This interview is the latest in an Accepted 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 Ashley Wells, a second-year student at Wharton. We first met Ashley last year – you can read our first interview with her here.
Accepted: Last we spoke, you were just beginning your first year at Wharton. Can you bring us up to speed? How was the rest of your year? How does year 2 differ from year 1?
Ashley: Wharton has presented me with several exciting growth opportunities over the past year. Along with two other incredible MBA women, I serve as a co-president of Wharton Women in Business – the largest club at Wharton with 700+ inspiring women and a 30+ person executive board. I have had the privilege to work hands-on with 24 first year students and seven undergraduate students as a formal coach and mentor, which has been both fun and rewarding. I got further exposure to the startup space, working with an SF-based dating app startup last spring, mentoring a team of high school entrepreneurs, and working on classmates’ startup ideas in my entrepreneurship courses. In short, it has been busy and filled with “stretch experiences” (as we say at Wharton) to both learn from others and lead among my peers in multiple dimensions.
If I could summarize the difference between first and second year at b-school, I would say that your priorities are already defined in your second year and you are much calmer, you invest heavily in relationship-building, and your recent reminder of the “real world” via the summer internship makes you treasure your down time.
Accepted: Is there anything you wish you would’ve known as a first year student? What advice would you give to incoming students so that they make the most of their time at b-school?
Ashley: I have two fundamental pieces of advice:
1. Make one positive impact on the school that will last beyond your two years there. This is advice that second years gave to me. It has helped me to become self aware that our two years at school are short and therefore lasting impact can be challenging; however, through prioritizing what is essential and important to you, you can achieve a meaningful impact beyond your two years.
2. Admit weakness. Some of the best connections, conversations, and learnings I have had at Wharton have come from admitting weakness. Don’t understand leveraged buyouts? Have the courage to ask your former banker friend to explain the concept. Don’t know how a company makes money before an interview? Ask a former employee of the company to coffee for a full explanation. Feel overwhelmed that everyone seems to understand everything and is not struggling? Admit that you are, as likely the other person feels the same way. Too often MBAs are like ducks – we seem to be effortlessly gliding along the surface, when really we are kicking as hard as possible below to seem perfect. Through admitting weakness and being willing to ask for help, I have been humble to learn more than I ever would have on my own.
Accepted: Where did you end up interning this past summer?
Ashley: I had an internship strategy that – for full disclosure – the MBA Career Management office told me “they would not recommend to anyone else, but to me, it seemed to make sense.”
Essentially, I determined that I wanted to do something where I would make an impact. My three focus areas were tech, startups, and social impact, or some combination of these three. Yes – this was intentionally broad. I wanted to be totally open to possibilities where I could be uniquely positioned to personally make an impact at a company making an impact on the world. Through this broad strategy, I ended up with interviews and offers with tech startups, big tech, social impact organizations, media companies – you name it. While this was not an “easy” approach, as I had to learn about each industry and individually prepare for each role/interview, I knew that I pursued roles that I was authentically interested in.
I also chose to pursue recruiting not from a position of being stressed, but from a position of being excited. How amazing was it that hundreds of companies and organizations were recruiting from Wharton to hire people like me! This was like nothing I had ever experienced and I had a lot of fun with it. Through this lens, I also made a related decision – to not apply for any “safety” options. Coming to Business School, I wanted to aim high for potential dream roles. Because my “dream roles” were defined broadly enough, I refused to apply for anything that did not genuinely excite me.
At the end of my summer internship recruiting journey, I ended up at Google in Mountain View in their gTech practice in a “strategy & scaling” role. I selected Google for three reasons: 1) I believe in Google’s mission and values and that this was a role and company where I could make an impact, 2) I wanted to be immersed in the tech sector for the first time at a world class tech company, and 3) Google values MBAs more highly than many other tech companies (notably, their CEO, CFO, and People Operations SVP all have MBAs).
Accepted: Do you have a post-MBA job lined up yet?
Ashley: Though I had an enriching summer internship at Google, which is an incredible company that I hold in extremely high regard, the role was not the perfect fit for me to launch my post-MBA career. That being said, in the future, I could envision myself in the right role in a big tech company such as Google.
After falling in love with the West Coast this past summer, I will be returning to San Francisco to Deloitte Consulting focusing on tech clients. I am sponsored by Deloitte, and worked in the DC Deloitte office before school. I am excited to go back, albeit in a new office and new client sector, because Deloitte can give me the experiences I need in the next step of my career: people management experience, and learning the tech sector broadly through working with multiple tech clients on a diversity of different challenges and opportunities.
Accepted: Other than having the actual degree (credentials), what skills do you think you’ve gained/learned at Wharton that will contribute to your career success?
Ashley: The obvious skills any MBA can provide you are the analytical/quantitative skills that give you a well rounded business acumen. The skills I have gained from Wharton specifically are a bit more nuanced. I’ve learned fascinating perspectives on human behavior and behavioral economics from several management courses. I’ve grown significantly from dozens of feedback experiences orchestrated throughout the Wharton curriculum, and that pursuit of constant, timely feedback will stick with me for life. Many classes and projects that I had labeled myself as “not interested in” were actually highly engaging, and consequently I’ve gained a level of openness I did not have before. Finally, I served as a formal mentor for 31 MBA and undergraduate students, which taught me how to be an effective coach and listener and to lead with empathy and humility.
Accepted: Can you recommend a cozy spot on or near campus that you recommend for studying?
Ashley: My favorite spot is United by Blue @ 34th & Walnut. There is almost a West Coast vibe – organic coffee, delicious granola, socially conscious mission, friendly baristas – I highly recommend it for a coffee date catch-up with a friend or for studying before an exam.
Accepted: Can you share a few more tips for our readers about securing an awesome internship/job?
Ashley: As I already wrote extensively about my internship search process, I will offer some thoughts regarding interviews and offer management:
1. Remember that your interviewer wants to hire you. They do not want you to fail, rather they want you to do well and they want to like you (think of the time, money, and energy they are investing to evaluate you as a potential fit!) I found this mindset very helpful, because when I hit tough moments during interviews, I remembered that the interviewer was “on my side” and was also motivated for me to perform well.
2. Think of three things you are grateful for before an interview. I was given this advice from a second year last year, which helps put you in a positive mindset, takes your mind off of the nerves for a moment, and gives you security and gratitude regardless of how the interview goes.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no, even to a great offer. The hardest decisions I made last year were regarding fantastic internship opportunities that I did not feel 100% right about. Saying no to a good job (especially when you do not yet have another one lined up yet!) is hard and involves some risk, but it is the path worth taking in order to get into the right role for you.
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Check out Ashley’s LinkedIn profile for more info. Thank you Ashley for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!