I have many fond memories of my professors and classes at Whitman, but probably just as many, if not more, of the opportunities that Whitman provided me outside the classroom that were just as important in helping to accelerate my professional development. Some of my fondest experiences include: travelling with Professor Nicholson and the SIFE/Enactus team to Haiti to help an entrepreneur and his family open a bakery; interning for Cathay Pacific Airways in Hong Kong during my semester abroad; and fostering a partnership with Syracuse University and Mission Returns, the bottle and can redemption service owned by the Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse. These non-credit, extra-curricular activities were not listed in a course catalog; they had to be sought out.
Upon graduating, I tried to combine my dual interests of business and anthropology by taking a job in consumer insight strategy at McCann Worldgroup, a global advertising agency network. In fact, my internship in Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific Airways (facilitated partly by the Whitman School) helped me get the job, as I briefly worked with the local McCann office in Hong Kong during my internship. While at McCann, I was offered a job at Strategy&, the global strategy consulting unit of PwC. The opportunity to work for a top consulting firm where I could fully apply all my interests, education and work experiences was an opportunity I could not pass up, and I happily accepted this new job. I have now been at Strategy& for about six months, and I am currently working on a thought leadership project analyzing global innovation with the firm’s partners. I will be leading my first project this fall.
At Strategy&, I leverage my classroom knowledge from my management and finance courses, along with my outside classroom experiences. Whether it is discussing Haitian business corruption with a consultant currently advising MBA students or reapplying a unique analysis learned in a previous internship, the ability to leverage prior experience has been invaluable in offering a unique perspective and solutions (that would never appear in any textbook). It is also the analytical thinking and amalgam of these in and out of classroom experiences along with internship opportunities that have enabled me to put my foot firmly on the ground and hit the ground running.
I’m not sure if I can necessarily offer words of wisdom, but here’s what I think, one year out:
I would encourage students currently unsure of how the classroom translates to the professional world to take the extra step and try to apply what you learn to a living and breathing business (or perhaps start your own). Whether it is through an internship, club or volunteering at a local business, that experience might be just what helps you find or develop that unique capability that distinguishes you from you peers, or just as valuable, you may learn what you are not especially good at and can then redirect your focus to something better suited for your skillset and interests. Just like the informal sector plays a key role in business decision making, out-of-classroom informal experiences will help with the formal roles you will play.