Yale School of Management

‘Career Conversations’ Podcast: Yousef Aly ’22, IDEO Internship

Yousef Aly

Season 3, Episode 24: Yousef Aly ’22

Yousef Aly ’22 is a second-year MBA student at Yale SOM. Prior to joining SOM, he was a management consultant focused on the payments and fintech space. This past summer he was a Business Design intern at IDEO in their San Francisco office. This episode is part of a special mini-series of “Career Conversations” focused on MBA summer internships where we ask rising second-year MBA students to check in from their experiences, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM. He is interviewed by Amy Kundrat ’21.

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Transcript

Yousef Aly:
My name is Yousef Aly. I am a second-year at SOM who interned at IDEO as a business design intern or last summer.

Amy Kundrat:
Thank you so much for being here with me today. Excited to get to know you a little bit better and learn more about your internship at IDEO. Before we do that, can you tell me a little bit about you? Where were you before SOM and what brought you to SOM?

Yousef Aly:
Yeah, absolutely. So I was based in New York as a management consultant at Deloitte consulting where I, you know, focused on product strategy, experiential strategy for a lot of financial services clients. I went to som because I sort of needed a business school that obviously had a large emphasis on society that was really important to me. And so looking at the different business school options that I had, it felt like it was really the place to be in terms of finding a place that was both really relevant to me in terms of wanting to learn more about management and business but also intersecting with how I thought about the world as a, as a whole. And so that was pretty critical. And luckily, I think I found that. And so also location-wise being in the Northeast was, was important to me as well.

Amy Kundrat:
You were in management consultant before SOM. Did you come here to sort of accelerate your career within management consulting or were you looking at a pivot?

Yousef Aly:
I think being within the business school sort of environment was really important to me, both to accelerate my career and also to get different experiences, to sort of fill out what could be my career and sort of answer any lingering questions that I had about what direction I wanted to take it in the future. And so pivoting was potentially an option, but I think really for me, it was a learning experience, both in the classroom and outside of it in terms of what I wanted my career to look like in five, 10 and beyond years,

Amy Kundrat:
I love to hear more about your in the classroom experience in year one. What was the first year like for you? Can you share some of your highlights?

Yousef Aly:
Sure. I absolutely love the core. First of all, I think that was like a really surprising thing that I felt like I really enjoyed each and every course, obviously some more than others. For example, I'm really not great at accounting. And so that was a little bit challenging, but things like State in Society, which I'll be teaching for in the fall, if any first years are listening to watch out for me was, was an awesome class. Things that, again, like I mentioned, I love thinking about how the world outside of business intersects with what we're doing on a daily basis. And so I think, I think that was really great. I also really loved classes like competitor and customer, and that was ultimately super important to me. And then in terms of the whole SOM experience, being in New Haven, surrounded by my peers was, was really great even given the sort of COVID restrictions that we had. We still have hybrid classes, which was really important to me and the ability to participate in clubs and other activities on campus was critical. I think as well,

Amy Kundrat:
Did you participate in any clubs? Are you a club leader this year perchance?

Yousef Aly:
Huge club guy. I'm the president of the FinTech club this year and was a first-year leader last year. And I also participated in things like tech club in terms of like recruiting, learning, how that was going, learning how to case for product management positions, as well as design and innovation. I participated in some of their events as well.

Amy Kundrat:
So design and innovation, that's a great pivot to why we're here today, right? It's to talk about your internship experience. So where are you this summer and what was your role?

Yousef Aly:
Sure. So I was at IDEO, which is a design consultancy based in San Francisco. I was technically in the San Francisco office, but I was living in New York for the summer and I was working on some really interesting design and innovation problems for clients that, you know, come to IDEO because they, they want really creative solutions to their problems.

Amy Kundrat:
IDEO...when we think, I think a lot of us who think of IDEO, we think of human-centered design. So tell me a little bit about the type of work that you did and maybe actually what drew you to IDEO in the first place. I would imagine you had maybe a few options for internships, why IDEO?

Yousef Aly:
Sure. So I think to answer the why IDEO question, I really wanted an experience this summer that I knew would be foundational for that learning that I mentioned earlier. I wanted to leave this summer having a different perspective than I'd had before. And I couldn't really think of a better option than a place like IDEO, which takes such a fundamentally different approach to consulting than any other firm I could really think of. And so I think that was really critical for me to be able to understand what was important, not just to me, but how you can approach different problems in various ways. I think that when it comes to how we approach problems, as you know, a project team at IDEO, every design sprint started off with human and interviews. We obviously did quantitative research. We did a ton of, you know, what we call desk research, but there's so much that comes from interviews from having those one-on-one conversations with people that really takes your research to the next level and creates that human-centered approach that clients really want. And the reason why they want that is because it creates a layer of empathy within your design, within your strategy that is really hard to find otherwise. And when you're thinking about brand and strategy and taking a company to a new direction, having that sort of customer lens that is embedded with that empathy, like I mentioned, is critical. And I think that without doing that, you're really not taking the most advantage of, I think, what a strategic pivot can look like.

