CMC Success Stories

How some of Thunderbird’s rising stars found their jobs and internships

In the CMC Success Stories blogs, we write about and interview students and recent graduates who worked with the Career Management Center to research, connect with and ultimately be hired by their target employers. Read through their experiences for inspiration and ideas to move your career path in the right direction.

Anirrban Mukherjii: The Roller Coaster to Success

Feb. 20, 2013

When Anirrban Mukherjii arrived in Glendale, Arizona in the fall of 2011, he had little idea of the roller coaster ride he was about to embark upon. (It’s a long story, but worth reading!)

“Mine is a story of hard work and luck,” confesses Anirrban. “It was a very emotional journey, with lots of ups and downs. I’m grateful that I have friends and advisors here at Thunderbird, plus family at home, who supported me through it all.”

In his home country of India, Anirrban earned a BA degree in management and an MS in commerce, and was at the top of his class for both. After graduation, he spent some time in service marketing and crisis management for a nonprofit organization, Teach for India. However, he soon realized that the nonprofit market in India was not conducive to growth he wanted, and he needed an MBA to make a shift into marketing for a global corporation. “Thunderbird worked really hard to get me here, so I’m very grateful for that, though at times I wondered what I had gotten myself into,” Anirrban confesses.

Anirrban felt overwhelmed his first trimester. “It was very difficult and different to be an international student,” explains Anirrban. “Everything was very different from what I was used to. I spent a lot of time worrying about my student loans, the monetary conversion rate, my image in front of my peers and whether I was being stereotyped. I had quite a bit of self-pity at first, and retreated into my comfort zone of academics. As a result, I didn’t do anything for my career search for the first two months.”

When he turned his attention to his career in late-October of his first tri, Anirrban discovered that he was already late to the process for securing a summer internship. “First I needed to figure out what defines me professionally. What is my employability?” says Anirrban. “Once I got a sense of what I wanted to do, I met with my Peer Career Advisor, Nikki, and my Career Coach, Tony. They gave me a huge sense of ownership.”

“I began with humongous expectations,” admits Anirrban. “I had a misconception that an MBA from Thunderbird gives me the ability to walk into any company in any country and get a job. The fact is, an MBA from Thunderbird is the right ticket to get a global job, even if that is back home in a global company, but I would have to work hard to secure the kind job I wanted.”

“Initially, my job search was a disaster – lots of rejection, phone interviews gone bad, I didn’t have leads, and often got no response from the jobs I applied to,” recalls Anirrban. “It was easy to get discouraged and blame others. I learned that the worst thing I could do was to sit with the same people who did the same thing, complaining and blaming. I decided to change my game.”

Armed with a renewed determination to succeed, Anirrban decided to treat his career search with the same level of professionalism as his academics. “I became a regular at the CMC. I met with Tony every two weeks. I also became active in the Thunderbird Marketing Association. I took advantage of functional days, speaker sessions, whatever resources were available that could help me.”

Anirrban’s efforts paid off when he attended career fair. He prioritized the companies in A, B, and C lists and met first with the C companies (the ones he wasn’t very interested in) to practice his pitch. For his A and B companies, he reviewed each company beforehand so he could tailor his answers specifically to that company.

Anirrban’s L’Oreal roller coaster ride began one morning with a call from Mike Kennard on the CMC Employer Relations team, asking him if he was available in two hours to meet reps from global beauty products company L’Oreal. “This was a dream job to do brand management, with an amazing company. I had been so sure that this kind of company was out of my reach, that I hadn’t applied for the job,” confesses Anirrban. “A L’Oreal rep found me as he was going through resume books, and asked me to come in. I had only two hours to prepare.”

“This is where months and months of practice and rejection paid off,” says Anirrban. “But five minutes into the conversation, I realized they’d made a mistake: They were looking for full-time employees, but I was looking for an internship. Surprisingly, they still wanted to talk after I told them this. It was a breezy day at a picnic table outside the CMC, and we spoke for 45 minutes. I was very honest in the conversation because I hadn’t had much time to prepare and research, so I spoke from experience and what I’d seen. At the end they gave me their business cards and said they’d be in touch.”

Later, Anirrban went on a brand management winterim where a dramatic turn of events led to a chance encounter. “A speaker cancelled at the last minute,” recalls Anirrban. “The substitute speaker was a digital marketing vice president from L’Oreal, and with him was one of the people who had interviewed me at Thunderbird. Surprisingly, he remembered me.” Anirrban followed up with him after the trip, but he didn’t hear back. “I didn’t let that discourage me though,” says Anirrban. “I was confident that even if I failed, it would still help me.

In March, Anirrban attended a module abroad in China. Just a few days before he was to fly to Beijing, he got a call from L’Oreal asking him to come to New York for an interview. “It was very dramatic because I wanted to do both,” he recalls. “Instead I made arrangements to do the interviews via Skype. I had 5 Skype interviews with L’Oreal from China at 2am. I was worried about being cut off from the CMC so far away, but Tony met with me by Skype and kept in touch via email as well.”

Because he hadn’t gone through L’Oreal’s usual process for internship hires and wanted to show how serious he was about the company, Anirrban conducted an independent project for L’Oreal without them asking him to do so. He researched beauty products in China and created a small report which he sent to them.

Ten days before his module abroad ended, while he was still in China, Anirrban finally got the internship offer from L’Oreal. Anirrban was overjoyed. “I was so happy that my faith and confidence and hard work had paid off.”

Anirrban had a very busy, and very successful internship as the first international intern ever in the country, and the first intern from Thunderbird. “I came back to school with so much positivity. I had made that challenging switch in industry and function.”

