Currently viewing the tag: "MIB"

Today’s alumni update also serves as a conclusion to the story shared from 2015-17 by McKenzie Smith, who completed the MIB program.  While still in her final semester, about a year ago, McKenzie hadn’t nailed down her post-Fletcher job securely enough to write about it and her story remained unfinished on the blog.  Today’s post wraps it all up!

In March 2017, just two months before graduating, I signed an offer to join Omidyar Network upon graduating from Fletcher.  At the time, it was a huge relief.  Like many of my classmates, I’d made a bet on Fletcher and the MIB program — a relatively new, non-traditional business program — and up until that moment, I wasn’t 100% positive it would pay off.  Thankfully, it certainly did!

Today, as a member of Omidyar Network’s impact investment team, I spend much of my time addressing the biggest opportunities and barriers to accelerating the growth of impact investing.  What this means in practice is that my work is spread across a diverse array of influence projects; research initiatives; and sourcing, due diligence, and evaluation of investments in organizations helping the impact market function more efficiently.  I’ve just passed my one-year mark, and already it’s been an exhilarating experience.

On the personal side, I’ve had the flexibility to travel back and forth between my new home in San Francisco and Washington, DC, where in addition to working with Omidyar Network teams there, I get to catch up with many friends from Fletcher who moved to DC after graduation.  Back in California, I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to be outside year-round and see much of the natural beauty that the Bay Area has to offer.

Looking back, I’m convinced that none of this would have been possible had I chosen not to take a chance on Fletcher.  As I mentioned in my annotated curriculum, I pursued courses and activities that complemented my pre-Fletcher background and ultimately positioned me to join an amazing team.  I walked the Fletcher halls and sat in classes alongside aid workers, bankers, veterans, entrepreneurs, consultants, and development practitioners, whose diverse experiences armed them with insights and opinions that pushed my thinking.  I seized opportunities and built relationships with professors who wouldn’t have been as accessible at a large, traditional MBA program.  In fact, it was a relationship with a professor that I forged through my role leading the Fletcher Social Investment Group that ultimately helped me land the job at Omidyar Network.

Since joining, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and work with pioneers in the impact investing field.  And increasingly, those helping drive the industry forward are not only people I know from industry events and partnerships, but more and more, they’re also my Fletcher classmates!  Which brings me to my last reflection: Fletcher alumni working in impact investing are a small but slowly growing group.  Each of us took a chance on Fletcher and leaned in to make the most of our time there — and like any grad student, at some point or another, each of us probably wondered whether that chance would be worth it.  For me, Fletcher’s unique blend of business and international affairs, the opportunities to lead student teams and organizations, and the flexibility of the curriculum helped me make my degree work for me.  There’s a saying that Fletcher helps you get your dream job…five jobs in.  If this is what my first job out of school is like, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

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Let’s continue hearing from our newly-minted Fletcher alumni.  Today, Adi will give us his reflections on his two years in the Master of International Business program.  From his first post to his last, Adi’s entries on the blog have described a thoughtful process of evolution.

With the passing of Commencement, I can now officially call myself a Master of International Business.  It has been two years full of learning, exploration, and struggles.  It has also been two years full of friendships, group dynamics, and interactions with experts, which have helped me tremendously to grow as a professional and individual.  Now that my Fletcher journey is over, and as I embark on the next step in my career, the one question I ask myself is “Did I achieve everything I wanted to achieve when I decided to enroll at Fletcher?”  I thought it would be an interesting exercise to reflect on this question.

With classmates before Class Day

I came to Fletcher having worked in fundraising and corporate engagement at a healthcare-focused non-profit.  I wanted to explore new ways the private sector can be involved in development and social impact, beyond the traditional CSR funding allocation that corporations typically put towards social activities.  At Fletcher, I was introduced to the idea of impact investing as a method to allocate much needed capital in social development and grassroots innovation.  Even beyond impact investing as seed or growth capital, in these two years I also learned about ESG (environmental, social and governance) investing, both as an exclusive strategy and as a portfolio diversification option.  At this point, I am very interested in pursuing impact investing as a career, if not immediately after Fletcher, then in the near future.  In this sense, I did achieve what I wanted coming into Fletcher.

At the same time, I realize that for me to truly understand the value of impact investing, I have to have strong knowledge and experience in investment itself.  Impact investing is still very much a niche market, with many questioning the financial return such investment will be able to generate.  If I do not understand how to generate financial returns through investment activities, I will not be able to grow the field of impact investing.  Following two years at Fletcher, I have a lingering sense that I could have done more to improve my knowledge on investment management, either through my choice of summer internship, the classes I took at Fletcher, or even cross-registration opportunities at other schools.  All of these thoughts crossed my mind at different point as graduation loomed near.

But now that graduation is in the past and I actually have time to reflect, I realize there’s no use overthinking things I cannot change.  What I can do now is move forward and build upon my past decisions.  I have skills, background, and knowledge to leverage into a career in investment management, or even in impact investing right away.  I need to give credit to the things that I have done, and not worry about what I haven’t.  With greater perspective on my two-year journey at Fletcher, I’m better able to value the activities and experiences that will contribute to a career in investment management and/or impact investing.

