This episode is part of a special mini-series of “Career Conversations” focused on MBA summer internships. We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.
Snigdha Rao ’21 is an intern at the National Park Service this summer. She discusses what it’s like to work at the organization in their internal consulting group, her (many) hidden talents, and what she looks forward to in her second year as a full-time MBA student, including her involvement in Student Government and Women in Management.
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Transcript provided by rev.com.
Amy Kundrat (00:06):
Welcome to Career Conversations, a podcast from the Yale School of Management. 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. I'm Amy Kundrat, an executive MBA student in the class of 2021.
Emily Kling (00:28):
And I'm Emily Kling, a full-time MBA student also in the class of 2021. Today we continue our special Career Conversations, miniseries focused on MBA summer internships. We're joined by Snigdha Rao, a full-time MBA student in the same class as me, interning at the National Park Service. Snigdha, welcome.
Amy Kundrat (00:46):
Welcome. Can you introduce yourself to our listeners?
Snigdha Rao (00:50):
My name is Snigdha. I am, as you said, a full-time MBA class of 2021. I'm part of the Red Cohort here at Yale SOM, a proud number. And this summer I'm interning at the National Park Service, as you said.
Amy Kundrat (01:06):
Great. And what were you doing before Yale?
Snigdha Rao (01:11):
Before Yale, I was in management consulting for four years and so I focused ... I mainly was in the strategy practice. So we focused on operations, and my focus was primarily in healthcare operations. So I worked with hospitals, healthcare systems and life sciences companies.
Amy Kundrat (01:31):
And you're quite active here at SOM. And congratulations on being elected as Student Government, Vice President. What are you looking forward to in regard to that role?
Snigdha Rao (01:40):
Well, I think honestly, a lot of things have already started this summer, which has been really exciting and it's been a really cool way to slowly get into the role before the school year kicks off. And so obviously there've been a lot of things happening with the COVID-19 pandemic, we're working on a lot of things with Black Lives Matter and addressing anti-racism at SOM.
Snigdha Rao (02:03):
So there's a lot of items we're already working on. And then for this year I'm really excited to just help build a really strong community. I think it's even more important now as we're virtual and hybrid. And so I'm really excited to get to bring the community together and see what we can do in this new environment.
Amy Kundrat (02:24):
And before we jump to your internship, can you maybe share with us some other clubs and affiliations that you're involved with at SOM?
Snigdha Rao (02:31):
Sure. So in Student Government, in addition to being co-Vice President, I'm also the Admissions Chair. So I work pretty closely with the admissions office at SOM, and I help host Welcome Weekend for all of the admitted students and incoming students. So I love doing that, love meeting new people that will be part of our community one day.
Snigdha Rao (02:52):
I'm also part of Women in Management, or WIM as we call it here. I'm the Community Committee Chair. And so my goal or my role is really to help form a community between all of the members of Women in Management, which includes allies as well.
Amy Kundrat (03:09):
Great. And Emily, you shared with me a really interesting titbit about Snigdha which I would love to hear more about.
Emily Kling (03:17):
So not everyone might know this, but Snigdha is an incredible improv ... What is the word, improvisation, improvising person, a person who improvises. And I have done some improv practices with Snigdha, So I'm wondering if you wouldn't mind talking a bit about that. And both in terms of improv in and of itself, but also why it's relevant for business school students or people working in business generally.
Snigdha Rao (03:49):
Yeah, so Emily and I, I feel like we've bonded over improv, because we actually met at this workshop hosted by the Tsai Center for Innovation. And we attended this workshop that was put on by an Yale undergraduate improv troupe. And essentially the workshop [inaudible 00:04:08] to get us all thinking in an innovative way and be creative.
Snigdha Rao (04:12):
And I actually started doing improv about three years ago in Washington DC at the Washington Improv Theater. And I fell in love immediately, it is such a fantastic activity to do when ... Especially as a business school student, Emily, as you mentioned, because one of the key tenets of improv is yes, and. And so it's all about understanding, being empathetic and agreeing with another person and then building on that.
Snigdha Rao (04:39):
And so I think at business school it's really important because we're constantly sharing ideas, discussing, talking about relevant topics in the classroom. And being able to agree to that and build on it, is a really important skill to have as a leader. And then outside of just having discussions, I think it helps build so much confidence, I know it has for me. And just being okay being weird or quirky and just owning your own voice and being confident enough to state it assertively, I think is really, really important. In business school, and then also in the real world. When you're during your presentation and you have to quickly react to some new information, that's exactly what improv teaches you.
Emily Kling (05:24):
Building off of that also, I think it's so to your point about being a leader, it's so much easier to tear something down, to say, "No, but," and it's so much more useful and valuable for any group to build on something. And I feel like improv's so great for developing that, that head space and that skillset. So yeah, we'll do another online improv soon. If anyone wants to join who's listening, they can yes [crosstalk 00:05:52].
