Now halfway through his full-time MBA at Chicago Booth, Alejandro has already spent six years working with A.T Kearney – the global management consulting firm – across their offices in New York and Mexico City, his home. Alejandro worked his way through the ranks from Business Analyst in 2006 and in January 2011 he took an Associate position at their New York offices.
But it is his experience working in social enterprise for 10 weeks in southern Africa that Alejandro thinks will set him apart from the competition when he enters the jobs market after graduation in 2014. “Absolutely,” he said of the externship program boosting his career prospects. “If I compare myself with classmates, the role that I got and the level of authority that I had at Quarterback has no comparison, and I think that makes for great talking points when interviewing for any firm.”
Quarterback has been helping MBAs get a head start in careers and helping prospective students get off to a strong start on their MBA programs since its launch in 2012. Alejandro was part of the companies first cohort, which saw seven students embedded in social enterprise projects, some in remote parts of the world.
Quarterback’s mission is to make high-impact, intensive volunteering a personal priority and a professional imperative. The company’s founder, Brian Gloede, left a career in investment banking with KeyBanc Capital Markets and volunteered with an international development organization for two months. He was shocked by the professional strides he made and how applicable his skills were to a consultancy role in social enterprise.
Brian was inspired to create Quarterback, which works closely with top US b-schools such as Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management and Michigan Ross School of Business to help people further their careers while doing social good. “Opportunities can be few and far between for young professionals to create impact, and being able to demonstrate that in your career and really accomplish things is beneficial,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to step out of a trade role and learn new skills in a socially responsible way.”
Alejandro, originally from Mexico, completed his externship with Spark Ventures, a Chicago-based venture philanthropy organization with international partnerships that provide children in poverty with nutrition, education and healthcare. Quarterback’s founder, Brian, is Chair of their Board of Development. Before that, Alejandro had mostly worked for Fortune 500 companies, far removed from the social enterprise scene.
“I thought, ‘this feels good’, applying all of your expertise to something with a higher meaning,” he said.
“That’s what got me interested in the social development scene and it’s been great. You learn a lot and you get exposed to different cultures.
“With Africa, sure, you read about it in the news, but you never really get your hands dirty. Working there was a very interesting experience.”
Alejandro, who grew up living in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Spain, was tasked with managing a team of three people and says that it was a challenge. “For this summer the most important things for me were that it was a different kind of challenge and the fact that Spark Ventures is a smaller-sized start-up.
“I got to manage three people and I’ve not done it before. The managerial role was a stretch for me; it makes you grow in a number of ways.”
Brian says that Quarterback has learned a lot from its initial summer cohort and they hope to provide more hours in the program. The company has “high standards” for entry onto the externship programs, but they hope to “more than double” their current number of professionals and prospective MBAs next year.
Quarterback has tapped into an expansive network of students and alumni at top US business schools, and their close connections have helped prospective MBAs get into the b-schools of their dreams. Within their initial summer 2013 cohort, at least six ‘Quarterbacks’ are due to begin studying at Harvard, Michigan and Kellogg this fall.
While Quarterback worked closely with MBAs from American universitites thus far, Brian says that they have had a “number of international applicants”, not least Alejandro. There is no doubt that Quarterback is helping MBAs further their careers.
And Alejandro thinks that it’s a “phenomenal experience”: “You have to have a passion and interest to be a Quarterback. In my case, I had some exposure to non-profit before because of my professional background.
“But it gave me a wide array of things that I hadn’t been exposed to before. It’s a phenomenal experience.”