Anirrban had been told he would hear back about a full time offer, but time stretched on and nothing happened. “That’s when I realized I needed backup options. I went to work interviewing with other companies and got lots of good leads, but nothing materialized. It was frustrating. I had expected that having L’Oreal on my resume would be enough to give me an advantage, but that was not the case.”

After a fall full of hard work and rejection, Anirrban put his job search on hold to re-evaluate his situation. “I wasn’t going to give up, but I needed some time to recover and figure out my next steps.”

Then, near the end of the winter holidays, L’Oreal finally got back to Anirrban – with a full-time offer in their Global Management Development Program! He would spend one year in New York as an assistant brand manager, then rotate to Mumbai for the next few years as a senior project manager. “It was wonderful – a global job in a global company. I am so happy, so proud, so humble, to go back to my country and to take all these amazing things Thunderbird gave me. I feel that I am going back with so much to give.”

What advice does Anirrban have for Thunderbirds following in his footsteps?

“It’s very important to manage your expectations, and to be with the right people initially. Get out of your comfort zone, have lunch with a new person, go back to group project teams and see if you’re connecting with someone. That is critical. It’s also important to connect with people who are ahead of you in the program. Join clubs to meet people across programs and cohorts. Ask your PCA for suggestions of who it would be good for you to connect with. Listen more, talk less. Find ways to break through your silo and stretch out of your comfort zone.”

Learning to deal with rejection and commit to the challenging job search process was also key for Anirrban. “Failures were disappointing, but I kept coming back to Tony, reflected on the experience, and learned from it. Everyone is going through disappointment, so choose to be around people who can find the positive in every situation.”

The realities of a recruiting cycle that kicks in as soon as students arrive on campus is a challenge that all students face. “You won’t be ready as soon as you need to be, but you still need to be proactive,” recommends Anirrban. “Take time to understand what you’re good at. I wasn’t sure if wanted marketing or consulting, so I talked to five people for each function, and used resources that are right here to do my research. Don’t rely just on GlobalConnect. That is a good starting point, but it shouldn’t be your only tool. Once you have an idea of what appeals to you, work with your PCA and coach and make a target list. Have a strategy for your job search just like you did for looking for schools to go to.”

Anirrban also recommends keeping your family ties strong during challenging times, especially for international students. “The support I got from my family was tremendous, because I told them what I was really going through. It’s easy to be lonely here, but there are also so many opportunities to connect, if you make the effort.”

Last but not least: “Know that your job is out there and you can go find it.”

Relationship-Building Leads to Position with Dream Company

Dec. 12, 2012

On Thanksgiving day Julie-Elizabeth Banner ’12 got a call from Nike officially offering her a 1-year Digital Marketing internship in the European headquarters in the Netherlands. The offer came after having been passed over for the same internship several months before. How did Julie turn her initial defeat into a win?

“I realized that even if people say no, it doesn’t mean no forever,” Julie explains. “I stayed in touch and built relationships with the people there.”

Realizing that she lacked the necessary experience in digital marketing, Julie took specific classes to get that experience — and kept in touch with her contact at Nike, telling her what she was doing.

“I showed how I was working towards being the perfect fit for their needs,” says Julie. “Then when I came back to them in October and told them I was looking for a position for January, they worked to find a place for me.”

Building relationships with people within your target company so that they champion you within the company is one of the most effective ways to land the position you want. Because it requires commitment and a focused long-term approach, many people don’t put in the effort. Julie learned first-hand how worthwhile this strategy is.

“Someone else can help you make connections within an organization, but the most important part is that once you get in, it’s all up to you,” says Julie. “You have to be the one to build the relationship. You have to be proactive.”

Unexpected Offer Leads to Last-Minute Decision

July 11, 2012

About a year before she came to Thunderbird, Amanda Roberson ’12 applied to be a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department.  She was excited about this possibility but knew that a job offer was uncertain and wanted to take advantage of her time at Thunderbird to explore other international opportunities. Months went by and no offers from the Foreign Service were forthcoming. Then, just days before she was due to expire from the State Department register, and with another job offer in hand, she received a job offer from the State Department. The CMC’s Sara Korn interviewed Amanda to get the details on her intriguing story.

CMC: How is applying to work for the State Department different than applying for other types of jobs?

Amanda Roberson: Applying to be a US Foreign Service Officer is very different from applying to other types of jobs. It is a rigid process that involves taking a written exam, submitting personal essays, taking an oral exam, getting a security clearance, and finally being placed on a hiring register of eligible candidates. Once you are on that register, you can stay on it for 18 months before your name is removed if you do not get an offer.

CMC: How hopeful were you going into this process?

AR: I didn’t really know what to expect going into the process. A couple of years ago I decided to start with step one, taking a written exam, and see how it went. I passed that exam and continued moving through the process, eventually getting a security clearance and being placed on a hiring register. Still, I knew there was no guarantee that I would get offered a position, since that depends on many factors that were out of my control including how many other candidates are on the register, how competitive their scores are, the hiring needs of US missions around the world, and congressional budgets.

CMC: At what point did you decide that you should look for other jobs outside of the State Department?

AR: After beginning my MBA at Thunderbird, I launched my internship search, and later job search, as if the Foreign Service were not a possibility. I knew I was not guaranteed to get an offer, plus I wasn’t 100% sure that the Foreign Service was for me. I wanted to learn more about opportunities to combine my interests in marketing communications and international development. Through talking with fellow students and alumni, being involved in groups such as Net Impact, and doing an internship and TEM Lab in international development, I learned more about other opportunities out there.

As graduation neared and it did not seem likely that I would get an offer from the State Department, I focused on my job search, mostly by setting up a series of networking calls with people connected to international development organizations in Washington, DC. Through one of those contacts I learned about a marketing communications position that I applied to and was eventually offered.

