Navigating the MBA Internship Recruiting Process

Updated: Jun 15, 2019

I’m Micaela Lucero, and I’m an incoming second year student and Consortium fellow at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. I grew up in a rural part of New Mexico until I left for Philadelphia to attend college.

At the University of Pennsylvania, I studied neuroscience with a focus on computation because I was interested in the intersections between human behavior, analytics, and legal processes. During summer and winter breaks, I returned home and interned for General Counsel at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons and scientific facility with over 18,000 employees.

I worked on litigation and employment charge responses. It was such a great learning experience year after year, and when I graduated from Penn, I accepted their full-time offer as a paralegal. I worked on employment charges and cases in conjunction with HR and eventually was deployed to HR. I analyzed misconduct and noncompliance data to identify trends and to take a holistic look at the investigatory processes. I was constantly amazed that, even at a DOE facility, the greatest changes and strategic impact were made on the business side.

I wondered what strategy work would be like in private sector, specifically the pharmaceutical industry, where my background in neuroscience would be useful. While I loved my work at the LANL, I genuinely missed STEM and wanted a career in business. To make this transition, I knew I needed an MBA, and I felt Cornell would provide me the perfect educational resources to help me pivot my career.

My MBA core team at Cornell Johnson.

As a Consortium fellow, I was required to attend OP, the Consortium’s annual summer conference that features hundreds of Fortune 500 companies across several industries. Starting my recruiting process before I’d even set foot on Cornell’s campus was both a blessing and a challenge. I had great opportunities for face-to-face time with potential employers, but I was overwhelmed. I did not yet have the vocabulary or educational background to talk about strategy, marketing, or finance. I initially mainly sought out and applied for HR and legal-related positions across multiple industries because I knew how to talk about HR and legal. While I received HR offers from excellent companies, including pharmaceutical companies, I was hesitant to accept. I went back to school because wanted to try something new — something in strategy or operations.

I applied for several positions at various pharmaceutical companies, including a Commercial Operations internship at Merck & Co., Inc. I had four rounds of interviews, including the informational session at OP. Throughout the entire process, Merck stood out to me. I felt a strong connection to its mission to provide innovative products and services that save lives throughout the world, and I genuinely enjoyed each interview and conversation I had with its employees. I was looking to gain experience outside of HR and develop a better understanding of the industry and how each department worked together to support the company’s mission. I felt an internship in commercial operations would provide exactly that, but I was open to a variety of internship experiences.

About a month before my internship was scheduled to begin, my hiring manager called me. He had received a promotion and would be transferring to the marketing department. I had an option: stay in commercial operations or transfer to marketing with him. He explained the project he hoped that I would work on in marketing and the exposure I would have to the industry by working with multiple departments. I was really excited by this opportunity. The disease that this project addresses is one that my family and community have struggled with for generations. I believe that I have a unique perspective that will allow me to create impact, and marketing was a department that I had been very curious about while taking core courses at Cornell. The interdisciplinary nature of marketing fit my goal of learning about the industry and how the company operates, so I accepted.

Merck MBA interns at the Inventors' Summit

I plan on achieving my internship goals and gaining the most out of this internship by focusing on working hard and networking. I have started extensively researching the disease and drug in order to position myself for success. I want to spend my 10 weeks working through marketing plans with people across departments and minimize work time spent understanding the drug and how it works to counteract side effects of the disease. While at the internship, I am setting up several one-on-one conversations, coffee chats, and meetings with team members in my department and with others across various departments. This will enable me to learn more about Merck, career path opportunities at the company and within the industry, and allow me to ask questions that will drive the success of my deliverable. I have been very open to the various paths that my career has led me down, and I hope to continue that exploration over the summer.

Overall, an ideal internship provides me with interesting and challenging work, opportunities to learn new things, and face-to-face time with employees across various backgrounds, departments, and seniority. The learning aspect is most important to me. I enjoy a challenge and pushing myself to learn and try to new things. I hope to have a career that is constantly challenging and pushing me to grow and develop my skills. It is critical to me that any employer I have encourage and provide opportunities for growth. As I move forward in my MBA studies, I hope to utilize the skills I learn during the course of my internship and leverage them to successfully re-enter the workforce post-MBA.

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