Putting the Yale Curriculum to Work
Jenna Angeles ’08 came to SOM to prepare for a new career in the fashion industry. She spent the year before SOM managing a Kate Spade store in Boston to get a ground-level view of the industry. Entering school she expected to spend her summer internship at a big fashion house. But when a couple of SOM alumni approached her about interning at Booz Allen Hamilton, she decided to reconsider. In her first year at school she learned to study issues from multiple points of view and not view the world through a narrow framework. An internship in consulting struck her as an excellent way to put her new skills to work.
Angeles said her summer at Booz Allen surprised her, not just in how much she enjoyed consulting, but in how well the new SOM integrated curriculum prepared her for the job. The core courses in Yale’s new curriculum model train students to address key internal and external constituencies, such as the employee and the customer, moving beyond the traditional approach of focusing on separate disciplines such as marketing, finance, and accounting. At the same time, the curriculum provides students with the hard quantitative and analytic skills necessary to succeed.
Her summer project involved helping an iconic New York institution create a long-term plan to guarantee its financial stability. On one level, this kind of consulting engagement could be viewed as purely numbers-based. But Angeles quickly saw there were other layers to the issue, requiring her to develop a cognitive empathy with all of her client’s constituencies.
“When I analyzed data and developed a recommendation, I considered the perspectives of the leadership team, their extended network of employees, the union, the trustees, the general public, the scholarly community, the city government, even peer institutions. This approach enabled me to anticipate the impact an idea would have across the institution and synthesize those insights to develop a final recommendation that would be organizationally effective. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without what I learned in the new curriculum.”
Angeles said she was well prepared in terms of strategy and number crunching. Yet it was another course that she felt gave her an unexpected edge. In Interpersonal Dynamics, students learn how to work collaboratively with clients and coworkers to achieve a solution. Over the course of the summer, this skill became invaluable. “I think in consulting, half of the challenge is having the right idea and the rest of it is having the right relationships,” she said. “The skills I learned at Yale enabled me to foster productive relationships to motivate teams to move an idea forward.”
Angeles spent 10 years in the workplace before going back to school. She specialized in marketing for advertising agencies, working on projects for Jaguar, American Express, Ralph Lauren, and Ikea. These clients exposed her to a wide array of business problems and she saw how senior managers needed a cross-section of experience to find suitable solutions. The focus of Yale’s integrated management curriculum on preparing students to tackle complex issues convinced her it was the right choice for business school. “Ten years experience taught me to appreciate such a holistic approach, versus just looking at the distinct disciplines and mechanics of a subject,” she said. “My expertise was in marketing and I was determined to attain a higher level of training, so that when I develop a solution for an organization, it’s the right solution.”
Although she was the only intern on her project, she said the 20 students working for Booz Allen in New York would get together and talk shop whenever they could. Mostly it was a chance to compare internship notes and get a feel for each other’s business school experience. “Some students embodied a charismatic leadership style, others were quantitative experts,” she said. “A lot would ask me about what was happening at Yale. They’d heard about the changes and were curious. It was through talking with them that I realized how much I’ve been shaped by SOM’s mission to educate leaders for business and society. And I was proud to be a Yale student. I realized that at a table of MBAs from around the world, SOM students will be the voice that seeks to find the balance between what’s profitable and what’s right.”