Saturday, April 7, 2012

What's Your Strategy?

We’re in the home stretch of the spring semester, and like the pitter-patter of pre-campaign politics, the words ringing in everyone’s ears at RBS are “jobs, jobsss JOBBSSSS!”

“Jobs” is the word on everyone’s lips as we pass through the RBS era of our lives, both as applicant/candidate (when we’re impressed with RBS’ placement record) and student (when we try to make good on our MBA’s for real). Students from the class of 2012 have been assured of their future since the academic year started (hello, Tarak Shah), while others have heard the words “HIRED” in the months since then. As for the class of 2013, over 50% of us have obtained summer internships (as of today).

My posts tend to be confessional, so with that in mind, I admit that I arrived at RBS with a broad view of what doors an MBA opens, but no month-by-month plan of attack. I’ve been lucky in obtaining an exciting summer position (literally – I’ll be working on the brand team at Trojan condoms), but I’m floored at how damn impressive my fellow first year friends have been in planning their careers. They have been prepared, primped (in business formal, of course), passionate and, most importantly, strategic. One of my personal favourites is Rina Mehta. Her story shows the benefit of using broad strategy concepts to our own career tracks; strategy scholars such as Porter, Barney, Christensen, et al, are good resources for C-level executives, but they are also good resources for us, current RBS students, as we survey the career landscape.

Rina, who spent the better part of a decade working on her PharmD, looked to an RBS MBA to broaden her career opportunities. After experiencing pharmacy work up-close in the pursuit of her doctorate, she found that her real passion lay in managed care, and a PharmD+MBA was the best vehicle to get there. Although pursuing an MBA immediately after a long PhD program carried the risk of having sparse non-academic work experience, Rina has thoroughly considered her options. Her analysis would make strategy scholars proud.

As I mentioned, I find Rina impressive, but I’m not the only one: she was offered three internships at large Pharma companies. But, as a relatively inexperienced candidate, she had to consider each one based on the likelihood of converting her summer internship into a full time job. Doing so forced her to look at each firms’ respective strengths and weaknesses, but she went beyond writing a quick SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats, for all your non-MBA lurkers); she went on a deep dive into each company. She contacted alumni, heavily researched each company’s core competencies, and uncovered intangible assets.

The company she eventually decided upon has a good R&D pipeline (a soothsayer of future success in the pharma industry), a stable executive team, and a healthy balance sheet. She discovered that her target company possessed tangible and intangible assets that are valuable, rare, imperfectly imitable and non-substitutable, which, wouldn’t you know, is Barney’s definition of a scary-good firm. Her rejected companies had question marks along the way in each metric.

Given that those who read this blog are likely affiliated with RBS, these are important lessons in the MBA phase of your career. But Rina’s thoughtful analysis shows that it is always important to keep you eyes and ears open about the firm you work for, and that an honest assessment of both your options and your employers’ options will be immeasurably helpful at your next career crossroad, and the one after that (and the one after that).


  1. FANTASTIC post! Kudos to Matt and Rina! While most readers of Through the Park are likely affiliated with RBS, I truly hope that prospective applicants as well as admitted candidates are reading the blog too in their search to voraciously read ANYTHING that says RBS on it. At least that's where I was one year ago today...