one was everything but.

This is the first time that I went to a career fair with a definitive plan and I have to thank the Career Services team for staying on top of me and my classmates in that regard. Career Services was also able to bring in some experienced alumni to give us the recruiter perspective of Career Fairs and how to make an impression, which helped me immensely. I went to Orlando with two scheduled interviews at companies of particular interest to me and a list of first and second tear prospective companies for whom I had done varying levels of research.

The trip came with your usual calamities including flying on an extremely small plane, being driven to the wrong hotel (Orlando has three Embassy Suites hotels, make sure you know which one you’re going to), arriving at the hotel at 1am only to find that not all of the rooms where registered, and finally getting into the room at 2am after my roommate only to find one bed, which resulted in a lovely evening of 4 hours spent sleeping on the couch.

The event itself was amazing. I spent most of Thursday interviewing and was only able to visit a few companies (sidebar: a lot of time is spent during lunch and networking with other graduates and event attendees – an extremely valuable part of any successful career fair). Friday was spent attacking the booths of companies from my list. I had a total of 25 companies on the list and only ended up seeing about 9 of them. It is very important to understand the time available – it’s a lot less than you would think. Doors open at 9am and close at 4pm but time spent networking, resting and talking to prospective companies – some who just take your resume and others who pull you aside for mini-interviews – adds up quickly and before you know it, it’s over.

I left the conference with one internship offer, which I’ll probably accept and some really good contacts that I am in the process of following up with. The event was indeed a success and the most valuable thing for me was learning how to develop a plan of attack beforehand, to make the event as effective as possible, something I had failed to do at past events.

–Carl Asher

asher.JPG Before embarking on his graduate studies, Carl served as an Account Executive for a full-service advertising agency in the DC metro area developing advertising and marketing programs for a local condominium developer. Carl is pursuing the Product & Market Development and Strategic Leadership portfolios at Smeal and plans to move into Brand Management upon graduation.