As this generation faces a climate crisis, Najma Yakob is on the offensive, helping tech giant Apple in their mission to become carbon neutral by 2030. In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Najma, NYU Stern MBA ’21, talks about how the NYU Stern MBA program empowered her transition to tech, the community she found in business school and more about becoming an environmental program manager at Apple.
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Brown University — Economics and Sociology
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: NYU Stern, Class of 2021
Specializations: Strategy, Sustainable Business and Innovation
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Five years in Technology and Consulting
Post-MBA Work Experience: Post-business school, I joined Apple. I am working on Apple’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. In this role, I work directly with our supply chain partners as well as internal and external stakeholders to lower Apple’s carbon footprint. I also lead strategic initiatives to drive decarbonization across Apple.
Why did you choose to attend business school?
I decided to apply to business school because I knew I wanted to work in a role that combined my interest in sustainability with my desire to work in the tech industry. After a few years in consulting, I missed the flexibility and fast-paced energy of the tech industry. So, I decided to attend business school to help me transition industries and find my dream role.
Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I was living in New York City at the time, so I was able to attend a few NYU events, and I was impressed by the openness and generosity of the current students I interacted with at admissions events. Due to NYU’s location, I also knew that I would have a lot of opportunities to pursue different interests as well as be able to take advantage of the proximity to many of the biggest companies in the world.
What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
At Stern, I was able to stretch myself and practice the skills I knew I would need to master to succeed in my post-MBA role. As co-president of Stern Women in Business — the largest club at Stern — I was able to develop my leadership and communication skills to ensure the success of the club while transitioning to a virtual environment. I was also able to take advantage of special opportunities, such as the Leadership Fellows program and various student activities, like being an Orientation Leader and an Admissions Graduate Ambassador.
What was your internship during the Stern MBA program? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned at Apple for my summer internship, and I enjoyed my time so much that I extended my internship part-time through the second year of my MBA. I knew almost immediately that I would be returning even though it meant I would need to relocate to San Francisco. During my internship, I was given direct ownership over some of my team’s most high-visibility initiatives. Although this was daunting at the time, I received deep support from my direct team and ample opportunities for mentorship and career development throughout my internship.
Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I chose to return to Apple because I thoroughly enjoyed the individuals I worked with during my internship. A major factor for me in choosing where I would work was ensuring that the team would have a great culture. At Apple, I get to work with brilliant individuals to solve big and new problems in creative and unique ways. On top of that, we have a lot of fun while doing it!
How has COVID-19 impacted your industry/career plans?
I’ve felt very lucky in that I’ve been able to continue working remotely. Despite the virtual nature of our interactions, I feel very close to my team members and have enjoyed getting to know new people across the company. COVID-19 has definitely made it a lot harder to network, and it’s pushed me to be a lot more creative in how I virtually connect with the people I work with.
Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Cast a wide net! There are a lot of interesting industries and roles out there so don’t rule anything out before you fully understand what the job entails.
–One thing you would change or do differently?
I wish I had worried a little less about recruiting and spent more time with my classmates. Given that we did not know that COVID-19 would disrupt most of our time in business school, I’d rather have attended more in-person social events when they were possible.