So I would say that I did achieve what I sought from my graduate education, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as planned.  In fact, I’m glad my two years at Fletcher did not go according to expectation — that’s the beauty of graduate school, and places like Fletcher.  It can be a place to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge that you know you need and want, in order to be a better professional and individual.  But it can also be so much more.  It’s a place to explore and try out new fields and activities, some that you never thought you would engage in.  Many of the things that may not seem connected to your planned studies and career may still end up enriching your experience and shaping your perspective.  So thanks for the two years, Fletcher!  It’s been a great ride.

The Class of 2018 MIB graduates

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I’m having trouble believing it, but this is the last full week of classes for the spring semester, which wraps up on Monday.  Tuesday and Wednesday will be study days before exams start on Wednesday.  With that in mind, it’s a good time to recap the academic pathways of our graduating student bloggers.  Today we’ll look at Adi‘s “annotated curriculum”  for his two years in the MIB program.  As you’ll see, an annotated curriculum is what it sounds like — a useful device we’ve developed for students to describe how they combined their courses and out-of-class activities during their studies at Fletcher.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
I managed external partnerships and public relations for CISDI, a social startup working on healthcare development in Indonesia.

Fields of Study
International Finance and Banking
International Political Economy

Capstone Topic
Strategic Positioning of Indonesia’s National Holding Company

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
I would like to merge my newly developed financial skills with my social development background.

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Global Investment Management
The Arts of Communication
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management
Managerial Economics

Activities:
FSIG advisory project

A little more than two years since undergraduate does not sound like a long time, but in my first semester, I definitely needed an adjustment period to revive my schooling and student habits.  That is why I really enjoyed the Strategic Management course, which was a two-week Monday-to-Friday session before the fall semester actually started.  Corporate Finance was the highlight of my semester.  While there was no way for me to avoid taking it, since it’s a required MIB course, I truly enjoyed this first exposure to finance and it inspired my interest to learn everything about the topic.  Taking this course in the same semester as Investment Management and Financial Statement Management was not easy, but the courses complemented each other in deepening my financial knowledge.  Managerial Economics was a good refresher on my economics knowledge from undergraduate.  I also really enjoyed Arts of Communication.  I took it knowing that enhancing my public speaking skills could only do good for my personal and professional development, but I must say that the whole experience surprised me in how practical and hands-on the projects were.

Semester Two

International Financial Management
Global Financial Services
The Political Economy and Business Environments of Greater China
Marketing Management
Macroeconomics
International Financial and Fiscal Law

Activities:
FSIG due diligence project
Management of the Fletcher Finance Club, 2017-2018

My second semester was still filled with a lot of required courses for the MIB program, including International Financial and Fiscal Law, Macroeconomics, and Marketing Management.  I also had to pick a regional course, for which I decided to learn about China because of all the talk about China being a global superpower.  As it turned out, I did learn a little bit of everything about China, including its history, its relations with neighboring countries and regions such as Taiwan and Hong Kong, its industrial development, political set-up, and cultural matters.  Completing my course list for this semester were two classes with Professor Jacque, whom I had for Corporate Finance.  In International Financial Management, I learned about derivative usage, including hedging, speculating, and risk management.  For Global Financial Services, I explored different cases of financial disasters throughout history.  I decided to really double down on my finance training, to ensure that I could pivot into a career in the financial industry, either for my summer internship or after Fletcher, and thus these two classes were the highlight of my semester.

Summer Internship
Citibank in Jakarta, Indonesia

Semester Three

Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Processes of International Negotiation
Art and Science of Statecraft

Activities:
CFA Challenge
FSIG advisory team lead

After a first year full of required courses, I finally had some flexibility in choosing classes in my third semester.  My class on Petroleum was interesting because it discussed a topic that is connected to most issues, but which I have little exposure to or knowledge of.  Negotiation has always been one of the most recommended classes at Fletcher, and it definitely equipped me with practical knowledge that I can bring in future engagements, in both my personal and professional life.  Art and Science of Statecraft was the outlier of the semester, in that it was not business related, although its common theme on power can easily be implemented in a business setting.  Finally, I really enjoyed my Project Finance course.  The cases discussed were fascinating, ranging from talking about an aluminum mine in Mozambique all the way to building a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.  It was a class that brought everything together, from financial modeling to political risk and cultural awareness.

Semester Four

Political Economy of Development
Global Private Equity
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
Managing NGOs and Social Enterprises
Building Sustainable Cities and Infrastructure (HBS Cross-Registration)

Activities:
CFA Challenge (Regionals level)
TA, Public Finance – Tavitian Scholarship Program

And yes, here we are, the final semester.  Back when I was a first-year, it seemed strange when alumni and second-year students kept talking about how time flies, and yet it is true.  With most of my required courses out of the way, I took one final “required” course in Political Economy of Development to complete my International Political Economy Field of Study.  I managed to cross-register at Harvard Business School, taking a class on Building Sustainable Cities, which built a lot on the knowledge that I described in my Project Finance course the previous semester.  I registered for two half-semester module classes in Private Equity and Latin America, with Private Equity providing me with practical experience in managing a fund, and Latin America fulfilling my curiosity about a region that many at Fletcher are focused on, and yet I know little about.  Nonetheless, I would say that Managing NGOs and Social Enterprises is my favorite class at Fletcher so far, which is funny because at the beginning of the semester, this was the only class I did not plan to take.  The cases and concepts discussed in this class brought me back to my work prior to Fletcher, and generated ideas I hope I can implement someday.

