Jenkins MBAs Gain Networking, Knowledge and Confidence through Diversity Conference

“Without a doubt, this experience has increased my communication skills, ability to conduct research and to work under pressure,” said Edwin Gonzalez, a second-year student in the NC State Jenkins MBA program at the Poole College of Management.

He was speaking about the case competition that takes place during the Annual Conference and Exposition co-presented by the National Black MBA Association® and Prospanica®. The theme of this year’s conference, held September 26-30 at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philadelphia, Penn., was “Power of Performance: Leadership at the Next Level,” and the case competition was sponsored by Fiat-Chrysler.

Also attending the conference from Poole College this year were Jenkins MBA students Gretchen Grajales, Dana Jennings, Darrian Parker and Malcolm Scott, and Roderick Lewis, associate director in the Poole College Career Management Center who works with the Jenkins MBA program.

A Great Learning Experience

Like Gonzalez, Grajales said she found the case competition to be a great learning experience.

“I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so for me this wasn’t only a business case – it was my first public speaking experience (in English). I learned so much from working directly with the financial forecast of the Alpha Romeo brand and also through all the research we did to develop strategies for our case results,” she said.

But the case competition was just one component of the week-long event that drew record attendance this year – more than 10,000 attendees and 292 corporate partner exhibitors – including recruiters from leading Fortune 500 companies who conducted more than 600 interviews, according to a news release posted by the National Black MBA Association on October 4, 2017.

The conference featured talks by some of industry’s top executives and thought leaders, as well as moderated panels and interactive workshops that covered a variety of topics: international business, technology and digital innovation, and dynamic leadership. Professionals also offered advice on a range of topics, including climbing the corporate ladder, taking the entrepreneurial track, career fulfillment and success.

Speakers at “The CEO’s Luncheon” offered advice on taking steps to increase performance to ensure career progression, and “Meet the Experts” panelists reinforced the importance of mentoring and preparation for career advancement.

Networking, Connecting

The many opportunities for networking and interviewing with companies enabled participants to polish their approach, Jennings and Gonzalez said. “The conference taught me how to be prepared to talk to any company I’m interested in,” Jennings said. “If you wanted to talk to a popular company, you had to wait in line so when it was your turn, you had to be ready. I’m bringing back (to the NC State chapter of the National Association of Black MBAs) do’s and don’ts on how to approach a national conference,” he said.

An extra benefit cited by the participants was ample time for them to connect with their fellow Jenkins MBA students. “I developed more meaningful relationships with my classmates by spending time and working together, and by mutually encouraging each other as we networked and interviewed with recruiters,” Gonzalez said.

He said he also gained a “greater understanding about the landscape of a national conference like NBMBA and Prospanica, and higher appreciation for the level of work required to appropriately prepare for it.” He cites a key learning point: The difference in choosing between two qualified candidates – or two competing teams in a case competition – often comes down to minor things that students oversaw in their preparation process.

Parker said, “I saw the conference as a professional development opportunity that would help me become more comfortable talking to recruiters about MBA-level positions.” A key take-away from a conversation he had with a recruiter who had completed his MBA in 2016 was “the importance of just networking with many companies, rather than only speaking to your top targets,” he said.

Scott said he attended the conference because he “had such a great experience last year,” when he and other members of the Jenkins team placed second in the case competition. “Even though we did not advance this year, it’s a fun challenge to compete against other top MBA programs and see where you stand. I – and I’m sure my team – gained a lot from a strategic thinking and presentation standpoint,” he said.

“I recommend the conference for all MBA students, because it’s a chance for exposure to companies that may not visit our campus. You never know what can happen,” Scott said.

The NC State Jenkins MBA Program supports student involvement in this and other conferences, competitions and experiences that advance personal and professional development.

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