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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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most winters in the Boston area include a mix of cold and mild days. That doesn’t mean that a little adjustment isn’t necessary, especially for folks from tropical climates. Student blogger Adi made such a climate adjustment this year.
From the moment I received my Fletcher admission letter, people have been warning me about winter in the Northeast region. Most people like to specifically point out “the winter of 2015,” which apparently was the worst the state had seen in years. So I started my Fletcher journey curious, trying to understand how bad it could be exactly, but also quite nervous, considering I come from Indonesia, a tropical country. (The only snow we see is in Hollywood movies.) Even when I lived in Seattle as an undergraduate, snow was not a big concern. I remember back in my sophomore year, we had two inches of snow and the university declared a snow day. That’s how much we didn’t get snow in Seattle.
My wife had already been in Boston for six months when I arrived. She flew into the city during the winter (January to be exact), so she had quite the shock adjusting from Indonesia’s heat to Boston’s snow. Thus, she was the one constantly reminding me to buy the right jacket and snow boots to be sure I would survive my daily commute from Boston to Medford. This semester, Fletcher had two snow days due to storms in the Northeast region. With this amount of snow, Seattle would have had more than a month worth of snow days. Now we’re at the end of March, when people say, “Winter is over and spring is arriving.”
I had one conference that was held while a mini blizzard was happening outside. (Luckily everyone made it to and from the conference safely.) This was a conference I was organizing with a couple of classmates called “Innovate Tufts: Fletcher Disrupts,” and it involved participants from other schools, including Boston University, MIT, and Harvard, as well as professionals from the Boston, DC, and NY areas. We had some contingency planning to do as we sweated over the possibility that one of our conference days would have to be rescheduled or cancelled due to the snow storm. Luckily, everything went according to plan. I am quite proud that none of the speakers cancelled due to the weather, and all-in-all we executed a successful conference amid the “nor’easter” storm.
There were, of course, other stories about how this weather impacted my daily activities as a Fletcher grad student. I slipped once on my way to campus from the Davis T (subway) station. In fact, that whole journey from Davis to Fletcher was made more interesting by the icy roads. What would usually take me no more than 15 minutes ended up being close to half an hour, as I powered through to get to class (thankful that I decided to leave home early that day). But all in all, I would say that my first winter in Massachusetts was not as bad as people warned me it would be, and it was actually quite enjoyable. The snow days gave me extra time to catch up with readings and schoolwork that were starting to pile up. The air felt fresh on my walk to campus. And you really had to enjoy the beautiful places around the Fletcher/Tufts campus that emerged after the snow covered the ground. My wife and I found some great spots to take pictures with all the snow.
In terms of how the climate affected my grad-school flow, I would say it did not affect me as much as I thought it would. Throughout the winter, classes still happened as scheduled, and professors didn’t let us off the hook for late assignments just because of a little snow. I did need to adjust to the early sunset, as opposed to during my pre-session course in the summer when I was able to get drinks with classmates after my 5:00 p.m. class and the sun was still there. But other than that, winter didn’t get in my way.
Though my first winter was quite pleasant, I’m still glad that spring is arriving now, which means fewer layers of jackets. Next year’s winter could be worse, could be better, or it could be the same. Either way, I would say I mastered enough of the learning curve to adapt my activities to winter in the Northeast.
With a semester in their rear-view mirrors, the first-year Student Stories writers are ready to reflect on fall 2016 at Fletcher. Today, Adi wraps up his first months of graduate study and tells us about the rapid evolution of his career objectives.
As the clock in Mugar 200 hit 11:30 and I submitted my final exam for Accounting, a realization hit my mind as well: I did it! My first semester of graduate school was done. I thought it was special that I began the semester in that exact same classroom. I reflected back to that first day of my pre-session course in August, a wide-eyed new graduate student attempting to readjust to student life. I had introduced myself to my classmates as an Indonesian, three years out of undergraduate, looking to identify new ways that the private sector can be involved in development beyond the typical corporate social responsibility programs. Thinking back to that August day, I also saw how my professional dreams have changed and evolved throughout those five months.
Within the first week of my pre-session, I remember attending two discussion talks by two different faculty members at Fletcher, Professor Kim Wilson and Professor Patrick Schena. Professor Wilson talked about financial inclusion through the lens of her research into how underserved communities in Jordan were enabled by money-transfer technologies, allowing them to take part in the market economy cycle. Listening to this talk, I was intrigued by the idea and started thinking about the possibility of bringing the financial inclusion model back to Indonesia after I finish my Fletcher education (or, if the model already exists, to find ways to further develop it). Here, my interest had already evolved beyond my first-day introduction. I thought about how I was not attached to the idea of the private sector being involved in development. I was more interested in looking at a private-sector model being utilized in the development setting. This is where my interest in Professor Wilson’s talk originated. Financial inclusion as an way to provide a platform for the targeted community to obtain capital resources, as opposed to simply giving them development aid, is a much more sustainable model.
A couple of days later I attended Professor Schena’s talk on the sovereign wealth fund (SWF) model. Using the example of the Norwegian SWF, Professor Schena discussed how the Norwegian government’s annual budget for national spending was significantly affected by the return the SWF generated that year. During this discussion, he introduced the idea of impact investing. A relatively new idea, impact investing has been gaining traction within the investment management sphere. More and more investment managers are pressured by their investors to allocate a significant portion of their portfolio to securities that have social impact. Prior to Fletcher, I had no exposure to or understanding of the investment management space, let alone impact investing. Nonetheless, I found the idea to be fascinating. Thus, after this talk, I thought about how to incorporate impact investing into my career aspirations. Understanding that I would first need to be familiar with investment management before jumping into impact investing, I ended up enrolling in Professor Schena’s Global Investment Management class.
