Find out what challenges MBA students are facing this summer as they apply for jobs during the coronavirus pandemic
Rajendra Srivastava, dean of the Indian School of Business, steps down as ISB deals with new challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic
Students at INSEAD challenged their peers to use business as a force for good—to tackle COVID-19 related problems
Harvard MBA Shawna Gisch is a senior vice president at UnitedHealth, the world’s largest healthcare company. COVID-19 has been a test of the skills and leadership she learned during her MBA
What Challenges Do MBA Students Face Applying For Jobs This Summer?
MBA students may face challenges applying for jobs this summer. Coronavirus has temporarily paused campus recruitment, as social distancing and lockdown measures mean companies can’t freely meet candidates in person.
With physical fairs out of the question, students have instead been flocking to virtual career fairs. Earlier this year Highered, a global talent platform, and EFMD, the management development nonprofit, launched the EFMD Virtual Career Fair Series.
Though students got to speak to companies like Bloomberg, Coca Cola, and KPMG, the impact of COVID-19 on the economy has hit companies hard, especially in areas like hospitality, tourism, and sport.
With potentially fewer jobs and a more competitive jobs market, what’s it like looking for MBA jobs in 2020?
BusinessBecause caught up with three students, who recently attended a virtual career fair, to find out more about the challenges they face applying for jobs this summer. They are MBA students, Sang Tran (ST), from Maastricht School of Management (MSM) and Clara Tavares (CT), from MIP Politecnico di Milano, as well as Daniel Brassloff (DB), a bachelors business graduate from Babson College.
How have you found the jobs market this summer?
ST: I have subscribed to some career pages and LinkedIn Jobs—there are job postings every day. Businesses are still looking for talented employees and the opportunity for a job is still there. I joined the Virtual Career Fair organized by Highered/EFMD, and there are many companies with a variety of job vacancies.
CT: Overall, the experience has been positive. I managed to talk to many companies, and I am able to better understand my future goals. The only issue is that the pandemic has made it a lot harder to find a job.
DB (pictured right): The job market has definitely been slow based on my experience. I have applied to roughly 100 roles, since I knew I would be laid off.
Are you worried about the post-coronavirus jobs market?
ST: Honestly, I am not. Eventually, businesses will resume and the need for employees who are flexible, able to adapt to new circumstances, and have innovative solutions to help employers solve the problems caused by the lockdown will increase.
CT: Honestly, yes. I believe that since many companies have lost a lot of sales during the health crisis, they will decrease the number of new hires to try to cut costs and remain profitable. They may even recourse to redundancies to reach their goal. Besides, a period working from home and in many cases with reduced hours, may show companies that they don’t need as many people as they thought.
DB: I am worried about the impact coronavirus has had on the job market, specifically the food & beverage space where my current start-up is, and many jobs I have been seeking are.
What's your interaction been like with recruiters?
ST: The corporate recruiters I have interacted with are helpful and enthusiastic in recruiting new talent. I interacted with FastSpring and they said they are aiming to grow the team in Amsterdam so they may keep hiring for roles, which is good news for job seekers like me.
CT: I interacted with several companies, like Pepsico, Unilever, and P&G. Overall the interactions were positive. The recruiters were very polite and always tried to help. The message they shared is that they believe more positions will open in the second semester.
DB: I had a tremendously positive experience with the recruiters at ButcherBox among other companies. Their interview process for the role I was a contender for was painless, direct, transparent, and informative. I was always kept in the loop where my application was in the process.
So do you think we'll see more virtual career fairs in the future?
ST: I believe the Virtual Career Fairs represent the future of recruiting thanks to the easy access and higher chance of communicating with companies. This is due to it being less crowded and convenient since you can be at home and still participate in the fairs.
Masterclasses by Amber Wigmore Alvarez, chief innovation officer at Highered, with practical tips on CV optimization, cover letters, pitching, interview tips, and so on are available on the site. Before the career fair started, there was a workshop, "How to succeed at a Virtual Career Fair”, revealing some tips to maximize the experience. One advantage compared to a physical career fair is that if I couldn't attend, I would receive the video afterwards so I could watch it later.