CMC: How did that job search compare with your experience with the State Department process?

AR: There is really no comparison between my experience with the State Department and a normal job search process. As far as the Foreign Service Officer application process goes, networking will get you nowhere other than perhaps better informed. The hiring system is designed to be impartial; it’s all very formulaic and based on standardized scores and rankings. With my normal job search, I found the opposite to be true – networking turned out to be the most useful thing I did.

CMC: How many days before you were due to expire from the register did you get your job offer?

AR: I couldn’t believe it when I got an offer from the State Department. I was just two days from expiring from the hiring register.

CMC: How did you feel about this last-minute development, and how did you decide between the two job offers?

AR: I was extremely excited but also kind of in disbelief. I had to reevaluate the Foreign Service again after having essentially written it off as a possibility. I got the news on a Friday and had to give the State Department an answer that Monday. It was a tough decision because the other job offer was really exactly what I had been looking for. My husband was also a huge part of my decision since there is his career to consider as well.

I spent that weekend considering the pros and cons of both opportunities, sought advice from friends who are currently Foreign Service Officers, and listened to my intuition. Ultimately, I decided to accept the offer to become a Foreign Service Officer. I have always wanted a career that would allow me to work internationally. With this position, I will move to a new country every two to four years. My focus area of Public Diplomacy will allow me to use my communications background to build public awareness of US diplomacy initiatives abroad.

CMC: What advice would you give to other students interested in working for the State Department?

AR: I would say that if you research the Foreign Service and are interested in it as a career, go ahead and start the application process. Go into it with hope, but keep your options open.

To learn more about the process of applying to be a US Foreign Service Officer, visit this website:

Networking Your Way to a Job Offer

June 11, 2012

Recently, Christian Zdebel ‘12 accepted a position as Managing Director atImpress Labs, a global brand, creative and communications agency focused on helping companies in microelectronics, materials science, life science, pharmaceutical and solar industries develop cohesive marketing communications strategies.

The keys to Christian’s success – Pre-work and networking.

Christian began by working with Pam Ehlers at the CMC to refine his goals and set a strategy. “Christian really took time to do all the pre-work well,” reports Pam. “He did his strengths assessment, branding, resume, messaging – all his marketing tools. Then he created a target list and networked using targeted events and individuals to get referrals that led to the company that gave him the offer.”

Christian credits Pam with helping him get his networking off of the ground by connecting him to a couple of local contacts. “The rest was really up to me,” says Christian. “For every hour I put in with Pam I did roughly 8 hours (excluding drive time) of independent research, networking, and just plain pounding the pavement.”

In the end, it took Christian three “hops” to get to the hiring manager at Impress Labs. “Networking was absolutely essential to first reaching this company, and eventually landing the position,” says Christian.

What was the most valuable lesson Christian learned from this experience?

“You have to continuously catch yourself: as soon as you think you’ve done enough networking, researching, calling, or running around; do more. While the CMC can be a great help in refining your goals, defining your target company set, and getting you started with networking, nothing will take the place of you putting yourself out there and ‘making it happen.’ Expect to get as much out of the CMC (or anything in life, really) as you put into it.”

Extreme Career Shift: Professional Violinist to Financial Analyst

June 6, 2012

Many students come to Thunderbird to facilitate a career transition, but few involve as extreme a career shift as that of Leona Nadj ’11: From professional violinist of 15 years, to financial analyst at Intel Corporation.

After decades of practicing, a Master’s Degree in violin performance from a top conservatory, numerous national orchestral auditions, and performances from Carnegie Hall to Broadway shows, Leona decided to leave her performing career and go to business school.

“This decision was one of the most difficult in my life,” reports Leona. “After much deliberation, it was the 2008 financial meltdown that became the final deciding factor. My fear was that the economic downturn would cause the future prospects for working in classical music to be bleak and uncertain.”

Leona did not know exactly where she would end up after Thunderbird, which prompted her to make career research a top priority from the first day of school. After taking Professor Petitt’s Finance 2 class in Prague, Leona was inspired to look for opportunities in finance.

Although making such a big career shift had it’s challenges, Leona discovered that she had unwittingly developed business skills as a freelance violinist and instructor, skills that served her well in her career transition. Primarily, Leona always had to be prepared (or over-prepared) to perform well, a habit she took to her business school studies, interviewing, and her current job. Managing her own teaching studio and performance schedule taught her to prioritize, multi-task, and problem-solve quickly. Finally and most importantly, Leona was used to actively building and maintaining a network of contacts. “The world of musicians is a small one, where one’s success depends on the network of colleagues built from college days. Similarly, I would not have gotten the opportunities at Thunderbird and beyond were it not for the people I met who helped me along the way,” says Leona.

To prepare for such a drastic change, Leona first had to accept that she was going from being an expert in a field to starting over at entry level. To compensate for her lack of experience, Leona tried to learn as much as she could about the industry and finance in general. She also researched about different companies and their culture before applying for an interview. “I knew that it would take an open-minded employer to, essentially, take a risk to accept me into their workforce,” said Leona. “So it was necessary to do the research to find the companies most likely to do that. Approaching employers at a job conference without any knowledge about their business was not effective.”

So how welcoming were employers to Leona and her unique situation?

“Some employers were receptive to my ‘colorful’ background, but many were not interested at all,” recalls Leona. “The most important fact to those who agreed to interview me is whether my path made sense. I explained that music and math were interconnected in many ways. They both require discipline and skill, attention to detail, and creativity. Companies who were looking for creative employees who can think ‘outside the box’ were most accepting of my story, which is how I found my current position with Intel.”

Embarking on such a drastic career transition was not an easy choice, but was ultimately rooted in Leona’s convictions.

