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Boot Camps Give First-Year MBA Students A Leg Up

Boot-Camps-home-page-story-thumbnail-102x83Students considering careers in marketing and finance got a head start on their studies — and a confidence boost prior to fall networking events — from boot camps that offer a crash course designed to build fluency in each discipline. Faculty and industry representatives helped guide students through an intense couple of days on the job.

If the Tepper School’s first-year MBA students come away from this fall’s finance and marketing career fairs with internship offers in hand, they may have their boot camp experiences to thank for their success.

Long a staple of the entrepreneurship track, boot camps were organized for finance- and marketing-minded students at the beginning of the fall mini. The idea was to prepare students not only for career fairs — many of which occur before the curriculum covers these disciplines — but also to help students gain a better perspective on whether they want to pursue those tracks in the long term.

“The process is beneficial for everybody: the student who wants to pursue finance and also those who aren’t quite sure,” says Jacqueline Goslin, associate director of the Career Opportunities Center, who helped coordinate the finance boot camp.

If a student spends two days in August learning that finance isn’t for them, “it gives them an opportunity to step away and refocus their energies on something more in line with their interests,” she explains.

Sponsored by Amazon and M&T Bank, the finance boot camp included sessions with both of those companies as well as presentations by the Tepper School’s finance faculty. Bob Dammon, professor of financial economics and associate dean of education, kicked off the second day of the camp by discussing valuation and various methodologies, “giving our students a 30,000-foot view of what valuation entails,” says Goslin.

Students also learned about corporate finance, asset management, investment banking and sales and trading.

Ishtvan McGee, a Class of 2011 candidate and president of the Graduate Finance Association, credits the faculty’s participation with making the program a success.

“They were able to put together a full day of experiential content that allowed the students to experience an hour or two in the role of a financial services professional in each of the different disciplines,” he says. In addition, the camp “gave the professors an opportunity to bring their expertise to bear on our students a little earlier than they normally would have had the ability to do.”

Already, the camp appears to be paying dividends. In late September, McGee attended the National Black MBA Association’s conference in Los Angeles, where he received “incredibly positive” feedback from recruiters representing Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Barclays, among others.

“Our students showed up, were ready to talk about what they wanted to do and articulate their interest and impress these guys,” McGee says.

Similarly, marketing students got a crash course in resume building, elevator pitches and unexpected places to find a job, says Sophia Tambouratzis, associate director of the Career Opportunities Center.

At the marketing boot camp, which was sponsored by Merck, she stressed the six questions students are most likely to field during a marketing interview and how to craft impressive answers.

“It’s all about what you’re bringing to the company,” says Tambouratzis: “I’m an analytical problem-solver; I work on cross-disciplinary teams; I’m results oriented.”

Elizabeth Hook, a Class of 2011 candidate who helped organize the boot camp, said many students were surprised to learn about marketing jobs in brand and product management.

Marketing “is more than just advertising,” she adds. “In some of these companies, if you want to get to the top, brand management is where you want to be.”

Peter Boatwright, associate professor of marketing, kicked off the camp with an overview before students received a case study based on a Merck product. Baohong Sun, Carnegie Bosch Professor of Marketing, walked the group through the case discussions.

Tambouratzis reports that the camp was so successful that organizers are planning another event.

“We’re going to get companies from other industries, consumer packaged goods and high tech, to come in and talk to us so our students better understand the difference between marketing at a Verizon versus a Campbell’s,” she says. “It’s the same principles; who you work with and how passionate you can be about the product are what’s important.”

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Mark D. Burd

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Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University
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Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213-3890

Tel: 412-268-3486
Fax: 412-268-7824

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