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Fridays from the Frontline: FAQ about MIT Sloan

In a weekly LinkedIn blog, current MIT Sloan MBA student Melinda Salaman fielded some of the most frequently asked questions she’s received about her MBA experience from prospective students.

These questions range from why Salaman decided to go to business school in the first place to her experience with Sloan’s curricular and extracurricular offerings.  The goal was to offer an “insider scoop” to address concerns that many prospective students share and would benefit from hearing more about in more detail.

We’ve compiled the first few entries for this edition of Fridays from the Frontline, and look forward to another post in the near future with her additional insights.

“Why B-School?”​ and Other FAQs about my MBA program (Part 1)

The following piece has been republished in its entirety from its original source, MIT Sloan’s LinkedIn page.

This week, I’ve had the unique pleasure of speaking with prospective students trudging through the seemingly never-ending process of MBA program applications, interviews, acceptances, rejections, and enrollments. It’s an extraordinarily draining process, particularly when you consider that most applicants are also working full-time. With that in mind, I’ve been impressed with the prospective students I’ve spoken to thus far, who seem equal parts excited, nervous, hesitant, and ready for their future business school careers. What’s more, these future MBAs ask some hard-hitting questions, ones that I’m sure others share and would benefit from hearing more about.

With that, I’ve compiled some of the most common and important questions I’ve received about my experience at MIT Sloan School of Management. Each week, I’ll post a new question or two, and I invite you to share my responses with future MBAs who may benefit from some insider-scoop from yours truly.

Question 1: Why did you decide to go to business school?
There were a lot of reasons why I considered an MBA. I was an individual contributor who loved my job and was eventually given the opportunity to hire, onboard, and manage new talent. It was an honor to be so closely involved in others’ career development, and a responsibility I took seriously. It was also an experience that made me appreciate the importance of great team managers, and how much more I had to learn to become one.

I also went to business school with a concrete goal in mind: Learn data analytics as a complementary skillset to my previous, more qualitative research experience (more on that here). I had no illusions of becoming a professional data scientist, but I figured that a career in product marketing, entrepreneurship, and company leadership of any kind required a basic understanding of the magic technical team members achieve daily in their roles.

To be sure, my goal is familiarizing myself with basic analytical techniques has been accomplished. I’ve learned much more programming than I ever could have guessed I would even five years ago; when I have with “real” data scientists and programmers, I actually know what they’re talking about. It’s a beautiful thing.

Whether or not I’ve become a better manager and team leader will be determined soon enough. I can say that in the informal settings where I’ve had to ‘influence without authority’ (class projects or extracurricular clubs), I have tested and modified different leadership techniques and seen positive results. There are very few instances in life where you can experiment and iterate on your style, and I’ve been so grateful to have had that in business school. Perhaps even more valuable, I’ve recognized that the learning doesn’t end here; I’ll continue to evolve my leadership style as I and the setting I work in change in the future.

Next up in the series
Throughout the next few weeks, I plan to share my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about my experience at MIT Sloan. If you have any to add to the list, make note in the comments section below.

  • What surprised you about Sloan?
  • What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed the most?
  • What was the recruiting experience like for you?
  • Looking back, was the MBA worth it?

Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks. If you’re a current MBA or alumni with different advice for prospective students, you should also feel free to offer your perspective in the comments section. My hope is to offer future MBAs a repository of good, honest advice that they can carry with them into their interviews, enrollments, and beyond.

“What Surprised You Most?”​ and Other FAQs about my MBA program (Part 2)

The following piece has been republished in its entirety from its original source, MIT Sloan’s LinkedIn page.

Following up on my last blog post with insight on why I decided to attend business school, there are a few more questions I’ve received from prospective students as of late that seemed worthy of sharing with a larger audience.

Question 2: What surprised you about Sloan?
The people at Sloan have surprised me most. Before enrolling, I didn’t know what to expect of my MBA classmates. Of course, I knew about MIT as an institution. As is the case for many internationally renowned universities, its reputation preceded it. I knew from my earliest interactions that I would be stepping into a serious academic setting where I would learn a lot, be challenged vigorously, and expand the scope of my knowledge. These were 100% correct, and a large part of the reason I chose to attend Sloan over other options.

Ignoring the Stereotypes
But what about the not-so-flattering parts of MIT’s reputation? Did I actually encounter a school full of quantitative, anti-social ‘nerds’? Not so much. I was pleasantly surprised to learn after speaking with current Sloan students and finally enrolling in the MBA program myself that students are much more diverse, dynamic, and kind than the predominant reputation suggests.

Of course, I can’t speak to the qualities of an entire university, MBA program, or even my own graduating class. I’m sure there are plenty of individuals who embody all the qualities that come to mind when you think of “MIT”. But what I can say is that there are many people who embrace and personalize these traits as well: data-driven business “nerds” who care about their work, the world, and the people around them, all without a pocket-protector in sight.