“I wondered: If I had started this change earlier in my life, would it have been easier?” she admits. “However, maybe I would have second-guessed my decision, and maybe, I would not have been as determined as I was. Employers understand that sometimes career shifts have to happen, but what they want to hear is whether the choices you made make sense toward a goal you feel passionate about. Now that I find myself working for Intel, our company is adamant about having career development conversations with our managers, because growth and development should not stop with your first job out of Thunderbird.”

T-Bird Priyanka Bajaj ‘12 To Help Shape the Future of Play with Mattel

March 8, 2012

After she graduates in April, Priyanka Bajaj ‘12 will pack her bags and head to El Segundo, Calif. where she’ll begin her career with the world’s largest toy company. With $5.86bn in revenue in 2010,  toys are big business and Priyanka is excited to pair her finely-sharpened quantitative talents with this legendary manufacturer of iconic brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels.

Priyanka worked closely with the Career Management Center as a Peer Career Advisor and happily obliged our invitation to share her job searching experience.

You were recently hired by Mattel after successfully completing an internship. What will you be doing for them?

I will be working as a Senior Financial Analyst at Mattel. During my internship I worked with two finance teams, corporate finance and International finance. I am still in the process of finalizing the team I will be working for once I start work full-time.

Mattel doesn’t visit Thunderbird’s campus to recruit – could you describe how you reached out and approached them for your internship?

My internship was through a posting Mattel made last year on Global Connect for finance interns, this was the first time they recruited at Thunderbird and I hope they will continue to do so in the future.

What advice would you offer to students who would like to convert an internship into a full-time job offer?

I treated my internship as a 12 week job interview as I knew I was being assessed at every step. For students starting internships in the summer, I would say network as much as possible within the company to understand the business and culture of the company, the more people you meet the more you will learn.

Many international students who are interested in working in the United states are curious about the H1-B sponsorship process. Would you mind sharing your experience with navigating through the process?

During my interview process with Mattel I did not ask them if they sponsor International students or not. I directed all my questions to Alicia Sutton in the Employer Relations team and she was very helpful. As International students we have a number of questions regarding the sponsorship process but most of these questions can be answered by our advisers and if you still have some questions I would wait till after the entire interview process is complete.

You were a Peer Career Advisor while at Thunderbird. What attracted you to the role, and how does it benefit students?

I had a wonderful experience with my PCA and she played a major role in my job search. The PCA program is truly an extension of the CMC and as PCA’s we aim to work with students to help them with all aspects of their job search including resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, etc. We are also working on a number of workshops for students which can help with other aspects of their search; you can find more details of upcoming workshops in the CMC Newsletter.

Looking back on your experience as a PCA, what were some common mistakes that you saw students making with respect to their resumes, cover letters, or their job search in general?

I think one of the most common mistakes’ students make is to not utilize the PCA program to its full extent. Students usually forget they have a PCA after the first draft of the resume and cover letter is uploaded to Global Connect. Students can utilize this program not only in their first trimester but even after that, if your PCA has graduated you will be reassigned to a new PCA and every student has access to this program till they graduate.

How did you utilize the Career Management Center’s services?

My job search started the day I arrived on campus; I utilized the PCA program and also met with my CMC adviser regularly. Before going to any information session scheduled on campus I would always do a lot of research and talk to my adviser to make sure I was prepared. I have also utilized CMC services for negotiation of my internship and full time offer.

If you could offer an incoming student advice on how to get the most out of their Thunderbird experience, what would you tell them?

I would tell them to start by tapping into the resources we have on campus first. During my first trimester I made a list of companies I was interested in and then started talking to people on campus who had worked with those companies. I know our first instinct is to look for Alumni who work for those companies but I would start on campus first, I am sure you will find at least one student on campus who has the information you need.

From Social Media Star to Assistant Brand Manager with Henkel

Feb. 7, 2012

Manuela Emmrich combined her passion for tennis with savvy networking to land a sports fan’s dream internship: managing social media and fan engagement for tennis star Serena Williams. The experience was amazing and gave her the confidence and the skills she needed for her next adventure after Thunderbird: serving as an Assistant Brand Manager with Henkel.

Manuela was kind enough to talk with us about the importance of following your passion, the value of preparation and persistence, and what a tremendous asset the T-bird Alumni Network can be on the job search.

You’re currently working as an assistant brand manager with Henkel. What specifically about your Thunderbird experience prepared you for this role?

Classes such as Project Management, Product Development, Brand Management and several other courses provided great frameworks for my current role. However, it was mainly the team projects with a variety of Thunderbird students that prepared me for an assistant brand manager role. Brand management requires major time management and project management skills which I refined during my MBA experience. Being able to work with cross-cultural teams certainly prepared me for the daily cross-functional interaction at Henkel.

Brand management is a highly-sought after career for Thunderbirds. What attracted you to it in the first place?

I always liked the creative aspect of marketing but it was not until I had a conversation with Prof. Richard Baer that I got interested in Brand Management specifically. Being a former athlete, I am still very competitive and brand management allows me to live this spirit through brands. Developing, launching and managing a product while coordinating pretty much every department within a company is challenging but at the same time very rewarding. The CPG industry is fast moving and requires strong team work, analytical skills and leadership – these are qualities that I passionately live every day.

You were able to parlay your love of tennis into an outstanding internship doing social media work for an internationally-renowned tennis star. How did that come together?

The Thunderbird network truly is a great asset and helped in the facilitation of this amazing internship opportunity. Through a fellow T-bird, Michael Milbank, I was put in touch with Jason O’Brien, the VP of Mercury Communications Group (MCG) and also a former Tbird. Jason and I, as well as the CEO – also a Tbird – had a few phone calls and quickly realized that my tennis background and passion for brand management would be perfect to assist with the expansion of their tennis clients and focus on a few UFC athletes in Phoenix. I was even more drawn to this internship when I was asked to manage the social media and fan engagement for Serena Williams

Looking back on the interview process with Henkel, what tips can you share about how you prepared for it?

