“Net-working capital” story

[I Know…My posts have started sounding increasingly like entries from an intern dairy/journal. This is the last in a series of essays that I’ve had to write as part of my “Holiday homework”…Boy does that term bring back memories….The kind of excuses that I used to give for not completing holiday h/w’s…In fact, I once went so far as to say that “There was a fire at my grandparents house which consumed all my material possessions, including my books and clothes”…Now wait, that did happen, didn’t it ?.…except that the extent of the loss was slightly exaggerated…while there was some damage, all my books were intact (And I heaped a shower of abuses on the blasted fire for sparing em).
How about this….I promise you that if you sit through this one last boring post about “networking” and my internship networking story, I’ll start writing about other general topics, in subsequent posts.]

I realized the importance of networking a little late in the game, and that hurt me in my on campus recruiting efforts. All the same, it was a lesson well learned. Prior to the on-campus recruitment season, I concentrated my networking efforts primarily on companies that recruited on campus (Microsoft, Amazon and a few consulting firms). After the on-campus debacle (That lasted all of 3-4 weeks, at the end of which some of my more fortunate batch mates ended up with more job offers, than the number of interviews that I (and some of my other, less fortunate “international” compatriots) were shortlisted for 😦 ), I had to “cast a wider net” (As they say) and start looking at companies that did not traditionally recruit on campus. The following stories highlight a few positives that came out of these self-directed networking efforts of mine:
a. SVPMA: I casually mentioned to one of my alum-mentors, that I was travelling to the San Francisco Bay Area to spend a few weeks with my family. This gentleman, who was extremely passionate about product management, recommended that I take a dekko (I love the way Wodehouse uses this word….and am always on the lookout for opportunities where I can use it…But then of course we are lesser mortals) at ‘Silicon Valley Product Management Association’ (http://www.svpma.org/), while in the Bay Area. Upon reaching Sunnyvale, I reached out to the VP, Networking, of SVPMA, who invited me to the SVPMA quarterly networking meet (Drinks + food + structured networking). It was a case of Veni, Vidi & IWI (I went, I saw and I Was Impressed). The structured networking event in particular, was a revelation. I decided to become a paid member ($75 a year for students; Benefits include – Access to the SVPMA linked-in network; free entry to the monthly SVPMA meetings ($25 per meeting for non-members) with the following typical agenda: Food + 1 hour of networking + talk on various aspects of Product Management, by expert speakers). I managed to attend three such monthly meetings over the summer.
b. More SVPMA: The expert speaker during one such event happened to be a U-Mich alum (Not Ross though – he was from the Engineering school) – Mr. Brent Lang (COO of Vocera communications). I was amazed by how down to earth he was, despite his amazing achievements (Which included a Gold medal in the 88 Olympics). After the talk, I went up to him (It was a scene reminiscent of after-corporate presentations at the school, when about fifty people in the room, mob the hapless recruiter). The moment I introduced myself and said “I am so and so, MBA student at UoM”, his face lit up and the first words out of his mouth were “Go Blue”. We chatted for 10 minutes. He had some really interesting views on Product Management (A discussion that we continued over the phone, subsequently).
c. The ‘Ross’ brand: My strategy (Notice that the word “strategy” is being used very loosely here…Tactic would be more appropriate) during the SVPMA networking events was this – To write “MICHIGAN” and “MBA” in bold, on my name tag. This not only made it easy for Ross alums (I met a couple of them) to find me (Needless to say, they were surprised to see a Ross MBA at a SV event), but also helped attract attention of some of the other people in the room. Again, the amount of respect that the UM and Ross brands command in the bay area was a revelation (It’s a pity though, that it has not translated into more Hi-tech companies visiting the Ross campus for recruitment). During one such meeting, I ran into a Columbia MBA and serial entrepreneur (Among other things, he started the hugely successful non-profit social network ‘couchsurfing.org’). Before I had a chance to introduce myself, he started the conversation with how much respect he had for Ross MBA’s (One of his super-smart ex-bosses was a Ross alum). I took up his offer to represent his new community for startups, ‘MBAngels’ (A connection platform for the startup ecosystem) as Michigan representative / chapter leader.
d. Ross bay area alum events – The Ross bay area alum association is extremely active, thanks to the efforts of highly enthusiastic board members such as Dan Mclean, John Neeley, Jonathan Charles and a few others. During my Bay area stint, I attended three Ross alum networking events (That my internship was in downtown SF, made it easy for me to pop in and out of these meetings). I received valuable advice from a sizable number of bay area alums, and established relationships (Hopefully long-lasting) with some of them.
e. Internship – Last but not least, my networking efforts also paid off with an internship offer (that I received, through a kind-hearted alum). I crossed seven seas (metaphorically speaking, of course) in moving to the west coast in search of an internship. But fate willed otherwise, and brought me back to good ole AA for the second part of the summer. I had reached out to a senior VP at Thomson Reuters Healthcare & Science, Ann Arbor, earlier during the summer, and he said that he would let me know should something come up; and when it did, he promptly informed me. It was a short (6 week) assignment, with their operations group, and I worked on a costing/pricing exercise. While at Thomson Reuters, I was fortunate to connect with some wonderful people (One particularly touching gesture was made by a senior director of product management – who went out of her way in volunteering to mentor me on various aspects of Product management, during my internship). I also enjoyed connecting with a few other Ross alums at Thomson Reuters, including executive VP’s who generously offered to advise me on career related issues and provide references for positions within Thomson Reuters, should the need arise. Interestingly, I also had an opportunity to work with someone closely related to Seth Godin, one of the biggest names in marketing, today.
In summary, if you are passionate about technology, come fall break/winter break, your mantra should be “Westward ho”. Connect with the Ross Bay area alums, if you are sure about interning in the bay area, think about joining SVPMA. That’s a great way to network with professionals in the technology industry. When I started the process, I had a very materialistic view of networking – Will my connections help me get a job, come April? I don’t know (In a better economy, I am pretty sure they would have). At times like these, (their hands are tied) and it is more important to forge long lasting relationships, without worrying about short term benefits. Also think about what you can contribute to such forums/communities. During the SVPMA networking events, I offered to review resumes, and provide contacts at certain companies to people who were exploring opportunities with those firms.
One last word of advice – Make sure that you not only keep your linked-in profiles up-to date and clean, but also get as many recommendations and endorsements as you can, well in advance. Some companies post jobs on linked-in; they usually shortlist only those applicants who have at least a few recommendations on linked-in.

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~ by jyothiprakash on September 19, 2009.

3 Responses to ““Net-working capital” story”

  1. Let’s have that Angel Network meeting soon.

  2. Give yourself some credit – better to get started later than not at all. Congrats on your efforts.

    I’m off to Ann Arbor in a week or so. I hope all is well with you.

    Best ~ Diane Darling

  3. Thanks Diane. Good to hear from you. Look forward to seeing you in AA.

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