Keeping Good Company
In short, my classmates are awesome. I’ve met hundreds of people across the past two years who have taught me more about sustainability, entrepreneurship, maternal health, income inequality, robotics, entertainment, analytics, racial justice, local government, and many, many more topics than I ever anticipated before arriving in Cambridge. Much like my liberal art college days, I’ve grown as an intellectual and a professional from this broad exposure; I may not ever become an expert in any one of these topics, but am grateful for knowing a class of Sloanies who do.

Time is of the Essence
I tell every prospective student evaluating MBA programs to keep in mind that their business school classmates will be some of the strongest connections they have in their professional networks. Five, ten, and even twenty years down the line, the people you share this MBA journey with will likely be the same people you call when you have a question, need a contact, or want to reunite about the ol’ days. The best test of whether they will pick up that call then is how much of their time they give to you now.

At Sloan, I’ve been so impressed with the number of classmates willing to give up hours of time to explain complex homework, talk about their previous companies, or lend their expertise towards a problem. If you’re considering business schools, run your own ‘test’. Reach out to alumni and current students of programs you’re interested in, and track the response rate. Are they willing to answer your questions? Are they generous with their time?

Next up in the series
Throughout the next few weeks, I plan to share my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about my experience at MIT Sloan. If you have any to add to the list, make note in the comments section below.

  • What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed the most?
  • What is “action learning” all about?
  • What was the recruiting experience like for you?
  • Looking back, was the MBA worth it?

Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks. If you’re a current MBA or alumni with different advice for prospective students, you should also feel free to offer your perspective in the comments section. My hope is to offer future MBAs a repository of good, honest advice that they can carry with them into their interviews, enrollments, and beyond.

“What is Action Learning?”​ and Other FAQs about my MBA program (Part 3)

The following piece has been republished in its entirety from its original source, MIT Sloan’s LinkedIn page.

Each week, I’ll post a new question or two that I often receive about my experience at MIT Sloan School of Management. Following up on my last blog post with insight on what surprised me most about Sloan, there are a few more questions I’ve received from prospective students as of late that seemed worthy of sharing with a larger audience.

Just today, Round II AdMITs were informed about the status of their application to Sloan (if that was you today, congratulations!). In the spirit of admissions season and in anticipation of more questions of interest, I’ll answer a bunch of questions, and hopefully address some of the most popular questions admitted students have when deciding where to attend business school.

Question 3: What are ‘Action Learning’ courses?
Action learning at Sloan is all about putting the pedal to the medal. Said another way, it’s where the rubber meets the road, and you’re expected to walk the talk, turn theory into practice, and step down from the ivory tower. Put simply, “action learning” is what all management development should be: learning by doing. In my opinion, anyone can sit in a classroom and talk about what they would do in a business scenario; it’s easy to speculate what can be done from the comfort of a theoretical discussion. What’s much more difficult (and important), however, is truly putting yourself in the position of a CEO or executive and making tough decisions that have real business implications.

Action Learning classes at Sloan force you to do just that. You’re working with a team of peers to help a real executive at a real company with a real challenge come up with…a real solution. My favorite experience in an Action Learning class was in the famous “G-Lab” course, otherwise known as Global Entrepreneurship Lab. My three (fabulous!) teammates and I were paired with a CEO and Chief of Staff of an e-commerce company in Southeast Asia to help them model, test, and implement a new business model. It was an amazing opportunity to take some of the programming I learned in my analytics classes and bring them into the real world. By the end of our engagement, I walked away with stronger programming, project management, executive communication, and consulting skills. All that, and a three-week adventure in Southeast Asia that I’ll never forget.

Question 4: What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed the most?
Tough question. Like most business school students, I signed up for a bunch of clubs, societies, teams, etc. in my first few weeks of classes. It’s the classic MBA story of wanting to do everything, and realizing you don’t actually have time for it all. Thankfully, this is a widespread phenomenon, and I eventually found equilibrium through prioritization. I reconnected with my purpose for coming to business school, and identified a small handful of clubs I wanted to participate deeply in, and eventually lead. I also got more involved in initiatives across campus, stretching outside my comfort zone to find friends and contacts in departments across MIT who have also been a great source of learning during my time here.

In no special order, here is a snapshot of some of my extracurricular highlights:

  • Acting as co-president of the Black Business Students Association (BBSA) this year alongside two classmates and friends. This opportunity has taught me more about inspirational leadership and mission-building in organizations than I ever anticipated. Check out more on our Instagram handle: @unitedcolorsofsloan.
  • Acting as co-president and social media lead of the Happy Belly Club, a group of students who love food and use meals as a way of getting to know their classmates during small group dinners. I joke (kind of) that my pride and joy at Sloan has been managing the group’s #foodporn Instagram account: @sloanhappybelly.
  • Getting involved in the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship, an MIT-wide center chock-full of resources for established, beginner, and aspiring entrepreneurs. I have gotten involved in the Trust Center later on in my MBA career, and even still it’s been a tremendous asset. The faculty in residence, speaker series, workshops, no-equity funding, templates, and classes are an entrepreneur’s dream. You can learn more about this center at MIT here: http://entrepreneurship.mit.edu.