Amy Kundrat (05:52):
I do, I do. So apologies in advance for breaking one of the rules of improv, which is asking you many, many open-ended questions. But yeah, let's jump into your internship, which we'd love to hear more about. So where are you interning this summer?
Snigdha Rao (06:08):
So I'm interning at the National Park Service, which is a federal agency part of the Department of Interior of the federal government. And so I'm actually interning as part of a group called the Business Management Group. It's an internal consulting group within the National Park Service. So I did not know this existed. I actually found out about it through an SOM event actually. There was a panel that I attended for a nonprofit and social sector work. And one of the panelists was a Chief of Staff of a state park in Connecticut. And so his entire role was acting as a chief of staff, and he was starting up a park. It was essentially a park startup, which I thought was fascinating.
Snigdha Rao (06:53):
And that's when I caught the bug, the national park bug. I've always loved national parks. I've taken many family trips there and it's been a huge part of my childhood and growing up. And so I was able to find a couple second years who actually did this internship last year, and I talked to them quite a bit about it. And so that's how I got this internship. And my role is essentially consulting for a park. And so I'm actually based in Concord, Massachusetts right now at a park called Minute Man National Historical Park, and it's where the Revolutionary War started in 1776. It's been really fascinating.
Emily Kling (07:31):
That's awesome. You mentioned that you're doing consulting for the National Park Service, and I'm curious how you're finding this role in comparison to doing consulting at Deloitte before coming to business school. What the overlaps are, the differences and how you found it?
Snigdha Rao (07:50):
Yeah, that's a really good question. And that was definitely something that I was considering before I took the internship, because one of my goals in business school was to try something new. And so when I realized that this was a consulting function, I was trying to figure out what am I learning that's new and different than what I've done before.
Snigdha Rao (08:08):
I think something that I've found that differs between the National Parks and more general management consulting, is the problems in the government are just very different. It's not just about finding ways to make a profit or reducing costs. You're also dealing with resource constraints, and you're dealing with the political atmosphere, both internal to the park and also externally, the entire federal government political atmosphere. And you're constantly trying to maneuver different relationships. It's a very relationship-driven organization too. So I think that that aspect of the internship has been really different from, I think, my work in management consulting.
Snigdha Rao (08:52):
We still make slides, so I still have to put stuff on slides. That's definitely always there, but it's just been a really different way to think about problems. And I think it's helped me expand my mind as to what solutions could be, it's not just one track.
Amy Kundrat (09:09):
So what are some of the projects, and what's the role that you've had with the National Park Service this summer?
Snigdha Rao (09:16):
Yeah, so my title is a Business Plan Intern. And so I am essentially an intern for this internal consulting group at the park. So I'm located at Minute Man National Historical Park, like I mentioned, and my project this summer is to help the Minute Man National Historical Park generate new sources of revenue through their leasing program.
Snigdha Rao (09:38):
And so, what that means essentially is that this park has a lot of historical buildings and structures that are super important to the story of the park and telling the story of the Revolutionary War. And so my role is to figure out how can we utilize these essentially vacant buildings and generate money for the park. Whether that's leasing it to a family in Concord, or partnering with the town of Concord and flipping it into an affordable housing unit, or turning it into a agricultural food stand. So that's [inaudible 00:10:11] agriculture and farming is a really important industry in Concord.
Snigdha Rao (10:14):
So thinking through, what are the different ways we can use these empty houses essentially to make sure that the park has enough money to be sustainable in the future. Because the park service isn't necessarily a revenue generating unit. It's very much here to show people the history of the country. And so helping them think through making money has been really interesting, because they don't really think about it that way.
Amy Kundrat (10:41):
So what are some of the pros and cons of having, what I assume is, something of a virtual internship, although you're actually onsite. So is it a little bit of both or?
Snigdha Rao (10:50):
Yeah, it's a little bit of both. So I traveled up here at the beginning of the summer, quarantined for two weeks. And now I'm able to go into the office, which has been really awesome. I think I'm definitely very lucky to be able to be semi in-person. We do keep a social distance, we do wear masks. I think the pros have been, this is the National Park Service, so there's a lot of open land here and trails. And so it's been very easy to keep my distance and take socially distant walks with the superintendent of the park and meet a lot of park staff here.
Snigdha Rao (11:26):
I think the con is, obviously it's not fully in-person, and so that makes it difficult. And as I mentioned before, it's a very relationship-driven organization and that's how you get things done. And so talking over Zoom is obviously not the best way to build a relationship. So we've had to improvise a little bit and find ways to meet people outside of Zoom, whether it's a socially distant walk or chatting on the phone more often than I normally would. So we've had to find ways to get around that a bit.
Amy Kundrat (12:01):
Great. And what's one big takeaway from your internship so far?
Snigdha Rao (12:07):
Well, I think that a lot of MBA students don't necessarily think of a government or a social sector job for their future because of salaries. And that's definitely something that I have also thought about. And so it's been really interesting to see that the Park Service and government agencies need smart business-oriented people to help them succeed, and to help them thrive in this resource constrained environment.
