Good Profiles feature members of our Good Generation who are either out there in the field doing interesting work or still in the trenches of schools and institutions waiting to make their mark on the world. Have your own story to tell? Know someone who would be great to be profiled? Please sign-up or leave a note here!
What are you up to these days?
I am wrapping up my final quarter at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and will complete my MBA in less than two months! While at Kellogg, I’ve focused on Social Enterprise (SEEK) and Entrepreneurship academic concentrations and have taken several great experiential or project-based courses including Sustainability Lab, Innovate for Impact, and Impact Investing (taught by David Chen of Equilibrium Capital Partners). I’ve also been heavily involved in the Net Impact Community. This year I served as the VP of Careers for the Net Impact Club and chaired the Innovating Social Change Conference. In my first year I led the Social Impact Career Trek to the Bay Area and the Global Health Initiative HIV/AIDS diagnostics market research trip to Kenya.
What did you do prior to school?
I spent three years in Accenture’s Talent & Organization Performance practice where I provided consulting services to a variety of cross-industry clients with a focus on change management, organization design, and talent strategy. While at Accenture, I also provided extensive pro-bono consulting services to a number of nonprofit organizations including Accenture Development Partnerships, i.c.stars, and Junior Achievement. I was also very involved in Corporate Citizenship efforts and developed a collaborative internal network of social impact enthusiasts dubbed the “Accenture Network for Social Impact” and managed Accenture’s sponsorship of the national Net Impact conference. After a year as a pro-bono consultant, I transitioned to a full-time strategic project manager role with i.c.stars – an innovative Chicago nonprofit organization that uses project-based learning and full immersion teaching to provide opportunities for change-driven, inner-city community leaders to develop skills in business and technology. At i.c.stars I managed a portfolio of social enterprise consulting projects, fundraising events, and strategic initiatives, and led a cycle of interns through the first project in the training program.
What do you hope to do post-graduation?
Post graduation, I’m incredibly excited to be launching Fresh Takes Kitchen – a for-profit social venture committed to making healthy eating accessible in resource-constrained communities. Saloni – my business partner and Kellogg classmate – and I both spent time in both the private and social sectors prior to school and really connected around our passion for building a self-sustaining social venture with potential for systemic impact on health and wellness in underserved communities. We met our first year at Kellogg through Hub 561 – Kellogg’s social enterprise incubator, and a social venture competition focused on addressing Chicago area food deserts – and decided to spend our summer sharing thoughts and inspiration to begin to develop an idea to work on together. I had an incredible summer working with social entrepreneurs at B Lab in San Francisco while Saloni focused on building sustainable local agricultural systems with FamilyFarmed.org in Chicago. Upon return to campus in the fall, we immediately began working to build out an idea and to engage as many experts as possible in the fields of food access, community development, and sustainability. Over the past nine months we’ve evolved the idea through research, expert interviews, class projects, Lean Startup prototyping, and feedback received while pitching our venture. We are now in the process of fundraising, developing our advisory board, and solidifying a detailed plan for our first 100 days of operation. Our journey is documented in more detail on our blog at www.freshtakeskitchen.com
What are the most popular “do-good” occupations that people at your school are interested in and why?
As the VP of Careers for the Kellogg Net Impact Club, I’ve definitely seen an evolution of interest in the social impact sector over the past two years. Many students in the Net Impact community come into business school with an interest in nonprofit consulting, corporate social responsibility, international development, or education reform – areas with a bit more definition in terms of career paths and opportunities for MBAs. While many do stay on those somewhat more defined paths, a lot of students really expand their interests into fields they may have not had much exposure to prior to business school –including impact investing, social entrepreneurship, and sustainability. The great thing about Kellogg is that there are endless opportunities to work directly in all of these fields through classes and experiential opportunities – so students really get to try them out and then refine their focus. Impact investing and social entrepreneurship are both rapidly growing fields of interest for Kellogg students. I believe that this is largely due to the growth in both relevant academic offerings and resources for aspiring impact investors and social entrepreneurs in business school – but also because there is significant potential to develop self-sustaining or even profitable models for large scale social and environmental impact in these fields – the “holy grail” for many impact oriented business school students.
What are the greatest challenges preventing students from reaching their “do-good” career goals, in your opinion?
First, I think that many of the impact-oriented careers pursued by MBAs are still emerging and that the number of opportunities that are both a good fit for MBAs and can pay high enough salaries to cover astronomical student loans is growing. I would also say however, that MBAs also need to think creatively about how they can leverage their backgrounds and degrees to create value in this space – many roles in this sector really need someone who can hit the ground running and immediately create an impact in a way that advances the mission of the organization, with a high amount of humility and entrepreneurial spirit. In companies or organizations founded by or led by MBAs, the value of an MBA is often easier to communicate – but in many others, MBAs need to really develop a track record of high value creation to open up opportunities for others.
