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Inside View: Intel

Cindi Harper, Americas Talent Acquisition Manager of Intel Corporation, tells us about the company’s flexible MBA career paths and “meaty” internship projects.

There is no such thing as a single MBA career path at Intel Corporation. In fact, MBAs, you do not need an exact career path in mind when joining Intel!

Cindi Harper, Manager, Americas Talent Acquisition, actually joined Intel as a fresh college graduate without knowing what she wanted to do and is still happily employed at the firm 17 years later.

Based in Arizona, U.S., Harper has been recruiting talent for the company both internally and externally, hiring everyone from interns to senior executives.

Because of her long tenure, Harper was able to tell us about Intel’s move into new multibillion dollar industries, the company’s quite unusual sabbatical program for U.S. employees and the one quality, above all else, that Intel looks for in hires.

More about careers at Intel here!

Why should MBAs want to be a part of Intel?
MBAs work in different parts of our business. So if they want to pursue a path like finance, marketing or supply chain, they can work in any major segment of our business.

We are expanding beyond semiconductor, so getting into smartphones and tablets and mobile workforce.

It’s not necessarily just one path for them to grow, vertically.  They have lots of flexibility once they get in to pick the path that they want.

I don’t know if this is the perception, but we want to dispel it if it is, that there isn’t opportunity at Intel. There’s a lot. You don’t have to be locked into one area at all.

Tell us about Intel’s Accelerated Leadership Program.
It’s a rotational program that has three eight-month rotations where MBAs drive our core businesses and lead Intel into multibillion dollar growth segments, from retail technology to smartphones to consumer electronics.

Once MBAs come into the program and complete their rotation, they can choose to pursue one of those rotations or go into another area in the company.

What’s the best perk you get from working at Intel?
I think it's the sabbatical that U.S. employees get every seven years. That’s a big one. It’s a great benefit, especially from a personal perspective.

Every seven years, you get eight weeks off and you need to take them consecutively. It gives employees a chance to refresh because it’s a little longer than a regular vacation.

The other positive thing is that when someone takes a sabbatical, it gives somebody else the chance to step in and see if they would like that kind of role, so it forces a little bit of rotation and career development.

From a professional perspective, a great perk is gaining that leadership training, getting exposure to various business groups, executives and leaders and really being able to change the world. It’s in our mission.

Which business schools do you target to hire MBAs?
We don’t necessarily just target MBA schools. We actually target 45 different schools known for their engineering programs, and many of them also do a good job graduating MBAs. There’s nothing more valuable than an engineering undergrad with an MBA graduate degree. In Europe and Asia, we have a very similar global strategy with targeting with engineering schools for MBAs.

How often do you hire people from outside the US to work for Intel in the US?
It’s very limited, but we have done it. It’s been more targeted and focused with a couple people here or there.

The Accelerated Leadership Program is a U.S.-driven program, but we do not ignore it if someone wants to come over here for an assignment. For example, Finance might want to hire someone in Europe and bring them over for training for a few months.

What are some exciting projects an MBA might work on in your Summer Internship program?
We are actually in the process of finalizing some of those assignments right now. What we try to do in the intern space, is make sure the business group isn’t having somebody just come in to fill a position, but to work on a good project for that summer. There’s a couple of fun, exciting projects going on right now: there’s one in our gaming group and helping to figure out how we could serve the gaming industry. Another one is in our Automotive Solutions Division and looking at our entry into multibillion dollar markets for advanced driver assistance. They are pretty meaty projects. MBAs are working on these levels of assignments and it’s pretty exciting.

There’s no hard deadline for the summer internship program; I wouldn’t discourage anybody from applying.

What are some common mistakes that applicants make in the application/interview process?
The biggest one, whether it’s an MBA student, an engineering student or an experienced hire, is being unprepared. I’ve had people come in who say “I don’t really know what Intel does.”  My first thought is that they didn’t do the research to understand what segments and what markets we are in. People say “Oh yeah, you just make computer chips.” That can be a turnoff to a manager.

There’s a lot of competition out there and there’s a lot of people who can do the same jobs, so what is that differentiator for you? Being able to describe that uniqueness and creativity is what separates you from others. What we look for are the ones who have been innovators and are creative; they have the passion and desire to want to change the world. The “innovate or die” concept, that’s what thrives at this company.

There was one person who, instead of sending us a resume, sent us a video of themselves, which demonstrated their creativity skills. It was just about him and said “This is why Intel should hire me.” We were completely amazed. We interviewed him simply based on the fact that he sent that.

What’s the typical starting salary for an MBA?
It really depends on the work experience. Somebody with an undergrad in engineering and an MBA will probably see a higher starting salary than someone who just has the academic side and not a lot of work experience. It’s hard to say. There are ranges depending on the type of experience and the education they have.

Many MBAs want to work for Intel (according to CNN's top 100 MBA employer list). Why did you choose to work at Intel?
I had always been interested in the computer industry. After I graduated from Arizona State and joined Intel, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do yet. I started down one path and expanded and continued to grow. I have one criterion: when it’s not fun and exciting, I will leave, but I've now been here for 17 years so it's been great.

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