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An MBA’s Adventures – Abroad in Chile

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I almost missed out on the most unique and rewarding experience of my MBA career so far. Notre Dame provides second-year and one-year students the opportunity to study abroad in Santiago, Chile during Mod 2. Most people decided to go over the summer, but not me. After initially choosing to stay in South Bend, I had a last minute change of heart and booked a flight to Santiago.

Just a few weeks later, this lifelong Midwesterner found herself nestled among the Andes during the South American summer, along with 22 classmates, six spouses, and two kids! I haven’t regretted my spontaneous decision to study abroad for a single minute.

The coursework in Santiago is a definite change from Notre Dame campus. We’re taking three internationally focused business classes (marketing, economics, and finance), in addition to Spanish. Our professors are not academics, but real-life practitioners and experts in their field. Each class focuses on educating us about not just Chile but all of Latin America, and how this region fits into the global business landscape.

For me, this has been an eye-opening experience. My perspective on the economy, financial markets, and business in general is decidedly Amero-centric. I had a limited understanding of how much foreign countries impact US business. Studying with Chilean experts exposed me to just how global and interconnected the world is today. Latin American countries are critical trade partners to the United States, so the state of their economies greatly affects US-based businesses. Learning more about this region is extremely beneficial and will undoubtedly provide a more well-rounded perspective on various issues when I navigate my future career.

Beyond the classroom, studying abroad in Santiago allows us the chance to travel and experience life throughout Latin America. In addition to exploring Santiago, so far my classmates have gone wine tasting in Mendoza, hiked Machu Picchu, summited Volano Villarrica, relaxed on the beach in Valparaiso – and that’s just the beginning. Trips to Buenos Aires, Easter Island, and Patagonia are planned for our last month here. Exploring the region and soaking up as much culture as we can is just as important to our time here as in-classroom learning.

Even over 5,000 miles from South Bend, the Notre Dame family follows you everywhere. A few classmates and I went to a “gringo” bar to get our football fix and watch the Fighting Irish take on the Pittsburgh Panthers. We met a large group of ND undergrads studying abroad, as well as half a dozen alums who live in Santiago. We all spend the night together swapping stories, giving advice, and (unfortunately) commiserating on the Irish’s loss. Such random meetings with other Domers in Santiago reinforce the strength of ND’s network. Wherever you go, the Notre Dame family will be there.

There are some challenges with studying abroad. Keeping up with the job search can be tough, and we all miss our family and friends back home. But the benefits of this once in a lifetime experience far outweigh the negatives. I’m thankful every day that I took advantage of this amazing opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what adventures the next month holds for my classmates and me here in Santiago.

 

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Katie Rossi
Second-Year MBA
SVP – Clubs
CCO – MBA Case Competition Committee
Symposium Co-Chair – Net Impact Club

Notre Dame as Hogwarts

I have often heard people compare Notre Dame to Hogwarts from Harry Potter and if you have ever gone into the South Dining Hall you might hear an undergrad claim it was the inspiration for the Great Hall in the movies. I can’t quite image what a Quidditch game is like but Home Football Saturdays are truly an experience like any other.  My undergraduate university did not have football program, so I never really appreciated the excitement of the fall season. My friends back in Seattle have even commented on my 180-degree switch to a full-fledged fan. Yet, I think it is more than the beautiful grounds and world-class football team that lead people to draw the parallels to the Harry Potter series—it is core of the story- the triumph good and values over evil and greed that best matches our identity.

During the peak of the 2008 financial crisis, I remember after spending an entire day on the phone trying to calm post-Madoff investors’ nerves feeling irritated by business practices that had led to the chaos around me.  So when I was looking at various business schools, I was worried that the seats around me would be filled with “gunners” who were only out to better themselves and at any cost.  I wanted business school to be an opportunity to enhance both my career and network but not at the expense of accepting the practices that had frustrated me during the financial collapse.  So when the Notre Dame brochure and its “ask more of business” mantra arrived at my door, I was very intrigued.

I am happy to report that the brochure was true to its word. My classmates are at Notre Dame because they want to achieve more than a line on their resume; they want to change the way business is done. Conversations over the sustainability and ethical ramifications of a decision occur daily. I adore Notre Dame not just because it is arming me with the analytical skills to read a balance sheet or put together a marketing plan but also because it is commonplace to see classmates working together to learn concepts and discuss the great issues. I remember during my first year a classmate with an accounting background holding review sessions before the first round of exams. Don’t get me wrong we are a group of competitive and motivated individuals but no one wants to succeed at the expense of someone else.