Hence, students were all well prepared before they entered the virtual career fairs. The fairs were divided into industries and regions such as Tech/Telecom/E-commerce in EMEA which is good for choosing a target job market to join.
CT (pictured right): I find them very helpful. I managed to talk to more recruiters in a shorter amount of time. I strongly believe the trend for the future is to become more digital. However, I miss the face to face interactions and the chance to discuss further my experiences and future opportunities. It would be great to have the chance to do short video interviews with the recruiters.
DB: Virtual Career Fairs are a great way to connect with talent given current restrictions. I do feel that recruiting will slowly transition to virtual processes, especially for companies with employees across the globe. While I have personally had difficulty finding meaningful opportunities based on my own interests in virtual career fairs lately, I can see the value for individuals that align better with more prominent industries on the platforms. I am thankful for the organizers creating these opportunities and hope to see a more balanced breadth of opportunities by location and area of interest in the future.
Indian School Of Business Dean Steps Down
Indian School of Business (ISB) dean Rajendra Srivastava has announced he will step down from his post when his tenure ends on December 31, 2020.
The news comes as India records its highest single day spike in coronavirus cases. ISB was forced to shut its campuses in Hyderabad and Mohali and suspend classes after India’s COVID-19 outbreak, while graduating students had to celebrate convocation days at home.
While COVID-19’s impact on the global economy may impact hiring plans this year, employers were fighting over MBA students from ISB when BusinessBecause last spoke to Rajendra.
PGP students at ISB received a record number of job offers from corporate recruiters in 2019, and saw a 124% jump in their compensation compared with their pre-degree salary.
ISB is one of India’s premier business schools and its flagship Post Graduate Program in Management (PGP) is akin to an MBA overseas. During Rajendra’s deanship, ISB also increased student job offers by over 50%.
“ISB was established with a vision to create future leaders for India and the world. And companies betting big on India continue to choose ISB as their preferred partner for meeting their talent requirements,” he says.
Rajendra’s other notable accomplishments include:
ISB is now one of the few schools in Asia, and the youngest in the world, with triple crown accreditation by AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. It was awarded AMBA accreditation in May 2020 to complete the trio.
PGP & MBA Rankings across Financial Times, Forbes, Businessweek and the Economist.
Launched new programs including the PGPpro for working professionals in 4 cities across the nation. Additionally, ISB pioneered the successful Executive Fellow Program in Management.
Doubled faculty strength bringing stability to ISB’s global program delivery capabilities.
What next for ISB?
Harish Manwani, Chairman of ISB Executive Board, says: “Raj joined ISB after an impressive academic career spanning 35 years across some of the world’s most prestigious universities across the US and Asia.
“In his five years as the Dean of ISB, Rajendra he has built on the strong foundation laid down by his predecessors and has transformed the school in terms of global recognition and financial stability.”
Before ISB, Rajendra was provost and deputy president of academic affairs at Singapore Management University. He also previously held research chairs and senior management positions at the University of Texas at Austin and Emory University in Atlanta.
He has an MBA and PhD (Business Administration) from the University of Pittsburgh, an MS in Industrial Engineering from the University of Rhode Island, and holds a BTech (Mechanical Engineering) degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.
Going forward, Rajendra says he will assist the school in finding and onboarding a new dean during the tricky transition period.
From 2021, he will transition to research and teaching as the school’s Novartis Chair in Marketing Strategy and Innovation. He will continue with his work on Business Model Innovation and Organizational Transformation.
ISB has grown at a rapid pace over the past nineteen years since its inception, becoming one of the largest providers of Executive Education in Asia, the most research-productive Indian management institution, and the youngest school to consistently rank among the top providers of MBA programs.
The future looks promising. But with the coronavirus pandemic impacting business schools globally, exactly what that future looks like for ISB remains to be seen.