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Way back in the fall, an email snaked along to me and I reached out to the writer, Ammar Karimjee, a 2017 MIB graduate, to ask if I could publish it in the blog.  He agreed right away, so the delay in sharing it is all on me.  And yet with students entering in September 2018 still considering what this all means for them, and with the Class of 2018 searching for their own post-Fletcher jobs, I think Ammar’s post is instructive.  Note that the original recipients were staff and faculty associated with the MIB program and the Office of Career Services.  And, again, when Ammar refers to “a month ago,” he was reflecting on summer 2017, but I have confirmed with him that his work situation hasn’t changed.

About a month ago, I moved to Tanzania to begin work with One Acre Fund Tanzania (OAF) as an “Impact Ventures Associate.”  As many of you may know, OAF’s core model provides a range of products: better seeds and fertilizer, along with training — all provided as part of a reasonably sized loan to farmers across East Africa.  On average, farmers who work with One Acre Fund have yields that are 50-100% higher than similar farmers who do not.  In Tanzania, OAF works with about 30,000 farmers.

While the model has significant impact for farmers, growth is relatively slow because the work is very hands-on.  Each new community we enter has to understand the product, be trained, and see results only after a full growing season (or one full year).  To tackle that problem, my team is trying to understand other ways of approaching and impacting farmers that may be faster to scale than the model OAF uses traditionally.

My team is running a trial where we sell very small solar panels that provide off-grid electricity to farmers in the region.  Farmers see the result immediately, and over time, save significant money that they were previously using for other fuel sources.  More importantly, the product is much easier to roll out and does not require significant training.  The hope is that once we have achieved initial impact through this solar product, we can then use the relationships we have with farmers to offer them other products in the agricultural space — such as seed, fertilizer, etc.  We think that this may be a faster way (as compared to the core model) to create a bigger impact for a large group of farmers.

My specific role has two components: managing operations and managing impact.  I’ll be heading up all the logistics around our input distribution (warehouse management, quality control, distribution) for our 5000 farmers spread out over 50 villages.  Our two products at this stage are the solar systems as well as tree seedlings.  At the same time, I’ll be running a survey of about 900 treatment and control farmers observing the impact of both our products.  I’m currently managing a team of six people with two direct reports.  By April, those numbers will have grown to a team of around 20 and three direct reports.  I could not have imagined having this much responsibility — especially in terms of direct people management — just out of graduate school, but I am so excited and am already learning so much.  The best part is that my role will involve both impact evaluation and business planning/financial modeling, putting together both of my fields of study at Fletcher.

I also wanted to share a reflection with you all.  For the bulk of my two years at Fletcher, I thought I wanted my next job to be something that would serve as a stamp on my resume.  That’s why, as many of you know, I was looking at big consulting firms.  As you all probably gathered, I was never truly passionate about that work and I always knew it was a short-term stop on the road to doing something much different.

While I prepped for consulting and finance interviews and saw limited success, I continued to apply to positions I was more interested in, just to keep my options open.  I grew frustrated that I was consistently being unsuccessful in consulting/finance interviews, when I believed I was performing well.  I’ll never truly know why I didn’t get those jobs; however, looking back on the process, I have to believe that a large part of the reason is that it was obvious those roles were simply not a culture fit for me, and that came out in the interviews.

This summer, when my One Acre Fund offer came in, I was still waiting to hear back from a consulting firm about whether I would receive an offer for their Dubai office.  After lots of deliberation, I decided to take the OAF job without knowing the outcome of the other decision.  It meant a lot to me that I took the OAF offer not knowing about the other firm.  Perhaps I had this realization about culture fit a little too late, but I’m happy that I’ve had it now.

What makes Fletcher so unique is how many different interests and passions are represented at our school.  I think sometimes, especially with the MIB program, the need to do what we think is the “right career thing” overpowers the need to do what we truly want.  But there are too many people in the world who just go through the motions and try to check the boxes.  I find it incredible that Fletcher students, by and large, are not part of that thinking — and I’m very happy and proud not to have done that on an individual level either.

I know I’m rambling, but I hope that all of us can do more to help people fight for their true desires in their post-Fletcher jobs.  If any of you ever have a student struggling through the same dynamic I went through, please always feel free to put me in touch.

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Continuing to catch up with our student bloggers following the fall semester, today we’ll hear from Adi, who is now one semester from completing the MIB program.

Now that I have officially finished the fall semester, I can reflect on what happened, while also looking ahead to my final semester at Fletcher.  What was particularly different compared to my first year at Fletcher was the feeling of freedom and flexibility in choosing my courses.  With most of my MIB core requirements out of the way, I see way less of MIB classmates whom I saw pretty much every day last year, while meeting new students and even fellow second years whom I never met until this semester.  (Surprising as that is, it does happen.)  My second year is all about electives.  I do have one more requirement, but I have decided to push that to my final semester.  So, my fall schedule was completely of my choosing.  I ended up enrolling in the Art and Science of Statecraft with Professor Drezner, Processes of International Negotiations with Professor Babbitt, Large Investment and International Project Finance with Professor Uhlmaan, and Petroleum in the Global Economy with Professor Everett.  Overall, I thought it was a fantastic mix of finance, markets, politics, and hard and soft skills, with topics that complemented each other surprisingly well.