Be persistent and prepared. Especially in the CPG industry and brand management, the competition for jobs is very high. It is important to show that one really wants to work in this industry and at a specific company. Once I developed my interest for CPG, I frequently stopped in the personal care isle during my grocery shopping trips to analyze the assortments and become familiar with the different brands. In order to get the chance to interview, I had to go through several gates. First, I talked to Henkel representatives at NSHMBA and was asked to contact them back in Phoenix. I then followed up with emails and attended the company visit at Thunderbird as well as their Open House. During every interaction with Henkel, I made sure that they knew I was interested and that I was actively pursuing a brand management role with them. Eventually I “earned” my right to interview. With the fairly long preparation of scouting the market as well as long studies with CPG guides, I felt well prepared for the interviews.

As you were approaching graduation, you were considering two job offers. How did you handle that situation and how did you decide which offer to accept?

Towards the end of my third semester, I reached out to my former employer to update them on my progress at Thunderbird. I did not specifically asked to return to the company but it turned out that this US company was looking to expand into the European market. I had left the company in good standing with the goal to advance my career and was now offered to lead the international expansion. Pretty much every Thunderbird would have been delighted to accept this offer and I was very excited about it. Almost at the same time, I received a call from Henkel that they would like to offer me a full-time position as an Assistant Brand Manager. It was a difficult decision as I had a personal connection to my previous company and enjoyed working there.

I worked closely with the CMC, especially on salary levels, and talked to professors about my career development.   Since both offers were comparable in terms of salary level, I had to weigh the long-term impact of the job offers. I decided that I could learn a lot from a major corporation and that having a big name, such as Henkel, on my resume could not be taken away from me. In addition, Henkel was voted “Best Employer in Germany”, my home country, for three years in a row. All in all, I believe I could always go back to a smaller company and bring in my corporate learning but it would be much harder to move from a smaller company to a bigger one. Furthermore, I intended to switch job functions and I believe the best time to do, and justify this, is right after getting your MBA.

You participated in the Career Management Center’s Leadership EDGE program. Could you share a little about what that the program is and how you benefited from it?

The Leadership EDGE program is a unique opportunity to expand leadership skills while learning from other selected Thunderbird students. The quality of students in this program is outstanding and each student embodies high morals and great leadership. The most memorable event, apart from many courses such as the Gallup Seminar, was the Ropes Course in Prescott, AZ. Kip Harrell and team took the group to a 2-day weekend trip where each of us was facing personal challenges to overcome fear and obstacles. Together as a team we were able to support and guide each other to climb high poles, balance on small beams and fall “blindly” backwards into the arms of our team. Overcoming this obstacle course enabled me to grow my confidence and self-esteem to face any difficult situation. The EDGE program was a fantastic experience and I enjoyed being surrounded by like-minded people that exhibit leadership and honor values and morals just as I do.

What clubs were you involved with while you were on-campus?

Initially, I wanted to be involved in many clubs as I was interested to learn more about the cultures and offerings on campus. However, the class load did not allow that and I ended up focusing on the Tennis Club and Marketing Club. I was also trying to help students with Data Analysis and served as the Teaching Assistant for two semesters.

If a prospective student asked you what you loved most about Thunderbird – how would you respond?

The people! The student body at Thunderbird together with the exceptional faculty is what makes the T-bird experience so unique. I enjoyed meeting so many different people and was fascinated by their stories, backgrounds and traditions. I wish I would have found more time in my schedule to get to know more students better as these are the memories that last for a lifetime. I also loved the Regional Nights that displayed all the multicultural aspects that make Thunderbird so special.

Is there anything else that you would like to add to your story?

I would like to thank Paula Friesen for her guidance and support during my time at Thunderbird. She and her family have been a blessing to me and have made Tbird even more exciting and rewarding. I will forever cherish the friendship we developed.

MA Grad Sans Finance Experience Heads to Goldman Sachs

Nov. 30, 2011

Who: Nicola Taljaard, ‘11

What: With no financial background, this Tbird turned a genuine interest and classroom experiences into a full-time position right out of graduation.


Career Management Center: How did you hear about the Operations Associate position with Goldman Sachs?
Nicola Taljaard: I learned about it on the CMC’s GlobalConnect job board.

CMC: What attracted you to it?
NT: I had never really considered the financial services industry as an option, but as I was reading the description for the internship it sounded really interesting and challenging, and I thought ‘ I can do this.’ So I applied.

CMC: Describe your research on the company.
NT: Goldman Sachs‘ website is very detailed and they have a number of tools on there (like quizzes and tests to see where you might ‘fit’ in the organization) so I took all of those. I really focused on their community initiatives, like the 10,000 Women program, which gave me something a little different to talk about in the interviews. I also read the annual reports for the past three years and tried to get a better sense about what was being said about the firm in the news. Finally, I used the Hoovers database for some quick facts about the firms leadership and competitors.

CMC: How did your Thunderbird experience help you get the job?
NT: Attending conferences and career fairs were very helpful because they allowed me to practice talking to recruiters in a stressful environment. Previous interviews for internships, jobs, and class assignments also played a significant role in helping me to be more prepared.

I also think that campus involvement definitely helped me to get the internship. By being involved with certain clubs and associations on campus I had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects, which provided great experience to draw from during the interviews. Finally, I believe that classes like Global Leadership, Managing Work Relationships, and Conflict Management helped prepare me, because so much of how well a person ‘fits’ within a company culture has to do with soft skills.