INSEAD Students Tackle Coronavirus Pandemic
A group of MBA students at INSEAD have come together to solve some of the problems caused by coronavirus—through the COVID-19 Innovation Competition.
With support from INSEAD’s faculty, staff, and corporate partners, the competition challenged teams of students to find a business solution to a problem created by coronavirus.
In total, 120 MBA students, with 50 innovative ideas between them, took part in the contest. More than 80 participants dialled into the finale—a six hour event that saw teams present their idea to a jury of five expert judges.
Jury members included serial entrepreneur Mika Salmi, and vice chairman of Roche Holding, André Hoffmann.
Hoffman is also the patron of the Hoffmann Global Institute for business and society, one of the competition's sponsors.
Expert judges selected competition winners from among 16 teams © INSEAD via Facebook
One of the main challenges that came with executing the competition was working in a virtual environment.
Organizers planned the event using online conference software, while competing teams met, developed ideas, and eventually presented them, entirely remote.
INSEAD is also using a virtual environment to host its first ever virtual MBA graduation ceremony, which will be livestreamed on YouTube.
Since 75% of employees perceive remote work as the “new normal,” the ability to plan and execute strategies in a virtual environment will serve these students well as they enter the MBA jobs market.
After each competing team had given their final presentation, judges selected two winning business plans.
The prize for Best Business Venture went to All About Space—a membership service that aims to tackle the issue of inadequate home workspaces.
Although many companies have implemented a work from home policy in response to coronavirus, not all staff can access a comfortable, distraction-free workspace in their home.
In response, All About Space plans to connect these workers with empty hotel rooms. With this set-up, staff can be more productive and comfortable, while hotels fill unoccupied space.
All About Space connects workers with remote workspaces, and won the Best Business Venture prize © INSEAD via Facebook
The prize for Best Business Venture With Highest Social Impact was awarded to Farm Fresh. Hoping to tackle disruptions to food supply chains caused by COVID-19, the team proposed an online platform to connect farmers with their customers directly.
Simplifying the supply chain this way removes the issue of limited access to shops and markets caused by social distancing guidelines.
The plan would also help avoid food waste through faster turnaround times, and increase income stability for farmers.
The role of innovation competitions
Competitions like INSEAD’s are an increasingly popular way to encourage innovative thinking around COVID-19.
NATO’s 2020 Innovation Challenge focuses on the logistical and communication challenges posed by the pandemic. Meanwhile, Innovate UK ran an innovation competition in April, which aimed to support UK businesses as they responded to urgent problems thrown up by coronavirus.
Innovation competitions have a long and successful history—one competition in 18th century France led to the invention of canned food. Another competition in Britain sparked navigation advances that helped sailors define their longitude.
Competition can clearly motivate and foster new ideas and technologies. Faced with the current pandemic, these events have the potential to inspire real solutions, and create real change.
The Harvard MBA Driving UnitedHealth’s COVID-19 Response
Harvard MBA Shawna Gisch (MBA 2009) ponders what has been the biggest motivator throughout her career.
“I’ve always wanted to be a leader who acts with integrity, who cares about the mission, and who has really stood for something.”
At UnitedHealth Group, where she is a vice president of clinical strategy and innovation, Shawna has a huge responsibility to act on a mission that impacts millions of people’s lives. UnitedHealth is the world’s largest healthcare company, with $242 billion in revenue in 2019 and working with 130 million people worldwide.
It’s been an exciting journey for Shawna, from a chemical engineering bachelor’s to studying an MBA at Harvard Business School (HBS), before climbing to the top of the healthcare industry—an industry now at the forefront of attention and investment in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From chemical engineering to a Harvard MBA
Growing up in Oregon, education has always been an emphasis for Shawna. With two parents who were teachers, and a high-achieving older brother, Shawna has always seen great value in pursuing education to realize her goals.
She had a science streak running through her, so opted for chemical engineering as a bachelor’s degree. But she quickly realized that she was more cut out for people-oriented roles.
