On March 19, MBS students, alumni, faculty, and members of the Industrial Advisory Board joined to mingle, network, dine, and reconnect at the 7th Annual PSM Alumni-Student Mixer, a now-signature event for the MBS program, which will celebrate its milestone 10th anniversary next year.
The highlight of the evening featured a panel presentation given by eight distinguished alumni, working in a variety of fields, who shared how their MBS education helped advance their careers: how it helped them grow personally and professionally, how the degree set them apart from other candidates while interviewing, what MBS lessons and habits they continue to employ regularly, and what program elements have contributed most to their career success.
Prior to introducing the panelists, moderator Narayan Escolin ’15 expressed delight at the MBS program’s ongoing growth, noting that last year’s event drew 150 attendees, while this year’s attendance was closer to 200 guests. “My first event, in 2014, we were in the 7th floor boardroom in the CoRE building,” he said, looking out at the audience. “Can you imagine fitting all of us in there now? I don’t think that would work.”
Escolin then led the panel through a series of questions designed to illustrate the real-world, applied value of the MBS degree. Panelists described how their advanced, blended knowledge of both science and business helped them land new jobs, move within their organizations, or switch fields or divisions altogether.
First, Aleles, Obiora, and Parekh discussed how their MBS program connection led to internships, co-ops, and—for Aleles and Parekh—their current careers at Johnson & Johnson and KPMG, respectively.
Parekh said that her MBS education continues to sustain her success as a consultant: “I work on a lot of different aspects for a life sciences company—I need to be agile and think broadly. That’s exactly the training that the MBS program gave to me.”
For Amy Czuba, the MBS degree led to an unexpected promotion: “I was already working when I started the MBS program,” she says. “I wasn't looking for a job. Then, right before I was about to graduate, one of the in-house recruiters reached out to me.” During the interview with her now-boss and team, “a very brash salesman just came right out and demanded, ‘Do know why we brought you in here today? Because you have this MBS master's degree on your resume and food technologists are a dime a dozen! So that's what made you stand out.’" It was a relief, she said. And an affirmation: “My degree is helping my career in a very positive way.” Panelists also shared advice to current students:
1. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK (Even when you don’t feel like it.)
“Networking has been how I've gotten all of my promotions so far,” says Bongiovanni, who acknowledges that he initially had to push himself to attend events. “Being an introvert, networking was not my favorite thing to do.” But that changed as he progressed through the MBS program and realized networking’s great value.
“It really is the best way to stay apprised of what's going in different industries, what different companies might be doing, and how other people's roles are involved,” he says. “So take advantage of as many networking opportunities as you can.”
2. KNOW HOW TO EXPLAIN THE DEGREE IN YOUR OWN WORDS...QUICKLY
Panelists unanimously agreed about the critical need for students to be able to explain the MBS degree succinctly and interestingly.
“Once you tell people you have an MBS degree, the first question is [often]: ‘what is that?’ Then you have to explain. Just be prepared,” says Czuba.
Because the degree is unique, many employers aren’t familiar with it, or aren’t clear about how an MBS is different from an MBA. The challenge, panelists told students, is for YOU to be able to explain it—quickly, and captivatingly.
“Learn how to explain the degree in your own words, so it sounds natural,” advises Moran. “Explain it in about 90 seconds or less, and it’s an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.”
If you’re having trouble finding the right wording, “read job descriptions for positions in your industry,” says Maharaj. “You’ll see them in a whole new light.” Additionally, “start thinking in terms of ‘what is this degree doing for me?’ And not just what the degree means to you, but what that degree means in your field, in your concentration.”
3. KNOW YOUR WORTH
Panelists reminded students that earning an MBS degree increases their value as an employee or job candidate, and reminded them not to sell themselves short regarding salary:
“When you’re looking for your first job, it might be tempting to take the first offer,” says Obiora. “But do your research—know what your experience is really worth,” she says. Consider your experience combined with your new degree, she says “and then you can have an idea of what the market value is to your skillset.”
“Don’t use your current salary as a basis for the next one,” advises Moran. “Perform due diligence, and know your worth before you go into negotiations.”
4. KNOW THE TOOLS OF YOUR INDUSTRY
“Find out what tools and technology the people in your industry are using, and then practice those tools on your own,” says Obiora. There are some things that you’ll be able to learn on the job, she acknowledges, but there are other things that the company might not have time to teach you.
“If you get that interview and you go in there and nail it—talk the talk and walk the walk—and they need someone who can use Photoshop, and you can’t, then you’re not getting the job.”
5. JOB SATISFACTION: THE IMPORTANCE OF REMAINING ENGAGED
“I was in baby product development for three years,” says Aleles. “I was very comfortable there, and I really enjoyed it, but it got to the point where I wasn't asking any questions anymore. And I was bored. So I made a choice to do something that was not in my wheelhouse.”
Aleles moved to a totally new division in her company. “I had never worked in oral care. But I [decided that] I really want to hone in on my technical skills—especially at a company where it's all about technical efficacy and providing benefits to consumers.’”
“Now,” she says, “I’m asking questions again and learning a lot. I could have stayed somewhere where I knew a lot of things, and where I was comfortable, but [this new position] is helping me grow as a scientist.”
6. REMEMBER: THE MBS CONNECTION ENDURES
Panelists emphasized to students that the MBS connection doesn’t end with graduation—program resources are always available.
“During a current work project, there was a challenge I had never faced before,” says Moran. “It was much more of a people challenge than it was a technical challenge,” he says. “So I reached out to Professor [Kathleen] Cashman—she told me to reach out if I ever needed help, and I did. In very short order, she helped me turn around an awesome [solution] that helped me to set course for the next year.”
“Keep in touch with the program through events like this,” says Moran. “If anybody invites you to a panel discussion in your concentration or asks you to become a mentor, definitely say yes.” There’s the good karma of paying it forward, of course. However, he adds, “you never know when that next network point of contact is going to be there.”