Next up in the series
Throughout the next few weeks, I plan to share my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about my experience at MIT Sloan. If you have any to add to the list, make note in the comments section below.

  • What was the recruiting experience like for you?
  • Looking back, was the MBA worth it?

Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks. If you’re a current MBA or alumni with different advice for prospective students, you should also feel free to offer your perspective in the comments section. My hope is to offer future MBAs a repository of good, honest advice that they can carry with them into their interviews, enrollments, and beyond.

“What is Recruiting Like?”​ and Other FAQs about my MBA program (Part 4)

The following piece has been republished in its entirety from its original source, MIT Sloan’s LinkedIn page.

Each week, I’ll post a new question or two that I often receive about my experience at MIT Sloan School of Management. Following up on my last blog post with insight on Action Learning and extracurricular activities, there are a few more questions I’ve received from prospective students as of late that seemed worthy of sharing with a larger audience.

Keeping in mind that admitted students are quickly making decisions about their business school enrollments and prospective students are gearing up for a summer of GMAT studying, I’ll talk today about a topic on everyone’s minds: finding post-MBA careers.

Question 5: Were you decided on where you wanted to intern when you entered Sloan?
Yes and no. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I knew pretty clearly coming into Sloan the skills I wanted to develop during my business school years. I also set my sights on finding a product marketing role for my summer internship, given how much of this work I enjoyed at my previous company and where I thought my skills in customer research, product development, sales strategy, and project management would be most useful.

That said, I was open to a wide range of companies and industries, and I found this to be extremely beneficial during my internship search. With an open field of vision, I researched dozens of companies across the country by attending on-campus information sessions, visiting their websites, researching current employees, and submitting applications. It was a lot of work, to be sure, but this process helped me understand what I was looking for in an internship (and ultimately, full-time role), what I didn’t want, and how to articulate both.

My recommendation for incoming business school students is to try to keep an open mind. Not all job titles are created equal; just because you want to be a “product manager” doesn’t mean you can’t explore “customer research”, “product strategy”, or “technical team lead” roles, which may be exactly what you’re looking for. Similarly, not all industries are as different as they may seem as first blush; there are plenty of opportunities to lead, manage, and innovate in a wide range of settings. Don’t close doors before you have a chance to peek inside and see if you might want to walk in, even if just for a summer.

Question 6: What resources did you use at Sloan to help you recruit for summer internships?
Each students’ recruiting journey is different, in part directed by the types of roles and industries they are pursuing, and also partly informed by their personality and methods of gathering information. In my search for product marketing roles in technology companies, I relied on two primary sources of information: (1) the Career Development Office (CDO) and (2) second-year MBA students.

Sloan has great relationships with technology companies across the country and across world; look no further than our most recent 2018-2019 annual employment report to see the sorts of companies coming to campus to recruit for positions. With the world’s leading companies literally at my doorstep, I found the CDO-facilitated information sessions, coffee chats, and resume review sessions extremely helpful in getting the basics down.

Next, I chatted with Sloanies from the year above me who had recently returned from summer internships to give me the details: What was your summer like? Did you get assigned interesting projects? Would you return there for full-time work? So many second-year MBAs made themselves available to me when I was in my first year at Sloan, figuring out the recruiting process (along with pretty much everything else…), and for that I’m enormously grateful. I scheduled hours of coffee chats and interview prep sessions to ensure I knew what I was getting myself into, and never once did a fellow student complain or hesitate to help me. This is why the refrain “Sloanies Helping Sloanies” rings true for me.

Question 7: What is it like recruiting for full-time roles during your second year of business school?
As I said above, each student’s recruiting journey is different. While some students sign full-time offers with the companies they interned for over the summer, others look for different opportunities elsewhere. Depending on the company and the industry, you might be signing a full-time offer before your second year of business school begins, making decisions in the fall, or searching throughout the spring up until graduation. There is no right or wrong answer here, and though everyone feels pressure and stress about it, it all turns out alright.

Next up in the series
Throughout the next few weeks, I plan to share my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about my experience at MIT Sloan. If you have any to add to the list, make note in the comments section below.

  • Why is every MBA I know traveling all the time?
  • Looking back, was the MBA worth it?

Stay tuned for more in the upcoming weeks. If you’re a current MBA or alumni with different advice for prospective students, you should also feel free to offer your perspective in the comments section. My hope is to offer future MBAs a repository of good, honest advice that they can carry with them into their interviews, enrollments, and beyond.

Posted in: Fridays from the Frontline, Weekly Columns

Schools: MIT Sloan

About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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