So while we don’t have flying broomsticks or magic wands, the same fundamental principles of friendship, courage of convictions, and seeking out the right and just solution are omnipresent in the halls of Mendoza. So while I am not sure whether Notre Dame is truly like Hogwarts, I do know that it is a magical place.

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Katie Beltrone, CFA
2nd Year MBA
President – Management Club
LinkedIn

A Summer at a Startup

My name is Anna McKeever, I am a second year MBA student at Notre Dame, and I worked at a startup this past summer. The company I worked for is called The Indiana Whiskey Company, and I worked in a marketing function.

Why I Did It

I decided to work at The Indiana Whiskey Company for three reasons. First, I was truly excited about the product we’d be making and the team with which I’d be working. The product was a new craft whiskey sourced exclusively from Indiana. The team was composed of a recent ND MBA grad and two current ND MBA classmates. Second, I was potentially looking to transition into marketing after having worked in HR. Working for a startup company would allow me to have comprehensive exposure to different parts of marketing to see if this function was a better fit for me than HR. Third, helping build a business from the ground up would allow me to gain a more holistic understanding of how a business works and how all of the functions tie together.

What Did I Do?

I did a little bit of everything. I spent my first few weeks conducting marketing research, learning about the spirits industry and our manufacturing process, and crafting a brand strategy.  I then transitioned into focusing on our merchandise and managing vendor, distributor, and community partnership relationships. On top of this, I was in charge of giving our distillery a facelift, executing promotional events, and coordinating electronic communications (social media and website).

Reflecting on the Experience

Working at a startup was an incredibly rewarding experience. I was able to gain exposure to all different areas of marketing while helping build a business from the ground up. As someone who tends to thrive with structure, working for The Indiana Whiskey Company forced me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to operate in a more ambiguous environment. It also gave me the opportunity to operate and learn in a collaborative and team oriented environment, which helped me immensely when I was confronted with new and challenging business problems. If given the opportunity to repeat this summer experience, I would do it in a heartbeat.

 

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Anna McKeever
2nd Year MBA Student

Why Apply to Notre Dame? The People Make This Place.

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I’m a New Englander at heart. I love it. The standard line-up of information in my introduction is my name, Danielle Silva, followed by where I’m from, the fabulous state of Maine. I actually got some flack from my classmates during orientation because of my fondness for the rocky coast and Boston sports. But because I had New England love seeping through my pores I decided it was time for a change. It was time to take the Danielle Silva show on the road and try something different.

Research & Reward

I did extensive research before applying to business schools: I perused websites; I dissected catalogs; I reviewed job placement reports and student stories about life on campus; I talked with students, and recruiters, and then more students. After all, if I was going to leave my position as a Brand and Advertising Manager at Unum, it was going to be for something great.

I had no ties to University of Notre Dame. I have no friends or family members who went here for their undergraduate degrees, no affinity for football, and no obsession with green, blue, or gold. I am not even Irish.

So why did I apply? Three reasons:

  1. The academics and school resources fit my top priorities for an MBA program
  2. The focus on ethics in this community fits nicely with my own ethical standards
  3. Intuition (seriously, I just had a gut feeling this would be a good place)

But why did I ultimately choose to accept a place in the Notre Dame MBA Class of 2015?  That came down to one reason:  The people.

The People

When I visited the campus for Welcome Weekend, in April, the students and staff were the deciding factors on my attendance.  They were wonderful.  I recall attending a student panel with a female speaker who said something like, “the difference between us and the rest of the schools is that we help each other, no matter what.”  It’s true.

After three weeks in the program I am confident that if I need anything from anyone, all I have to do is ask. There are no weird looks, no awkward sighs. Just community.  The people are what make this place the best. They are people I want to know for the rest of my life.

Home in the Midwest

When I boarded the plane from Logan to Midway to attend orientation, I was upset about leaving my friends and family. Last weekend I flew to Providence, R.I., for a wedding and, when I boarded the plane to South Bend, I felt happy to be heading to Notre Dame. It’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to an environment when you are surround by positive and energetic people.

If you’re looking for a school whose culture is cut-throat and competitive and prepares people to get to the top at the expense of others, this probably isn’t your place. But if you’re looking for a school where the whole community is truly bigger than the sum of its parts, please consider the University of Notre Dame.

