In this post, we feature some members of the class of 2024 who interned in various technology firms in different functions in 2023. The students interviewed are Kristen Bales Hatakeda (Microsoft), Uthej Vontari (Service Now), Disha Nanda (Amazon) & Madeline Bach (Philips).
What was your pre-MBA professional and educational background?
Kristen: My journey began at Biola University, where I delved into the realms of business and art, eventually carving a path as a marketing manager at Adobe in the bustling heart of San Francisco. While my time there immersed me in the world of data-driven insights and search marketing, a yearning for a more profound sense of purpose led me to embrace change. This is what drove me to pursue an MBA, to pivot from marketing to the realm of human resources (HR), with a particular focus on employee engagement.
Uthej: Pre-MBA, I was a software engineer. I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science Engineering from NIT Raipur, India, and I worked as a software engineer for 5 years in the fin-tech and enterprise software industries before I came to Foster for an MBA. My last company was Servicenow.
Disha: I completed my undergrad in Civil Engineering from India and prior to MBA, I worked as a management consultant with KPMG and PwC.
Madeline: I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for my undergrad degree and majored in Economics with a minor in Business Administration. After graduation, I moved to Boston where I worked for three years as a data analyst at a health tech startup called Well. I mostly worked with SQL and Tableau creating data dashboards for internal and external reporting across different teams.
Which industries and roles did you target? And how was the internship search process?
Kristen: As a mom of two wonderful boys: ages 3 and 1, I entered the Foster School of Business with a clear focus and targeted HR opportunities at large tech companies in the Seattle area, and companies which offered remote work.
Uthej: My main target coming into an MBA was the tech industry, specifically the software industry. A software engineer at heart, I wanted to combine my passion towards solving problems with designing and building a software product. Product Management seemed like a perfect fit for this. Internship search started off with applying to all the major tech companies. But then, my last company, ServiceNow, already had all the qualities I was looking for in my employer. So, I decided to apply for a Senior Product Manager – Technical role at ServiceNow.
Disha: To be honest, I wasn’t targeting industries. I was targeting roles and keeping the job search horizon wide for myself. I knew I wanted Operations and Strategy roles, whether they be in consulting, tech, consumer packaged goods (CPG) etc. The internship search process was tough, given the economic scenario but the mantra was to keep applying to as many roles and openings as possible, and connecting and networking with people to learn about firms and their work culture.
Madeline: When looking for internships, I was hoping to find a role in either marketing or product management, ideally in tech. The internship process was sometimes frustrating, but my patience and perseverance paid off. Once tech recruiting started to pick up, I had a few interviews and was offered a product marketing management role at Philips in Bothell as well as two other roles. Career management helped guide my decision making, ultimately leading me to work for Philips this summer.
Which MBA CM events, programs, or services did you find most helpful?
Kristen: Foster’sMBA Career Management team empowered me to pursue these roles through resume crafting, interview readiness, and the complexities of case interview prep. As a member of The Consortium, I had the privilege of participating in the annual Orientation Program (OP) conference and got into an early recruiting round with Microsoft. I went through an initial, general interview and then moved on to the final round, which entailed 3 back-to-back interviews: two behavioral-based and one case-based. Fortunately, I received an internship offer and recently wrapped up my twelve-week internship with Microsoft’s Talent, Learning, and Insights team at the Redmond, WA headquarters.
Uthej: I scheduled resume reviews to tailor my resume to the job descriptions of the major tech companies. I also scheduled as many mock interviews as possible with the career coaches before my interview date. Use these sessions to practice and refine your answers as much as possible.
Disha: For me, my mock interviews with Stacy and Julie (MBA Career Management career coaches) were extremely helpful. Both of them have different interview and feedback styles and I think that is what helped me the most. I incorporated their suggestions in my final interviews and I’m sure they worked (because I got an offer after that)!
Madeline: I found attending company visits and second year student panels the most helpful. The company visits were great to learn more about different opportunities and industries available, while the student panels created clearer expectations for what a summer internship might look like within those industries. Additionally, when I had a scheduled interview, mock interviews with MBA Career Management were helpful as they had ideas and mock questions that were likely to be asked in my interviews.
How was your overall internship structured, and what were the major deliverables?
Kristen: My summer internship was anchored by three central, core priorities: conducting a comprehensive Career Asset review, writing a whitepaper on the ‘Future of Career in a Hybrid Environment’, and establishing a robust network within Microsoft. I also had the opportunity to explore Microsoft’s treehouses and tour the Inclusive Tech Lab.
I also initiated and completed 60 one-on-one conversations. These conversations were like bricks, layering upon one another to construct a firm foundation and equipped me to intertwine ideas and build upon the work of others. Two themes that continued to surface throughout these conversations were the importance of embracing contradictions and cultivating joy in your career. At the end of my internship, I had two presentations: one for my team’s senior leadership team including our Corporate Vice President and the other for 100+ attendees for the HR Rotational program celebration.
