The Places They Went: Recent Grads & Where They Are Now

By Mary Grace Richardson, Editor-in-Chief

Though we haven’t had the Fall 2017 Convocation ceremony yet, there’s already a feeling of nostalgia on campus. Soon-to-be grads grind away to finish up their classes and job searches while also practicing for Regional Night, organizing their last club events, and going out with fellow T-birds—moments that will soon be memories. Though I graduate in May, people’s eagerness in maximizing their last few weeks here brought to mind how formative people’s time at Thunderbird is, and I couldn’t help but think about the people who graduated this past year and what Thunderbird has meant to them. Here are the thoughts and opinions of recent grads who have made positive impacts at Thunderbird and in their new careers:

Courtesy of Gaurav Shetty

Gaurav Shetty (MGM ’16)
Business Analyst
Lucid Agency

What did you learn at Thunderbird that you apply to your current position? 

One of the most valuable lessons for me is to be flexible. Every individual has a different and weird way to approach the same problem or perceive the same information. Some folks want micro-managing, some hate it. I can give a lot of examples here. But the point is, no one way of doing things is right. It is equally important to unlearn certain things/habits as learning new things.

How did Thunderbird prepare you for your job? 

I came to Thunderbird with a sole intention to get into marketing. I had this answer since day 1 of foundations. However, I didn’t know heads or tails of marketing. I was unaware of the different fields involved, the subtle distinctions etc. After taking my first Marketing Strategy class, I realized that marketing is not all science or all art. As an engineer by profession, it was comforting for me to know there was ‘science’ involved in marketing. During my second semester, I took some strategy and industry research related courses, and it changed my life. That might sound dramatic, but it definitely transformed my perspective of things. I did consulting projects and participated in consulting competitions with great success. I feel fortunate to have gotten a job that combines both marketing and strategy.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this job so far? And the most challenging?

Most rewarding: First, since it’s a client-facing job, it gives me an opportunity to experience the reaction of the client first-hand on the strategic recommendations that I put forth. This is the most honest response because most of the time our recommendations would go against the client teams’ initial assumptions. This helps me better my recommendations or communication style.

Second, the company that I am working for is in the growth stage (remember Business Lifecycle Analysis) and is medium-sized. This gives me an opportunity to take strategic decisions and see them manifest into real changes.

Who has been instrumental in helping you carve your path after graduation?

Mostly me and myself (humble brag). With the current political tension brewing, it was a challenge to get a job as an “alien” in the U.S. It is normal to have regular panic attacks as graduation is nearing. Everybody has a different approach towards dealing this. Mine was to keep my chin up with whatever response you got from the employers. I spoke to a lot of T-bird alumni and the folks they connected me with. I attended a lot of Career Fairs, including the one organized by Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone as and when I saw fit. Not all the interactions you have with alumni or folks on the workforce were fruitful. You have bad days, horrible days even. But the secret is wake up the next day and get at it with the same motivation and rigor you had on your first day. CMC is a great resource too. Shoutout to Helen Wu and Guy Groff!

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned while you were a Thunderbird student?

Make connections and build relationships. Not superficial ones. The only way to sound authentic while talking to alumni or anybody is to be authentic. My approach was that there is something to learn from every person you meet in your life. I even got a job interview offer talking to the bouncer at Tony’s from one of his friends in the tech industry.

Since you’ve graduated, what is something that you’ve discovered? What do you miss most about being a Thunderbird student?

I miss my fellow Thunderbirds the most. They were the reason that made my Thunderbird experience the most memorable. I have made lifelong friendships here and I would relish it forever.

What advice would you give to other people who graduate from Thunderbird?

A couple of ’em actually:

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Whatever struggle you are on right now might sound puny a few months from now.
  2. Whatever your plans are, it’s never too late. Until it is.
  3. Slow down, and smell the roses.
  4. If you feel you are overwhelmed with things happening around you: take some time off. That often gives you a new perspective when you approach the problem again.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of 20 mins.
  6. Make the most of your Thunderbird experience. Bad-mouthing school is a new trend right now. Although some are genuine concerns, ranting without a solution is destructive and wastes everybody’s time.
  7. We need to understand that, whether you like it or not, you own the Thunderbird brand now. And so, my fellow T-birds: ask not what your school can do for you—ask what you can do for your school.

Dan Zlaket (MGM ’16)
Director of Finance and Administration
Y Scouts

What did you learn at Thunderbird that you apply to your current position? How did Thunderbird prepare you for your job?

