“Innovation and the evolution of consumption do not progress in a linear fashion,” observes McIntosh, another ‘Best & Brightest’ ticketed to JP Morgan Chase. “There are twists and turns along the way that require great problem solvers to move to subsequent steps. That is one of the great things about studying and working in finance. Those steps need some sort of funding and management to succeed. Without that, problem-solving becomes much more difficult, even stagnant.” For Stringellow, who interned at JP Morgan Chase, the beauty of finance was how it straddled both the past and future, offering a means to evaluate previous efforts to better chart a course into uncertain years ahead. “The financial industry looks so different today than it did even a few decades ago; yet, under all of the new technology, there is the same bedrock and driving forces.”
Think that constant push-pull represents a colossal challenge? You’d be right. That’s one reason why majoring in business — and working in the field — is far more demanding that most peers will ever understand. “We are tasked with viewing our personal activities as a part of a much larger and more complicated economic system,” asserts Penn State’s Cameron Stevens, who’ll be joining Deloitte Consulting after interning at Goldman Sachs. “While other majors specialize in a specific activity or task, success in business requires you to understand how the world works from the most macro of market trends to the smallest accounting transactions. It is inspiring to see how everything is connected and how the work of every individual is an important part of a much larger economy.”
THE BIGGEST BENEFIT? THE PEOPLE!!
What did the Class of 2017 find to be the biggest benefit to majoring in business? It was the people, far-and-away. The hunger, passion, and “big ideas” of her classmates served as an inspiration for Boston College’s Angela Jin, an accomplished entrepreneur who has already been featured in Seventeen magazine. In contrast, Arizona State’s Juan Pablo Forno Parra learned that people are a force multiplier in business. “In order to be successful in business, explains the school’s reigning Student Leader of the Year, “you need other people to complement the disciplines that you are not interested or as proficient in. It forces collaboration, and there never really is a cap on the amount of knowledge you can gain.”
In collaborating with students from all backgrounds, the ‘Best & Brightest’ also opened themselves up to new viewpoints and ambitions. Ohio State’s Michael Inman was struck by the diversity of interests and goals of his peers. “It showed me the full range of possibilities that come with a business degree, says the L’Oreal USA recruit. “It pushed me to be more innovative in my own professional pursuits.” At the University of California at Berkeley, Grace Lee committed fully to engaging with her fellow business majors, whom she describes as “passionate, talented, and brilliant.” The Haas student body president came away gaining far more than she could’ve expected. “I’ve realized that the true value of education and learning is not always through classes, but more often by having unique experiences outside of the classroom, collaborating with our peers, sharing our personal stories, and questioning the status quo to broaden our perspectives. This is something I may not have understood if I wasn’t pursuing a business degree at Haas.”
Lee’s classmate, Angad Singh Padda, experienced a similar awakening when he majored in business major. He views his time at Haas as a boot camp for mastering the “people aspect” of business. “At the very core, good business is a lot about people and relationships. The finance, strategy, supply chain management, and logistics, etc. are all centered around human interactions. To me, business is as much about understanding and forming genuine and honest relationships and contributing value to those bonds as it is about driving strong growth and investment returns for shareholders.”
NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS
At the same time, business school is a place to build the long-lasting relationships that can open doors and serve as potential advocates, investors and partners down the road. “It’s all about who you know — networking is arguably the most important aspect of a business career,” offers Northeastern University’s Jeremy Goldstein, a Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar. “Meeting new people and understanding their role and their problems are the first steps to making yourself useful to them, and them useful to you.”
While few would call business a liberal art, it does share one similarity with the fine arts and social sciences: There are not necessarily right or wrong answers to business issues. That was the big takeaway from the University of Texas’ Humza Tariq, an honors student who earned summer internships at Goldman Sachs in both their investment banking and realty management arms. In Tariq’s experience, issues can be attacked from a variety of angles, with data parsed, positions argued, and benefits and tradeoffs weighed in order to formulate the best option among many. Hamza lists a stock pitch competition as an example of what business majors must face. “Students analyze both the merits and risks of a proposed investment and weigh them using a very thoughtful risk calculus that takes relative weightings of good and bad into consideration,” he explains. “This subjectivity assists in the development of a set of critical thinking skills that will, hopefully, prove to be useful in future endeavors.”
Critical thinking is just one component of the business school experience. For Emory University’s Casey Rhode, a 4.0 student who’ll be joining Parella Weinberg Partners this summer, a business degree is the complete package that best prepares students for a long career and a fruitful life. “I loved studying business because, contrary to preconceptions about business majors, it enabled me to become a well-rounded student and pursue a variety of interests,” he enthuses. “I improved both quantitative skills and qualitative skills. I learned the value of communication and of listening. I got exposure to everything from board-level strategic decisions to motivations of entry-level employees. I gained an appreciation for the intricacies of “Wall Street” finance and the importance of social impact.”
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