Additionally, MBAs need to look beyond some of the more traditional or obvious target careers or organizations and broaden their search. Defining the appropriate role of b-school career management services in supporting a social impact career search is challenging. I think that the functional and industry diversity across this space is pretty daunting in combination with the much smaller number of opportunities within each individual organization or company (compared with consulting or consumer products companies) – which makes it somewhat difficult to support in a centralized capacity. I think students need to be really focused on developing their individual networks in these fields and that they should leverage career services to build core career search and interviewing skills, while engaging classmates who have experience in this space for tips on more specific preparation for an impact-oriented search.
Finally, students need to feel empowered to pursue careers in this space – and much of that comes from having a support system of other students also committed to working in impact-oriented careers, as well as an administration that vocally supports this pursuit. In particular, the strong community of impact-oriented students at Kellogg has definitely contributed to the growth I’ve seen in the number of students who have successfully pursued internships and full-time careers in this space.
What are good programs available at your school that help wannabe do-gooders address the above challenges?
The Net Impact Community Careers teams including the Net Impact Club, Sustainable Business Club, Emerging Markets Club, Education Industry Club, and Energy Club have worked together to develop a series of great events and initiatives to support students in an impact-oriented career search. We kick off the fall with a Guide to Social & Environmental Impact Internship Recruiting presentation and panel for interested first years to get them thinking about the diversity of opportunities and share a timeline of initiatives planned for the remainder of the year. The panel is comprised of second years with interest across a variety of impact-oriented fields and they share both their recruiting and summer internship experience with first years.
After this event, we host a series of other more tactical events over the course of the fall such as Net Impact Resumania which allows first years to engage in a one-on-one resume review session with a second year, and an Impact Recruiting Roundtable event where first years can get tactical input on structuring a career search across a variety of different impact-oriented fields. First year students also plan career treks in November – a social impact trek to the Bay Area and an international development trek to DC – which allow a small group of students to visit 6-8 organizations over two days. Our Innovating Social Change Conference and the national Net Impact Conference are also both great networking opportunities for students.
In the winter, we run Interview Prep Groups that pair 4-5 first years with 1-2 second year mentors to prepare for interviews within a certain area of social or environmental impact, and we host a variety of internship info sessions. The Net Impact Club also manages a Google doc that allows students to share relevant internships or full time job opportunities across the impact space – this is a helpful tool for students to manage opportunities and deadlines, but also allow us to track the opportunities that come up on an annual basis. We have a Summer Internship Stipend Matching program which is great for students who work for a nonprofit or government entity for the summer.
Finally, for aspiring social entrepreneurs we have a social enterprise incubator called Hub 561 that meets on a weekly basis and provides a number of workshops, feedback sessions, and resources to committed students. There is also the Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship Award which provides the opportunity to win $80,000 to a second year student or team of students who are pursuing a social venture post-graduation.
Finally, what advice would you have for others in the Good Generation interested in preparing themselves better to engage in the “do-good” career space?
For those of you entering business school, take the time during your first year to really explore the different areas of social or environmental impact in which you have an interest – through classes, projects, events and initiatives that will let you try out different fields in a hands-on manner. Treat your summer (and all of business school for that matter) as a risk-free opportunity to try new roles and new fields, and to learn what feels right for you. Use this time to develop a better understanding of your passions and specific areas of interest so that you can be authentic when speaking about them with others. Build your network and actively tell people what you’re interested in – and on the other end, take the time to get to know your classmates and their interests and share opportunities that you think fit those interests – the most valuable networks are built on reciprocity.
At some point, probably early in your second year – you’ll want to narrow and figure out where you want to focus in the next phase of your career. But don’t take yourself too seriously – the decision on a post-MBA job is important but it’s only the first next step of a long and winding adventure. For those not currently pursuing business school, most of this advice is still relevant – particularly the recommendation to take time to really engage in areas of interest in a hands-on manner – whether through pro-bono or volunteer work, or by taking time off to try something out full-time. The most important thing is to always stay engaged in the sector in some way – both because the field is evolving so fast and because it allows you to develop authentic passion and interests that can lead into career opportunities in a way that networking alone can’t. But do that, too – meet as many people as possible who are working in this space – and stay engaged – because this really is an exciting generation to be a part of and the more we work together, the greater our impact can be.