Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Career Services: June 2013

This is the last newsletter of the year! Included in this newsletter are alumni profiles, links of interest, and words of wisdom from the staff at Commerce Career Services. Please let us know if there is a topic you would like us to cover! If you know of an alum who would be a perfect fit for the alumni profiles, you can send me their information at

1. Alumni Profile
Yanek Korff (MS in MIT ’09) Vice President – Mandiant Computer Incident Response Team, Mandiant  (Alexandria, VA).
1)     What were your favorite parts of the program? What were the most important things you took from your time at McIntire?

Honestly, it's difficult to narrow down the list of "favorite parts."  If I were to pick three, they'd be: the faculty, the residencies as a whole, and the team projects.  Every member of the faculty was committed to making sure that the students got as much out of the program as possible.  They were always available, engaging, and weren't scared to challenge ideas and assumptions.  The high volume of in-person with both faculty and other students made for weeks of entertainment during the residencies.  The team projects varied wildly: some teams just "clicked."  Others just didn't.  In either case, the teams offered an opportunity to develop strong relationships that continue to this day.  I certainly came away with many such relationships and a host of stories that I hope never show up on the Internet.

The most important thing that I took away from the program though was an unexpected skill.  Vastly improved time management.  When the deadlines can't move and you're juggling a full time job and personal commitments too, you become pretty good at proactively setting others' expectations and carefully managing your own time.

2)     Have you made a career change since you completed the degree? What elements of the program were helpful in making this change?

I've had two job changes since completing the degree program.  During the interview for the first as a Product Manager, I was asked how I'd spin up on an industry about which I knew nothing and how I'd be able to effectively map out a product strategy.  The interviewing team had assessed several technical candidates for the role like myself but these candidates lacked the ability to articulate how to develop an understanding of the market, how to assess the competitive dynamics, and how ultimately to even attempt sustainable competitive differentiation.  I described Mod 4.  I got the job.

In the case of my second interview, I walked in with something I wouldn't have had without the program: confidence that I could do the job.  I was being asked to take a theory that had played out well for a few distinct contracts and build a highly technical security-oriented managed service business line.  Capital P and capital L.  Without the fundamentals from the program I would not really have known where to start.  Instead, I got this job as well and have delivered three consecutive years of 100%+ revenue growth.

3)     What advice/words of wisdom do you have for current or future MS in MIT students who are considering either a job change or career change now that they are working towards the MS in MIT degree?

Every situation is different.  As far as the program is concerned I'd recommend giving it all you've got.  Learn everything you can, experiment with all that you have at your fingertips.  Ask a lot of questions.

Disagree with things you said five minutes ago just for the sake of exploring competing viewpoints.  All of this taught me a lot about business strategy... but achieving business success is a lot like achieving success in the program: all the strategy in the world won't help you if you can't execute against it.  So, execute.

In my case, getting the freedom to execute required a change in job.  For some of my colleagues, they were able to move into new roles at the existing organizations where they could execute against new strategies they'd developed.  I won't tell you to change jobs or not to change jobs, but I will say that you need to be in a role where you have the freedom to execute and win.

2. Articles of Note

3. Career Advice 2.0 – Words of Wisdom
From Cynthia Huddleston, Associate Dean, Graduate Admissions & Corporate Relations

Key Lessons in Strategic Career Management

Many of our M.S. in MIT alumni point to the Capstone Strategic Project (CSP) as the experience that helped them think more strategically about IT.  For some, it was the impetus they needed to create new ventures.  Others were in a position to transform their IT operations from service units to partners in enabling and driving business strategy.  Regardless of your post-graduation plans, I encourage you to take a fresh look at the key lessons from the CSP and how they can help you think more strategically about managing your career. 
Lesson 1:   “The better you understand your industry and company the more unique and valuable your insights will be.” 
Sound familiar?  It was Professor Gray’s advice for researching potential CSP companies, but I would suggest that it is also extremely valuable career advice.    Career opportunities no longer follow the proverbial ‘ladder,’ but are more like a series of interconnecting pathways.  Developing a deep understanding of your organizations’ strategic landscape is like having a roadmap to where the next opportunities for career advancement are likely to arise.

Lesson 2:  Seek differing perspectives and multiple data points. 
CSP teams who were able to identify an innovative use of IT that truly resonated for the company and its customers had one thing in common.  They incorporated information from multiple sources, including individuals who represented differing perspectives, to arrive at their unique insights.  Now think about your own career.  How often do you interact with mentors, colleagues, or others who challenge you to look at your career from a different perspective – i.e. help you think about it strategically?

Lesson 3:  Develop and tell your unique story. 
What are your signature strengths (competitive advantages)?  What patterns emerge when you analyze your career?  How can you use your strengths to deliver value to your customers or organization in unique or innovative ways?  As you complete the integrated assessment of your company’s strategy for your CSP, think about how you could apply a similar integrated analysis (including financial!) to your career strategy.   What compelling story can you tell?

4. We’re Here to Help
Commerce Career Services will be presenting the Rebranding program next Friday (June 14th) after your last session of the day. We’ll be discussing the importance of integrating new skills, knowledge, and goals into your professional identity. Please don’t hesitate to contact Kelly Eddins ( or Aaron Gilley ( with any questions you might have. Have a great week!

Aaron Gilley
Assistant Director of Career Development
Commerce Career Services
University of Virginia
(434) 243-2144

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