“Pretty early on I realised that I got my energy, and I'm at my best, working with people rather than things,” she recalls.
She tossed up the possibilities of either business or law, but it was the former that really grabbed her attention. “It teaches you how to be a better leader, and gives you so many skills that are applicable in so many areas. Being someone who likes to learn and explore, business school seemed like a great way to open doors.”
She had a thirst to learn and interact with the best of the best, so it’s no surprise that she applied for the MBA at Harvard. She applied via the 2+2 deferred admissions process, which allows students to defer entrance for two years while they gain work experience. She was accepted, and after two years working for Intel, she packed her bags and moved from west coast to east coast to enrol at HBS.
Impact of the Harvard MBA on her career
Shawna shared the numerous ways the Harvard MBA impacted her on a personal and professional level.
First and foremost, the people and network she built while she was there.
She celebrates the amazing diversity of the people on the program. “It was a place where I felt people celebrated diversity in a way that I'd never really seen before. People are really proud of what makes them different, and want to share that with others.”
But she also found a great deal of commonality between her and her classmates, particularly when it came to being socially driven. “A lot of people that are mission driven, and want to make a difference in the world,” she says. “Part of me thought it might be filled with people who just want to come in and make money on Wall Street, but it really isn't.”
This diversity contributed in a big way to the second highlight: the classes. The HBS case method throws students into a classroom environment where everything is up for discussion, and participants must be prepared to debate their opinion.
“It teaches you how to think, reference past experiences, pull out examples, and even fine tune your own internal compass of what kind of leader you want to be,” she emphasizes. “It helped me feel ready for any conversation in the real world.”
Getting into the healthcare industry
HBS gave Shawna both the career direction she was looking for, and the contacts and connections to employers and recruiters. Given her science background, healthcare had always been a particular interest of her’s.
During her two years at Intel between her bachelor’s and her MBA, she was involved in Intel’s foray into the healthcare industry. She was on a team looking at how the company could leverage its technology in healthcare, particularly when it came to helping older people live more independently through the help of technology.
She was drawn to the social aspect of the industry. “I knew early on that I couldn't just work to live, I needed work to be more meaningful, it needed to be something where I felt I was making a difference.”
At HBS, she was lucky to take part in a healthcare immersion course, led by Professor Michael Porter, creator of the famous five forces strategy framework, where she could take a deeper dive into how healthcare works, as well as taking part in discussions on how it could be improved.
Towards the end of her MBA, she met representatives from UnitedHealth during on campus recruiting. She got interested in the company, specifically to the Optum branch of the business, which deals with the services that UHG provides. She was actually introduced to another Harvard MBA graduate, who guided her through the application, and remains a mentor to this day.
Ten years on, Shawna is now a senior vice president for clinical strategy and operations, overseeing the clinical and quality programs delivered to UnitedHealth's Government Programs. It's a mammoth task, overseeing medical cost savings, quality performance and population health strategies for 6 million Medicaid beneficiaries and 12 million Medicare beneficiaries.
Responding to COVID-19
As for many companies and leaders, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge test for Shawna and UnitedHealth. As a leader in the healthcare industry, many companies and state agencies look to UnitedHealth as a thought leader and model of good practice.
They recently pledged $1.5 billion of additional support to their members, aiming to widen its access to those in need. The Medicaid side of the company, which provides healthcare cover to low income or unemployed adults, has a huge responsibility to protect those who are at greater risk.
“It’s about figuring out the right balance of helping the populations that we serve while protecting the safety of our staff,” Shawna explains.
For Shawna, this has involved analysing the funds available and working out where money is best allocated to deliver the best possible healthcare, as well as non-medical services like food banks. She’d had to think creatively to come up with solutions to problems on a scale they’ve never faced before—fortunately, this is something her MBA taught her to do.
“What an MBA really helps you do is always approach things from an overview position. It allows you to take a step back and teaches you to be the positive disruptor of the way things have worked, to see opportunities and understand how to influence change.”