While business school might not seem like the most romantic place on earth, Chicago Booth is full of surprises. Looking back at this week at Booth, I got to participate in two stellar events that turned my Valentine’s week into the most memorable to date.
How time flies! It is the holiday season again. Wondering why last winter in Chicago did not bother me much, I realized that it was this time last year 50 of us embarked an amazing trip to Seattle and the Bay Area – the Booth Tech Trek.
Booth Tech Trek is a student led trip that helps Boothies who are interested in a career in technology explore top tech companies in Seattle and the Bay Area, and to connect with alumni and each other. One of our beloved trek leaders, Vivian, did a great post at the beginning of the year from a trek leader perspective. After going through the summer internship and recruiting, I think it would be interesting to revisit the experience as a participant again and share with you why more and more people are thinking of Booth as an entrepreneurial and tech school.
The Booth experience (no pun intended) is meant to encompass a lot of things in a short amount of time. You can take classes with Nobel winning professors, you liaise, and are potentially hired, by some of the world’s premiere companies, and you travel around the globe to fulfill your ‘experiential’ learning component. But maybe most importantly of all, you build out a tremendous network that stays with you in some capacity for the rest of your life.
Chicago Booth is a major recruiting target for Wall Street investment banks. For most of the recruiting process, banks come to Chicago for networking events, but right after finals, we make a trip to New York to visit them on their turf. This trip is known as “Bank Week”. This year, about 80 first-year students from Chicago Booth’s Investment Banking Group (IBG) made the Bank Week trek to visit potential employers and make a final recruiting push before interviews for investment banking summer internships. The trek is meant not only for those pursuing a career in New York, but also those who are recruiting for Chicago, West Coast, or even global offices of NYC-based firms.
First-year Booth MBA Jason Arican just finished up his trek, and offers a glimpse into his experience with a “day-in-the-life” diary of Bank Week. As Jason shows, recruiting is a tough process for anyone, but the key to Booth students’ success in landing investment banking internships comes from a combination of strong relationships with an active alumni base in banking, a supportive and collaborative environment among the first-years (as well as between the first-year and second-year classes), and great support from Booth’s Career Services.
7:50 a.m.: The alarm on my phone goes off. I have an informational interview with a firm at 9 a.m. and figure that I can eke out a ten minute snooze and still make it on time. The nights during Bank Week are late (with some events that are scheduled by banks and others that… are not), so right now ten minutes seems like an eternity.
8:54 a.m.: After a brisk twelve minute walk, I arrive to the building. All of the banks are in skyscrapers that require you to show ID when you arrive and I am stuck waiting in line at the security desk. I did not budget enough time for this and am starting to sweat knowing that I might be a few minutes late.
9 a.m.: I get off the elevator and turn towards the double glass doors of the office. I immediately see a fellow Booth student waiting on the couches inside, so I know that I’m not late. “Time to go to work,” I think to myself as I get amped for the day. I take a deep breath and casually stroll through the doors with the confidence of someone who was not anxiously gritting his teeth 90 seconds earlier.
9:30 a.m.: The informational interview ends on time. The banker was a nice guy and easy to get along with. We talked about my background, and why I am interested in investment banking and, specifically, their firm. At this point in the process we have been asked the same handful of questions a number of times and had tons of feedback from Career Services, the IBG, and second years, so my answers were polished and succinct. It wasn’t always that way though, and there were plenty of conversations that didn’t go this smoothly. Heck, that could be another blog post entirely.
10:55 a.m.: At the next event, I walk into a large reception hall and make a mad dash to the coffee. I turn to look at the food spread and eye a platter of sandwiches. I am 30 years old, but being on a student budget has regressed my thought process to a 19 year old who can spot a free meal from across a crowded room. But I think back to the trainings we had with Career Services in preparation for recruiting – I don’t want a Managing Director picking me out of an audience as the guy crushing a roast beef sandwich with crumbs on his tie. I compromise and make a mental note to find a chair closest to the food for when it’s time to eat later on.
11 a.m.: The speaker is a Booth alum and big supporter of hiring Booth students. As someone who has had a long career in banking, he is uniquely placed to give thoughts about the current environment and, given the spirited Q&A, I can tell we are all quite interested in his perspective.
12:30 p.m.: As the event winds down, a group of students make plans to leave for the next bank. The banks know that we have a tight schedule, so no one takes it personally when you leave – provided that you do so in a courteous way. Prior to Bank Week, Career Services and the IBG stressed the importance of leaving and arriving in groups – especially if you’re leaving a little too early or getting there a little too late. It’s one thing show up somewhere five minutes late by yourself (easy to just get written off as someone who didn’t plan properly), versus what it means when a group of people are a bit behind (the last event probably ran a little long). As a class, we are eager to collaborate, so we work together to coordinate our arrival and departure times.
