Mena Cammett ’12, a risk manager in the political risk insurance industry, reflects on how she accelerated her career through the Silver Scholars Program, which lets ambitious students start an MBA right after college.
As a graduating college senior, I knew that I wanted to embark on an international career, but I didn’t quite know where to start, and I doubted that I had the hard skills to get very far. The Silver Scholars Program offered me a unique professional springboard and equipped me with the confidence and skills to get started. Now, after spending the last seven years helping investors manage country risk in emerging markets—including three years based in London and two years in Cairo—it’s clear to me that the Silver Scholar Program paved the way for my career.
In 2009 I graduated from college with a degree in international development and a desire to help grow the private sector and facilitate foreign direct investment into emerging markets. I decided that I would help investors navigate challenging geographies, and in doing so create economic growth for the people around the world who needed it most. The only problem was that I didn’t know the first thing about business. While I understood economics and country risk, what was missing was an understanding of what investors cared about and how they made decisions. I realized then that a management education was a prerequisite to getting started in the career I had envisioned. The Silver Scholars Program offered the chance to learn the language and logic of business right out of college, and gave me the tools to pursue rare and competitive opportunities that would typically be beyond the professional reach of a 22-year-old.
In general, SOM provides incredible preparation for an international career, including exposure to a culturally diverse student body, a curriculum that encourages global collaboration across flat teams, attention to behavioral factors impacting decision-making, hard skills in finance and economics, and an emphasis on interdisciplinary problem-solving under increasingly unpredictable financial, macroeconomic, and geopolitical conditions. Furthermore, the SOM community supports diverse ambitions, which is especially important for Silver Scholars, who are often exploring various career paths in order to find their place in the professional world.
In addition to the broader benefits of SOM experience, the Silver Scholars Program gave me specific advantages as I embarked on an international career. While careers can of course vary across sectors, geographies, and functions, over the years I have observed that world-class organizations hiring for internationally oriented roles consistently look for specific criteria when recruiting talent. In my experience, the most valuable of these are an advanced degree, interdisciplinary studies, experience living abroad (including work experience), and foreign language skills (even if the role doesn’t require using them). Whether in finance, consulting, corporate strategy, economic development, or policy, organizations often use these criteria to sift through the array of keen, but relatively inexperienced, candidates for every entry-level position. While a Silver Scholar I developed international experience via the Global Social Enterprise program in Brazil and an internship in Egypt during my year away; incorporated courses in law, economics, and international relations from other Yale departments; and enhanced my language skills through business Arabic classes at Yale, all while obtaining the graduate degree that I would discover was a minimum requirement for even the most entry-level positions I was pursuing. In all of these ways, the Silver Scholars Program accelerated my development and made me a strong candidate for a wide range of opportunities in business and international affairs.
The Silver Scholar program is unconventional, which means that it can take more legwork and creativity to design gap-year opportunities that go beyond the typical MBA summer internship. But for those willing to do the work, I’ve found that it also opens the door to unconventionally advanced and interesting opportunities around the world, in a way that few recent college graduates can even imagine.