 

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Danielle Silva
1st Year MBA Student
Concentrating in Marketing
Former Brand Manager for Unum

 

Here Come the Irish

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I took my usual walk home from campus on Friday afternoon.  On a typical Friday, there may be a few unlucky students with Friday afternoon classes roaming around.  Today, however, there was an almost audible buzz that I could hear in the bustle of thousands of additional visitors.  It wasn’t just any Friday: it was Football Friday.  They were surrounding the stadium, walking towards Touchdown Jesus, and taking pictures at every stop.  Many of them were reconnecting with the campus they once called home, the place they once called “Our Lady” in French, that they now refer to as “Nourishing Mother” in Latin.As I took my usual pathway home in a state of peace, I saw that silent crowds had gathered around statues of Jesus and Notre Dame Founder Father Edward Sorin, lining the many walkways between them and the Golden Dome.  I heard a whistle from the drum major, immediately followed by the sound of 100 individual voices, in unison as one voice, yell: IRISH.  This was the first group cheer I had heard this season.  It got my heart pumping.I had cleared through the crowd and was continuing on my walk, staring up at the Golden Dome glistening in the soft summer sun.  A few more whistles were immediately followed by the intro to the Notre Dame Victory March.It was at that moment that it happened.  First a slight chill up my spine, and then goose bumps consumed my entire being as the familiar tune was played in a way that only this marching band can make it sound.  In this moment, college football, in all its purity, tradition, and spirit flooded me.  The game is forever a part of me and I felt elated to be so close to it.But it wasn’t the tranquility of a walk through just any beautiful campus, or the observing of the comings and goings of thousands of fans inaudibly cheering any team through their attire, or the sound of any university band that made this moment special.  I was walking toward the Golden Dome, clad in my own green shamrock-covered ND shirt, and hearing the University of Notre Dame marching band play my song.This was not just a moment of clarity about college football, but it was the moment I knew for certain that the Fighting Irish had etched their logo on my very soul.  I grew up a non-believer in the ‘Burbs of Chicago in the 1990′s, rooting on my Northwestern Wildcats, looking for any reason to head to Ryan Field to watch a team that always outperformed based on its talent, a team that occasionally ended up in the top 25 without ever having top 25 talent.  Notre Dame was the exact opposite in my mind.

But today I felt what I never thought I could, what I never did even last season as I fell in love with the 2012 Irish Football team and its players.  I understood in a deeper way than ever before that Notre Dame cares more about what really matters than it does about the business of football.  Yes, they have participated in the business and had a lucrative go at it.

As I walked past the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, I realized that just 20 hours later, a group of young men would assemble there to hold communion with our Lord.  These men are the latest in a long line of greats to play to this game for this university.  But the game is greater than any single one of them.  And what they will do in that sacred edifice on Saturday is bigger than the game.  On the walls below the entry it reads: God.  Country.  Notre Dame.

That is the essence of what Notre Dame teaches them: there is more.  These young men are not only held to the same standard as other students, but, in many regards, they are held to a higher standard.  They are not hidden in the easiest majors, poor judgment is met with a just punishment, and there are no free passes.  A few hundred miles south of here, schools preach (or at least practice) exactly the opposite.  While this may make it difficult for the Irish to win on football’s biggest stage again, the university understands and protects what matters: God.  Country.  Notre Dame.

As I walked further, I approached the Grotto and saw scores of people lining up to light a candle for their Irish.  In the distance, I heard the sweet, soft tones of a man, wearing a plaid skirt, playing the bagpipes.  I again gushed with affection for the great game of college football.  No other reason or venue exists for such a spectacle: people asking God to intervene in a game while a man wears a dress and yet attracts people’s attention for an entirely different reason.

What I failed to understand in my youth is that Notre Dame does many things right in college football.  Their stadium has been renovated and expanded, but it has never changed what it is.  It is uncluttered and unadorned with advertisements.  The grass is the same natural green that Rockne coached on, the Four Horsemen galloped on, and the ball was first thrown the “other direction” on.  Generations of players won championships, Heisman trophies, and accolades over the course of decades in front of the same bleachers, absent of the luxury that NFL or newer college stadiums enjoy.  Its scoreboard is traditional, familiar, and without the burdens of a jumbotron.  Notre Dame Stadium stands as a true memorial to the legends who built a sport through generations of success and class.