MIBs at the Januarian graduation. (Adi is third from the right.)

My Fields of Study at Fletcher are International Banking and Finance as well as International Political Economy (IPE).  Project Finance and Petroleum both fit my IPE Field of Study, although I think even if they didn’t, I would still have taken these two courses out of curiosity and interest.  Negotiations could have satisfied my DHP requirement, but I already had a DHP course, so I took the course purely out of recognition of the importance of being an exceptional negotiator in whatever professional path I end up pursuing.  Statecraft was taken out of curiosity.  After all, Fletcher is a school of diplomacy, and Professor Drezner is one of the better-known names not just in the school, but in his field of expertise.

In the end, the courses were a great mix.  The cases discussed in Project Finance were fantastic, ranging from aluminum mines in Mozambique to stadium public financing for the Dallas Cowboys.  Petroleum was definitely an eye-opener into just how deeply ingrained petroleum is in the fabric of today’s society.  I may not agree with every single perspective presented in the class, especially on the topic of petroleum’s impact on climate change (understanding Professor Everett spent years at Exxon-Mobil), but it is definitely exciting to hear a well-structured and logical argument that is counter to what I am accustomed to hearing.  The two projects from Negotiation gave me the opportunity to dig deep and analyze the discussions between Indonesia and Freeport, operator of the biggest goldmine in the world.  Finally, in what other class but Statecraft with Professor Drezner would you have a simulation on how countries are supposed to react in the event of a zombie apocalypse?

Thus, my suggestion for future MIB students trying to figure out what to take for their electives is to take the best courses Fletcher has to offer.  Obviously, try to get any required courses out the way (in the first year if possible).  I would highly recommend the four courses that I took this semester, but your interests may not be the same as mine.  I only suggest that you not limit yourself to business courses at Fletcher.  For MIBs, our distinguishing quality compared to MBA graduates is Fletcher’s non-business courses, whether in law, security, or even gender studies.  Recognizing that these are courses that reflect Fletcher expertise would translate to us being equipped with knowledge and skills that make us unique and competitive in the job market, even as we seek MBA-type positions in consulting, investment banking, or multinational corporations.  Plus, I personally find it interesting to learn about something totally outside my main area of study — it enriches the learning process.

I think many Fletcher students agree that we came here wanting an education that would give us a multidisciplinary perspective.  Thus, at some point in our studies, we need to take a course that is the best Fletcher has to offer, slightly disregarding whether the topic is what we intend to build a career in.  I don’t plan to have a career in conflict resolution or policymaking (although never say never), but I am confident that skills from courses on negotiations and statecraft will come in handy, even if I do pursue a career in financial services as I plan to right now.

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As promised, today’s post comes from second-year MIB student, Adi, who provides the final summer update from our continuing Student Stories bloggers.  Adi’s internship gave him a chance to test a new field, as he continues the career shift process he started in his first Fletcher semester.

At one point during my first year at Fletcher, someone told me that, in the end, everything was going to be o.k.  Everyone will do something during the summer break, be it an internship, research, writing, or catching up with old friends and family for two or three months.  As much as I wanted to believe that, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous when it was a couple of weeks after the last final of the spring semester, summer had officially started, and there was still no official offer letter for a summer internship.  I even flew back home to Indonesia, not knowing whether I was going to intern at all during the next few months, or just plain relax (or maybe start writing my capstone).

Adi (in the red shirt) and the CCB team at Citi Indonesia

Then the moment I had been waiting for finally arrived.  I was offered a spot in the Global Consumer Summer Associate batch at Citigroup’s Jakarta office.  While extremely relieved, I also came to realize that now the hard work would start.  This would be my first exposure to working at a global corporation, first time at a financial institution, in an industry far away from my previous professional background.  I was put on the Commercial Lending team.  My role was to support the business analysis and marketing staff in the division.  My main deliverable was an official guide for new employees of Citi Commercial Bank (CCB).  This meant that I had to learn how CCB operates, understand the complete business process down to the individual roles of each person on the team, and package all this information into a guidebook that would be easily digestible to a newcomer.

Throughout my time at Citi, there were many new learnings for me.  What was very noticeable from the onset was the fast pace of the work.  Prior to Fletcher, my experience was in the non-profit and public sectors.  Life at a private corporation like Citi was definitely different, in that on any day you could suddenly receive a million (figuratively) new tasks to be completed within the next couple of days (if not by the end of that business day).  Second, people were not lying when they said that working at a bank means you have to get good at Excel fast.  I learned more spreadsheet shortcuts and functions in the first week at Citi than I did in one year at Fletcher (or even my three years of work prior to grad school, for that matter).  Finally, I realized how vast the finance world is.  The Commercial Lending work that I had been doing during the summer was just a minuscule percentage of the whole operation that Citi does as an organization.  I really enjoyed learning about other functions within the bank, including corporate development, investment banking, and risk management.

In the end, it was a fruitful summer.  The skills and knowledge I learned from all three of Professor Jacque’s classes that I took in my first year, Professor Schena’s investment class, and Professor Trachtman’s fiscal and financial law class all came in very handy at different points of my internship.  To anyone pivoting to finance, or simply needing a refresher on the topic, I found the Wall Street Prep workshop both in the fall and spring semesters to be very useful during my time at Citi, and I highly recommend it.  Now that I have entered my second year at Fletcher, I have more context on how things click in the financial services industry.  I still am very much interested in exploring career opportunities in other parts of the industry, specifically asset management.  Hopefully, I will be able to build on my experience this past summer, and successfully navigate this exciting industry.