Uthej: For my internship, I joined as a Senior Product Manager in the Sourcing and Procurement team. Internship deliverables were clearly outlined right from the start. There were constant checkpoints with the internship team and my manager to help me deliver and clear any roadblocks.
ServiceNow also has a training program for PM interns called the Aspire program. I found this extremely helpful and learnt a lot about Product Management. They also have speaker events from VPs of Product Management for new PMs to learn from their experience.
During the course of my internship, I built product features in the Sourcing and Procurement Operations (SPO) product of ServiceNow to reduce the time-to-value for the customers. I conducted several customer interviews to gather requirements and transformed those customer needs into epics and user stories. I got to collaborate and work closely with other PMs, engineers, the design team and Quality Engineering. I also designed a product roadmap to integrate third-party risk management into the SPO product. As a final deliverable, I presented the product features I designed to the senior management and my internship cohort. I got end-to-end experience of Product Management and I’m glad I got to intern at ServiceNow.
Disha: I interned at Amazon as a Pathways Operations Manager. I was placed at a Delivery Station (warehouse) for eleven weeks and my project was to work on Amazon Concession. A concession is any type of refund (full or partial), replacement, or credit that is granted due to Amazon Logistics not upholding its end of the customer promise for on time, intact, and secure deliveries. The key initiative for this project, both short and long term, was targeted to reduce the concessions at the station I was positioned at. The final deliverable was a six-page white paper (Amazon provides a template for this) followed by a presentation to a hiring committee, which included my manager, site supervisor, my mentor, members of the senior management at the region level and pathways recruiters.
Madeline: My internship was project-based with two deliverables and a presentation at the end. I worked on the digital oral health care team at Philips and was tasked with completing a competitive analysis as well as a recommendation for new features in the Philips Sonicare app.
Please tell us about some of the challenges you faced and skills you acquired.
Uthej: Some of the challenges I faced during my time as a product manager were understanding the scope and prioritization. These are important skills a product manager should have because when designing a product feature on a scale as huge as Servicenow. It is important to realize and realign at the right time in a fast-paced environment where release dates are sacrosanct.
During my internship, I gained plenty of PM skills by being part of the product development lifecycle right from gathering requirements, defining the scope, designing the feature, writing user stories to development. This gave me an end-to-end experience of being a product owner. I also gained cross-functional and collaboration skills and learnt a lot about the source-to-pay and the supply chain industry.
Disha: The biggest challenge I faced was to get hold of the right data and the data sources. Different teams at Amazon use different data sources. So identifying the correct data source for my team and my project was both my biggest challenge and greatest learning. A skill that I acquired through this process is how to work with limited data to deliver maximum impact, especially in this age of data-driven decision-making and resource constraints.
Madeline: Throughout my internship, I gained a better understanding of what working in a large corporation is like as well as the skills needed to collaborate across teams. The biggest challenge I faced with my project was defining the scope. There were so many options I could pursue within my project, and I had to decide what were the most important pieces for the key stakeholders. Finding the balance of quality of content versus quantity of content was challenging, but with the guidance from my mentor as well as conversations with key stakeholders, I was able to deliver recommendations and a competitive analysis that will help guide the team moving forward.
How would you describe the culture of the organization? Did you have good mentors? Did you meet colleagues or other MBA students from peer schools you plan to stay in touch with post internship?
Uthej: Servicenow’s culture is driven by their 4 core values. “Wow our customers”, “Win as a team”, “Create belonging”, and “Stay hungry and humble”. I can personally attest that everyone at ServiceNow truly embodies these 4 values. Employees are given plenty of resources to innovate and grow within their roles here at ServiceNow. I had terrific mentors during my time there. They were always open to questions. Being inquisitive is seen as a top-notch quality. I had colleagues who went to UW as well. I also met PMs from other B-schools within my internship cohort and I plan to stay in touch with them.
Disha: I loved my Amazon experience! I had an amazing team, an amazing mentor and an amazing manager. They always made me feel like an integral part of the team and the decision making process. My inputs were heard, deliberated on and in certain situations implemented at the site. Even though I was the only intern at my site, I was able to visit other sites in the region and connect with interns and Pathways managers on those sites. I’m still in touch with all of them and hope to stay connected.
Madeline: Philips culture is very welcoming and emphasizes collaboration, work life balance, and delivering high quality products to its customers. I worked with a wonderful team that helped support and mentor me throughout my internship. They also provided access to Philips “Early in Career” group which had multiple events to help encourage networking with others early in their career. There were many other interns at Philips, but I worked mostly with other interns in the Oral Health Care section of Philips. The interns were a mix of undergrad and graduate students all from different UW programs. I had the opportunity to collaborate with some other interns as well as socialize during intern lunches and events put on through Philips.