As thousands descend on South Bend this weekend, coming to cheer for their Irish, and not against their opponent (unless it’s Michigan or USC), I realize why they came, and why they keep coming back.  It is the same reason I will keep coming back.  Notre Dame represents the greatness of the past and the path of hope for the future.  The Irish aren’t building a football program, they are building men, and teaching them hard lessons at times.  They want to graduate men that understand their years at Notre Dame were about more than football; they were about more than NBC, Touchdown Jesus, and NFL prospects; they were about life and an understanding that the world needs them to truly be men.  God.  Country.  Notre Dame.

 

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Michael Heath
2nd Year MBA Student

Notre Dame’s Impact on my Internship Experience

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A view of Johnson & Johnson’s Infamous Credo

I am writing this blog post in route from LaGuardia Airport, to San Francisco, California, where I’ll spend a little time with my family and friends before rejoining my class to start my last year of Business School at Notre Dame.

This summer I interned with Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a Johnson & Johnson company), as a Summer Associate with the Experienced Commercial Leadership Development Program (ECLDP).

Janssen Pharmaceuticals generated 25 billion in 2012, over 37% of  J&J’s total sales in 2012. My intern class was composed of 14 individuals, from top MBA programs around the country, all of whom were strong performers with wide ranging backgrounds.

Never-Ending Interviews…

Given my background and interests in the evolving healthcare industry, I was excited when first introduced to the ECLDP program last September through a conversation I’d had with a Notre Dame alum last September.  Eventually, after attending on-campus info sessions (lead by four Janssen Notre Dame alumni) and 5 months of staggered interviews, which culminated in attending a Global Invitational at J&J’s headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I was offered the opportunity to join the 2013 ECLDP intern class.

Our alumni are fantastic, by the way.  I stayed in touch with our Notre Dame alumni throughout the school year and they helped answer career-related questions, and navigate the long, arduous interview process.  While at Janssen these past 12 weeks, these individuals have offered me support, encouragement and guidance regarding the internship.  They have become my mentors, and friends.

The Internship Assignment

This summer, I was tasked with a great project that encompassed both strategic thinking and execution. I performed benchmarking analysis of health plans under the Medicare Stars system, and identified strategic opportunities for Janssen’s Account Teams.

Medicare Stars is a comprehensive evaluation administered by the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to assess the quality of Medicare plans managed by private insurance companies.

After spending the weeks and weeks sifting through multiple spreadsheet and completing data aggregation and analysis, I determined the best way for Janssen to utilize this information would be in the form of an iPad app. Putting all the data into a user-friendly and mobile tool really helped distinguish my project from work my team had done in the past.  Needless to say, this project was daunting – but equally educational and gratifying.   I loved the strategic elements of this assignment, and am looking forward to performing similar work upon graduation.

The best part of this summer was having the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals. I had one-on-one meetings with healthcare industry experts, and had the opportunity to interact and present to numerous P’s and senior leadership. These individuals were incredibly generous with their time and guidance. It was a pleasure to learn from these respected subject matter experts.

My Takeaways

The value of my first year at Mendoza was clearly evident during my internship.  From the classes to culture and people, multiple aspects of Notre Dame allowed me to have a rewarding internship experience.

 Professors & Courses

Throughout my internship, I leveraged lessons from many classes I’d taken in year one. Two of our core classes were especially beneficial.

Business Problem Solving, taught by a former McKinsey Partner, equipped me with the tools to ask the right key business questions, form a hypothesis and execute my internship assignment.

Management Speaking, taught by the head of Notre Dame’s Fanning Center for Business Communication, equips students the skills required in giving polished business presentations to large audiences.  In addition to these courses, I was in touch with two professors throughout my internship, asking for guidance and using them as sounding boards for proposals.

Collaborative Culture

I heard repeatedly that J&J is a “relationships company”, and I found that to be very true.  Janssen’s leaders are collaborative, fair and strong communicators.  These qualities are so highly valued by J&J that the internship even included a two day case competition after which hiring managers reviewed anonymous peer-to-peer feedback, providing an honest portrayal of each individual’s ability to work well with a team in the midst of a high stress environment.  Notre Dame is a school that facilitates collaboration, sportsmanship and respect – qualities that top employers are also seeking in their future leaders.