Family picture in Bukittinggi, Indonesia

 

 

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I have two more posts to share from the Class of 2016 before I move on to last May’s graduating class.  Today, Nathalie Hudson tells us about her experience since completing the MIB program 15 months ago, much of her time apparently having been spent on an airplane.

My year since Fletcher can mostly be described as an international one — I’ve accumulated over 50,000 airmiles (yes, I realize my carbon footprint it terrible…) and visited 16 countries.  The year started with an MIB wedding in Japan, and my one-year milestone since moving to Addis Ababa with Dalberg Global Development Advisors is going to be marked with a training in Bangkok and a music festival in Uganda.  In between I’ve danced to Bollywood music at Dalberg’s global retreat in India, had tea with pineapple farmers in Guinea, hiked up mountains and celebrated a wedding with some Fletcher favorites in Argentina, and helped organize a 100-person Iftar dinner in Tanzania.  All this while adjusting to life in Ethiopia, and contributing to growing our Dalberg Addis office from three people to 10 people.  It’s been an exciting and challenging year, with a new city, a new job and a lot of new responsibilities.

The mobility of this year has not just been linked to my location, it’s also in the nature of the work, with no two weeks ever being the same.  My first project was in Conakry, Guinea, establishing the strategy for the Prime Minister’s new Delivery Unit, specifically its agriculture project.  We were tasked with choosing which sector to work in, and then developing a plan for how to grow the sector in the coming two years.  Our interviews with the Ministry of Agriculture and data analysis of agricultural production led us to discover the once large but now dwindling pineapple industry of Guinea.  We then went out to the fields of Kindia to speak with pineapple farmers, and even visited the Prime Minister’s office to discuss our project.  Having spoken to distinguished guests and officials at Fletcher certainly helped in my preparation, but nothing quite prepares you for having to answer a Prime Minister’s questions directly!

After six weeks in Guinea I went back to Addis, moving from agriculture supply chain strategies to developing a business plan for an infant nutrition and women’s empowerment program in Ethiopia.  As this project ended, I packed my bag again to go to Denmark, creating an emerging market strategy for a large corporate client.  My most recent project was based in Kenya, working with a large pan-African bank to review some of its strategies and partnerships through expert interviews with new and innovate start-ups, and data analysis to understand the biggest opportunities.  In between projects I’ve attended conferences, organized a private-sector business development week in Tanzania, relaunched Dalberg’s inclusive business practice area, and helped set up our Ethiopian office.  The learning curve starts over again after every project, so the pace of change is challenging, but it’s certainly never boring.

These different projects and experiences are informed by either the classes I took or the people I met at Fletcher.  When I first arrived in Guinea I was reading a paper on Guinean agriculture that I realized had been written by a classmate.  When I kicked off our work on emerging market strategy for the Danish company and looked through their annual report, I pulled out my accounting class notes.  And as I do all of these projects while reading through the news coming out of Europe and the U.S. on a daily basis, I go back to my Historian’s Art class memories to ensure my reactions are informed and measured.

My past year has not only been informed by Fletcher, but was also made possible by Fletcher.  My path into Dalberg, after applying four times previously, was through a Fletcher alum who generously gave me his time for an informational interview 18 months ago, and has now become my boss.  My adjustment to Dalberg was made, and continues to be made, much easier with two Fletcher alums becoming buddies/advisors and answering all of my questions and concerns.

And while packing a suitcase and traveling constantly may sound glamorous, life on a plane (especially when traveling through African airports) is not always fun.  My travels around the world have been made all the more enjoyable because I often have a Fletcher person to have coffee with or host me.  And of course, Fletcher weddings have been a great excuse for adventures and reunions.  Being located next to a hub airport in Addis has also meant I’ve had a few Fletcher visitors myself.

My faith in humanity also continues thanks to ongoing conversations with my classmates, over coffee or on social media.  With the world going a bit mad these days, the presence of Fletcher folks in my Twitter feed continues to give me hope that we’re not doomed just yet.  Professor Khan also gave his time this year, in between writing his latest book, to help me and other alums organize a Historian’s Art Alumni Discussion where we discussed The Trump Presidency as Contemporary History.  It was an incredible way to reconnect with former classmates, and feel the Fletcher vibe again, albeit this time via WebEx while sitting on the shores of Lake Kivu with a dodgy internet connection!

Fletcher prepared me for my new career as a consultant by encouraging me to think critically and with empathy.  It equipped me with lessons in corporate finance, business strategy, financial inclusion, and history, that I use daily (although I still wish I’d paid more attention in Corporate Finance).  It has also given me a network of friends and classmates around the world who are generous with their time and inspiring with their stories.  Last week I made Gold Status on Ethiopian Airlines, a fitting one-year milestone that shows how far I’ve traveled both literally and figuratively in my year since Fletcher.

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This week I’m going to wrap up the end-of-year updates from our Student Stories writers.  We’ve already heard from Mariya and Pulkit’s report will appear later this week.  Today we’ll hear from Adi, who is back in Indonesia for the summer.

