The Hybrid Professional
Nekosi Nelson ‘06 has some advice for incoming MBA students: “The program is going to be what you make the program. It could be strictly the time in the classroom. Or you can utilize time outside of the classroom to really enhance and complement the classroom work.”
Nelson did his best to follow this advice himself, and he found that the most enriching experiences outside the classroom came through the panoply of consulting projects he did for companies and nonprofit organizations. "You’re applying what you’re learning in the classroom and gaining practical experience, right on the spot," says Nelson. "It provides on-the-job learning while you’re in school." He did five consulting projects in all--through classes, student clubs, and independent initiative.
Weeks after graduation, Nelson was still traveling to New Haven to polish off one of these projects -- a complete operations analysis of Youth Rights Media, a nonprofit organization that aims to help youth in Connecticut become community leaders. The organization was founded by two Yale Law School students and a Yale undergraduate and has grown rapidly, adding employees and expanding its services. Perhaps it is appropriate that this brainchild of Yale students turned to a Yale SOM student to help develop more formalized systems and procedures.
Nelson surveyed and interviewed the staff and board members, as well as youth who participated in the organization's programs, and organized a focus group and a staff retreat. He aimed to both capture knowledge of how the organization functioned and to help the people involved with Youth Rights Media sharpen their own understanding of their goals. Nelson drew up a series of operational recommendations, including creating an intranet and a series of individual work journals that would eventually feed into an operations manual.
"Every project that I’ve worked on, no matter how small or how large, has had a substantial impact on the organization," says Nelson. "That’s why it’s so fulfilling… At the end of the day you hand off the deliverables to the organization and you witness the impact that it has.”
Such consulting projects also benefited Nelson by showing him how he could combine what can sometimes seem like separate worlds — business and philanthropy. Nelson worked in investment banking before coming to SOM, but he says, “I was being more fulfilled in work outside of my career -- in my civic work and my community service work… I thought at one point that I had to choose either-or.” In his time at SOM, Nelson came to see another possibility. "I’m a business-minded individual. I love those function areas. I learned there is a space where I can still apply that critical thinking and apply those strategic frameworks to create public good.... I consider myself a hybrid professional, a hybrid of those two worlds."