CMC: What was the application/interview/acceptance process like?
NT: The application process was fairly simple and I think quite standard: just an online application with a resume and cover letter attached. I had not spoken with the firm during the career fair prior to applying, so I just went through the process described on GlobalConnect.

There was only one round of interviews which took place in Salt Lake City. The process consisted of two back-to-back interviews of 30 mins each. Both interviewers asked behavioral questions. My first interviewer was really friendly and seemed quite laid back, while the second one was much more intense and a little intimidating – this is something which I believe is quite common in the firm’s interviewing process.

After the interviews, the company’s turn around time was very fast. I interviewed on a Wednesday, and was called with an internship offer by the human resources department the same Friday. Once I had formally accepted there was quite a lot of paperwork, background checks and drug screenings which had to be completed before I was approved to work. The entire process from applying to being approved for work took approximately two and a half months.

CMC: What advice do you have for students in your program looking to get into the company/industry?
NT: For those interested in working for the company, but who do not have a financial background, I would strongly suggest applying anyway. I had no experience in financial services and my finance knowledge was limited to what I learned at Thunderbird. The firm is really looking for both cultural and academic diversity in its employees.

I would also suggest really focusing on developing soft skills – most people can be taught how to do the technical ’stuff’ but your soft skills will help you to make a good first impression and to navigate the company’s very fast paced and challenging work environment. Finally, relax and be yourself during your interview. The interviewers see thousands of applicants, so being sincere and genuine can help set you apart.

MS Student to Marketing Director for Local Solar Company

Nov. 29, 2011

Who: Severin Nesselhauf, MS ‘11

What: Turned internship as C-Level Marketing and Strategy Consultant at Green Choice Solar, a market leader for non-residential solar integration in the Southwest, to a job offer as Marketing Director after graduation.


Career Management Center: How did you hear about the position?
Severin Nesselhauf: I heard about the job through a classmate at Thunderbird. Both of us wanted to gain experience in the green technology and renewable industry. Fortunately, Green Choice Solar was looking to hire two student consultants over the summer for marketing, strategy and finance related projects.

CMC: What attracted you to it?
SN: I am devoted to the ideal of saving our planet through green business development. Combined with my strengths in marketing and strategy, this results in a strong passion for solar and other renewable energy sources. Hence, starting my career at a solar company makes perfect sense.

CMC: Describe your research on the company.
SN: The company has existed for three years now. Accordingly, there was not much public information out there, apart from their website. However, I made sure to do extensive research on the industry as a whole, as I knew I would have to architect an expansion strategy for Green Choice. The databases available at Thunderbird’s library, the International Business Information Center (IBIC), were a perfect tool for doing so.

CMC: How did your Thunderbird experience help you get the job?
SN: As a Thunderbird, I feel attracted to environments in which I can have an immediate impact. Thus, I was eager to define the scope of my work and responsibilities, instead of waiting for detailed instructions. Additionally, Thunderbird taught me to adapt to unfamiliar situations quickly. That is an incredibly important asset especially for complex and dynamic industries such as the renewable energy sector.

CMC: What was the application/interview/acceptance process like?
SN: There was no formal interview process. However, my performance was reviewed after one month. Accordingly, I had to make sure to deliver on the scope and quality of work I had promised.

CMC: What advice do you have for students in your program looking to get into the company/industry?
SN: Some of the things I would recommend to other students looking for a job in the green business sector are:

  1. Get engaged on campus: I started a campus solar project with a classmate on campus. The experience helped me to market myself to companies.
  2. Learn about the industry: It sounds like a no-brainer, but there is nothing more valuable than a candidate who comes with a set of ideas and visions for a company, based on in-depth research.
  3. Reach out to Alumni: Alumni connections can help you to gain insights into the industry beyond what is written in reports.
  4. Don’t sit and wait for anyone to offer you a job. In a fast growing industry like renewables, you’ve got to do your research, make valuable connections or just create the job yourself.

MA Grad Snags Job with Google Ireland

Aug. 31, 2011

Have you ever asked yourself “How can I get a job at Google?” Well, newly-minted Thunderbird alum Alexandra Ott, M.A. ’10 recently snagged a job with Google as a German Online Media Associate and is currently working in their Dublin, Ireland operations center. Ms. Ott took time from her frenetic schedule to chat with the CMC about how her experience at Thunderbird helped her land her dream job. For students interested in becoming “Googlers,” her interview offers some great advice on acing Google’s hiring process.

Career Management Center: What’s a “normal” day at the office like for you? As if there were such a thing…
Alexandra Ott: My day usually starts with a great breakfast at one of our four cafeterias, then it’s off to work. I am a member of the German Adwords team and we support our customers by responding to any questions they have. Those questions range from something simple like “how do I set up an account?” to more complex things like optimizing online ad campaigns. During breaks, I might take up a Foosball challenge depending on whether the horde around the wonderful cappuccino maker has dispersed or not…

CMC: You are in a management track program with Google. What does that entail and what’s the career trajectory after you complete the program?
AO: The management track program at Google focuses on leadership development rather than on a rotational schedule. It is usually completed within 2.5 years and offers a mix of business classes and hands-on projects and exercises. In general, it serves to prepare Googlers for leadership positions and to ensure that they’re ready to excel in those roles.

CMC: How did your experience at Thunderbird help you land this job?
AO: Without my Thunderbird experience it would not have been possible to land this job. Google looks for people who not only possess a strong academic record, but who are also involved in other activities and leadership roles like volunteering in their community or serving as a leader on campus. Furthermore, Google and Thunderbird are similar in that they both cherish a multi-cultural environment and share an understanding of international business, conduct and ethics. This was key because during the interview process I was able to draw numerous examples from many group projects that showcased my ability to thrive and work and in multi-cultural teams.

