Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Career - Part II - Business School Days

This week I am running a series titled my career in five posts. It describes the many twists and turns my career has taken over the years and my plans for the future. Today the topic is my business school days.

I started my MBA program, at a top notch business program, in the fall of 1999 just as the Internet bubble was reaching its frentic peak. Although my heart was in the right place, before starting my MBA I didn't really understand the process in which MBAs are evaluated and recruited into the work force. At the time, my career goal was to join a venture capital firm upon graduation, but I soon realized that given my law background and lack of technical expertise or connections to the industry landing such a job would be a pretty tough thing to do.

Instead, I decided to go for my number 2 option and join a high-tech firm. I interviewed with a number of firms - including the ill-fated Excite@Home which was a big name at the time - and received two offers for summer employment. One for a finance position at Intel in a New Mexico facility, the other for a non-descript summer internship with a minor dotcom venture that no one has heard of (and would never heard of in the future) in Denver, CO. Being that this was the dotcom bubble, guess where I went? Tiny start-up here I come... it was a great summer and I really enjoyed spending time in the Mile High City. It remains one of my favorite places in the country and I still have many friends  there.

After the summer, it was very clear that things were going south very quickly for the Internet industry. My friends that had graduated from business school in the summer of 2000 where bombarded by job offers. A close friend received no less than 7 offers for full time employment. My graduating class would face a very different employment environment. I decided to put the high-tech company goal on-hold and try to get a job with a consulting company instead. The process was a quick one and by January of 2001 I had accepted a full time position with Diamond Cluster - a Chicago based consulting firm that specialized in providing consulting services to high-tech firms. The job came with a $25,000 signing bonus and a $5,000 relocation package to anywhere in the country: they didn't care where I lived as long as I was willing to fly to a new city every week.

The job was supposed to start after graduation - in July 2001 - but as the year progressed, the dotcom bust turned into a nasty recession that took its toll primarily on the tech industry. In June my consulting firm called me up and asked to push my start date to September. Smelling a rat, I called up the company that had employed me over the summer the year before, and received from them an offer of full time employment the next day. I explained to them my commitment to join the consulting company in September but they were happy to have me non-the-less and I felt blessed.  

I was much luckier than many others in my graduating class. A friend relocated from California to New Jersey to join Lucent, only to receive a call two days prior to his start date telling him to not bother to come in. A friend accepted an offer with Intel only to be told the entire dision had been axed. Friend who accepted offers from Conagra, Mattel and a miriad of investment banks all had their job offers rescinded as the downturn intensified.

A few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, I too received a call from Diamond-Cluster and told that my offer had been formally rescinded. However, I was allowed to keep my signing bonus and my relocation package. The easiest $30K I had ever made. I was also lucky enough to have a full time job with a small (although financially unstable company). My career was not going in the direction I had intended - but this was a problem for another day - for now, I was gainfully employed and enjoying my work.

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