A while back I’d written about SYPartners and their incredible recruiting event that didn’t look like a normal recruiting event. After that particular workshop, I found myself invigorated by the design thinking process, and was the germ of the idea of going into innovation consulting was planted in me. Here was a space that I’d never heard of until our Managing Groups & Teams class, and later, the Innovator. But lo and behold, firms like IDEO, Frog, and Innosight consistently rank amount the Top 100 most coveted employers for MBAs around the country. That said, they also have amongst the fewest slots of regular MBA employers of any industry, and to have an innovation firm actually come to campus, as SY did? Very rare. I knew that if I wanted to actually pursue a job at one of these firms it a) wasn’t going to be easy, and b) wasn’t going to be your typical recruiting process.
I’ve talked a lot about the Design & Innovation Club in the past, but I just wanted to shout them out one more time here, because my friends and classmates involved in the club were the most important guides I had during the recruiting process. They were a wealth of information, a bastion of support and encouragement, and the sounding boards that I needed as I was going through the iterative process of building my portfolio, doing case write ups, and showing off my creative and explorative sides. Additionally, my classmate Chelsea ’14 (now at Innosight) and her team of Garrett ’15 and Laura ’15, ran numerous career workshops and helped to organize a tremendous West Coast Job Trek where over 140 SOMers descended on San Francisco and the Silicon Valley to visit nearly 50 companies in the Bay Area.
I was one of those 140, and I had a helluva time. The companies spanned a huge range of sectors, including consulting, energy, venture capital, social enterprise, philanthropy, and of course, tech, but I was most interested in the 4 design and innovation firms (IDEO, Jump, SYPartners, and Frog Design), as well as several companies with established in-house innovation practices (including Plum Organics – which, as a B-Corp, hits upon my other passion point). And while I was there, I also decided to visit a couple of large tech powerhouses, including one that was just launching a massive, global, post-MBA rotational program. (I won’t spill the beans here, I have friends who are still recruiting with them.)
Each visit was entertaining, valuable, and great networking for me and my classmates. I was right that innovation consulting recruiting was drastically different from standard management consulting recruiting. Each visit had particular workshop-like components as well as tours of the thoroughly energizing workspaces that the firms had created for their teams (or pods, or duos, or triads, whichever version of team they preferred). And we got to see how design thinking was applied to client problems, which were radically different depending on each firm’s philosophy. I was getting increasingly excited about this sector, and started readying my applications as soon as I boarded the plane back to the East Coast. These applications consisted of phone interviews, video interviews, and “case write ups.” That last piece is in quotes because it’s the best way I have to describe how they wanted us to demonstrate our problem-solving process. The guidelines were simultaneously well-defined and terrifyingly broad – kind of like problems facing large companies out in the real world – and we were given 48 hours to complete the assignment and send it back to the firm. I can’t say too much about the assignment without spoiling it for folks who’ll be going through it this year, but I’ll just say it strangely similar to assignments we did in Innovator (and Customer, and Employee), and was one of the most fun ‘interview assignments’ I’ve ever had.
All of this would have been hunky dory except – PLOT TWIST – my friend Rachel ’14 told me that she was also applying to one of the firms, my favorite firm, in fact. That wouldn’t have been a problem if we hadn’t been told by the recruiter that they were planning on hiring 1-2 MBAs in that office from all of the schools they recruited at. We knew that the chances of us both being hired were low, and that we were likely going to be compared to each other throughout the process. So, obviously, I elbowed my friend out of the way, stepped on her neck as she was laying on the ground, spit on our friendship, and I got the job, right? Ha! That is absolutely the antithesis of how we operate at Yale SOM. It’s an incredibly supportive place and Rachel and I spent the entire process offering each other advice, words of encouragement, and doing mock interviews and reviewing each others’ portfolios. We agreed that it was better for just one of us to get the job than for us to both destroy our friendship in the process, and that by helping each other be our best selves, we’d be maximizing the chance that an SOMer would be the one who got in the door. Grow the pie, right?
Well, as it turns out, the firm ended up hiring the both of us, and in fact 3 of the 4 total MBAs they took this year came from SOM! I’m very happy to say that I’ll be starting at SYPartners as a Strategy Intern in the middle of September. Now you’re saying, “Wait just a minute! Strategy Intern? What’s going on here?” Well, SY has a very specific hiring practice, (like many Design & Innovation firms), where they have the candidate try the job out before hiring them full-time. I was specifically attracted to this because it was a way for me to mitigate my own risk of signing with a firm that might not be a good fit for me, (just as I might not be a good fit for them). And the good news is that I’ll be diving right into work, and then have 3 months to really get to know the organization before I decide if it’s the right place for me. A crazy risk to take? Well, maybe. But for someone like me who is making a substantial career change, and looking for a job that will really excite me and give me a lot of creative license without binding me to hardcore commitments, it’s the perfect opportunity. (Edit: See this New York Times trend piece.) It’s amazing to me that one recruiting event at the beginning of the year could lead me to find something that I feel so encouraged by.
I can’t wait to get started!
So, finally, what have I been doing with myself since graduation? Surely I couldn’t have been just bumming around the world, biding my time before a late start date? Well, that was the original plan. However, reality came to me in the form of running out of money very early on in that vacation mindset. I was very lucky to get two part-time jobs in New Haven that I continued after my move to California. One was leveraging my fundraising background to help Solar Youth, an environmental education based in New Haven, develop a fundraising strategy over the next several years. I was introduced to Solar Youth through Jen SOM/FES ’15, who serves on Solar Youth’s board, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience.
The other job was with Rodrigo Canales, who is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and the teacher of the Innovator class in the SOM Core Curriculum. I had the good fortune to TA for Innovator earlier this year, and when Rodrigo told me he was looking for Research Assistants this summer, I jumped at the opportunity. The research was based around understanding the dynamics of entrepreneurial success and failure, and I would be interviewing founders, VCs, and high-level employees all around the country to help gain insight into how firms fail and succeed, and how their captured value gets released into the greater startup ecosystem. It has been an extraordinary project to be a part of, and I know that it will have direct application to the type of work I’ll be doing at SYPartners.
So, that’s it for today. Tomorrow, my last installment will go through my decision to move back to California, and a few words of advice to the Class of 2016. It’ll also be much shorter than this one! I promise.