CMC: Were there any classes in particular that gave you a leg-up on the competition?
AO: I think the core classes for the Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management, i.e. Technology Policy and Entrepreneurship, gave me a leg-up. For one, I was able to easily answer questions about the international landscape of technology companies and the strategic challenges they face, as well as draw examples and showcase group projects that I did.

CMC: Opportunities like this don’t come around all the time – how did you learn about it?
AO: I was actually recruited through my LinkedIn profile. I think in times like these it is more important than ever to network both online and in-person. Even if you don’t personally know a recruiter, it doesn’t hurt to ask about available opportunities with their organization, or whether they have any tips or insights to share.

CMC: Google is notorious for a grueling interview process. What was it like? Do you have any survival tips for students to help them prepare?
AO: Looking back on it, the Google interview process in comparison to some other experiences I had was definitely nerve-wracking but really well done. I received feedback right away and my recruiter always stayed in touch with me. The questions themselves, such as “Show how you would calculate X” or “What type of thought process would you put into estimating the percentage of country X’s population that owns businesses,” really test your cognitive abilities and whether you can apply what you have learned. For Google, it is important to find people who can think on their feet, come up with solutions and be able to communicate those solutions clearly. This is where my training at Thunderbird really helped the most!

Tips for Acing the Google Interview

  1. Practice your STARS! (Situation, Task, Actions & Results)
  2. Be yourself and stay confident about what you know. If you are like me and don’t know financial formulas by heart- don’t worry! The training we receive at Thunderbird will kick in the moment they give you tricky questions or ask you to solve problems.

CMC: What resources at the CMC were particularly valuable to you throughout this process?
AO: Most valuable were the STARs, the cover letter and resume samples, the Career Seminar Series offered by the CMC, and most importantly, the mock interviews. I would recommend that students do as many mock interviews as they can, as well as practice interview questions with their peers – this will really help you prepare.

CMC: What advice can you offer students who are looking to break into a career with an internet technology company?
AO: At the very least, they need to be enthusiastic about technology. What does it mean to you and how does it change the world? There is no right or wrong answer, and you don’t have to start a blog, but you need to be able to show why you are interested in the field to the recruiter.

CMC: What’s the one thing you miss more than anything else about Thunderbird?
AO: I miss the people! Friends, faculty and staff – Thunderbird always felt like a big family. While at first it’s strange going out into the world on your own after such an intense academic program, it is wonderful to know that there are so many people behind you supporting you on your journey.

CMC: Thanks so much Alexandra and best of luck with your new job! Interested in learning more about Alexandra’s job at Google? Check out the job description on Google’s website.

Recent Grad in Afghanistan for Singapore Organization

Aug. 1, 2011

Proof of what your contacts are worth: Below is the story of a 2010 graduate and how he landed a position in Afghanistan for an organization based in Singapore. How “Thunderbird” is that?

Chadd Nyerges, ’10, Deputy Reporting Manager for Central Asia Development Group, a US Agency for International Development (USAID) Community Development Program (CDP), Afghanistan.

Career Management Center: How did you hear about the new job?
Chadd Nyerges: I heard about it from Mike Low in the CMC, who heard about it from the school’s president, Dr. Cabrera, who was contacted by another Thunderbird alum, Kris LeBoutillier, ’91, who is my new colleague. Chalk another one up for the Thunderbird network.

CMC: What attracted you to it?
CN: The fact that it is in Afghanistan. Also, the job is essentially reporting for USAID, so it entails writing, which is perfect for me. I don’t have to do business “stuff,” which is great because despite having an MBA, it turns out that I actually don’t like business “stuff.” I always said if I got an MBA, the world markets would crash – and they did in my first trimester.

CMC: What was the process like, from application to interview to hire?
CN: My résumé was forwarded by Mike Low. They forwarded some USAID forms to me two days later, on a Monday. I had two phone interviews that week and received an offer by Friday. All told, from the time I was offered the position, it took 6 weeks to counter the offer, complete the background/medical checks, and get my visa.

CMC: For what other jobs did you apply or interview?
CN: I was offered an MBA Enterprise Corps fellowship in Kenya in July of last year and a USAID Emerging Markets Development Advisers Program (EMDAP) fellowship in Jordan in September – both of which were very tough to turn down, especially EMDAP. Ultimately, the positions were more business-focused so I went with my heart and said no, although it really scared me to do so.

CMC: Is there anything unique or different to the way you got your job?
CN: I am not religious at all, but I am very much a believer in spirit and the interconnectedness of all life and energy. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. I was very worried being nearly five months out of school, having turned down two great fellowships, and not getting any bites over the holidays. One day I hit my knees and prayed to my guardian angels and my grandfather and grandmother and everyone I have ever known who has crossed to the other side. It’s hard to believe, but the next morning I was picking up my phone to make a networking call, it rang in my hand and it was Mike Low saying, “Do you still want to go to Afghanistan?” That same day I received two other calls regarding other jobs as well. Each one was from a Thunderbird contact.

CMC: What encouragement or advice would you like to give to current students or recent graduates?
CN: Have faith in yourself. Never consider the odds if you know what you want. I returned to school at 39 to radically shift careers and got the perfect job at 42! Use your resources such as the CMC and TEM Labs. Use the Thunderbird network. Manage your relationships. Stay focused, keep your eyes on the prize and go with your heart no matter how terrifying it is and how stupid it may seem. And, never underestimate the power of prayer.

Alum Networks for Interview Presentation Help

June 15, 2011

Gered Doherty, ‘09, recently accepted a position in sales and business development for a startup in San Francisco called Gyrobike, but it couldn’t have happened without the power of networking, specifically the Thunderbird alumni network.

