The first episode in a special mini-series of the Career Conversations podcast focused on MBA summer internships. We’re talking with rising second-year MBA students about their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.
Ann Boyajian ’21, Emily Kling ’21, and Edward Kusell-Zigelman ’21 are summer MBA interns at CariClub, a social impact tech company. They discuss what it's like to work at the startup, the pros and cons of a virtual internship, and their big takeaways from their work at the social impact-focused organization.
Listen to the podcast:
Transcript provided by rev.com.
Emily Kling (00:05):
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. I'm Emily Kling, a full time MBA student in the class of 2021. Each episode of Career Conversations is a candid conversation between a student here at SOM, that's me, and a member of the Yale community who's doing something that I'm curious about, kind of like an informational interview except you get to listen in. Today we are kicking off a special series of Career Conversations where we interview current Yale SOM students during their summer MBA internships. Full disclosure, I work with Ann and Ed.
Edward Kusell-Zigelman (00:40):
It's okay that we're totally improvising, right? Or at least I am totally improvising my answers.
Emily Kling (00:43):
I mean, I'm going to give real answers, but okay.
Emily Kling (00:45):
No, you don't even have to get real, just say [crosstalk 00:00:49].
Okay no, I can make stuff up too. I love that. We can talk about Ann's salsa dancing career.
Emily Kling (00:54):
Would both of you mind just saying your name, what you're doing this summer and where you're doing it?
Ann Boyajian (01:00):
Yeah. Hi, my name is Ann Boyajian, I'm a rising second year MBA student at SOM. And this summer I am a strategy and growth intern at CariClub, which is an early stage social impact tech startup based in New York. But because of the virtual nature of the summer, I am coming to you from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
And my name is Edward Kusell. I'm also a rising second year. I'm working with Ann at Cari Club and I am working in a product management position. So in particular, we're basically doing a redesign of the website this summer.
Emily Kling (01:39):
Awesome. What have you been focusing on at CariClub this summer? What's been the main projects and the main day-to-day activities?
Ann Boyajian (01:48):
Yeah, so I can start. CariClub is I mentioned a social impact tech company. So their core business is partnering with Fortune 500 companies to place high-performing, typically young employees on nonprofit associate boards. So two big things I've been working on this summer, one is helping CariClub with the new initiatives related to COVID primarily partnering with Fortune 500 companies and a couple of others kind of nonprofit players to raise $500 million to support communities. Typically, communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and have a large concentration of essential workers. So been doing a lot of marketing materials and they called our management to help raise that fund. And then also I'm working directly with the CEO on some investor materials, as the company is hoping to raise an additional round of fundraising to hire some more people and build out the platform a little bit more, which I'm sure Ed will speak about, just helping to get investor materials zipped up and ready to go for that next round of fundraising.
Cool. Yeah. So my role is, I'm basically a product manager and a product manager can be a lot of different things at different companies, but for this particular role, they haven't worked on the website and platform about two years. So admittedly there's a lot of bugs and things going wrong with the website that have been a problem for some time. So part of our job is to fix those bugs, but at the same time, we're also rethinking how the website works from a UX standpoint, which means rethinking the designs. And I would say what that really means is it's a job about prioritization. So thinking through, if we're doing a redesign, for example, should we be fixing the bug first or should we just do the redesign, and the bug will be included in that redesign. And part of the reason that piece, I guess, prioritization is so important is because we've contracted the development agency for the next three months and we want to use their time efficiently.
Really. We probably will not get through all the work we want to get through in that time. So we're on a time crunch and you've got a lot of people pulling you in different directions. For example, the CEO is kind of... he really pushes for his vision of what the company wants, but that's not always in line with what we can accomplish in a specific time frame. So it's really the PM's job to kind of sit between the CEO, the user and the development team, and kind of act as a mediator and also make sure that everything is happening in the right order. So I think that kind of gives a hopefully a decent overview of what I'm doing.
Emily Kling (04:51):
No, that was great. Ann, we touched on this a little bit, but I'm curious if both of you could speak to how the current climate has impacted your summer internships, whether that's COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement and whether you feel that in the day-to-day?