1 p.m.: For the next event, the bank sends down the Global Head of Investment Banking – about as senior as you can get for an event like this. We deliver a flurry of questions, ranging from thoughts on expansion in emerging markets to what qualities are important to emphasize as we go through the rest of the recruiting process. He is eager to answer these questions and has really thoughtful input.
|View from the 53rd|
6 p.m.: It is the last open event of the day. The setting for this cocktail event is like no other. We are on the 53rd floor and directly eye-level with the top of the Empire State Building. As the sun sets over this sprawling city, I stop to grab a quick picture and give myself a moment to reflect on just exactly where I am. Recruiting has been an arduous journey, there is no doubt about it. Our days are long and we are expected to always put our best foot forward, executing conversations with excitement, poise, and laser-sharp focus. But what is most important is that we’ve done it together. As a group, we have developed close relationships with each other founded on a culture of teamwork. There are no sharp elbows here because we all know that for any of us to succeed, we need the larger group for support and for the Booth brand to resonate positively.
6:27 p.m.: A server comes around with a plate of tiny crab cakes. I politely decline. PRO TIP: Do not eat the tiny crab cakes. Ever. You will be offered them all the time and, look- I know it’s hard because tiny crab cakes are amazing. But your sole objective is to talk to bankers at these events. Trust me- you do not want to talk to anyone, let alone a person who may want to hire you, with crab meat on your breath.
6:40 p.m.: The tray of tiny crab cakes comes around again. I break down and take one because YOLO.
|Bank Week networking event|
7:30 p.m.: In addition to the open events I attended today, many banks have invite-only receptions which occur each evening. I’m off tonight, so I head back to the hotel to rest up and explore New York a bit!
In retrospect, this was my busiest day of Bank Week. Overall, the entire week was a great experience. In a way, it’s almost like a rite of passage; something that second-year students can regale the first-years with tales of rainy days and anxiety-filled cab rides through New York City to make a meeting with only seconds to spare. Which reminds me… if you come to Booth and make the trip to Bank Week: make sure you bring an umbrella. Whoops.
But more than anything, enjoy yourself. Career Services and the IBG do a great job of helping to ready us, and at no point did I feel unprepared during a conversation or meeting. Bank Week is very much about getting to know potential colleagues and bonding with current classmates. We got to see New York City from a unique perspective and had engaging conversations with really bright people. Sure, the days are long… but ultimately they are quite rewarding and I’m now ready and looking forward to the internship interviews that take place on campus over the next few weeks.
Hongtae Kim worked in investment banking in Hong Kong prior to coming to Booth. He was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and decided to return mainly because he loved the academic atmosphere of the University of Chicago and Booth, and enjoyed the city and the Chicago Bulls. He is concentrating in Marketing, Strategy, and Entrepreneurship at Booth, and will be working at AccuRadio, an internet-radio startup based in Chicago, over the summer.
His story shows that in order to land your ideal internship, it sometimes requires patience, motivation, and a little luck—coupled with leveraging the huge, diverse, and generous Booth alumni network. While Booth alumni are well-represented in finance, consulting, and corporate fields, the independent and entrepreneurial nature of our students and alumni means that you can find us in unexpected places.
Coming to Booth, one of the most common pieces of advice I got was to fully utilize the Booth alumni network. As an international student, I was a bit skeptical of how much I would be able to leverage the alumni network and didn’t know how I was supposed to do it. On top of that, I was looking into a music-related career path which isn’t a “traditional” post-MBA field.
While it sounds like a cliché, the Booth alumni network is everywhere and willing to help you out, and you could encounter alums in some random places. For instance, I met Kurt Hanson, Class of 1980, in San Francisco at the SF Music Tech Summit which is a conference for music tech startups. I had decided to fly to SF to make connections and learn about what’s going on in the industry, but I wasn’t expecting to meet any MBAs, let alone Booth alums. Naturally, when I bumped into Kurt (by accident) at the cocktail networking session, we were both pleasantly surprised to meet someone from Booth at the event. Kurt was invited as a panelist as a veteran in the radio industry and the Founder / CEO of AccuRadio, an internet-radio start-up based in Chicago. We casually talked about Booth, our backgrounds and the conference, and the following week, Kurt invited me to visit his office in Chicago. We continued our discussion on the music tech industry over dinner.
After a couple of meetings, I asked if I could work for his company over the summer as an intern, and he was excited to have me on board. Like most start-up recruiting, there was no formal vetting or interview process. He talked about his company and his views of the industry and I expressed my strong interest in the business. I also identified a couple of areas in which I could help the company as an MBA intern. I will be working in a broad range of projects including revamping the company’s search engine marketing efforts, supporting fund raising efforts, and identifying international business opportunities. While the projects are varied, I am certain that the range of my summer experience will help my transition from banking into technology. I am very excited about the opportunity, as the company sits in the exact field I was pursuing, and I will have the autonomy to define my own projects and apply my classroom studies to my summer internship.
When it comes to networking, especially if you have a narrow target list, I think the most important thing is to be aggressive and seek out different venues, rather than relying solely on the on-campus recruiting process. My decision to fly out to San Francisco to attend a conference that fit my interest was what made the difference for me. I ended up meeting a potential mentor in the music tech industry and a Booth alum who was happy to help me out. Especially as a career switcher, having first-hand interaction with an insider helps you express your interest and make a case for yourself.
I am looking forward to my summer in Chicago, especially after going through four winters in Chicago! More importantly, I am excited to get great experiences and networking during my summer that will help me achieve my career goal of carving a niche position in the evolving music tech industry.