The position was brought to his attention through a LinkedIn Group tied to his undergraduate university.  He applied and then networked until he found a connection who could put him in touch with someone at the company.  That connection was one of the first people he met in San Francisco.  It was Networking 101, plain and simple.

What attracted him to the position was the opportunity to build the sales side of a startup company in the consumer goods industry.  The fact that it was in the sporting goods/bike industry was simply icing on the cake to the active sports aficionado.

After a few rounds of interviews he thought he had the job locked up. That is, until he was called back for a final round and given a case interview to develop an international sales strategy…  with only one day to prepare the presentation!

He immediately reached out to a Thunderbird alum who works as an International Marketing Manager at TRXin San Francisco, as well as three other Thunderbirds he worked with on the Dahon Bike team for a Brand Management competition back when they were students at Thunderbird.

It was a specific product segment to present, but he was able to glean enough information from his four contacts, via emails and Facebook, that within ONE DAY he had put together a comprehensive presentation that went over quite well. As is typical, the Thunderbirds were scattered all throughout the world: one was in Colorado, another on the East Coast, one in Asia, and one in Italy helping him out at 3:00 am! It was a great challenge, a good interview and he felt it was a solid example of the tight-knit Thunderbird community at work.

He was the eighth employee hired and now has a sales force of two, and their open office space is shared with four dogs who spend a majority of the day asleep by their desks.  It’s a quirky little company that’s focused on success, and part of his job is to figure out exactly how they’re going to be successful. As has been proven time and again, if there’s any way for the Thunderbird community to help him with that, they surely will!

2010 Tbird Uses Network, CMC, Alumni to Climb Ranks in Coca-Cola

Feb. 14, 2011

Ted Ketterer, ’10, came to Thunderbird with an interest in Latin America.  It was here that he realized he wanted to focus on marketing and more specifically brand management, ideally in Latin America.

“While studying abroad at Monterrey in Mexico, about to give up all hope of getting an internship in brand management I decided to apply my knowledge from two years as a headhunter and formalized a networking plan strictly using the Thunderbird alumni database.”

He made strategic connections with Thunderbird alumni in marketing manager positions throughout Latin America, secured 15 interviews and landed his dream internship:  He got to develop a brand plan for an American tea brand in Lima, Peru.

During Ted’s 2nd year at Thunderbird he networked hard to get into the consumer goods food and beverage industry.  He came up with his own personal branding strategy, which coupled with his passion and networking skills would lead him to his current role.

“My father’s former colleague, who happened to be the former Global VP-HR for Lenovo in China, connected me with a Senior Executive Recruiter at Coke.”

Here starts the example of the importance of networking. Through a series of connections via the Coke Recruiter, Ted met five other Coke employees before he would eventually interview.

“All the while through that process, I kept in touch with the CMC, who introduced me to various Thunderbirds that worked in other departments of Coke.  This helped me to make the much needed connections for advice on how to best interview for the company and how to grow within the company.”

Ted finally was offered a position with Coca-Cola’s Hispanic shopper marketing agency, Visual Latina, and took a role paying lower than his expectation. This also meant having to go to Thunderbird full-time and work full-time for two months as he flew back and forth between Phoenix and Atlanta.

He learned very quickly in the Coca-Cola system and continued to work his networking skills even after being hired.  As a result, within the first 10 months of working in the role, he was offered two very prestigious promotions.

The first role was the Multi-cultural Small Store Channel Director for the US.  This position was replacing an ‘04 Thunderbird with 15+ years of top-notch consumer goods experience.  The second role offered to Ted was a Brand Manager on the US Hispanic Brand Team. This role, which he eventually accepted, is responsible for the Coca-Cola Classic brand with US Hispanic teens, supporting the Hispanic Brand Director for Sparkling Flavors (including Sprite, Powerade, Vitamin Water and more), and managing a million dollar plus marketing research budget for customized research on the Hispanic segment.

“This process has allowed me to keep Thunderbird in mind so that I can continue to bring in great talent to represent the Thunderbird brand within multi-cultural marketing and commercialization at Coke.   Looking back, I realize how much Thunderbird has helped to set me up for this type of success and look forward to giving back to the T-bird community and hopefully hiring more T-birds!”

Congratulations from the CMC on all your success, Ted. We can’t wait to hear what you do next!

Recent Grad Gets Consulting Interviews via LinkedIn

Feb. 9, 2011

As the Career Management Center teaches our students, only about 50% of MBA jobs actually are acquired from the students’ business school career services offices. December 2010 graduate Saravana (Sazz) Kumar is a great example of  networking to find your job. With a Technology Consultant background, he was hoping to go into consulting for one of the big companies like Booz Allen but knew that he needed a management consultant background first. So he did an internship with Cap Gemini and gained management consulting experience in the USA. He then realized with his interest in Finance he needed to gather some experience working in that field and landed an opportunity through the CMC to work at MTV.

During his time in New York he started networking using Linkedin and made contact with an associate who worked for Ernst and Young. Through the relationship he created an opportunity for an employee referral within E&Y.

On January 14, 2011 he participated in a phone interview with the HR department of Ernst & Young, and on January 18 he had a first round phone interview with senior managers. On January 28 the company flew him to Houston for an in-person interview, and by February 2 he had received an offer to be a Senior Conultant! Throughout all of this, he also interviewed with AT Kearney, Deloitte in South Africa, Letesma in Johannesburg, and Archstone.

He is grateful that the networking relationships he created have paid off and is looking forward to a rosy career in consulting. To hear more from him, feel free to attend the first meeting of the Thunderbird Management and Consulting Association this Friday, February 11 at noon in Lecture Hall 53. All students are invited to attend this workshop in which Prof. Teagarden will present on the “Clash of the Consultants.”