This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Allie Miller member of Wharton MBA Class of 2017…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Allie: Hello, aloha, and bonjour. My name is Allie Miller, and I’m originally from Los Angeles. I studied Cognitive Science at Dartmouth College, where I was also introduced to the concept of winter.
Accepted: Can you share three fun facts about yourself?
1. I have traveled to all seven continents.
2. I have sung the national anthem for Barack Obama.
3. On a 5th grade field trip to Philadelphia, despite several signs instructing otherwise, I touched the Liberty Bell and was promptly escorted out of the building.
Accepted: You are currently attending Wharton. What year are you in?
Allie: I am a member of the esteemed Class of 2017.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Wharton? Is there anything you’d change?
Allie: People tend to equate city life and large class size with an impersonal community. Thankfully, Wharton is nothing like that. It’s a big, vibrant, international network, but with a small-school vibe. Wharton does an incredible job of making a school with 1,700 students feel intimate and like a family.
Even the way Wharton structures student life promotes this camaraderie. The class is grouped into four clusters of about 210 students, each with its own mascot and Student Life Director. The clusters compete against each other for the Cluster Cup (think: Harry Potter) in everything from flag football to trivia to 40-person dance routines. Each cluster is further divided into three cohorts of ~70 people. These are the people you take the most classes with, but they’re also the friends that were at my birthday brunch, the ones who made posters for me when I sang in Battle of the Bands, and the classmates I cheer on when they go after their stretch experiences (like a poetry slam reading or boxing match).
What would I change? There is almost an absurd number of interesting events happening at Wharton (and Penn in general), so I think my primary vote would be to politely request the Physics PhDs to warp the space-time continuum and make every day 40 hours long. If that’s too tall an order, I’d vote for more fresh fruit and vegetables in the cafeteria.
Accepted: Where are you currently working? What role did Wharton play in helping you secure that position?
I am currently beefing up my artificial intelligence muscles as an Offering Manager Intern at IBM Watson, splitting my time between Boston and Austin.
While I didn’t find my internship through Wharton’s Career Board, I would say Wharton Career Management (WCM) helped me formally and the Wharton network helped me informally. For example:
1. WCM helped me understand the recruitment process, finesse my resume, clarify my role goals, select target companies, gather in-depth research on those companies, and negotiate offers.
2. Wharton’s Tech Club formed “Hot Groups,” placing people with similar goals together to hold mock interviews. The other members of my group, for example, ended up at Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Rent the Runway, mostly in PM roles.
3. Second-year students also serve as an incredible resource for networking within companies, cover-letter writing, interview prep, and internship advice.
4. My best friends helped me dress for success, debriefed with me after each interview, and kept me (relatively) sane during the recruiting process.
After I accepted my IBM Watson offer, Wharton reached out to gather information about the process and my internship assignment to help benefit next year’s class. They are relentless in their recruitment efforts for the students—it’s extraordinary and does not go unnoticed.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise other applicants who may be experiencing similar challenges?
Allie: If you’re like me, your gut instinct is to try and portray yourself as this invincible superhero. My best advice? Don’t. Each of us is human. It’s okay (and maybe even desirable!) to point out something from your less-than-perfect side—not simply to show humility, but to illustrate honest self-reflection and how you’ve dealt with that aspect of yourself.
There are millions of smart people in the world, but I think top business schools are looking for people who use their intelligence and creativity for good, for change. People who can recognize their flaws and try and improve themselves, and who persevere and rise to the occasion when the odds are stacked against them.
Accepted: What are some of your most rewarding extracurricular activities (both before entering Wharton and current activities)? How have those activities helped shape your career?
Allie: My most rewarding personal activity is singing and songwriting. I’ve been a singer since second grade and, while it initially came with crippling stage fright, music has given me confidence and stage presence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood on stage about to give a presentation and whispered in my head, “Alright, Allie. Let’s rock and roll.”
And this rock-and-roll approach has helped me out immensely—be it speaking up as a junior hire at my first job, giving business pitches, taking never-before-seen rigorous venture capital courses, making my opinion known in team discussions, or seeking out a career where boldness is a job requirement. Being able to come up with out-of-the-box ideas is one thing, but having the confidence to raise them to a room full of skeptics makes me value all of the practice I’ve had putting myself out there and giving it my all.
Accepted: You’ve won two national advertising competitions. Tell us about that experience.
Allie: I have! And I’ve lost a few, too. I think these competitions are a testament to my initiative, creativity, and willingness to say, “Why the heck not?” and give things a shot.
In both cases, I was sitting by myself at home, saw the competition posting, thought it sounded fun, and got to work. And in both cases there was an analytical, business-type problem to solve and the need for a creative solution to that problem. I love using both sides of my brain and appreciate opportunities to get to do just that.
That’s one of the things I’ve liked the best about my time at Wharton: my days are not only dedicated to diving deep into the rigors of finance but also coming up with rhyming cheers for our cluster competitions. To me, it’s not just frivolous fun—it’s a meaningful way to bond with my classmates and engage in deeper creative and analytical thought.
You can reach Allie via her email address. Thank you Allie for sharing your story with us – we wish you continued success!
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