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Inside the Career Treks at McCombs

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An MBA program that spends all of its time and effort only in the classroom is one that may leave its students at a disadvantage. The truth is that it’s the hands-on and out-of-class experiences that often make the biggest impression on MBA students, and that’s exactly why McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin takes its MBA students on career treks every year.

These treks, led by the Texas MBA Career and Management team, take MBAs to various cities and companies around the nation for a unique learning opportunity. During each trek, MBA students learn more in-depth information about their favorite industries and corporations through presentations, Q&A sessions and networking opportunities. And so far, the treks have been a huge success.

McCombs Career Treks

Since the treks began, employment trends at McCombs have shifted. In 2010, only 9 percent of MBA graduates took jobs on the West Coast, a percentage that has since almost doubled. More MBA graduates also are taking jobs at technology companies, and McCombs has adjusted its treks accordingly. For example, recent treks have taken MBA students to the corporate headquarters of Google, Apple, Facebook and PayPal.

To learn more about the career treks and their impact on MBA students at McCombs, we spoke with Stacey Rudnick, director of MBA Career Management.

Clear Admit: Most recently, where have McCombs’ MBAs taken a career trek? Does any location/experience stand out in particular?

Stacey Rudnick: We trek to a lot of different cities every fall with our first-year MBA students between September and January. This fall, we have gone to the following locations:

  • Investment Banking—Houston, New York
  • Asset Management—Austin
  • Marketing—Dallas
  • Consulting—Dallas and Houston
  • Clean Tech—Houston
  • Energy Finance—Houston

This spring, we have treks planned as follows:

  • High Tech—Bay Area
  • High Tech—Seattle
  • Clean Tech—Bay Area
  • High Tech—Austin
  • Real Estate—Various

The treks that stand out most this year are the ones we are planning for the spring. We’re experiencing record-high student interest in high-tech. For example, our treks typically include about 30 people, but we are taking 50 students to Seattle for companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. As for the Bay Area, we’re taking 40 students to visit Intel, Salesforce, Google and Adobe. Plus, we have long waiting lists for both. As always, we will be sending the resume books of all interested students to all companies, but this is by far the strongest interest we have had since we started the treks ten years ago.

CA: What’s the benefit to on-site as compared to on-campus visits?

SR: The on-site visits give a much richer view of the company and the culture, and it allows for more in-person interactions with a broader range and number of people than you can get during a campus information session. The treks enable students to see where they could be working and to get a sense of the city (especially if they have not been there before).

Treks also allow a better side-by-side comparison of companies. Students can see the physical space they will be working in and assess things that can’t be judged from the seat of a campus interview room: “What will the commute look like? Will I work in an office, cubes or open work space? Do employees wear suits, business casual or jeans? How do people interact in the office?”

The visits also give students a chance to see a group of companies in a single city, which may be relevant to their decision-making about the viability of living and working in a new location for the long term.

CA: What makes McCombs’ career services stand out over other programs?

SR: We have an amazing staff-to-student ratio—17 people support the advising, employer relations, marketing events and administration of all career-related activities. In addition, all of our advisors have both master’s degrees and relevant prior work experience that helps to inform their advising.

Also, our career consultants work really closely with our students. They work closely with career clubs, go on the treks with the students and work to get them prepared for their specific industries and functions. We also have a smaller class size in the full-time MBA program (typically 265 per class), which allows the advising team to get to know students individually. Finally, students in the first semester of their first year take a required course that jump-starts MBA-level career prep.

CA: What about career services for entrepreneurs?

SR: We have career consultants who work specifically with our entrepreneurship-focused students across the full spectrum of entrepreneurship career needs. We help students interested in every aspect of entrepreneurship from those who are truly starting their own business, to students who want to join start-ups, those focused on the venture capital space and students who are looking to be in a very innovative or entrepreneurial company that may be larger.

And helping our first-year MBAs interested in entrepreneurship starts at orientation where we hold a broad alumni panel. We also do workshops that cover compensation and hiring in the entrepreneurship space.

There are also several networking events in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Society to connect students to alumni and others in that space. There’s the SXSW alumni networking event and showcase for all the MBA alumni at McCombs that have started their own companies. And the fall Pitch Party where alumni come and are given “fake funds” to invest in the student ideas. We also partner actively with Venture Fellows and local entities like Austin Technology Incubator and 3-Day Startup to create opportunities for our students and graduates.

CA: Is there a career success story for a particular MBA that you can share?

SR: Kara Saltness was a career enhancer looking to leverage her prior work experience in high-tech at Square Root Inc., which makes software for store management. She combined her love of clean technology and marketing in an internship at Google on the Nest Product. From there, she was able to land a full-time position at Nest because of her internship experience.

To learn more about career management opportunities at McCombs, visit the school website.

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