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Real Humans of Google: Danny Concha, Northwestern Kellogg MBA ’23, Strategy & Operations Program Manager

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In this installment of Real Humans: Alumni, we meet Danny Concha, who earned an MBA Northwestern Kellogg and became a strategy and operations program manager at Google. Choosing Kellogg due to its job placement history, location in the Chicago area, and inclusive, fun culture, Concha found that the school’s leadership courses and resources have served him well in the next phase of his career. Exploring the big ideas of leadership strengths and weaknesses in the safe setting of business school gave him the confidence to excel at a complex, global company like Google. Read on for more on his personal journey.

Danny Concha, Northwestern Kellogg MBA ’23, Strategy & Operations Program Manager at Google

Age:  32
Hometown: Sammamish, Washington
Undergraduate Institution and Major: BS: Duke University, Mechanical Engineering, MS: Stanford University, Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: Kellogg School of Management, 2023, Marketing
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Innovation Vehicle Engineer, General Motors, 2016 – 2019, automotive; Scrum Master and Agile Project Manager, IBM, 2019 – 2021, tech
Post-MBA Work Experience: Strategy & Operations Program Manager, Google, 2023 – Present, tech

Why did you choose to attend business school? 
I originally chose to attend business school in order to explore a career pivot and to become a more versatile leader. The opportunity to explore, reflect and grow, all while pursuing a multi-faceted and versatile degree was extremely attractive. I eventually discovered I was more interested in using my Kellogg experience to advance my tech career than pivot into something new, but the MBA experience was still crucial in helping me pursue these professional goals.

Why Kellogg? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
My biggest considerations were job placement, geography and culture. Leaving IBM and heading to business school I was moderately interested in tech but was considering potential career paths in consulting and even brand management. I also knew I wanted to kick off my post-MBA career in the Chicago area to be close to family. Kellogg was a natural fit given its strong consulting and marketing job placement, its growing prominence in tech with resources like the Technology Management pathway, and its impressive alumni network in the Chicago area. As the icing on top, I really appreciated Kellogg’s welcoming, inclusive and fun culture – one that stood out from other schools I considered. 

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
I’ve been particularly surprised at how Kellogg’s leadership courses and resources have served me well at Google. At Kellogg I learned a lot about myself, my leadership strengths and weaknesses, strategies for bridging leadership gaps and the unique leadership skills I bring to an organization. Getting to explore these big ideas in the “safe setting” of business school was extremely valuable. I was able to experiment, fail, evolve and carry my leadership learnings into a complex company like Google. Now, when I encounter obstacles at work I usually have a framework or past experience I can reflect on to help confidently guide me towards a resolution. I highly encourage you to check out courses like Managerial Leadership and Selling Yourself and Your Ideas at Kellogg, as they truly helped me!

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice of Google?
I interned at Google in the same org where I landed post-MBA. My Google internship experience was challenging, but very rewarding. I discovered that Google was the kind of company where I could truly grow, make an impact and be supported along the way. This summer experience made me eager to accept my full-time offer.  

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
After exploring several career paths at Kellogg, I decided I was still very drawn to advancing my career in tech. I was initially drawn to several larger tech companies, but Google was always at the top of my list for several reasons. First and foremost, I knew Google was the kind of place that would truly push me to get better – I would get to work with some of the brightest people in the world, tackling projects with immense impact and scale. Secondly, I knew a career at Google would give me tremendous optionality – within the same company I could work on advertising, consumer hardware, cloud computing, autonomous cars and so much more. Lastly, I loved the idea of working at one of the few big tech companies with a strong presence in Chicago.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I firmly believe that my “reps” paid off when it came to networking. There were many times when I talked to companies I wasn’t necessarily interested in working for, but used the opportunity to practice my pitch, sell my skills, field difficult questions and more. While time-consuming, this approach allowed me to build confidence when I needed it most and made many aspects of networking second nature. I would absolutely do this again.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
Early in the recruitment process, I would have invested more time into reflecting on my values and career alignment. I wasted a lot of time investigating opportunities that were misaligned with some of my values and got sucked into focusing on salaries, signing bonuses and titles. I should have started by reflecting on whether the job in question aligned with the life I wanted to live after Kellogg, and whether it would still allow me to invest energy into the things I value most. I eventually came to my senses, but the realization could have come sooner! 

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
I was surprised at how collaborative my interviews felt. I had this vision of a scary interview process with impossible questions, but I felt surprisingly relaxed and supported by my interviewers. Considering Kellogg’s emphasis on collaborative learning and teamwork, I was able to put those skills to good use.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Beyond learning professional and technical skills, use the MBA to learn more about yourself. Take the opportunity to experiment, reflect, and learn about the leader you are and want to become. Learning these things about yourself before starting your job will be immensely helpful – you’ll recognize patterns and realize how you react best in challenging situations when you enter the “real world.”

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.