At Fuqua, we get every Wednesday off! We try to make the most of it. There are often club and extracurricular events. They are also good days for mini trips and corporate visits.

On a recent Wednesday, Fuqua’s Career Management Center organized a corporate visit trip to Richmond, VA, where we were wowed by the beauty of Capital One’s gigantic campus and the laidback working environment of CarMax. Both companies are mature, yet youthful and creative, and they both employ MMS alumni.

We left around 7:30 in the morning and got to Capital One’s campus after a 3-hour bus ride. We sat in on a panel with several MMS alumni and they told us about their company. Capital One is less than 20 years old, but it has grown to be one of the top 10 banks in the U.S. Thanks to its unique corporate culture, Capital One has stayed fairly agile like a young company. One thing that struck me was that Capital One has a relatively flat structure: people work in the same setting with their supervisors and each employee can be promoted quickly within his/her own role. This is often seen in the IT industry, but rarely in traditional fields like banking. Moreover, the Capital One folks are young, energetic, and sharp. One thing that the panelists kept stressing was the fun they have working with each other. They are all problem solvers who learn fast and think on their feet. They are also competitive people, but they all agreed that there’s more of a collaborative culture at work.

Lunch at Capital One was great. We couldn’t help comparing it to what the Fox Center cafeteria offers at Fuqua. As one of many Capital One’s employee perks, the company offers discounts on healthy meals and gym memberships to encourage employees to stay fit.

James Chen - capital one sign

In the afternoon, we headed over to CarMax’s headquarters, which is about 5 minutes away from Capital One. It has only one building, in a post-modern warehouse style. CarMax Strategy Group is the internal consulting office that’s responsible for strategizing CarMax’s day-to-day operations. Analysts work on problems such as how many cars CarMax should stock in its inventory, what the resale prices should be, whether the company should expand to another state, etc. It is absolutely amazing to think that CarMax is a blend of an IT company and a used-car dealer. It definitely has the IT company feel to it (the warehouse, the work space, and the vibe) but it also has the operations of a traditional business (the tangible cars it sells each day, the mechanics it trains, and the customer-oriented services it provides).

At this time, neither company recruits international students, but the trip was still valuable because during the course of the day, I constantly asked myself: Is this the kind of company I want to work for once I graduate from MMS? Is the culture a fit for my personality? I realized that the trip was a lot like a college campus visit — you have to actually see and feel what it is like to decide if you can be happy there. I learned that regardless of how famous a company is, you will not enjoy yourself unless there is a good fit.

Both Capital One and CarMax seem like great companies. They carry the seriousness of business as well as the playfulness of young talent. Both companies not only offer great career opportunities, but also a nurturing environment for personal and professional growth.