Students take whirlwind networking tour through mini-break treks
For the director of the Tepper School’s entrepreneur center, Silicon Valley has become something of a second home as he works to connect MBAs to the companies and venture capitalists in the West Coast high-tech hub.
“One of my strategies when I first came to Carnegie Mellon was to figure out a way to connect our campus to centers of innovation all around the country,” says Art Boni, who holds the John R. Thorne Chair of Entrepreneurship and is the director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship.
During this fall’s mini-break, Boni will be accompanying members of the Tepper School’s Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club for a whirlwind trek that will include six to seven venture capital groups and portfolio groups, as well as networking events with area alumni.
His is not the only group of students trekking in search of possible internships and corporate networking. Other groups of Tepper School MBA students are traveling to Boston, New York, and Austin, Texas, to pursue similar networking missions grouped around the biopharma and finance industries.
The Sunday-through-Tuesday trek to Austin is a first and will involve 19 students from the Business and Technology Club.
“We wanted to look at cities out there that have strong technology centers, and we also wanted to look at cities where we don’t have as close a connection,” says Steve Rakas, Associate Director at the Career Opportunities Center.
Ed Shelton, a second-year MBA who helped coordinate the Austin trek, said criteria for selecting companies included businesses that are seeking MBAs for technical roles, student interest, and strong company or alumni relations.
To prepare for the trip, second-year club members offered to review the resumes of first-year students. They also reviewed which companies are more presentation-based, and which favor a question-and-answer format; and what students should ask and listen for during the visit. The club prepared a trip packet for each participant that discussed the history of each company as well as logistical information on transportation and dining.
“We expect everyone to do their homework beforehand, but this is a nice refresher that people can read on the plane or the day before,” Shelton says.
Participants say they’ll measure the success of their treks not solely in job or internship offers, but in the more esoteric benefits of heightened awareness and better communication between the companies and Carnegie Mellon.
“We’d love to bring back all of these companies to recruit on campus,” says Rakas.
On the West Coast, Dr. Matthew Hawryluk, vice president of the Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club and a second-year MBA student, helped plan the Silicon Valley visit after independently contacting and meeting several of the area’s venture capitalists.
“This trip was a great opportunity for us to leverage these contacts to put together an exciting agenda, meeting with many potential mentors and contacts in the industry,” he says.
Michael Farrell, the club’s president and also a second-year MBA, agrees.
“As MBA students, we are uniquely positioned to connect with venture capitalists who may be out of reach post-graduation,” he notes.
The idea is to “really get our personal impression as to what is the pulse of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley,” says Boni. “It’s basically all about connections. What we’re trying to do is establish a dense net. The challenge will be to keep the connections active. Time goes by, people change, things change, so it’s really a matter of keeping up a constant interaction.”
Hawryluk, who doubles as the vice president of the BioPharma Club, was a research scientist prior to enrolling at the Tepper School. He co-founded a company built around a medical device that he co-invented, and successfully took through the patent and FDA-approval processes. After earning his MBA, he hopes to pursue a career as a venture capitalist.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me to meet and seek advice from established industry leaders,” he says.
Farrell believes there are many nascent ideas among his colleagues that could some to fruition with the help of the knowledge gained on the trip.
“The MBAs at Tepper are extremely intelligent and creative. There are a lot of amazing business ideas that are being talked about within the walls of Posner Hall,” he says. This trek will give the attendees the opportunity to learn how to position themselves for VC jobs, gain contacts in the industry, and focus on the most important aspects of their business idea.”