Recent NYU Stern School of Business graduate Carla Giugale, 26, was younger than many of her business school classmates and came from a nontraditional background to boot. An art history major in college, her work experience prior to Stern consisted of two years teaching fourth graders at an elementary school in Brooklyn, NY, as part of Teach for America. But rather than let those be barriers to landing a coveted job at a top consulting firm upon graduation, she took advantage of the opportunities Stern and her New York City location presented to augment her business school education with additional work experience that would make her competitive in the eyes of potential employers. Her strategy paid off with a full-time position at consulting giant Bain & Company.
“I was on the younger side and coming from a non-traditional background, so I knew I wanted to intern at companies while getting my MBA in order to accumulate more work experience,” she says. Stern’s location would let her do this while also providing optimal access for recruiting, networking and interning—all critical factors in her process of deciding which school to attend.
Ultimately, she was able to hold a different internship every semester while in school, which she views as invaluable. “I came in with a good idea that consulting would be a really great next step because it provides a continuous learning opportunity for me in the corporate space,” Giugale says. When she arrived at Stern, she heard about InSITE, an association of graduate students all around New York City who work on consulting projects with area companies, and immediately got involved. She spent her first two semesters working at startups, first a retail-based venture looking to implement a brick-and-mortar presence, and next an arts tech startup. In her third semester she interned at food delivery service Plated.com, and in her fourth, she tried her hand at a venture capital fund.
Meanwhile, her traditional summer internship—between her first and second years at Stern—was at Bain. The support of Stern’s Office of Career Development was instrumental in helping her land it—and her performance on the job, combined with expertise she developed through a range of Stern courses—enabled her to convert it into a full-time offer.
Getting the Lingo Right, Prepping (and Prepping) for Interviews, Connecting with Alumni
Career services helped her on three major fronts—translating her resume into language that would resonate in the field of consulting, preparing for the interview process and facilitating connections with Stern’s alumni network. “Coming in, I felt like there were a lot of skills I acquired teaching that would be applicable to consulting, but they were hard for me to describe,” she says. “To get that idea across that I could add value to a consulting firm, I needed to be able to speak in their terms, and Career Services really coached me in how to do that.”
As someone who feels much more comfortable with things when she’s had a ton of practice, Giugale knew she wanted to go into interviews for consulting internships feeling really calm, she says. So she took advantage of the mock interview opportunities offered through the career development office. “You can also do mocks with the MBA2s [second-year students] and your classmates, but I didn’t want to task them too much because they are going through the same thing,” she says. So the extra resources provided by Career Services allowed her adequate prep time to feel at ease for the real thing without feeling like she was asking too much of her peers.
Last but not least, the Office of Career Development helped provide valuable connections to alumni in the field of consulting. One alumnus, a consultant at Deloitte, became a particularly involved mentor, she says. “He spent countless hours with me in his office and on the phone answering my questions, going over my resume and helping me prepare.”
Specific Courses and Professors Provide Valuable Insights
As for preparing her for the actual work she would do at Bain, both as an intern and in her current full-time position, a few Stern courses were key. One of her favorite classes turned out to be an investment banking course with Professor Charles Murphy, which provided, among other things, her introduction to private equity (PE), “As a fourth-grade teacher going into business school, this is the last class I thought I would take,” she recalls. And yet it ended up proving one of the most valuable, she says. She remembers emailing Murphy to ask whether he thought an art history major would have any shot at getting into the PE group at Bain. She did, and what she learned in class paid off. “Had I not taken that class, I wouldn’t know who our client was and what their incentives were and what pieces of analysis would be most important in terms of making an investment decision,” she says. “That was really invaluable.”
Another course, this one on valuation taught by Professor Aswath Damodaran, was also incredibly influential, Giugale says. “Professor Damodaran helped me understand that there are number crunchers and there are storytellers, and when you are doing a valuation or looking at a company, both are extremely important,” she says. Storytellers help lay out the market, and number crunchers help adjust the valuation. “This insight was especially useful to me because one of the things I was nervous about coming into Bain was that I didn’t have all the Excel experience that some of my classmates had,” she says. “Instead, I would look at the data and try to figure out where the story was behind it and make those numbers come alive—that’s where I was able to shine and show the value I could bring to a project.”
All told, there’s not much Giugale would change about her process, especially given its ultimate success. “I often get the question from younger people applying to business school on whether I wish I’d waited a few years more,” she says. “I think that in my case I was confident I could acquire that added professional experience while in business school, and I knew where I wanted to go—so I was able to prioritize the activities I wanted to take part in,” she says. “There is so much you can do at business school, so if you don’t have that picture clear in your head, then it’s probably not the time to go to because not only will you be overwhelmed, but you might not be happy with the outcome.”