Carnegie Mellon University

mba treks

May 14, 2019

Tepper MBA Students Trek Across the Country

Tepper School of Business MBA student clubs hosted “treks” to cities across the U.S. during their academic breaks in the fall and winter, bringing Carnegie Mellon University students to network with companies and alumni in major cities. 

“These annual treks can be career-changing for our students,” said Stephen Rakas, Executive Director of the Masters Career Center at the Tepper School. “The MCC team is proud to support our professional student organizations each year to create these opportunities to learn about industries of interest and to build strong, lasting connections within the Tepper alumni community.” 

Students participating in a trek visit both existing partner companies who may already recruit at the Tepper School for MBA interns and graduates, as well as cutting-edge companies that are of high interest to current MBA students. “We connect with companies that are interested in MBAs so that Tepper students have the opportunities to learn more about those companies and understand their culture,” said MBA student Chris Chen, who helped coordinate the Business and Technology Club’s Seattle trek.

Business and Technology Club Treks 

The Business and Technology Club hosts a trek to Silicon Valley in the fall between the two mini-semesters in the MBA course schedule and another during winter break to Seattle, Washington, in addition to smaller treks throughout the academic year. 

With visits to such major companies as Amazon, Boeing, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo, Salesforce, Starbucks, and Tesla, the students have ample opportunities to experience many avenues for a technology career. 

For MBA student Sriram Suresh, a visit with zulily was particularly inspiring. “When we went to zulily, their CEO actually came in and talked with us,” he said. “What was really impressive is that he had taken the time not just to talk to us, but he remembered particular details from our resumes.”

Another key aspect of career treks is the opportunity for students to meet with Tepper School alumni and learn about the industry. Tepper School Dean Robert Dammon moderated a panel in Seattle with Mike Miller (MBA 2011) of Amazon and Pradeep U.N. (MBA 2003) of Microsoft. The alumni offered advice for the recruiting process and shared some personal experiences from their respective technology careers.

Networking events such as this panel provide the additional benefit of learning about Seattle directly from alumni who live in the area. “Going on a trek to Seattle gives us an opportunity to explore an area that some of us may not have been to before,” said MBA student David Baars, who helped to organize the B&T Club trek this year. “Being able to get a sense of what it would be like to live there is really helpful.” 

Graduate Entrepreneurship Club Trek

With a group of graduate and undergraduate students from across the university community, the Graduate Entrepreneurship Club traveled to Silicon Valley to learn more about the startup industry and a career in entrepreneurship, alongside Swartz Fellows and Undergraduate Innovation Scholars. “We get to see alumni who are actually pursuing their ideas and doing amazing things,” said Lisha Prakash, President of the GEC and a Swartz Fellow who was one of the organizers of the Silicon Valley trek. “It gives you perspective on careers that are different from conventional paths.” 

The networking opportunities are key for entrepreneurial students to lay the foundation for their future careers. “It’s always about who you know,” said Dave Mawhinney, Executive Director of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship and Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship. “Even if you’re not looking for a traditional internship, the people you meet on this trek are your future mentors and partners, and can be key connections to funding and other resources.”

The students visited innovative startups like credit provider Deserve, founded by Kalpesh Kapadia (MSIA 1999), and mobile payment provider Citcon, led in part by President and Chief Operating Officer Wei Jiang (MBA 2004). The GEC aimed to focus this year’s trek on companies launched by CMU alumni, including Modsy, Breaker, Bear Flag Robotics, and Red Marlin.

“The alumni we met with were open to talk with us,” Prakash said. “To be able to openly and candidly talk to a founder in such a setting is not possible otherwise. They want to give back, and we want to be able to take all that information and knowledge that they’ve gained over time.” 

In addition to startup companies, students visited investors such as venture capital firms 500 Startups and Bessemer Venture Partners to learn more about securing funding for their own entrepreneurial pursuits. Alumni Ramzi Ramsey (BSBA 2007) and Jeffrey Housenbold (BSIM 1991) of SoftBank spoke to attendees about their experiences on both sides of the relationship — as entrepreneurs and as investors.

Silicon Valley trek participants also enjoyed networking events with area alumni. “They did a fantastic job hosting us at the Los Altos Golf Club,” Prakash said. “We met a lot of CMU alumni who are in the entrepreneurial world. It was wonderful to get that perspective.”

East Coast Treks

Several MBA clubs also went on career treks to major East Coast cities like Boston, Massachusetts; New York City; and Washington, D.C.

The Tepper Consulting Club visited consulting firms and other strategy groups throughout the northeast, including leading strategic consulting firms Bain & Company and McKinsey & Company; advisory and consulting practices Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC; boutique consulting firms Altman Vilandrie & Company and Cornerstone Research; and internal consulting and strategy groups in companies such as Liberty Mutual and Wayfair.

“Participating in the TCC treks was a great opportunity to get to know the unique personalities of the firms and their offices,” said Ceylan Atesoglu, TCC’s Vice President of Programming. “Through the company presentations and panel discussions, small group conversations, and social events, I was able to build valuable relationships with alumni that continue to contribute to my student experience.” The organization helped attendees prepare for the treks by facilitating collaborative research on the participating companies and submitting topics of discussion in advance.

The Healthcare Club visited pharmaceutical and medical device companies in New Jersey and Boston, such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, Philips, and Merck & Co. “The health care industry is really complex, and there are a lot of nuances,” Healthcare Club president Yoni Krupski said. “Being able to go to these companies and see the space they operate in gives you a great perspective of what health care is really like. It gives you more exposure to these companies and allows you to better understand them than any information session or article.” 

The Healthcare Club prepares students for these kinds of treks, as well as for their recruiting interviews, by arming them with broad knowledge of the industry. The club hosts monthly “Brain Food” events, where students are invited to discuss current events and trends. “That tool is what helped me most when I was going to interview with health care companies,” Krupski said. “Being able to discuss current events gives you so much more than just reading an article online by yourself.” 

Concurrent with the Healthcare Club’s travels was a new trek hosted by the Operations and General Management Club. In addition to health care companies, students on this trek visited companies across industries such as technology and manufacturing, including Amazon, Honeywell, Staples, Unicorr, and Wayfair. “Our inaugural trek this year was a great success,” said OGM President Drew Janzen. “Having the opportunity to learn from alumni about how the skills they learned at Tepper benefit them in their careers is fascinating.”

Like many of their fellow student organizations, OGM hosts local treks to companies with a presence in Pittsburgh, such as Emerson, Philips, and Uber. The club also hosts “Lunch and Learn” sessions to help club members and other MBA students learn more about operations functions. “A Tepper alumnus at EQT joined us for a Lunch and Learn to show us his implementation of powerful optimization tools which streamlined the transportation of gases and fluids and translated to millions of dollars of savings per year,” Janzen said.

Graduate Finance Association Fall Trek 

Larry Hu, an officer of the Graduate Finance Association, stresses the importance of learning about the industry in preparation for career treks. While planning for the GFA’s fall break trek, he and his fellow officers did a lot of research on the companies they were visiting. “That process gives us the opportunity to learn about the companies,” he said. “When you get there, you have the opportunity to ask the questions that you weren’t able to find out on our own. You have a better idea about what these folks are talking about and ask questions that enrich not only yours, but everyone else’s experience.”

The GFA hosted visits to investment and merchant banks in Chicago, Illinois, such as BMO Harris Bank and Lazard; to major financial institutions like the U.S. Treasury, MetLife, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York City; and to asset managers in Boston. “Finance by itself is rather broad,” Hu said. “With this weeklong trek, we essentially covered every part. The treks are a great vehicle for first-year students to kick start the finance recruiting process.”