Just like that, I finished my first year of graduate school.  In a typical two-year graduate program, the most common question at the end of the spring semester is, “What’s your plan for the summer?”, which is really saying “Do you have an internship or not?”  Of course, there are people who are not doing an internship this summer.  They might be using the time to do research, work on their Capstone Project, travel, or relax before the start of another intense academic year.  But my sense is that when my classmates asked me the question, what they really wanted to know was what internship offers I had or hadn’t received.

I know I found myself asking that same question to others with the same intention in mind.  As I carried out my search, there were many reasons why I asked.  Getting inspiration on where else I could apply or tips on how my classmates successfully secured those internship offers, or simply to calm my nerves that someone else out there also hadn’t yet solidified their summer plans.

Indonesian Fletcher family: Adi and his wife with Angga, after Angga received the Presidential Award in May.

I remember that, at the beginning of the year, many of the second-year students assured the first years that we should not worry — by the end of the spring semester, everyone would have solidified their summer plans.  They told us that some students will receive an offer earlier than others, but this is not due to their qualifications.  It is simply a reflection of the different timelines of hiring companies, and the wide variety of interests of Fletcher students.  Investment banks and management consulting companies finish their hiring in the fall or early spring.  Many multinationals and international agencies do not start accepting applications until midway through the spring semester.  Other companies simply accept internship applications throughout the year until they hit their quota.

Nonetheless, we first years couldn’t help but stress out a little about getting an internship, so we tried to start as early as possible.  Right from the beginning of the fall semester, I approached quite possibly every single resource that I thought could connect me with an internship opportunity, starting with the obvious, the Office of Career Services (OCS).  I met with Elana Givens, the OCS director, to talk about my interests and start planning out my internship search strategy.  I attended many coaching sessions led by OCS staff throughout my first year.  I approached Dorothy Orszulak, Director of Corporate Relations for the Institute for Business in the Global Context, to ask what exactly hiring managers in the private sector are looking for in internship candidates.  I met with Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti and Kristen Zecchi to find out how previous MIB students leveraged their degree to identify internship opportunities.  Professors were also fantastic resources.  It is through my discussions with Professor Jacque and Professor Schena that I found many ideas on organizations and people to reach out to.  And then, of course, there was the structured Professional Development Program curriculum to help me with my résumé and cover letter, making informational interview requests, and acing interviews.

The winner’s prize for the annual MIB first-years vs. second-years kickball game.

After laying the groundwork with these resources, I started expanding my network.  My first thought was the second-year students.  Through casual conversations, I managed to figure out who interned where in the previous summer.  Then, I followed up on the conversations with an email asking if they would be willing to chat over coffee about their experience, both the internship search and the responsibilities of the position.  It was fascinating to hear their stories.  One student interned at a venture capital start-up in Seattle that did not have an official internship pipeline.  He simply cold-emailed the company, explaining his background and his interest in working for them over the summer, and luckily that is where he ended up.  Another student leveraged multiple contacts to reach a very busy director of a tech start-up in Kenya, who then replied “I just received two separate emails referring you to my company.  Let’s talk.”  These are only two of the many interesting stories I heard by talking to second-year students.

I had started the fall semester looking to pursue an internship at a management consulting company.  From the onset, I had heard warnings that even getting an interview would be extremely hard for non-MBA candidates.  I reached out to every single person I could who was even remotely connected to the consulting industry.  I worked together with my classmates to practice case interviews.  I attended workshops and webinars about the consulting industry.  During winter break, I received invitations for first-round interviews with Bain and BCG.  In the end, I didn’t make it over the final hurdle at either organization, but I am thankful to have gone through the experience.  I definitely think that I wouldn’t have had that opportunity had I not reached beyond the companies’ online application portals.

In the end, it all worked out.  The advice from second-year students at the beginning of the fall semester turned out to be true.  We all ended up with a satisfying summer plan and my first-year MIB cohort has embarked on our respective summer journeys.  It may not have been what we thought we would be doing when we started planning, but some of us ended up with something better.  As for me personally, I ended up joining Citibank’s Commercial Banking team for the summer and I’m definitely enjoying the challenge.

What a journey it has been!  I’m already looking forward to regrouping with my classmates for our second year.

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Commencement is coming up soon and three of our student bloggers — Tatsuo, McKenzie, and Adnan — will soon be moving on.  Today, let’s look at how McKenzie pieced together her MIB curriculum.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Senior Associate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP

Fields of Study
International Finance and Banking
International Political Economy

Capstone Topic
Managing Impact: How Impact Funds Can Go Beyond Measuring to Manage Impact Performance Throughout the Fund Lifecycle

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Help build the impact investing field and channel more capital to investments that provide both financial and positive social or environmental returns

Curriculum Overview

Semester One: 5 credits

Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Managerial Economics (½ credit)
Global Investment Management
Emerging Africa in the World Economy

Activities:

The first semester of the MIB program is dominated by core courses that really build the foundational finance, accounting, and strategy skills of a typical business program.  This also means that, as a cohort, we take nearly all our classes together, which is a key driver behind the really strong bonds among MIB students.  Of our core courses, I really enjoyed the economic theories underlying business decisions discussed in our Managerial Economics course.  My favorite course of the semester, however, was Global Investment Management.  I wasn’t sure it was a good decision to take it in my first year, given my business experience to date had focused on strategy, management, and operational efficiency — in short, nothing related to investing or portfolio management.  Perhaps as a result, it is probably the course in which I learned the most at Fletcher in such a short period of time, and it helped me build a strong relationship with Professor Patrick Schena, whose support and mentorship has been an invaluable part of my Fletcher experience.

