Here’s How I landed a Tech MBA Internship

The Tech Industry is an exciting place to work, and there is no shortage of excitement amongst college and MBA students. This excitement is a double-edged sword, as it also means there is lots of competition for these sought after internships.

During the summer of 2014, I spent my summer working in a Product Marketing MBA Internship at a Tech company, and since then, I have recounted my story to hundreds of other students and young professionals who have sought out my guidance as they have gone through their own journey. I wanted to share my journey of how I went about finding my summer tech internship.

Develop a Hypothesis

The first step in this process is understanding what you want to do, or at least an educated guess of your ideal internship. This is important because when you know what you want, figuring out what steps you need to take to get there is much easier.

While it might be difficult to know for 100% what you want (a good reason to do an internship!) starting with an informed hypothesis enables you to go out and test it. Generally, your hypothesis is grounded in your interests, skillsets, and what the market has a demand for.

My hypothesis was that I wanted an internship in marketing for an established tech company in the Bay Area. This hypothesis was based off past positive experiences working with a handful of these tech companies, my conversations with friends who worked at this companies and who viewed the company and industry positively, and  my past experience working on projects related to marketing.

 

Develop Priorities

It’s also helpful to determine your priorities and what’s most important to you. So, not only determining what’s important, but relative to other things, how important specific characteristics of a job are. For some of you, the brand name of the company will be really important. For others, it will be the geography, the size of the company, or the role/function. Ideally, you’ll want to come up a set of characteristics that are important to you and some kind of hierarchy so that later down the road when you are applying to internships and potentially deciding on whether to take a job you’ll have some sort of rubric to determine how good of fit the role is given what you’re looking for. I’ve written about a priority framework previously and am happy to share mine.

Explore and Learn

Once you’ve developed a hypothesis of what you want to do now is the time to go and test it by going out and gathering data and information to prove or disprove that hypothesis. There are lots of blogs and content out there about what it’s like to go work at a tech company.

Additionally, there are thousands of job postings for almost any role imaginable to learn about the skills and experiences companies look for in applicants. And finally, there are plenty of people out there who already do these jobs who can provide you with a first-hand look at what these jobs are like.

For about a 4-6 week period, I spent my days reading articles on what it’s like to work in tech, scouring through job postings to understand the critical competencies needed for each role. Checking LinkedIn to understand the job and career progression of someone who worked in product marketing at a tech company, and finally, scheduling and conducting conversations with people to learn first hand. I had discovered that my hypothesis was in fact correct, and I was confident in my decision to look for Product Marketing internships.

First day of my Internship!

Cultivate The Network

There’s a lot of reasons why networking and having a good network of contacts is important. In the case of my internship search, talking to existing Product Marketers helped me understand what Product Marketers do, the challenges and opportunities of the job, the potential career progression and development and the successful characteristics and traits of product marketers. They also gave me insight into what it was like to work at their specific company.

This was all helpful to me because it gave me the information I needed to determine if A) I wanted to be a product marketer and B) if I had what it took to be a product marketer and C) if I was interested in working at the company they were at.

The pink elephant in the room is that networking is also important because it helps get your foot in the door at companies you are interested in. If you know someone who can give you a referral for a posting, that is probably something of value to your candidacy, and while referrals are no guarantees they certainly don’t hurt. Additionally, people on the inside of companies you are looking at can also be helpful in that they can sometimes tip you off to jobs or internships that haven’t been posted yet.

Finally, I think the best results from your network happen when your networking is ongoing and proactive. If you are just starting your network when you are about to apply to for an internship. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start (any time is a good time to start) but I’ve found some of my best results from relationships that I’ve had time to develop at least a little. (FYI – Here are some of my networking tips)

 

Target your focus

After you’ve done your research, done your networking and know what you want to do, it’s helpful to design a targeted list of companies where you’d want to end up. This will help you when you’re trying to apply to internships to know where to look for and where to start. While I think it’s important to target, it’s also important to keep an open mind and to also play the numbers game. The focus should always be on the internships and jobs you are most interested in, but having a backup plan is not a bad thing.

 

Leave No Stone Unturned

There are formal ways of finding and applying to internship and job opportunities, either if you are a student (on-campus interview and off-campus interviewing) or if you a professional (LinkedIn, job boards, etc) as well as less formal ones (via friends of friends, through your own networking efforts, etc) but I found a good approach is to evaluate all the options that are available to you.

For me, I as an MBA student I relied on off-campus recruiting efforts and regularly checked the

websites of the companies I was interested in as well as the various job boards. (Pro Tip:Setup alerts on searches for specific roles to get notifications) I also was in contact with a number of friends and colleagues at companies I was interested in, keeping them abreast of my progress and also inquiring from time to time if they had heard of any potential opportunities.