At Thunderbird, there are several important skills I learned and continue to apply in my current position. Some of the most important aspects of leading high performing teams are communication, trust, and follow through. One article that stuck out to me through my journey at Thunderbird was an article we read by Jim Collins called “Level 5 Leadership.” I will never forget an experience in Professor Denis Leclerc’s Intercultural Communication course when we discussed styles of communication. Celebrating small wins and investing in the development of your teams will help you learn a lot about yourself and those you have helped make an impact on.

Thunderbird helped me prepare for my job because I was able to take chances. One thing I took advantage of—almost took too much advantage of—was risk taking. I would make an effort to put myself in a role that I was not always the best at. In challenging myself by taking on those roles, it helped me grow into my current role. I am currently in finance and never imagined I would be in Finance after graduation. I knew I could overcome the challenges and uncertainty because I trained myself to take these chances. Being a relentless learner only motivates me to continue to grow and develop, while also helping others succeed.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this job? And the most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect of this job has been working for a small company and being part of the growth process. I have worked for large and medium-sized companies prior, and this has been the most exciting. I love that I am in the middle of everything. I can leverage my strengths and work on improving my weaknesses. I am able to be an entrepreneur and develop new ideas that I firmly believe will help improve the business. My team at Y Scouts is extremely supportive, and I truly love coming to work every day. We are an extremely purpose-driven organization, and everything we do is for the greater good. A lot of what we learned at Thunderbird is directly applicable in any size organization.

The most challenging aspect of my job is learning how to manage the accounting/finance/administration division all at once. Time management has never been so useful. I did not have much prior experience with finance and accounting, but learning the process has been extremely valuable. I am so thankful we have a strong faculty at Thunderbird. I truly believe I would be lost if I didn’t learn from the best. I gained some valuable tools and I have been leveraging those skills since the day I graduated.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned while you were a Thunderbird student?

The most valuable lesson I learned while I was at Thunderbird was to embrace the experience. This is probably one of the only opportunities you will have to work with such a talented group of individuals from all over the world. Learn and absorb as much as you can from the experience. Build relationships with your peers, professors and alumni. They are all extremely helpful and invested in your success. Also, never be afraid to ask questions!

Since you’ve graduated, what is something that you’ve discovered?

Since I graduated, one thing that I discovered is that you may forget about your true dream job because something with a better title or even industry comes up. I made the mistake once and will never make it again. You will be a lot more passionate about what you are doing in your career if you actually do love it. Life is too short to just settle for any job. I discovered that being patient and finding the right job that made me feel my best every day was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

What do you miss most about Thunderbird?

I miss a lot about Thunderbird. The one thing that I do miss the most is the people. I miss my Thunderbird family. We all went through so much together. We stuck together through some of the most fun and challenging times. We helped each other grow in so many ways and the best part is that we are still together. Although we are in different countries for the most part, we are well-connected and will forever continue to support and help each other out.

What advice would you give to other people who graduate from Thunderbird?

The advice I would give to other people who graduate from Thunderbird is focus on your job search from the beginning. I would highly recommend having your resume ready by the first day of classes. If you are looking to switch careers, leverage internship opportunities. There are a lot of useful resources on campus that will help you achieve your goals, but the onus is on you to get it done. As Guy Groff once told me “Be agile, be flexible, and be a hard worker.”

Courtesy of Prita John

Prita John (MGM ’16)
Management Analyst
Mastery Education

What did you learn at Thunderbird that you apply to your current position? / How did Thunderbird prepare you for your job?

A couple of the classes I took, especially the Big Data and the Project Management classes, have been very helpful. Even though I don’t use Finance or Accounting on a day-to-day basis, it’s still helpful to be familiar. Marketing does help during, let’s say, a presentation, and you want to speak about increasing the market presence. In my case, I use analytics to gauge how the product is doing. Brand positioning comes up in those times. Concepts from all these classes are always in the back of your mind for sure.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned while you were a Thunderbird student?

I think what I learned the most was how to work in teams. Different people have different personalities, and it was important to learn how to bring it all together. I learned how to not take on the burden, how to navigate certain tensions, how to delegate, and how to get people to submit the work on time.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this job so far? And the most challenging?

The fact that I can do multiple things. I would have learned less if I was just cornered to one thing. It would have been boring and monotonous. The fact that I can use my skills in multiple departments has been what is most exciting to me.

Developing a market is very challenging. My team and I have been struggling to get data for Hawaii, and it’s been very difficult because there’s actually no data for the people in Hawaii we’re targeting. Everyone we’ve been looking to has been providing the same type of data. I just don’t have updated data to be able to market to people, and hat’s my current challenge. Also, there’s lots of competition in the market for the product, and other companies’ products evolve very quickly. It’s not easy to position the product as well as others.