Ann Boyajian (05:08):
Yeah. I feel really fortunate to be feeling both the impacts of COVID and Black Lives Matter in my internship, and I feel like at CariClub, we are working on both issues in a very hands-on and impactful way. So definitely feel fortunate that that is one of the things that's at the forefront of my summer experience, specifically the community inclusion fund that I mentioned earlier. Initially the 500 million was meant to go to communities with large concentrations of essential workers. And as the Black Lives Matter movement really came to the forefront in May and June, CariClub and our team kind of took a step back and connected the dots that many of the essential workers in many of the communities that were most greatly affected by COVID, also happened to be communities with a large percentage of Black people living in those areas.
Ann Boyajian (06:12):
So, yeah. It's been really interesting to work with companies that are coming out and budgeting hundreds of millions of dollars to social justice and racial equality and improving systemic, or I guess, ending systemic racism in areas like unemployment and education. So we've been really at the forefront of working with a network of companies that I don't think I can say today because none of them have officially put out press releases yet, but it's been really amazing to work with some big companies on what the vision for the future is for Black and Brown people in America with respect to education, healthcare and employment.
I don't think the... My role is pretty backend and pretty technical. So I don't know that specifically COVID or Black Lives Matter, as important as they are, have really impacted my particular workflow or what I'm doing. I would say that COVID has just impacted my workflow and caused me to reflect a lot on the need for being in person or not. It's been nice to roll out of bed and get to work right away. And I mean, sometimes my days, I think they're going to end up being shorter, but they ended up being longer. So I think that has been the effect of COVID-19, a lot of time to reflect on just kind of human capital and how it's used in companies. But I wouldn't say there's something in particular that's affected my work because it would have been the same whether I was in person or not. And regardless of what happened, because this redesign was kind of on the docket already. So yeah.
Emily Kling (07:51):
Ed, you touched on this a little bit. What have you found to be some of the pros and cons of having a virtual internship?
Sure. Yeah. So I think that I really am enjoying it, to be honest. I think it feels very efficient. I like that I don't have to commute to work. I like that when I can take a break quickly and kind of do what I need around the house, things like that. I think one of the cons has to do with kind of influencing people and definitely they talk about influencing without authority as kind of a really common role for product managers. And I do think that's tougher because I'm used to, in my old work setting, kind of bopping around the office, so to speak, even though I wasn't in an office and building those relationships and I'm sure that's true of a lot of people and that is tougher. So, I feel this kind of like when I flag somebody or try to set up a meeting, it feels like a very formal arrangement, when really I just want to kind of shoot the shit for a couple minutes and maybe gather intel on a very soft level about something I'm trying to move forward on. So that doesn't work as well.
So I suppose the spontaneity of in-person work is not the same. So, I find that to be challenging. But overall I enjoy it. And I think there are certain things that are definitely more efficient and in terms of lifestyle, it can be easier at times. So, but those are my thoughts.
Ann Boyajian (09:20):
Yeah. One just thing to add on the virtual intern front, I completely agree with Ed. I think the informal conversations and networking and hallway conversations that typically happen in a work setting are definitely harder virtually and I'm missing those. But to Ed's point, I think the flexibility of being able to make your own schedule a little bit more, get up a little bit later, take breaks and go outside for a minute has been really refreshing and I've actually enjoyed working virtually more than I thought, and had I not been working virtually, I probably wouldn't have gotten a puppy this summer. But without flexibility, I felt like I had the time to get a puppy. So that's been a really exciting, an amazing perk of being virtual for the summer.
Emily Kling (10:21):
What is one thing that you've learned this summer?
Ann Boyajian (10:26):
Yeah, a big lesson that I think is a recurring theme in my work this summer is the importance of planning ahead of time and having a little bit of forethought. I, admittedly came from a very corporate environment before business school that had plans and plans and plans and was always executing on a plan. And so the environment of working in an early stage startup feels very different. And there's a lot to be said for the exciting kind of entrepreneurial build as you go startup environment. But I think a recurring lesson is a little bit of planning ahead of time would go a long way to just make the operations of the startup and everyone's kind of day to day go a little bit more smoothly.
So yeah, I remembered a couple of things that I think are really valuable and could be valuable too for first years or incoming students, especially, which is, I think it's important to test something that you want to do if you can, or if you don't have a particular exit strategy out of business school. And by that, I mean, let's say, you know you're going into investment banking or consulting or whatever afterwards then the sky's the limit, I suppose, if you already have a job on the back end. Just do whatever you want that you think will be exciting and fun for you. In my case, I came from a background in education and entrepreneurship. So for me it was a pretty strong pivot to basically work in an environment with adults where I'm not the boss. And so I feel very fortunate that I'm able to test product management, which is something I wanted to test out.