Finally, when it came time to apply for a posting, I would check my targeted companies list to see if I knew of anyone in my network who worked there. In most cases, I knew of at least 1-2 people at all of those companies, and before I applied I would reach out to my contacts to inform them I was applying and to ask for any advice they would have for me.

In most cases, people were very happy to respond to A) give me advice and B) in some cases, even offered to put in referrals. In a number of cases, my contacts even connected me either to the recruiter or the team directly who was hiring. These were valuable as they helped me get through the initial screening of the application process. While it was still on me to do the legwork from there, my network was a huge booster in helping me get my resume read and in front of the right people at companies I was applying to.

 

Prep, Prep, Prep

Submitting an application and getting an interview is great, but you still need to perform in an interview! To make sure I could nail my interviews I did prep work before and after interviews. My prep work consisted of:

  • Reviewing my notes from phone calls of people that worked at that company
  • Researching recent events of the company in the news
  • Reading Glassdoor for comments on the interview process, culture, and general sentiment of the company
  • Reviewing the website to understand their strategy, vision and mission, and learning the “company lingo” so I could make sure I was going to talk in a tone that resonated with their culture
  • Coming up with a list of questions i thought the interviewer would ask me, and then developing answers to those questions and refining my answers through practice
  • Developing a list of questions that I wanted to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview

 

I did this for almost all of the companies I interviewed at, which took a lot of time and effort. However, I also felt like I performed well in the interviews and was very well prepared, so I think it was worth the effort.

Remember your priorities

At some point, you will get an offer (congratulations!) and in some cases, you might have multiple offers! The best opportunity is going to be the one that most closely aligns with your priorities that you set for yourself. Go back to that list of priorities you developed and evaluate the offers against the priorities that you set for yourself. At a basic level, I think it helps to write out on paper perhaps the pros and cons, or benefits and opportunities, and then to evaluate those against what priorities you have for yourself.

Conclusion

As you can see above, here are the results of my journey. When it was all said and done, there were 5 companies I was really really excited about, I got interviews at 4 of them, got final rounds at 2 of them, and ended up with an offer at 1 of them. It was a long journey (started in September, ended in May) but I ultimately was able to find an internship that matched my priorities and interests.

Finding and obtaining an internship or job is a challenging but exciting process. It’s also a great way to learn about yourself, reflect on what you want to do with your life, and understand what your value proposition is to a company. There are a lot of great ways to get an internship and I’m happy to share what worked for me in hopes that it helps you find the right internship for you.

 

Additional Sources:

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My Goals for 2017

Last year, I started writing my “Letter to Shareholders” as a way to hold myself accountable to what I had done and what I had hope to do in my life. In a previous post, I summarized my 2016 and how I progressed against the goals I set for myself. In this next post, I want to articulate my goals for 2017.

Keep going out of the comfort zone

I made strides to push myself and my comfort zone both personally and professionally in 2016. However, there’s more work I need to do in this department. It’s scary and nerve-wracking but is also where the growth and development comes. I need to develop more of a “tick” to go for it when I get into a choice of pushing my comfort zone or not. To do this, I hope to take my risks and stretch myself more, both personally and professionally. I want to tackle some goals (particularly with writing and blogging) that I’ve been pushing aside for fear of failure. I want to when faced with a choice of taking a safe route or a risky one, not be afraid to take the risky one. And I want to speak with confidence and conviction on beliefs even when I might be scared to do so.

Continue to invest in relationships in San Francisco

I live in SF, and one of the things that I need to do more of is to spend time with my friends here and build new relationships with people who also live in SF. This seems like a simple and intuitive thing to do but doesn’t nearly get done as often as I’d like it to given the nature of my travel schedule. Spending time with friends and building relationships gives me energy and joy. Furthermore, now that I have been in the city for long enough that it feels like home it’s time to really starting to take advantage of all the great things the city has to offer and it would be great to do that in the company of others

 

Focus on improving the community I live in

It’s a privilege and truly a blessing to live in a great city like SF. There are definitely days when I get up, go outside and have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I get to live here. Everywhere I have lived I have always invested in the community and I want to find ways to enrich the community here. Doing so is not only important to me to represent the place I live, but it’s consistent with my own vision and values around serving others. There are no shortages of challenges in this city, and I want to put my mind and heart towards working to solve one that benefits others.