Who has been instrumental in helping you carve your path after graduation?

Professor Mary Teagarden had a very big impression on me. She’s always such a great motivator and is an absolute inspiration to students. When I was worried about Trump being elected and everything that was going on, she once told me, “Don’t worry, Prita. You will reach stars one day.” I have it written down in my journal. That was very motivating. Every time that I feel demotivated, that’s what I think of, and it will remain with me for a long period of time. It came from someone who is so experienced, and the fact that she even noticed I existed was important to me. 

Since you’ve graduated, what is something that you’ve discovered?

Connections are the most important thing in this industry and this market. It’s very important that you continue to keep connected with the right kind of people and continue to learn—otherwise, you’ll go stagnant. I don’t think I could handle that, so I connect with people also outside school or whenever I can. I try to build my network, and I make an effort to go to events to meet people. Connections — that’s what works in this country.

But even making connections can be a slow process. Especially if you’re an international student, it’s very difficult because the big companies won’t take you easily because they don’t want to sponsor a visa.

What do you miss most about being a Thunderbird student?

I miss the people. I miss the environment and all the activities that Thunderbirds did. It kept me pumped up all the time. I loved being engaged in different teams and different activities. There was never free time for me. Now I try to fill my time with other things, but it’s different when you don’t have that really active community around you. You always have someone to do stuff with you there. It could be yoga, rock-climbing, BBQs. You’d be studying for exams and practicing a dance for Regional Night at the same time. There was no dearth of people who were enthusiastic about doing things. I didn’t necessarily get a lot of sleep at Thunderbird, but I enjoyed it. I liked being part of various clubs and leading teams. It taught me a lot, and I got to meet a lot of new people who I wouldn’t otherwise meet.

What advice would you give to other people who graduate from Thunderbird?

Start very early in terms of your job search, and do not wait until the last minute. Connections is what gets you a job here. You can apply to a lot of things, but it’s your connections that gets you the job. If you connect with the right people and show how passionate and driven you are, that’s when they’ll take you on to their team. You also have to do the research. I don’t just blindly talk to people who I want to connect with. I do the research, and I ask the questions I want to know the answers to and what fits me. What I’m trying to figure is if that’s what I want to do. I know what I like, but even if they don’t have a job that fits your personality, eventually if you’ve made that connection and they know what your passion is, that person will be able to connect you with someone then or at a later time. I’ve had alumni who have referred me from big companies just because I had the courage to say this is what I’m passionate about, this is where I want to be in your company, and can you help me get there? Can you tell me what your company culture is like? Can you tell me who I would need to speak with to see if I can fit into that position?

Courtesy of Yan Ren

Yan Ren (MAGAM ’17)
Project Management Specialist
Moredi LLC

What did you learn at Thunderbird that you apply to your current position? 

I am currently working for an entertainment consulting company in Los Angeles, California, and I pretty much meet people from different countries, languages, or cultural backgrounds every day for my work. Therefore, I feel the most valuable thing I learned from Thunderbird is to comfortably accept the differences between people, cultures, languages, or opinions. At Thunderbird, students are always in different situations with different people, and that’s where I feel I have grown and learned the most.

How did Thunderbird prepare you for your job?

I think Thunderbird alumni really helped me a lot to find a job after I graduated from Thunderbird. I really appreciate the T-bird networks around the world because T-birds are always ready to help me even though we have never met before. At the same time, my internship boss gave me many instructions and guidelines when I did my job research.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this job so far? And the most challenging?

Because it’s a new business area, especially in the entertainment field, there are lots of things I need to learn.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned while you were a Thunderbird student?

The most valuable lesson I learned from my Thunderbird experience: Be brave, get out of my comfort zone, embrace the differences, and never stop learning about those differences.

What advice would you give to other people who graduate from Thunderbird?

Everything about Thunderbird prepares students to be comfortable in uncertain situations. After graduating from Thunderbird and starting my job, I feel our school is really helping students prepare for our future career, from resume-building, networking skills, or school lectures. The Thunderbird Pub is a great example. The Pub is a simulation hub for students to practice networking skills. There are many networking events during my work, and I feel my experience in the Pub and school really helped me in the real working environment. So, I suggest current students take every opportunity in Thunderbird to practice and learn skills from networking, communication and hard skills.

What do you miss most about Thunderbird?

To be honest, I miss everything about our school.

2 thoughts on “The Places They Went: Recent Grads & Where They Are Now

  1. Fabulous piece on the “after” that students come to Thunderbird for — the experiences here help shape them as they go out to live their dreams. Really nice to read about this. Thank you.

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