Finally, I’m a strong believer that the Fletcher “curriculum” is incomplete without mention of the extracurricular activities that abound at this school.  The activities we pursue are more than likely the talking points we use in interviews for summer internships and jobs.  I knew early on that the Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) was one student club that I wanted to be actively involved in, so I joined an FSIG advisory project while also competing in the CFA challenge.  Last, these activities wouldn’t be complete without mention of the periodic MIB “family dinners” and other social events like Culture Nights and Los Fletcheros concerts that make Fletcher the unique community that it is.

Semester Two: 4 credits

Marketing Management (½ credit)
Macroeconomics
International Financial Management
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (½ credit)
Political Economy of Development

Activities:

  • FSIG advisory project and transition onto FSIG management team for 2016-2017 school year
  • Two-week off-campus certificate program in impact investing and social enterprise management, through the Middlebury Institute for International Studies

In my second semester, I nearly completed my core MIB requirements, with the exception of International Business Transactions.  My favorite courses of the semester were Global Private Equity and International Financial Management.  The first, because much of the coursework involved practical applications of private equity concepts.  For example, we had to develop and pitch an investment thesis as though we were raising a fund.  And later in the semester, we conducted due diligence on real companies whose management we were able to interview to develop our investment recommendation.  International Financial Management surprised me in the extent to which our conversations went beyond finance to the strategic imperatives at the foundation of corporate financing decisions, which help companies manage many types of risk exposure.  I really got a lot out of the course.

On the student activities front, besides transitioning into the CEO position of FSIG, I also took two weeks “off” during the semester to attend a training in impact investing.  I’m not sure that I’d recommend swapping 10 hours in Fletcher classes for 40 hours a week of training — plus catch-up work for Fletcher in the evenings — but by strategically taking only four credits this semester and choosing project teams that were willing to work around my schedule, I was able to make it work.  Plus, the network I built through the certificate program helped me score an exciting summer internship with Edge Growth in South Africa.

Summer Internship
Edge Growth (Johannesburg, South Africa)

As I wrote in a prior post, my time with Edge Growth was a great learning experience.  My boss, Jason, really pushed my thinking about how companies need to evolve on multiple levels when transitioning from their startup phases to more targeted growth and scale phases.  As mentioned, I used my internship as an opportunity to confirm my interest in impact investing and in working with emerging market companies, which definitely colored how I think about the firms I targeted in my job search.

Semester Three: 5 credits

International Business Transactions
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
Econometrics
Market Approaches to Development
Independent study (capstone)

Activities:

  • FSIG management
  • MIINT team lead (part of FSIG)

By far one of my favorite courses at Fletcher, and one I recommend everyone take, is our new professor Alnoor Ebrahim’s course on leadership, teambuilding, and organizations.  I had managed small teams working as a consultant, and Professor Ebrahim’s course provided the perfect time and space for me to reflect on my own leadership style, while learning from the experiences of others in this 100% case-based course.  Professor Ebrahim has an uncanny knack for facilitating discussion and connecting insights from across cases to bring a classroom and content to life.  I also took Econometrics, which allowed me to hone my technical skills and prepare for a spring course on Econometric Impact Evaluation.

Outside of classes, most of my spare time was spent working with Fletcher’s MIINT team to source and screen potential impact investments.  I really enjoyed this portion of the MIINT competition in particular, as it exposed me to a multitude of innovative business models and entrepreneurs who are using market-based solutions to profitably improve the lives of people in emerging markets.

This semester was also the point at which all my activities, coursework, and summer internship experiences converged.  I reached out to connections I’d made in South Africa who turned into resources for the MIINT competition.  I found myself having business development calls for MIINT that led to partnership opportunities for FSIG advisory projects, or drawing on concepts from my International Business Transactions course to think through the risks associated with a potential MIINT investment.

Finally, at some point in this semester, I realized just how far I’d come since my first day in the August pre-session.  I had taken a leap of faith from a comfortable job and had bet on a non-traditional business program, and I felt it was all worth it.  All I had to do was land a job that fit my long-term career goals and enjoy the rest of my time in school, and I could consider grad school at Fletcher a complete success.

Semester Four: 4 credits (that felt like 8…)

Econometric Impact Evaluation
Global Financial Services
The Arts of Communication
Business at the Base of the Pyramid (Harvard Business School)

Activities:

  • Received funding for January capstone travel and research from the Dean’s Research Fund and the Institute for Business in the Global Context
  • FSIG management (transitioned to new leadership)
  • MIINT team lead (continued from fall)
  • TA, International Financial Management
  • Finished capstone!
  • Found a job!

