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Real Humans of Facebook: Jenina Soto, Wharton ’17, GMS Business Planning & Operations Associate

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Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook along with a handful of fellow students and roommates while at Harvard College.  Our featured alumna today, Jenina Soto, also spent some time at Harvard (albeit, the Kennedy School of Government) before joining the social media and tech giant.  Before Harvard, Soto earned her MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  Read on for her story about how a dual degree program prepared her for success at Facebook, her main takeaways from her graduate education and more about the recruiting process in this edition of Real Humans: Alumni.

Jenina Soto, Wharton ’17, GMS Business Planning & Operations Associate – SMB Team at Facebook

Jenina Soto, Wharton MBA ’17, GMS Business Planning & Operations Associate – SMB Team

Age: 32
Hometown: Parsippany, NJ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Boston University, Questrom School of Business (Finance and Law)
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Wharton 2017 (Strategic Management and Finance), Harvard Kennedy School 2018 (Management, Leadership and Decision Sciences)
Pre-MBA Work Experience: 5 years, Finance (Goldman Sachs)
Post-MBA Work Experience: 1.5 years, Tech (Facebook)

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I knew that I wanted to have a bigger impact, but I wasn’t quite sure what that path would look like for me. Taking the time off to focus on myself, meet new people, and create unforgettable experiences felt like the right way to invest in myself.

Why Wharton? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Wharton was the perfect mix of work and play for me. I had met many alumni by the time that I decided to apply, including the head of my group at Goldman as well as my former teammate who had mentored me prior to starting her own MBA at Wharton. They exemplified characteristics that I wanted to emulate in my own career, so I had an idea of the type of people that Wharton was both looking for and creating.

It was also important to me that the network be global and extensive, as I was interested in having international experience at some point in my career. Moreover, I was excited about the opportunities to travel with my classmates not only through formal programs such as Wharton Leadership Ventures and the Global Modular Courses, but also informal and casual treks created by classmates from around the world.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
On the technical side, Wharton was investing heavily and building out their data analytics curriculum while I was there. This was crucial in building my toolkit as a core function of my role today is using data analytics to drive strategies across the business. On the people side, I took Professor Milkman’s class, Managerial Decision Making, and Professor Bidwell’s class, Understanding Careers, both of which completely changed my perspective on working with people and self-development. Using influence and having empathy is a key factor in working with sales leadership and global cross-functional teams.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
Because I pursued the dual degree program with HKS, I had two summers to explore different internships. During my first summer, I returned to finance doing healthcare banking at J.P. Morgan, and split my time between the White House Office of Management and Budget and the FinTech startup, United Income, during my second summer. Having these diverse experiences made me realize that I could utilize my skill set across the private and public sectors, but that I wanted to take the time during my last year to focus on finding the right company and the right role when pursuing a full-time career.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I wanted to join a company that was mission-based, global, and aligned with my values. I was also excited to join the company during a period of high scrutiny where I could leverage my understanding of policy and work to improve so I could be part of building the solution.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?

Reach out to as many alumni as possible during the recruiting process. It’s a great way to learn about different career paths and determine whether something will be a fit for you. It’s also much easier to reach out and play the student card while you can.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I almost fell into the trap of pursuing a career that wasn’t right for me at the time because it felt safe. Although I see now that it was necessary for me to experience it to truly appreciate where I am today, I wish that I had the courage from day 1 to do something that scared me.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
During the recruiting process, several companies emphasized the technicals rather than getting to know me as a person and what I could contribute to the company. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time Facebook took to get to me on a personal level to see if I would truly be a fit with the company and its values.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Everyone will have an opinion on the right way to spend your time at business school (academics, social, travel, etc.) so you will actually get inundated with advice. The advice that I wish I had been given is to take the advice that you need and want — it’s YOUR time and YOUR experience.

What’s the best thing about working for your current employer?
While I love the perks (yes, the food is amazing!), I have really enjoyed the access to leadership and their openness on how they are trying to address highly complicated matters.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.