Amy Kundrat:
I realized perhaps you might not be able to speak specifically about clients, but can you share an example of an interview or a really insightful piece of learning that you gleaned from one of your stakeholder interviews that sparked some insight for your project?

Yousef Aly:
Absolutely. I'm happy to do that. And so actually we were working on a project for a home sales website. I think that's probably as much as I can say about the client in our interviews, we were really interviewing people who were both investors and homeowners, you know, running the gambit of people who would buy a home or people who would live in a home. Even there were people who are just simply renters or other types of home living situations. And one thing that I found really interesting was that when we were going through those conversations, the safety net or the social network of a person outside of themselves really influences how you can approach the property or the home buying experience. So for example, knowing a realtor versus having no connections, knowing a contractor or a lawyer can really change your perspective on home buying pretty fundamentally.

Yousef Aly:
And so I think one thing that I learned in that process was there's so much that a digital product can offer people in terms of knowledge and information, but ultimately what really drives people to certain directions, whether it's investing or career or other things, is it's really a lot based on who you're surrounded with and why you're surrounded with those people. A lot of times we use technology as sort of a replacement for that team, having that team around you. So for example, I might not know a contractor, and so I go on Angie's list, but even if someone's on Angie's list and they have really good ratings, I might not feel comfortable with them. And so learning about how you can create sort of multi-sided trust and empathy and real connection in these like really matrix and super important processes within a really big decision, like buying a home is a really interesting challenge. And so I really enjoyed that and it was a really difficult but valuable lesson.

Amy Kundrat:
And were there any classes or, or cases or projects that you worked on or even club activities that helped you with some of the challenges that you may have experienced that idea of the summer

Yousef Aly:
During the competitor course in the core, we learn a lot about coopetition as a concept, right? So people in a similar industry who are namely like supposed to be competitors, right, but they may have similar goals when it comes to for example, legislation or growing the total market of a product. And I noticed that during this process, understanding the real estate market, there's a whole lot of coopetition that's that's going on, or that could be possible. And so I think that lesson was huge for me when it came to actually like working on the internship project.

Amy Kundrat:
So for first year students, or perhaps other MBA students, not from SOM who may be listening that are interested in IDEO, maybe want to intern there, maybe want to work there one day. Any words of advice for maybe the type of candidates that they're looking for, the type of work that you might get to do?

Yousef Aly:
For sure. So I would say that for MBA students specifically, they are looking mostly for business designers. So the role that I was feeling, which is similar to a strategist in the sense that you're using design concepts, ultimately to create constraints and strategy that will feed the rest of your team, which is usually filled with other types of designers, interaction, designers, software designers, things of that nature. And so working in that really multi-faceted and multidisciplinary team is where I think a lot of MBA leadership can come in. And so I think some of the key traits I would say IDEO is looking for in terms of candidates for internships is having really solid business fundamentals. Because a lot of times you are the voice of quote unquote business during that sort of internship or during that, in that role. Second of all, I would say like having that sort of client readiness and ability to interact with clients as always in, in really any designer consultancy type of discipline, your, your need to be in front of clients. And then third, I would say having that willingness and desire to be a leader and also do it in a way that's collaborative, as opposed to being sort of the one posting guard rails. It's really about yes-anding.

Amy Kundrat:
Comedic improv, right?

Yousef Aly:
Yeah. A ton of that. You, you need to be able to build on each other's ideas rather than shut each other down as a team. I think that's really critical. So I would say in terms of that really, really important, I'm not sure if you were curious about the timeline, but I know that they usually recruit in early January to mid-January for interns. So always keep an eye out for that. And as someone who is interested in applying for an internship or thinking about business models, or thinking about pricing structures, or thinking about how clients, a period of customers and how you can think about that as a consultant to a client that will have potentially millions of customers at a given time,

Amy Kundrat:
Maybe stepping back even a bit further thinking about your internship and are there any takeaways from design thinking, IDEO's culture, the clients and projects you worked on that you will take with you as you go forward into your second year and beyond? I know I wonder if we still do the IDEO case in the Innovator course, I know we, we really dug it. They do, we really dug into that right during, during that, that class. And so I'm just like rapid prototyping, human-centered design. Are there other, any kind of fundamental concepts that you're excited to take back with you after IDEO?