Values

In my opinion, the University of Notre Dame won’t teach you values, but attending this institution will reinforce one’s desire to be an ethical business steward. As a student, I am surrounded by a community of staff, professors and classmates who are guided by strong core values. As a result, I feel challenged to do purposeful work and lead a career that will healthcare solutions that drive increased access to quality care for all.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to read about my internship experience, and my love for Notre Dame.  For those of you considering applying to Business School, I wish you the best of luck in the school selection process!

Feel free to contact me at hwilson1@nd.edu if I can be a resource or answer any questions.

Go Irish!

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Hilary Wilson
2nd Year MBA Student
Class Officer: SVP of Career Development

Reminiscing on my First Year and Ready to Start the Second

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A view from my dorm room in Siegfried Hall.

My first year in the Notre Dame MBA program can be described as exciting, challenging, and reflective.  While many of my classmates would agree that some or all of those adjectives are appropriate descriptions of this past year, I am in many ways not your typical two-year MBA student.  I am in the MBA/engineering dual degree program, so this past year was my fourth year of undergraduate study in aerospace engineering, and first year in the two-year MBA program.

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A view from my dorm room in Siegfried Hall.

Living fully in both worlds has created a few unique challenges but overall greatly expanded my Notre Dame experience.  While I didn’t really need the campus tour to get my bearings during orientation in August, I have greatly enjoyed getting to know my MBA classmates, who share a great diversity of backgrounds and experiences.  Some also bring spouses and children, which brings a new perspective on things when I am still living in a dorm.  At the same time, I hope that I bring unique experiences to my classmates:  navigation through South Dining hall when they venture to eat on campus, photos of the Dome from my room in Siegfreid Hall, and if nothing else, a love for Notre Dame that has grown over the past four years.  One highlight of the spring semester was taking a group of both undergraduate and MBA classmates to tour the Notre Dame charter jet at the South Bend airport.

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Touring the Notre Dame Charter Jet

Entering the MBA program has been a welcome challenge that has pushed me in new directions beyond my undergraduate engineering coursework.  The strong working understanding of finance, ethics, accounting, and organizational behavior developed in this first year of MBA classes has caused me to be more comprehensive in my thinking when solving problems.  Working in teams on class projects has given me ample opportunity to learn from the experiences of my classmates.  At one point later in the spring semester, I found most of my time spent working with three different teams to advise the CEO of a medical supplier on a bid contract for an MBA class, design a digital marketing strategy for the Notre Dame MBA program as part of a case competition, and design an interplanetary trajectory to one of Jupiter’s moons for an aerospace class.  I find working in such different environments to be both interesting and challenging, and I hope to include such interdisciplinary work throughout my career.

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Marketing Symposium case competition team (2nd place)

At many points during my first year in the MBA program I realized that I would perhaps be getting more out of whatever we happened to be learning in class at the time if I had more experience.  This was always coupled, however, with an appreciation that I have the opportunity to take my first pass at this learning now and an understanding of how this will surely open many opportunities in the future.  Furthermore, I have made a point to ask pointed questions to classmates to explore the practical application of what we are learning, and I have always been impressed with the eagerness they have to share their experience and insight to further my own learning.  My reflection also highlights the many ways next year will bring new and different challenges, as many of my undergraduate friends move away to pursue employment or graduate school, as I serve on the hall staff for one of our residence halls, and as our MBA class begins to make post-graduation plans of our own.  I am always grateful for the time I have at Notre Dame and the learning yet to come.

This summer I am working at SpaceX where I have worked for the past two summers in quality assurance and manufacturing engineering.  I will be working on the vehicle integration and test engineering team and I am excited to return to Los Angeles to help build some rockets.  Go Irish!

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Matthew Kudija
1st Year Student from Paso Robles, CA
Concentrating in Business Leadership
Aerospace Engineering Dual Degree

Private Equity With a Side of Notre Dame’s Network

This is the first weekend since I started my internship in Chicago, where I’ve finally had time to reflect. What a whirlwind these past 14 months have been for me. I went from leaving my financial services position in New York, to being accepted into Notre Dame and then moving out to South Bend where I’ve joined a community of incredibly talented, smart and engaging people in the MBA program. Had you told me a year ago, that I would be working in Chicago for a private equity firm, I would have never believed you. But here I am.

