This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Christian Marek who is in his final year at MIT Sloan.
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any other degrees?
Christian: Originally I’m from the scenic Vienna in Austria. There I completed Bachelor’s in Software Engineering and a Master’s in Information Systems Management. Because I wanted to immerse myself even further in the tech industry, I decided to pursue an MBA.
Accepted: Where are you in business school? What year?
Christian: I’m currently a second-year MBA student at MIT Sloan and will be graduating June 2015.
Accepted: Why did you choose MIT Sloan? How is it the best program for you? Which other MBA programs had you considered?
Christian: When I chose my MBA program, the primary factors I considered were quality of the school, entrepreneurial ecosystem of the university, school affinity for technology (and data), class size, and location. This lead me to consider MIT Sloan, Berkeley Haas and UCLA Anderson. All programs were almost equally amazing. However, once I saw the MIT campus I knew this was the place to be for me. The geekiness and culture was impossible to match. Coming from an engineering background this is where I wanted to be.
Accepted: Can you share some advice to incoming first year students, to help make their adjustment to b-school easier? What do you wish you would’ve known when you were just starting out?
Christian: Adjusting to b-school is a great experience but it’s definitely challenging – there are so many variables. Being an international student adds an additional challenge as it takes some time to get used to local communication style and culture. Here are a few things that make the adjustment easier:
• Keep reaching out after your acceptance: The MBA years are among the best in your life. Having a rough sense of what you want to get out of the MBA is really helpful. Obviously as an incoming student you do your research online. Additionally, I recommend reaching out to a variety of current MBAs at your school that are doing what you are looking to do. This should be even easier after acceptance. For example if you’re interested in entrepreneurship try to talk to a club VP over the phone. They can tell you if the club a good choice for your, help develop your interest further and intro you the others who might have similar interests.
• Attend post-admission events: I find that the admission events (weekends, seminars, etc.) I attended really helped me in making my decision. You get to know your potential future classmates. Doing so, let’s you figure out if you’re kind of on the same wavelength and even find roommates. Furthermore the schools will showcase what the programs have too offer in even greater detail.
• MBA communication classes: These classes are amazingly helpful, especially for international students. As I said communication in the U.S. can seem very different. The communication classes at Sloan taught me a lot about American communication standards in business personal interactions.
Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?
Christian: I’m a co-president of the European Business Club at MIT Sloan and I really enjoy the experience. However, I think club involvement is a personal choice. I know classmates who are members in up to eight clubs and I know classmates who are in zero clubs. Some classmates are VPs and presidents, others just aren’t. Personally, I think clubs can offer a lot of value in terms of making friends, finding classmates with common interests and taking on leadership opportunities. Just like everything in life it helps aligning your decision on the extent of your club involvement to what you want to accomplish. If you want to be an entrepreneur, joining the Entrepreneurship club makes sense. If you want to do something for the overall community, join a culture club. See if you like it and then you can typically still decide whether or not to go for a VP position.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your internship at Google last summer? What role did Sloan play in helping you secure that position?
Christian: My internship at Google last summer was amazing. The internship program is run by an amazing team at Google that makes the experience at Google unique. On a weekly basis leaders in the organization gave us their inside scoop on leadership and the tech industry. Google offers a variety of MBA internship roles. Over the summer you take responsibility for executing your very own project. Sloan helped in a variety of ways. First, the internal network at Sloan is extremely helpful to learn about a company. As I was in the internship recruiting process, I reached out to former Googlers and former Google MBA interns at Sloan. They were extremely helpful in telling me about their experiences at Google. Second, the various clubs at Sloan help you with the internship process by doing resume reviews among other things. Coming from Europe, I found this particularly helpful because the U.S. job application process is very different. Third, the MIT Sloan Career Development office collaborates closely with Google to host coffee chats and recruiting events. In that way Sloan MBA students can connect directly to Googlers to learn more about the company and the internship.
Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the MBA admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Christian: For me personally the most challenging part getting connected to the schools. I was the first in my network to pursue an MBA. However, from reading online I got the sense that insights from current students are extremely valuable to the application. Even though the notion of writing cold emails was completely foreign to me, I researched Europeans (particularly Austrians) that were attending my target schools. I was surprised how quickly they responded. Even though arranging these chats and conversations was a lot of work, I do believe building those connections contributed to my admission offers. Talking to current students is irreplaceable and it helps you get a feel for the school.
Accepted: Do you have any other advice for our med school applicant readers, especially for international applicants?
1. Connect to your target school: Your future school is probably a couple thousand kilometers away. Still connecting to current students is the best way to learn about your school.
2. Make a well-rounded application package: Show who you are personally and professionally. Ideally you’ll be able to tie this to together and paint your future to the reader. Also, use data points to quantify the impact you had. I think for internationals (or at least Europeans) – this is particularly unusual. Still, you need to get over it and do it.
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Thank you Christian for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!