First, a little bit about me. As a computer major in undergrad with a strong leaning toward strategy while at Fuqua, I found myself through the year a little stuck in both spheres of the tech career wheel: Strategy or Product? It wasn’t a binary choice, more a percentage split between the two.
So, I sit down today, having found my middle-ground between the two, through trials and successes and retries, hoping I can help you skip a few of the lower-output resources and jump right into the good ones.
Reminder: Everyone’s career path and goals look different, but every Duke, Fuqua, and other resource I speak of in this article can definitely help you figure out yours in some way.
Phase 1: Discover and Learn
Newsletters, Newsletters, Newsletters
Nearly every single workshop, opportunity, or other activity I did at Duke and Fuqua or outside was through a newsletter. Sign up for newsletters from resource groups such as Forté, Duke MBA Association of Women in Business, Built In, Fuqua clubs, the Duke International House, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), or minority resource groups as well. Spend an hour each Sunday going through the newsletters, picking out events you are interested in, and adding them to your calendar.
The Library (Yes, You Heard That Right)
The connotation of the library being a tad on the boring side is highly inaccurate. Fuqua’s Ford Library has some mind-blowing, state of the art databases. It can help you to create an optimal target company list, look through realistic company stats, skip the long narratives and generate easy visualizations, and borrow any book under the sun. Even if they don’t have it, they’ll loan it from another library for you. These help you find out what companies actually do, their strengths, weaknesses, and trials, figure out your plan, where you need to work, what you can work on, and more.
Pal Up With the MBA Clubs
The Duke MBA Tech Club is an invaluable resource at Fuqua, from the roadmap series that guides you through what the product management (PM) journey looks like to a live workshop with THE Lewis Lin himself (the god of PM prep books). You’ll never find yourself lost or confused about where to start. The materials are not just MBA-level, but for all. I found the experience with the Tech Club defining and made some great friends along the way. Similarly, the Duke MBA Consulting Club events, coffee chats, casing families (which are essentially an experienced MBA in product guiding some newbies with product cases) and sessions guided me through the consulting industry.
The CMC Has Your Back
Fuqua’s Career Management Center (CMC) is one of the best resources at your fingertips. My coaches set me up on chats with alumni who faced the same dilemma I did, walked me through how to approach a sector, helped create industry-specific modifications to my resume and more. They’re valuable — reach out to them! As soon as you have access to Canvas as an admitted student, peruse the CMC resources page, as they have templates, access to Grammarly premium, mock cover letters and prep toolkits.
Phase 2: Trial
I tried my own sample of my two preferred career paths while at Fuqua, kind of a simulation of experiencing both and then deciding which I liked better or what parts of each I enjoyed the most. This method was quite beneficial in really understanding myself and what competencies I enjoyed working with, and it will be for you, too!
Work With a Real Client
Both Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators and the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum are great programs at Duke that can help you experience consulting, or general management, depending on which one you join. It tests your strategic and organizational prowess.
I worked as a student product manager with SAP the Pratt School of Engineering’s MEM program. This was a clean insight as to how to liaise between the technical and business sides, really invoking the PM way of work. A lot of Duke’s graduate schools do amazing projects, and they love to have MMS-ers work on them! We built a gamified onboarding prototype for SAP’s S/4HANA enterprise resource planning systems for large organizations.
Part-Time Work Outside of School
If you’re eligible to, you should also look at part-time projects and associate roles that open throughout the year. One example is private equity funds looking for mergers and acquisition research help from grad students. Check Fuqua’s internal career services website as early as December to get rolling on those opportunities in the new year.
Case and Product Competitions
Case competitions and product challenges: They’re both abound, and there are thousands of them every year at Fuqua and beyond. Find a team of friends to make it more fun and look them up. Sign-ups are typically in the fall and then again in early January.
The trial phase really sealed it for me at the end of the day, I realized, personally I’m more inclined towards value creation and strategy (specifically for the tech industry) but wasn’t tied to a particular tech product. I’m excited to hear what your niche might be!