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My summer began with being thrown into the fire, both literally at my apartment in Lincoln Park that lacks air-conditioning and figuratively at work. Through my internship, I have been tasked with evaluating competitive landscapes, combing through a universe of investment opportunities, evaluating target funds and conducting financial analyses that support our investment thesis. Some of the specific analysis with the fund evaluations involves looking into value creation strategies, either through multiple expansion or earnings growth and assessing if the strategy is replicable. While all of this may have been a daunting task if I had to face it alone, luckily I have had some veteran help in the form of a recent Mendoza alum, Zach Schneider. Before I came to ND I knew that one of the school’s greatest assets was the strong alumni network. This summer I’ve experienced firsthand that those were not empty promises. Over the course of the summer, I have sought Zach out time and again for advice, guidance, and support.  Moreover, I’ve had the opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with current classmates who are working in different fields. I have reached out to several ND alum to discuss my career path and what lies beyond my MBA.

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Working in Chicago this summer has been a nice counterpoint to life on the South Bend campus because I’ve been given a taste of my post-graduation life.  As much as I love being on campus, I’ve seen that the ND community does not disappear once I leave South Bend. For now, I’m looking forward to finishing my internship out strong and joining my ND family for what should be a memorable final year in South Bend. Between the tailgates, intercultural immersions, runs on campus, CCR at Legends, football trips and 8am classes, it’ll feel like I’ve never left.  At the same time, I look forward to my career and this lifelong community I’ve become a part of. Over the course of my internship, I have definitely leaned on the ND network and I will continue to do so moving forward, because ten years down the line, I will do the same for my alma mater.

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Salman Khan
Rising 2nd Year MBA Student

Summer Associate at Twin Bridge Capital Partners
From Moorestown, NJ

 

Religion, Refugees, and Revolution: My Summer in Cairo with CRS

This summer, I have had the unique privilege to live and work in Cairo, Egypt as a summer intern for Catholic Relief Services, a very well respected international relief agency directed by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops. My internship was funded by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, a department within the Mendoza College of Business which often supports students seeking internships and employment in organizations committed to building the common good.

Although I have been fortunate to have visited many countries, this was my first time in a country that was Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Arabic. And although I’ve worked both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, this was my first time in an organization like CRS: faith-based, large, and quite the expert in its field.

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At the start of this internship, I was a bit skeptical. How was an MBA student like me going to contribute to a non-profit relief agency like CRS? How can business skills contribute to an organization that is not trying to run a business? To answer that, I’d like to quote David Packard, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard. In response to the question, “Why do we exist?”, Packard proposed the following answer:

“A group of people get together and exist as … a company so that they are able to accomplish something collectively that they could not accomplish separately – they make a contribution to society.”

Thus, I would say that a business is about doing three things: bringing people together, finding a genuine need, and overcoming barriers in order to meet that need. In this light, it is much easier to assess the role of business in the offices of CRS Egypt.

Bringing people together

The first thing that struck me about working for CRS was the diversity of my coworkers. Perhaps I had assumed that working for a Catholic organization would mean working mostly with Catholics, but this was not the case. My office was mainly split between Coptic Christians and Muslims. How uplifting, how encouraging it was to see Christians and Muslims working side by side in order to achieve a common goal.

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Matt (back left) and CRS colleagues after a weekend horseback ride in the desert.

This diversity was not something that existed only on the surface level, mere tolerance, something out of a stereotypical HR pamphlet. Rather, it was total acceptance. A picture of Pope Francis greeted employees in the entranceway while some prayer rugs waited to be used just down the hall. Bulletin boards displayed editorials about poverty and hunger written by both bishops and sheikhs. My Muslim coworkers invited me over to their house to celebrate Ramadan after sundown as my Christian coworkers exercised discretion during the day out of respect for their colleagues. This acceptance was due to the fact that we were totally unified in our common goal: meeting the needs of those we served.

Finding a genuine need

What were these needs that acted as such a strong unifying force? They were the genuine needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Cairo. One fact about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution that often goes unmentioned is that it precipitated an immediate collapse of a large portion of the nation’s economy. Since then, economic indicators have painted a grim picture. Most relevant is that the unemployment rate has seen record highs, with the latest official estimates at 13.5%.

One factor that compounds the difficulty of this employment problem is that Egypt is temporarily home to about 170,000 refugees from conflict-torn countries like Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. As these refugees try to find their place in the labor market, they often encounter unique barriers such as harassment, language differences, and skill gaps.

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A man helps a driver park his car for a few coins. In Cairo, even informal employment is hard to find at the moment.

