Duke Global Executive MBA Student Blog
My Career Path to the Technology Industry
This is the story of how I changed my career trajectory from oil and gas operations to technology product management.
After graduating from Fuqua, I successfully transitioned into a technical product manager position with Siemens. This is the story of how I changed my career trajectory from oil and gas operations to technology product management and the career coach I worked with at the Career Management Center (CMC) who guided my journey.
I had a crazy idea that I would be hired quickly as an engineer-MBA once I started my job search.
During orientation, I heard the Global Executive MBA program manager tell my class that some students spend up to a year job searching, post-graduation.
What? A year!
I really hoped that was not going to be me, but sure enough, I looked for approximately a year to find my post-MBA job.
While I didn’t have a specific industry or role in mind when I started my job hunt, I knew I wanted to use my new business skillset in my next role. Early on in the Fuqua program, my teammates helped me see there is a whole world of opportunities outside of what I was accustomed to, in terms of oil and gas operations.
I knew I needed to explore what could be possible, post-MBA, in other functions (finance maybe? I liked this class). Or other industries (consulting perhaps? Not sure about the work hours though). But I didn’t know how to get started.
I worked with my coach at the CMC to create a plan to explore career paths and target companies. In parallel, I updated my LinkedIn profile, my resume and attended CMC group sessions to practice common interview questions such as, “Tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you interested in this industry?”
At first, my answers were choppy and disorganized. As an engineer in a technical role with deep knowledge of my work, I couldn’t explain to my classmates or coach what I did in language they understood. How was I going to explain to a hiring manager how my skills translated to the open role on their team?
My coach was very patient and helped me practice. We broke down the answers for all the industries and functions I was targeting and then worked to make my answers sound like I hadn’t rehearsed them for hours (which of course I did).
I decided to participate in fall recruiting so I dropped my resume into job postings that looked interesting on the internal Fuqua job board. Unfortunately for me, some of my interviews happened during the elective term and I was overcommitted: classes, work and interviews burned me out fast.
My learning team supported each other, cheered each other on, and commiserated when we didn’t get what we hoped for during this very, very busy time. We were in it together. But for me, fall recruiting resulted in zero offers. I felt defeated. I spent a ton of time preparing and all my hard work resulted in nothing.
After the intensity of Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA, I realized I needed a reset. I stopped networking and applying for two months to do some introspection and think about what I wanted to do next.
Working again with my CMC coach, I came up with a list of objectives, and then, like any good engineer, I built a giant matrix to quantitatively rank my objectives against companies, open postings and my personal career development objectives, which I could now articulate thanks to my coach actively listening to me and giving constructive feedback.
I would target five companies and two functions: product management and operations management. At this point, I knew I wasn’t looking for just anything and I was in it for the long game until I landed a dream company. My CMC coach cheered me on.
It took several more months of conversations, referrals, applying to postings and more automated rejection notifications than I’d care to share, but I successfully landed interview invites with three out of five of my target companies!
This was followed by more months of interviews and “getting to know you” chats. I wound up landing three offers, including one from my top choice company. My CMC coach helped me through negotiations and thinking through the role trade-offs.
While my journey started during the MBA program, it certainly didn’t end on the day I graduated and I wouldn’t have taken the leap to try something new if it wasn’t for my classmates, teammates, partner and especially my coach at the CMC encouraging me to step outside of my comfort zone.
Note from the author: I am a Siemens employee, but all views in this post are my own.