Snigdha Rao (12:39):
So it's been really fascinating to see, there's such a need for people like us. And obviously salary is a huge consideration, but I think it just makes me really happy to see how much value you can provide, even if you have an MBA education. So I think that's been a really huge takeaway. And I'm only in week three of my internship, so hopefully there will be bigger takeaways in the near future.
Amy Kundrat (13:06):
So you anticipated my next question, which is how has business school informed your internship? So conversely, how will your internship inform the rest of your time at SOM?
Snigdha Rao (13:18):
Yeah, I've been thinking about this a lot. I think I have to be a little bit more intentional than I was my first year in how I spent my time and what classes I take. And I think that's pretty normal because the first year is just overwhelming. You have classes and recruiting and you're trying to make friends. And my second year, I really want to take time to be intentional about which classes I'm taking, who I'm spending time with. What are my career goals, what are my longterm career goals and how can I utilize this year that I have left at SOM to make the most of it. And so, I just want to make sure I'm intentional with my time.
Emily Kling (14:00):
I think that you talking about the first year made me want to ask if you could go back and tell your August, 2019 self something that you know now, what might that be?
Snigdha Rao (14:15):
That is a really good question. I think I would say, my August, 2019 self pre-orientation, I would tell her, "It's going to be okay. You're going to make friends and you're going to figure it out."
Emily Kling (14:32):
Totally. Same, except for the last bit about figuring it out, that's any day now.
Snigdha Rao (14:39):
Yeah, I would tell my current [inaudible 00:14:43].
Emily Kling (14:45):
Yeah. I tell my last week self that. How has your summer been outside of the internship? Is there anything that you've been doing that has nothing to do with career that you've really enjoyed, or maybe something that is a little bit tied into that, but outside of the traditional workweek?
Snigdha Rao (15:08):
Yeah. So being in a park has a lot of advantages. Lots of trails, lots of hiking, lots of biking. So that's been really cool. It's also a really small town, so you get to see the same faces this over and over again. And so it's been nice to explore the town and settle into this area.
Snigdha Rao (15:29):
I think I mentioned this before too, but in Student Government, we're doing a lot of work on the backend to deal with the COVID response of the school. We're also focusing a lot on community and inclusion practices and stuff. So I actually meet with the other exec board members quite often. And that's been really interesting, I feel like I've learned a lot of. I've been able to put a lot of the management skills that we've learned in class into practice, even in Student Government and learning how to lead from the backend, if that makes sense.
Amy Kundrat (16:05):
And one question we've been at thinking about is how have our fellow students internship experience has been shaped by the current climate. We're thinking both about COVID-19 as well as Black Lives Matter. Can you speak to that at all?
Snigdha Rao (16:20):
Yeah, I think, obviously it's something that's top of mind to a lot of us right now. Something that I've been more attuned to is the lack of diversity in the outdoor space. And I think I've noticed that, I've been more keenly noticing that in my internship where I just assume public lands are open and available to everyone. And it's just been really interesting to see how few people of color there are in the space. And I think I've been able to notice that a lot more with everything happening.
Snigdha Rao (16:59):
I have appreciated that these discussions happen pretty often and people talk about it and people dress it, which I appreciate. And I just want to make sure that we keep our foot on the pedal, and just because it's happening this summer when we're all in quarantine, doesn't mean we should stop talking about it or stop acting. Yeah, I think I'm looking forward to the fall and making sure that we're continuing to push these thoughts and actions.
Amy Kundrat (17:28):
Great. Now is there anything we didn't ask you that you want to add, anything about your internship or your summer, or even what you're looking forward to about next year?
Emily Kling (17:37):
The answer is yes, and. It's the ...
Snigdha Rao (17:41):
I was just about to say that, I was just about to say, "Yes, and." No, I think I'm really looking forward to next year. I feel like there ... Obviously it's not going to be the same, but I just love this community so much. And I think that everyone has been incredibly resilient and I'm just so excited to see everyone again, even if we're standing six feet apart and wearing masks. I feel like, because we went through this together, especially our class of 2021, we've gone through this together and we're going to graduate together. And I just feel like that's going to bond us for life, in a way that's I think not the same for everyone else.
Emily Kling (18:24):
You've been listening to Creative 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.
Amy Kundrat (18:38):
You can 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 Amy Kundrat.
Emily Kling (18:53):
And I'm Emily Kling.
Amy Kundrat (18:55):
Thanks for listening. And we hope you'll tune in again.
Snigdha Rao ’21
Internship: National Park Service
Hometown: Smithsburg, Maryland
Clubs and affiliations: Student Government (co-vice president and Admissions chair); Women in Management (Community Committee chair)
Favorite Yale SOM Class: State & Society
Favorite New Haven eatery: The Coffee Pedaler for coffee and September in Bangkok for food
Favorite Professor: Mushfiq Mobarak
Favorite Yale SOM community event: Winter Formal