In this feature, two students from the full time MBA class of 2024 share their summer internship experiences – Mahekdeep Singh who interned at Well Fargo as an investment banking summer associate and Thomas (Tom) Pederson, who worked as a business development MBA intern at Ginkgo Bioworks.
What was your pre-MBA professional and educational background?
Mahek: I obtained a BS in Electrical Engineering from Seattle University and spent four years working as an electrical engineer. My professional journey led me to roles in the network solution manufacturing sector as well as the aerospace industry. My last job before joining the MBA program was at Boeing as a Cabin Systems Engineer.
Tom: I have been fortunate enough to try on several industries before starting the MBA. I finished my undergraduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Oregon (go Ducks!) and stepped into a brewer position at a small craft brewery. While the trade of beer production was satisfying, after a few years I wanted to broaden my horizons and I pivoted into laboratory diagnostic medicine at the Mayo Clinic. I eventually migrated back to my native Bay Area, landing a role in the startup biotech circuit. While there, I experienced successes, failures, Initial Public Offerings, layoffs, and eventually acquired an entrepreneurial curiosity that led me to the Full-time MBA program at Foster.
Which industries did you target? And how was the internship search process?
Mahek: My focus was primarily on the Tech and Finance sectors. My aspirations ranged from pursuing product management roles in leading tech companies to diving deep into venture capital. As a first-year MBA student, I had the opportunity to apply and get into the Venture Fellows program, which enriched my understanding of early-stage startup funding. This experience ignited my interest in exploring later stages of Merger and Acquisition (M&A), IPOs, and exits, leading me to decide on a career in Investment Banking.
Tom: During internship recruiting I followed my deep connection to life sciences and landed a role at a leading Boston biotech company, Ginkgo Bioworks. I found the application through my own research and knowledge of the space. Incidentally, Ginkgo had been a competitor to my previous company, and actually ended up acquiring them shortly after I started the MBA. The recruitment process was straightforward, with my application leading to a phone screen, followed by a panel interview, and finally a more freeform hiring manager call.
Which MBA Career Management events, programs, or services did you find most helpful?
Mahek: The Foster Jobs database and mock interview sessions with career coaches were invaluable resources during my preparation.
Tom: When I decided to pursue roles in the life sciences, I was able to engage with my career coach for regular resume and cover letter reviews. While at the time there was not an abundance of programming for my specific goals, the one-on-one nature of these sessions gave me confidence and clarity heading into interviews.
How was your overall internship structured, and what were the major deliverables?
Mahek: The first week was training and orientation in North Carolina. The following week, I joined the desk in San Francisco with my designated group. I was placed on staffing (projects) immediately and my group did a wonderful job in helping me onboard. My responsibilities spanned from M&A deals, both sell-side and buy-side, to helping draft an S-1 (a registration form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission) for an IPO prospect. A significant end-of-internship task was an M&A Case Study, consolidating all summer experiences into a comprehensive deliverable.
Tom: My internship was ten weeks long and largely focused around a single cumulative presentation to leadership. The goal of my project was to help Ginkgo define its competitive position and unique value proposition in gene therapy. My tasks were to perform competitive analysis on a portfolio of recently acquired gene therapy assets, map the competitive landscape, and profile key competitors and potential customers in the space. I also had the opportunity to explore side projects, shadow other functional areas, and connect with senior leaders across the organization.
Please tell us about some of the challenges you faced and skills you acquired.
Mahek: Having a core engineering background, transitioning into a finance-centric role presented its challenges. While I had prior experience with Excel and PowerPoint, mastering them in a banking context, especially without the aid of a mouse, was a novel experience.
Tom: As a newcomer to gene therapy, there was a mountain of new information to learn. I had never performed market analysis at the level required by my project, and the bar for scientific and strategic thinking in the Business Development org at Ginkgo was incredibly high. While I was able to rise to the occasion, I would not have done nearly as well without the mentorship and community I encountered there.
How would you describe the culture of the organization? Did you have good mentors? And did you meet colleagues or other MBA students from peer schools you plan to stay in touch with post internship?
Mahek: The camaraderie at Wells Fargo was truly commendable. On my first day, my team’s gesture of inviting me for lunch, where I was one of the few men, highlighted Wells Fargo’s commitment to challenging the gender narrative prevalent in banking. And yes, I met some amazing people from different parts of the country, many of whom I foresee as lifelong friends.
Tom: Ginkgo is a whirlwind of a company. As an organization it is flexible and fast, with some disorder being the price paid for an unparalleled ability to gather experts from disparate domains to tackle hard problems quickly. On a good day, the successes just keep coming at a pace that challenges belief. On a bad day, it feels like the whole thing is held together with slack emojis and good intentions. I was fortunate to have an incredible mentor in my line manager, Sid, and to find community with my fellow MBA interns.
Any particularly memorable experience from your internship?
Mahek: The geographic diversity of my internship. Spanning eight weeks in San Francisco, a week in Charlotte, and a week in NYC, I loved enriching my understanding of coast-to-coast cultural nuances.
Tom: In true start-up fashion, Ginkgo had a ping pong table not far from our desks, and we used it to great effect. In the crunch time leading up to the final presentations, the other interns and I would take breaks from the long hours of slide-crafting to play a few rounds. The energy and competitive spirit of those games gave us space to put our best selves into our projects.
How did you spend your recreational time? Did you have vacation time to enjoy the summer?
Mahek: I spent two weeks solo road tripping from Phoenix, AZ to Boca Chica, TX. Subsequently, I spent the next two weeks traveling through South America (Argentina, Peru, and Mexico) with a good friend from the Full-time MBA program. I love traveling, so this was a great way to visit the 6th out of 7 continents. My goal is to travel all 7 continents before the age of 30.
Tom: Being in Boston, I regretfully missed the famed Seattle Summer, however I did do plenty of exploring on the East Coast. I took weekend trips to New York and Vermont, and familiarized myself with the phenomenal brewery scene around Boston. Shout out Barrel House Z!
What are your plans for the second year of MBA? Anything you’re looking forward to?
Mahek: In the upcoming year, I aim to diversify my academic pursuits, travel extensively, and deepen connections with my peers. The December MBA trip to Australia is a highly anticipated event, and I’m also keen on enrolling in the software entrepreneurship course during the winter quarter.
Tom: Coming back to the MBA, I am looking forward to stepping into club leadership as co-president of HCBA (Foster’s Healthcare and Biotechnology Association) and Wine club. Last year was also the first year of the Seattle Nucleate Activator program, and I will be returning to the leadership team to help foster bioentrepreneurship in the Pacific Northwest.
What advice do you have for first year students regarding summer internships?
Mahek: Embark on the search early and prioritize understanding diverse industries through engagements like coffee chats. Diversify your applications and strategize based on your effort allocation for each role. Prepare for interviews by conducting mock interviews with your peers and career services. Always be ready to answer: Tell me about yourself (TMAY)? Why xyz industry or role?
Tom: Don’t work yourself ragged applying to every resume drop you can find. First focus on building connections at a few target firms, and adapt as you go on. Finding those conversations that let you explore your authentic interests takes much of the burden out of the application process, and is likely to result in better outcomes.