Any particularly memorable experiences from your internship?
Kristen: One of the highlights of my summer was when our cohort of eight HR interns got to meet with Microsoft’s Chief Human Resources Officer, Kathleen Hogan. Kathleen not only shared Microsoft’s ambitious vision around AI and empowering the planet, but also spoke authentically about her experience as a cancer survivor and gave us the wisdom, “Happiness isn’t getting what you want, but wanting what you have. He who is content has everything.”
Uthej: One of the most memorable experiences during my internship was a three-day workshop with the entire team in a conference room charting a path for the product. Everyone was flown in. This was very refreshing. I got a sense of how product decisions are made at the top levels in a technology company and how crucial the role of a Product Manager is. We did a team-cooking event after work on one of the days of the workshop. I learnt how to make a gourmet chocolate lava cake. I also took another cooking lesson and learnt how to make Cacio-e-pepe during one of the mindfulness events with a chef from the UK who worked under Gordon Ramsay. Employee wellness is a top priority at ServiceNow.
Disha: The most memorable experience from my internship was being on the floor during Prime Week. I did everything – from the role of an Associate to a Manager to leadership. Even though I had pulled all-nighters during my consulting stint prior to business school, during prime week I did my first ever 20-hour shift. I’m not complaining – I enjoyed it to the fullest!
Madeline: While at Philips, we were given the opportunity to tour the ultrasound manufacturing center as well as the R&D labs for Sonicare. It was cool to see the operations of a large manufacturing center, especially after my operations class from spring quarter. Outside of the office, Philips put on a large summer picnic with food trucks, a dunk tank and bingo! It was a fun opportunity to mingle with other interns and spend a workday outside of the office.
Did you have vacation time to enjoy the summer? How did you enjoy your recreational time?
Kristen: Beyond the professional sphere, I took advantage of the beautiful WA summer! We saw orcas on the ferry to Bainbridge Island, spent a weekend at the lovely coastal town of Seabrook, and backpacked the Enchantments.
Disha: Unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy the Seattle summer as I was in Texas for my internship. But I did soak up the Texas sun enough to get me through the Seattle winters. Post my internship, I spent time in the Bay Area, went on a few hikes and visited Sonoma Valley for wine tasting with my Foster MBA folks.
Madeline: I had a wonderful summer outside of my internship with a trip to Charleston, SC as well as time to explore the greater Seattle area, spending time on Whidbey Island, around Lake Washington and hiking outside of Seattle.
What are your hopes for the second year of MBA?
Kristen: As I begin my 2nd year, I’m looking forward to being part of the Fritzky Leadership Fellow program, mentoring first-year MBA students and also taking a class from UW’s College of Education titled, ‘(dis)Ability, Education, and the Arts.’
Uthej: I plan to take part in as many extracurricular activities as possible in the second year. I am the co-president of the Data and Analytics club here at Foster and my co-president and I have big plans for the club this year. I am also pretty excited about all the elective options we have available here at Foster. I want to gain as much knowledge as possible out of my MBA. I want to transform myself into a product leader with a strong business acumen.
Disha: I plan to focus on academics and help other second and first year students in their job search. I would love to support and contribute in all ways possible whether it’s reviewing resumes, cover letters, applications or helping them with mock interviews. I know how much this helped me and I’m here for all those who need me.
Madeline: In my second year at Foster, I hope to continue exploring different industries and elective classes. I am excited to get to know the new class and continue to develop my relationships with my classmates.
What advice do you have for first year students regarding summer internships?
Kristen: If I could offer one piece of advice to incoming MBAs, it would be to reflect on who you are and what you stand for. If you know your own core convictions, it will give you a compass for what success looks like and guide your time management.
Uthej: Network! Get that referral if you can. Start applying early. But that doesn’t mean you go in unprepared. Polish your resume and your behavioral interview answers before anything else. Pack in as many mock interviews as you can with MBA Career Management, with your peers, and second-year MBAs. Preparing for the company is as important as preparing for the behavioral interview. Once the basics are covered, start preparing for your targeted role.
Disha: I’ll be honest here and won’t sugar coat it. The internship search process is going to be a draining, disappointing, exhausting yet fruitful and fulfilling experience. Do not give up when you see rejection emails in your mailbox. Keep applying and keep networking, even for roles where you feel you may not be a good fit. You never know how a missed opportunity could have transformed your MBA journey. Talk to second year students because they were in your position not very long ago. Also, help each other in finding roles and opportunities. This will go a long way.
Madeline: Keep your head up and be patient! It can be overwhelming, especially as your peers start to get offers, but you’ll find your internship. Stick with it and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your peers and friends are a great support system and MBA Career Management is a great resource.