By Pritesh Velankar '15
I understand that quality education is expensive but spending $12K every quarter still hurts. So I think about the the intangible benefits of being at Booth: the brand and the network. I just changed jobs, moving from the telecom world to a large financial services firm and I can say from my personal experience that the “brand factor” totally works. But what about the network? I have heard a few examples of people getting jobs through their Booth networks, but I haven’t heard of any big moves that convinced me that “networking” truly works.
Many of my friends at Booth know me only through some school events, and mostly over a few drinks. They have seen me in class, maybe even seen me answer a few questions, but that's about it. I have recommended people for jobs at my workplace but if I have not worked with a person before, I clearly state that to the hiring manager. I fall in the same category for many of my friends here. We will likely have important roles to play at our firms in the future, will we be willing to strongly recommend a friend that we only had drinks with on Saturdays, to a very important position? There is significant personal reputation risk and also financial risk for our firm. I believe there are many things we, as in the school and the students together, can do to help the students build stronger networks. Here are two that would make a big difference:
More Group Projects
The school should enforce more group based courses, which have a group final project and not a final exam. From my experience, most of us will build a very strong bond with our group mates over a strenuous final project. For courses that must have a final exam, professors should enforce group homework and changing groups after the midterm. One will end up working on group projects with twice the number of students than they would have otherwise, doubling their strong networks.
Instituting Cross Program Events
The school might also consider hosting more events like debates or sporting events where students from across all the programs can spend some time getting to know each other and work closely with one another. For example, we could organize an annual sporting event where each program hosts a team for each sport pitted against the other programs. The part-time Cricket Club hosted an event last year where not just the part-time and full-time program students participated, but also undergrads. I can honestly say that the closest friends I have made from other programs have been solely because of that one event. Playing a group sport with someone can tell you many things about that person like their leadership abilities, patience and teamwork.
I believe it is the responsibility of not just the school but also its students to create an environment to encourage more positive and meaningful interaction across all programs. I'll end by summarizing this article with a modified version of something I read recently, "Your (strong) network is your net worth."
Pritesh Velankar is in Product Management at JPMorgan Chase. He enjoys playing Cricket and has a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.