CRS, therefore, is starting a program to assist poor Egyptians and refugees as they try to enter the labor market. Through information sharing, vocational training, and employment matching, CRS is working to improve the capacity of its beneficiaries to seek out meaningful work and secure incomes for themselves and for their families. This, I think, is quite a genuine need.

Overcoming barriers to meet that need

Of course, in business, finding the need is often not the hard part. Rather, the hard part is when barriers arise between the business owner and the act of meeting that need. Whether they come in the form of regulations, market perceptions, or competitive pressure, barriers often represent the toughest challenge facing entrepreneurs.

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Egyptians fill the streets in celebration after President Morsi is ousted.

In our case, the situation is no different. The particularly difficult barrier that arose during my time in Egypt was a second popular uprising leading to extended civil unrest. While the outcome of these events remains to be seen, it is again clear that those who will be the hardest hit are the poor, slum-dwelling Egyptians and refugees who were already struggling to meet their basic needs.

Now, CRS must face the challenge of meeting these needs despite a rapidly changing and potentially deteriorating external environment. It frequently must close the office early because of planned protests or demonstrations. The political officials with whom CRS must work are now changing due to the shakeup in government leadership. Businesses are again facing growing uncertainty and therefore not as interested in hiring new employees. These are the types of external challenges and barriers that are caused by the new unrest. However, these barriers are exactly the sorts of challenges that business people are equipped to solve. And they are exactly the area of expertise of CRS, an organization that prides itself in working in the world’s toughest environments.

What next?

Egypt’s future still remains to be seen. We can hope and pray that peaceful hearts and minds will prevail. In the meantime, CRS is still serving those who are most in need, those on the fringes of society. And I am proud that while I am working with CRS, I am also representing the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame. I am proud to be a student at a business school that teaches how to conduct business for the common good. Unemployment in Egypt is truly a business problem worth solving, and it is exactly the kind of problem that led me to Notre Dame to pursue my MBA.

 

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Matt Kernan

MBAA Student Body President
Notre Dame MBA, Class of 2014

My Summer at Google

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A Lucky Break

I still remember the day that my classmate and colleague, Anthony Storey, first showed me the trailer for the movie, Internship. He told me it would be that cool working at Google. I, of course, agreed. But I never pictured myself getting such an internship experience, because I knew the chances were extremely slim. Then, in early February, I got an invite from Google to interview for the position of Project Management Intern. Lucky for me, I was somehow able to get an offer, in early March.

Culture Shock

During my first three weeks at Google, I spent the majority of my time navigating the unique corporate culture, which was very different from what I had been used to in my career thus far. You definitely hear the word “Googley” (Googleyness) a lot, as a “Noogler”. But being a member of the engineering internship program definitely helped me to shorten the adaptation process. However, at the same time, it was somewhat overwhelming to be among a bunch of computer science geniuses, because I don’t speak their language at all.

Mission for the Summer

My directive, or mission, at Google is to Xplore, Learn, and Deliver… and I have tried to meet these goals in exactly that order. In terms of “Xplore”, I have tried to attend every TGIF (Thursday Google Information Forum) to tune into company updates presented by executives and learn about the big projects that other product teams are working on. To understand the business more, I regularly schedule meetings with at least one co-worker from another product area, such as Fiber, Glass, Google+, and Chrome. I also attend Tech Talks, with topics such as TCP Friendly and Factorization Machines. The good news is I have been able to understand 10% of the content (Woohoo!). Being a MBA in the engineering program, I’ve also been given the honor of attending the leadership talks presented to engineering and other graduate interns. On the “Learn” front, my goal has been to become able to have a conversation with the software engineers. So, I recently took a whole afternoon to learn HTML, CSS, and a little bit of Javascript in a course which was offered to the engineering interns. I also started to learn some Python, online. If I keep up with it, I will hopefully be able to write some simple programs within a year. My mission to “Deliver” is the easiest to explain but, of course, the most difficult to accomplish. I am working on a project to streamline a procurement process and deliver cost savings. Let’s just say I’m working very hard to deliver a quality result.

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The past nine weeks has taught me a lot and has completely reshaped my views on corporations and leadership. But aside from that, and all the fun I’m having, my greatest take-away is the great sense of clarity I have developed about my professional goals. I know this will be of enormous benefit, both during my second year at Notre Dame and also during my next five years, as a professional MBA graduate.

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Yao “Keanu” Xie
Notre Dame MBA, Class of 2014
Project Management Intern at Google