Orientation came and went, and the fall semester began. I met my new classmates, both first years and second years, exchanging information on what we did before Fletcher as well as what we wanted to do after graduation. Despite the wide range of interests and backgrounds, I noticed that most Fletcher students wanted to have an impact, be it through non-profits, diplomacy, government, international organizations, entrepreneurship, or the private sector. It was thus fascinating to hear about different ways that impact can be created. Personally, I collected these ideas to continue to clarify my personal goals, as well as to see which ideas I could bring back and implement in Indonesia. Nonetheless, for a while during the semester, my career planning continued to focus on finding ways to implement financial inclusion (through financial technology) and impact investing in the development context. Then I talked to Professor Alnoor Ebrahim.
Professor Ebrahim introduced me to the idea of social impact bonds. As a professor of social change, Professor Ebrahim was very familiar with the idea of a market approach to development, as well as the evolution of public-private partnership models. At that point in the semester, I was pretty deep into my Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Investment Management classes, and I was familiar with bonds. Nonetheless, I had never heard of the social impact bond model. As it turns out, it was a model that brought together non-profits, government, and corporations (in the form of investors). The idea was that non-profits would run a program to answer a particular social need in the society. This program would be attached to a bond with a set of metrics defining what constitutes success. An investor would purchase this bond, and should the program reach its success metric, the investor would be paid interest by the government. Prior to Fletcher, my work was building partnerships between non-profits, governments agencies, and corporations in the health sector in Indonesia. Thus, this social impact bond model was thoroughly fascinating to me. The way I thought about my career developed again. This model was how I would combine my developing interest in financial inclusion with impact investing. This was the model that I was going to research further to see if it could be implemented in Indonesia.
Looking back, my first five months at Fletcher have been amazing. The courses, the student organizations, the activities, and the discussions have provided me with incredible insights into what is possible out there. I came into Fletcher thinking I had a solid grasp of what I wanted to do after graduation. Yet, as I conclude the winter break at the end of my first semester, I have realized how much my goals have been evolving. With every new discussion with a professor, lunch talk with a classmate, or simply another session for a required course such as Corporate Finance, I have learned new specific ways my goals can be adjusted. I am extremely happy that I had this much needed winter break, following the enormous effort it took to complete the first semester. Nonetheless, seeing how much my aspirations have evolved in these first five months, I personally cannot wait to see what the next three semesters at Fletcher will have to offer.
Today, let’s meet Adi, a first-year student in the MIB program who will be writing for the Student Stories feature during his two years at Fletcher. Adi has roots in both the U.S. and Indonesia and has spent long stretches of time in each.
To be honest, I had never considered Fletcher as my destination for graduate school. I had barely heard of Fletcher in the social circles I normally operate around. And yet, here I am, three months into my academic journey as a Master of International Business (MIB) candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and it could not have been any better.
I left my previous job in Indonesia looking for new ways I could bridge the private sector’s involvement in development efforts, beyond the usual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) donations. Thus, in choosing my graduate school program, I looked into either a Master of Public Policy, where I could design the regulatory environment for business involvement, or a Master of Business Administration, diving right into the innovation system within corporate organizations. I was even considering a joint MBA-MPP degree. In the MIB at Fletcher, I found the ability to do both, and so much more. My daily classes are filled with learning as much about corporate financing and risk of investments as about the political risk of being in a foreign environment. I haven’t even gotten to the full range of courses that Fletcher has to offer.
I have attempted to immerse myself in the Fletcher spirit by joining the Fletcher Social Impact Group, advising a start-up team with their market entry strategy into Boston. I am organizing two separate conferences scheduled for the beginning of 2017, with themes from innovations in international affairs to populism as a political risk. And, by attending lectures and events, I have interacted with senior managers from Boeing, Deloitte, GAP, and BCG, as well start-up founders. Sometimes, there are so many events happening that I simply cannot decide which I wish to attend. The relatively small but tight-knit community, the flexibility of the curriculum, and the wealth of event options have made the past three months very exciting, stressful, and colorful, all at the same time.
All of this excitement has made me wonder, as I reflect back to how I managed to get here: how had I never heard about Fletcher before I actually started applying? At first, I thought it was a lack of outreach from the School in Indonesia. Then, I looked at the profile of Indonesian alumni, and I saw former ministers of foreign affairs, heads of national planning, and directors from multi-national banks. I realized, there must be a Fletcher presence in Indonesia, and a pretty strong one at that. The alumni network in Indonesia, though small, actually holds key positions and are very influential. And the best part is that they, too, are proudly part of the Fletcher community.
The strength of the alumni network amazes me. I have heard about how most universities take pride in the diversity and success of their alumni, but I had never before heard, let alone experienced, how strong this alumni connection can be. Email any Fletcher graduate whose background you might be interested in, and you will very likely get a quick reply asking how they can help. In the three months I have been here, I probably have reached out to more than 50 alumni, and they all have responded, even if we needed to work around their schedules. And the more I am embedded in this community, the more I realize that this culture is not exclusive to alumni, but also current students, staff, and the faculty.
Quite simply, I feel that coming to Fletcher is one of the best decisions I have made. I cannot wait to see how the rest of my Fletcher journey will turn out. I can’t claim that I have gotten the full insight into what Fletcher has to offer, but I am definitely excited to see what else is out there.
I know that many Indonesians back home would be interested in joining this community, and will have a lot to add. And I know that many will benefit from the Fletcher experience, with the flexibility, the events, and the resources, to graduate ready to contribute back to the country. So here I am, hoping to ensure that people hear more about Fletcher. Here I am, to ensure that more Indonesians will make Fletcher their next stop.
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