In retrospect, my fourth semester at Fletcher is about twice as loaded as I had intended it to be.  Business at the Base of the Pyramid at HBS is my favorite class, but I would argue that responsibilities outside of class have dominated my time.  I’ve pretty much been running full speed ahead since January, when I received funding to conduct interviews in Nairobi, Kenya to support my capstone.  February flew by, and included a trip to California on a career trek offered by the organizers of the MIINT competition.  In March, I entered multiple rounds of interviews for a few dream jobs, juggling them with multiple Skype sessions and another trip to the west coast, along with my TA responsibilities, coursework, and futile attempts to create time to finish my capstone.  And then I traveled to Philadelphia with Fletcher’s MIINT team for the official competition.  While the hectic hustle has been well worth the chaos, I’m excited to have officially ended my job search (!), passed FSIG off to an amazing new leadership team after spring break, and wrapped up the MIINT.  This has left some down time to spend with the amazing friends I’ve made, before we graduate and move off to all corners of the globe.

I never quite knew what to expect from grad school, especially given the diversity of paths that Fletcher students take.  As I sit here, with only two weeks until I graduate, I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by or how much I’ve managed to squeeze into just two short years.

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Why would anyone put off doing something really enjoyable?  Though that remains one of the great imponderables, the fact is that Kristen and I love hanging out in the Hall of Flags and chatting with the folks who pass by.  And you can be sure that someone will be there, nearly any time of day.  Nonetheless, the entire academic year passed before, on one of the pre-exams “study days,” we finally planted ourselves by the front “welcome desk” and snagged students and professors as they went from A to B.  We asked each of our conversation partners to tell us something great about their year.

On the particular day we were there, we happened to catch a disproportionate number of MIB students.  Also, it was the day when the recipient of the 2016-2017 Paddock Teaching Award had just been announced, and Professor Patrick Schena was on everyone’s mind.

Auyon and Coco, both second-year MIBs

Coco: The most amazing fact about Fletcher life is our access to faculty, for example Bhaskar Chakravorti and Professor Schena.  All the professors are so friendly and so nice and accessible, and I don’t think that’s a kind of experience that I could get elsewhere.

(Note that Coco will soon start a job that resulted from a project she completed in her consulting class.  Also, she has three papers due and Corporate Social Responsibility is the first on the list.)

Auyon: I would echo what Coco said.  For me, it’s also Professor Schena — I took a class with him, he’s the one who helped me get an internship, and he’s my capstone advisor.  I enjoyed Professor Jacque’s classes a lot, as well as Professor Schaffner’s Econometrics class.  I was dreading it at first, but I really appreciate her approach to the material.

Callie, first-year MALD

I live in Blakeley Hall and I’ve made a group of really really amazing friends, and a great community.  I even met my boyfriend, who also lives in Blakeley.

(Callie was taking a break, while writing a paper for her International Communication class.  Blakeley has been identified as a rich source of Fletcher couples.)

 

 


Anurag, mid-career MA student

(Anurag referred us to this page when we asked for a photograph.)

It’s different for us mid-career students because we come in with very substantial experience, in my case 14 to 15 years of experience.  There was a panel that MA students organized last fall, where we spoke about our careers and our collective experience.  The people who attended found it very useful.  Students like us are available and we offer our best advice.  With 15 years of experience in the field, you do learn about life.

I’ve been focused on general management and finance-related courses, both here and at HBS (Harvard Business School).  That’s a wonderful thing about Fletcher, being able to take HBS courses.  I already have an MBA degree, but still I learned a lot here.  At Fletcher, I took Islamic Banking and Finance, and with a world-renowned professor — that’s not something you’ll find in many places.

I have two finals and two papers pending.  One final is in economics.  I’m not an economist, so I’ll do a lot of studying for that.

Faith, first-year MALD

I think the best experience has been to meet and be roommates with people from all over the world, and to be able to go home after school and keep the conversation going.  Not even in terms of country perspective, but also what people study.  We all met a little randomly.  I have a roommate who studies gender and now I realize I don’t know gender, and I need to take a class to be able to understand it.  It’s being able to learn as much when we’re out of class as when we’re in class.

Today I’m preparing a presentation for the government of Estonia, for the consulting class.  I’m meeting with Ali to talk about the presentation for the Estonian government on Friday.

Ali, second-year MIB (here to meet with Faith)

What’s top of my list today is last night’s Fletcher Follies, which is an annual event where students show homemade videos about their experience at Fletcher.  We gather, we watch them together, and then they’re immediately erased from the record.  They were hilarious!

 

 

 

Professor Kimberly Wilson

I’m excited about FSIG (Fletcher Social Investment Group) and we’re discussing incorporating it into my class Market Approaches to Development.  So I’m looking forward to that, both using some of their methods and maybe we can integrate some of the clients in the class, too.

I’ll be working increasingly with refugee and migrant populations in terms of my research.  What we’re trying to do is what Eileen Babbitt calls “building a wider bench.”  We’re trying to be sort of a magnet, trying to create a positioning for Fletcher.

Before heading back to our desks, Kristen and I paused to chat with a group that had gathered and had an unusual number of markers on their table.  You’ll recognize student blogger McKenzie, I’m sure.

Michael (second-year MIB), McKenzie (second-year MIB), Alexandra (first-year MALD), and Ashray (first-year MIB), AKA the Fletcher MIINT Team!

We’re signing a photo from our MIINT win for Professor Schena.  We were talking about bringing him a souvenir from Philly, and our souvenir turned out to be the plaque for the win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And with that, our annual blog foray to the Hall of Flags was over.  We made our annual pledge to spend more time there next year, though it remains to be seen whether we’ll succeed in organizing ourselves to do so.

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