And so that can be a really valuable thing. And in that process, to answer the question about what I've learned, I've gone back and forth as a result, like is this something I'd actually want to do? I have less a decision making power than I thought I might, but I also like the fact that you're learning so much on the technical side. And so it's really hard to know that without doing the job. And so I think that probably is the number one thing that I'm getting out of this internship is to really test out a hypothesis about what I like doing. So, that would be one thing.
And then I already kind of mentioned my background as a teacher and even as I was working, I started a small business in Ecuador and that was... I was only working with two or three other people and being in charge is not the same as working in a collaborative environment with adults and kind of having to... your idea isn't always the most important one. So I think that has been a very different experience for me working in this kind of environment and I've learned a lot from that.
Ann Boyajian (13:08):
Totally. I feel like something that I've really learned at CariClub is just more about startup culture. I've never worked at a startup before, and it's definitely an all hands on deck and get ready to do a lot of different things culture, which can be really exciting and also kind of hectic. So, I feel like that was one thing that I got. But I've gotten out of it.
Emily Kling (13:34):
How do you feel business school has informed your internship or conversely, how do you feel your internship is going to inform your second year of business school?
Ann Boyajian (13:45):
So business school has, or our first year of school specifically, the core has been really helpful for the investor side of CariClub that I'm helping out with. So drawing on classes like sourcing and managing funds and investor, which has little background in before business school has been incredibly helpful as I work with the CEO on understanding what you would want to raise money for, how that would be used and kind of getting into the financials of the company and understanding what the operating expenses are and really just digging into those financials. So that's been really helpful. It's something that I wanted to get out of business school, and I feel like I'm getting to flex a little bit more of my financial and investor muscles over the summer.
Ann Boyajian (14:41):
And in terms of my next year, through my internship search and the summer, I've become really interested in entrepreneurship and venture capital and investing. So I'm excited to take more courses on that in the coming year. And I know SOM has a number of really interesting electives, both on venture capital investing and entrepreneurship. So excited to explore that a little bit more. And my just unsolicited advice would be business school is an amazing time to try different things to Ed's point. And I think working at an early stage startup is such a rollercoaster of highs and lows. And I would say to any incoming students, or second years, if you have a little bit of time to try working at an early stage startup. I would say it's a worthwhile opportunity because I think you'll end up flexing muscles that you didn't know you had and getting to try things that you didn't know you're interested in. And sometimes it's chaotic and sometimes it's fun, but I think business school is a perfect time to give that lifestyle and experience a try.
Yeah, I'll totally second what Ann said there, that second part. And I'll answer the second part of the question first, as she kind of touched on it, but I think this internship is heavily going to influence the electives that I take which will be somewhat revolve around technology. I'll probably take those. Those are great and well known coding class at Yale, but there's a lot. There're classes about managing developers in technology. So, I'll probably head in that direction. And so not only will it influence the electives I'm taking, but it will help me be a bit more focused in terms of what I'm learning. And I'll kind of have an understanding of the inside out of what those classes are helping me accomplish. So, and as far as how business school prepared me for the job, I definitely think it was extremely helpful.
I'm working with this precocious 21 year old, who was a business major herself, and I have no business background whatsoever. So, I really think the language and kind of ambition that she has is... I'm able to tap into that more easily because of my year in business school. I'll also say that the second years are a great resource for kind of guiding you in terms of what you want to do and they've already gone through the internship experience. So one conversation I had regarding the internship and how you should go about kind of structuring that, one of the second years, I don't remember the exact words he used, but he kind of said, "The first week or two is to get to know your company, get to know your project and just talk within the company to understand what's going on.
Then you do your project. And then the last week or two, you evangelize," meaning you kind of show off what you did for lack of a better way to say it. And being able to access people like that in your first year is one of the major perks of business school and definitely helped prepare me for my internship.
Emily Kling (17:49):
Great. Ed you referenced this a little bit earlier, but can you speak to Ann's salsa dancing career, please?