 

Inspiring others around me

Over the years, I’ve developed a skill in being able to inspire and motivate others. I’m convinced it’s  why I played Point Guard on the basketball court, served in leadership positions in college, and served as a leader in previous communities. I’ve somehow developed a skill in helping people understand what they are capable of doing and helping them use their talents to achieve a goal or outcome, and I want to put that to use this year and proactively go out of my way to inspire others to achieve either A) achieve their goals or B) use their talents to benefit other people and C) solve problems that make the world better for people and society.

In 2017, there is no shortage of problems or challenges in the United States that need smart people to solve. My hope is I can do a little bit to help those around me not only achieve goals and their potential, but also chip away at some of those worldly problems that need solving.

PS – If you get an email or bombardment of text messages from me acting like your parent or sports coach, apologies in advance  🙂

 

Hone in on Vocation

As a lifelong student of Jesuit Education, I firmly believe in pursuing a vocation and calling, and doing something that brings together your skills, talents, and interests, but that also intersects with the challenges of the world that need help. While these topics have always made sense to me in theory I’ve struggled to make sense of them in the context of my own career. I’ve often struggled with my desire to serve those in need with working a career in Corporate America, and having lots of friends who think like me I know I am not alone.

Now that I’ve worked for a few years and have had time to think and reflect I think I am coming closer to how to translate this belief into practice into my own life. This is an incredible world, but there’s a lot of shit that isn’t right and there are a lot of people who are in need. If you are looking for opportunities why not find one working and serving those in the greatest need? For 2017, I’d like to spend more time thinking about my own vocation and calling and how I can translate more time in my life towards that calling and vocation each and every day. This is going to be a lifelong goal, one that I probably won’t solve this year, but I think this is a great year to start.

So there it is. Let’s see what 2017 has in store!

 

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Thinking and Doing

As career-oriented young professional, I go through periods when I get anxious and nervous about my career. Despite having a good job, stable income, and positive future prospects, my mind races through a series of questions and doubts. These questions tend to keep me up at night, as the thought of not having answers can be stressful. These questions include:

  • Will I become successful in pursuing my goals?
  • Am I actually good at what I do, or did I just get lucky?
  • What if my success runs out?

 

As an analytical and thoughtful person, I tend to mull over this more than I should.

While the mulling over those questions is not always fun, I often come to realizations and insights as a result of thinking through some of those questions. Furthermore, I’ve learned enough about myself to know that I can’t keep things locked inside my head, and during those times I often reach out to others to get their thoughts and perspectives on what I’m thinking about. Generally speaking, I usually feel better about where I am after I go through one of those cycles.

This cycle has ups and downs, but illustrates what I think is an important dichotomy: the balance of thinking and doing.

Thinking means taking the time to reflect and honestly ask yourself tough questions, and to pursue truthfulness and authenticity in finding the answers to those questions. This process helps you become more self-aware, spots trends and reoccurring themes, and helps you make sense of where you are and where you want to go. It can shift you to a course you want to take, and at the very least, reaffirms that you are moving in the right direction. Thinking helps us remove the tunnel vision we often get when we focus too much on doing.

Doing is critical because it takes your thoughts and turns them into tangible actions. It takes the theoretical and turns it into the practical, and gets you to make action-oriented steps towards a particular goal. Doing is also where gain experience, make mistakes, and develop muscle memory, which builds not only our abilities, but also our confidence in those abilities. Doing breaks those times when we get too caught up in our thoughts, and helps us take our ideas about where we want to go and makes them a reality.

Here’s my three-step process for Thinking and Doing:

  • First, you need to practice both thinking and doing. Since most of us are “doing” things every day, start asking yourself honest questions about what you are doing, and make an effort to search for those answers.
  • The second step, once you’ve started to identify when you are thinking, and when you are doing, is to know when it’s appropriate to think, and when it’s time to do. Look for triggers in both aspects – when are you starting to feel anxious or restless after thinking about something? When do you begin to lose sight of the goal you are actually working towards? Finding these triggers or moments will help you understand when you need to hit the pause button and move in the other direction
  • The last step is understanding the right balance of thinking versus doing. Is it 50-50? Is it 60-40? I believe it’s different for everyone, but in general, I do believe that actions speak louder than words, so I tend to err more on the side of doing than thinking. Figuring out what works best for you should be your goal.

Practicing and using the thinking versus doing framework will improve your self-awareness and help you understand the how and why behind what you do every day.

At times, it will be uncomfortable, and it may even take you down a path that you did not envision, but I believe it will help improve your self-awareness, define what it is you really want to be doing, and pursue taking actions that are aligned with what you want. You may even be able to answer those questions that keep you up at night.

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