John Sakakini’s professional life has changed drastically from when he started a full-time MBA at the George Washington University School of Business (GWSB) in 2015.
When Business Because last spoke to John, he was in the first year of GWSB’s two-year MBA program, focusing on marketing, tourism and hospitality. Before attending business school, John worked in Jerusalem for American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and for the Palestinian Delegation to the United States.
Now, following time spent as a summer associate at Delta Air Lines, John will be joining the Atlanta-based airline’s MBA rotation program in a full-time role from July this year.
John came across the summer associate role at the ROMBA Career Fair in the fall of 2015. It was an opportunity that allowed him to meet and network with representatives from Delta. Soon after, he became the airline’s first ever summer associate from the GWSB MBA.
While at Delta, John worked in the reservations department. The role saw him work, as John describes it, almost as “internal consultant” responsible for gathering and presenting data and recommendations to improve customer satisfaction. John later presented his findings to over 20 senior staff; his performance in this nerve-wracking setting won him the attention of the airline.
“They wanted me to find an issue and say why are customers not happy and how we can fix that,” John says. “I was very pleased that some of my recommendations were already starting to be implemented across the company by the time I left in the summer.”
John credits the presentation’s success to GWSB’s emphasis on public speaking across its MBA programs.
“In every class that we had—whether it be economics, accounting to marketing—we had to do presentations and we had to be comfortable speaking in front of 50 to 100 different people about a topic we had little experience in,” he says.
In fact, John was part of a group that won a case competition during the orientation portion of the MBA. The contest, which included a final presentation in front of more than 120 students and faculty, showed John how to effectively handle high amounts of stress, and even work collaboratively in a group environment. It also paved the way for his future career success.
Learning how to be comfortable in presenting ideas proved to be especially useful during John’s summer associate role at Delta, where his findings on customer service were judged on the quality of content and the effectiveness of presentation itself.
Giving a 50-slide presentation is easy, John says—the difficult part is making it interesting: “Can you do it with poise, can you do it with the questions that you know are going to be coming to you?” he says.
In the end, the skills John acquired from GWSB helped him land a full-time job. He’s excited by the opportunity.
“I really like Delta’s culture of how they deal with the customer,” John says. “It kind of reminds of what the airline industry was back in the day—something that really was customer-focused.”