Right? Yeah. I mean, so that was just an inside joke because I... Well, you guys know we're all at CariClub, but at one of the meetings, it was the first happy hour or something. And they were going through our resumes and asking us to talk about it. And I don't know if it was a mistake on the part of the HR person or if it was on purpose, but he was basically like, "Ann, can you tell us about your salsa dancing career," or something like that? And Ann totally rolled with it. And then I rolled with it.
Ann Boyajian (18:24):
To be clear, I don't salsa dance.
Yeah. And it, was something on my resume about salsa... like I'm a salsa dancer, whatever, and so I was like, "Wow, this is awesome." And I seriously thought for a good two minutes that Ann was the salsa dancer. And I knew her from school. So I was just like, this is insane. I'm going to have to ask Ann to go salsa dancing sometimes. But anyway, that turned out not to be true.
Ann Boyajian (18:46):
I thought I was being punked so I just improvised and rolled with it. But it turns out the HR person was reading the wrong resumes.
Emily Kling (18:56):
Any other favorite memories or favorite moments from the internship thus far?
You can go, Ann.
Emily Kling (19:05):
How was working with each other?
Ann Boyajian (19:07):
Obviously working with the two of you, but actually in all seriousness, it's been really fun to work with the two of you. I think CariClub is chaotic at times. So having the two of you as kind of a home base to come back to my SOM friends and be like, "Did you think that was also kind of strange," has been just really great. So a lot of bonding was in between the three of us on this shared experience that is sometimes hard to fully articulate to others.
Yeah, I totally second what Ann said. That's huge. I mean, I'm honestly having a lot of fun getting to try to a role that I always wanted to try out. So that's been great. And so I would say it's just kind of in the aggregate, been a lot of fun for me to get down into the weeds of product management.
Emily Kling (20:02):
The last question I have is, what is one thing you're doing this summer that has nothing to do with your internship and how has that been?
Ann Boyajian (20:10):
My husband and I have taken up cycling. So that's been really fun. We both liked to ride bikes, but we live in New York City and our apartment was certainly not large enough for two bicycles. But we're out in Massachusetts for the summer and got bikes. We've been riding a lot. So that's been really, really fun. And then our new furry friend, June, has been taking up a lot of our time and she's just is the sweetest puppy, so we've been getting to know her and that's been really fun as well.
I'm taking advantage of COVID and just bopping around the country a bit and able to visit family. So that's been really nice being able to work from anywhere and been doing a bit more cooking than usual, given the circumstances, so.
Emily Kling (21:03):
You've been listening to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School Of Management. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe to this podcast. You can find Career Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or however you take your podcasts. You could also find the show on our website at som.yale.edu/careerconversations. Career Conversations is produced by SOM. Our producers are Amy Kundrat and Emily Kling. For Career Conversations, I'm Emily Kling. Thanks for listening in and we hope you'll tune in again.
Edward Kusell-Zigelman ’21
Internship: CariClub, Product Management
Hometown: Arroyo Grande, CA
Clubs and affiliations: First Mover Advantage (Dance), Startup Club, Tech Club, Nonprofit Board Fellows, Global Social Enterprise—Kenya
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Investor
Favorite New Haven eatery: Rubamba—Latin American fare. Great arepas!
Favorite Professor: Jidong Zhou (Game Theory)
Favorite Yale SOM community event: Star Search
Ann Boyajian ’21
Internship: CariClub, Strategy and Growth
Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK
Clubs and affiliations: Hockey Club, Women in Management, Startup Club, Tech Club, PE-VC Club, Food/Ag/Bev Club
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Modeling Managerial Decisions
Favorite New Haven eatery: Modern, and specifically the Italian Bomb, for pizza and Olmo for everything else
Favorite Professor: Lorenzo Caliendo
Favorite Yale SOM community event: Garstka Cup—I can’t wait to get back on the ice
Bonus facts: My new puppy, June, is my coworker this summer. She can’t wait to come to New Haven in the fall.
Emily Kling ’21
Internship: CariClub, Strategic Growth Marketing
Hometown: New York, NY
Clubs and affiliations: Media and Entertainment Club; Women in Management; Career Conversations Podcast
Favorite Yale SOM Class: Business Ethics
Favorite New Haven eatery: Modern Apizza / Otaru Sushi
Favorite Yale SOM community event: Garstka Cup