Yousef Aly:
So humans in general have this tendency where they think early on that they know the answer and they seek to confirm that it's like confirmation bias and all that stuff. And one thing that I was like pushed hard on while I was at IDEO this summer was to let go of feeling like I'm right from the beginning, whether I have this preconceived notion or whether early on in our research, we feel like we have this, this strategy that we think will work letting go of feeling like this is it. And we should focus and double down on this idea. And that's been a really awesome sort of learning for me, keeping ideas and minds open until later on in the process, it really allows you to take another look at what might be possible when you otherwise might just close off and create higher fidelity of that initial idea.

Yousef Aly:
And I think that's really valuable and it's something that I think I'll take with me forever. And I think just as like an example, it feels like a lot of times in our life, or when you're working on a project or a really hard problem, it might feel like there may only be two options for whatever reason. I think that's a normal thing to feel. And then I think one thing that I learned at IDEO is that you can always shift that paradigm as long as there's like a will or an efforts, I think outside the metaphorical box. And I think it's really possible. And I, I feel like learning about human-centered design, learning about that type of innovation and prototyping enables you to open your mind to those kinds of thoughts and processes.

Amy Kundrat:
Wonderful how valuable to kind of deepen the learning you already had at SLM and then take it back with you. That's great. Thank you. And I guess, you know, now that you're, you're squarely in year two and I'm sure already looking ahead to commencement, what are some things that you're looking forward to most in year two?

Yousef Aly:
So not looking forward to commencement, I'm really enjoying year two. I think that given sort of the public health situation and the fact that we're now able to be in Evans hall every day. I, at least my personal morale has skyrocketed. I'm the kind of person who I, I feel so much energy being in person with people. And so it's been really great to sit in the courtyard, eating lunch with my friends, sort of getting some sun and, and being able to walk around Evans hall. And that's really been an incredible experience. Yeah. I feel so much pride at being at som now, given that it feels like, like, I feel like I'm in school rather than I attend school, you know, just for class and whatnot. And so I think that's been key. I'm also really excited about what we're doing for the FinTech club as the president, we're working on some really cool things. The FinTech club has birthed the cryptocurrency club that will hopefully be launched soon. And so there's, there's a lot of really excellent things going on. I've been really involved in entrepreneurship at som as well and hope to kick start some new conversations around some ideas that I'd like to explore as well. So very excited about that.

Amy Kundrat:
Great. That actually segues nicely into my kind of final question, which is, is there anything that you're working on that has really nothing to do with recruiting and really nothing to do with som in that you mentioned entrepreneurship. So I'm curious about anything you want to share or anything that you're excited to work on in your quote-unquote free time and your second year?

Yousef Aly:
No, absolutely. So last year I was working with Ruthie Chen who was also a second-year on a concept called village that we put on pause just for now, given our busy schedules, which was centered around a circular lending of money and how that can potentially help unbanked and underbanked populations in the U S. And so we hope to pick that back up in the future, but it was really an exciting concept right now. I'm sort of enamored with the idea of urban farming. And I'm looking to connect with people to think about ways in which that can be sort of proliferated and potentially help address things like food deserts, as well as climate change, given the way that our food system works, it's fundamentally broken and I'm excited about learning about ways in which it can be addressed. So that's been really important, but I've also just been reading a ton this year, which has been really great, a lot of Spotify, which has been cool. And so, you know, it's been, it's been nice to be able to get away and think about projects that could be outside the realm of business altogether, whether maybe it's creating stories of my own. So we'll see how that goes.

Amy Kundrat:
Cool. Is there now, is there anything I didn't ask you that you were just dying to answer dying to be asked

Yousef Aly:
Amy? You didn't ask me what my favorite place to eat around campuses.

Amy Kundrat:
Okay. What is your favorite place to eat around campus or on campus?

Yousef Aly:
Obviously? No lo but also Charlie's place, but NOLA has this fantastic gluten-free pizza for all my fellow gluten intolerant people. So big shout out to them for always treating me well, when I go and ask for a million modifications to a pizza, but also fantastic for just like chilling outside, given like the lighting and stuff, quite romantic. Super, super nice to sit out there.

Amy Kundrat:
Have to check it out. Awesome.

Yousef Aly:
Yeah, for sure.

Amy Kundrat:
Great. Well, this is so much fun to talk with you and connect. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. See you on campus soon. 

About Career Conversations

In this podcast series, SOM students sit down with alumni for a series of candid conversations about career paths, industries, opportunities for MBAs, and discussions on various career topics including work-life balance and creating a meaningful impact in business and society. This series is produced by and recorded at the Yale School of Management.

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