Student Profile: Taking Initiative
Neil Alger '10
Summer internship: Deloitte
Before coming to SOM, I worked for four years at a non-profit book distributor in Berkeley that focused on distributing poetry and fiction for small and independent publishers who otherwise would be shut out of the marketplace. I was part of a turn-around process; when I started we didnít know if weíd make it through the next week. Through this process, I discovered an interest in organizational design issues. I also saw how I could have a real impact on an organization by bringing better business sense to bear on critical problems.
One of the first courses we take at SOM focuses on careers. A key part of it is an introduction into the importance that human capital plays in the success of an organization. Itís one aspect of organizational design and I just found it fascinating. I know a lot of other students do as well. One of the great things about SOM is how students are encouraged to follow their interests. I thought it might be good to create a space where students and faculty can interact around topics of organizational design and behavior, in a more informal setting than a classroom. We have this amazing faculty here, and theyíre doing important work, and I wanted to tap into that knowledge. I came up with the idea of a reoccurring lunchtime conversation between students and faculty on a host of issues. A twist is to have everyone read an article on a topic the professor knows about as a way to launch a conversation. When I presented it to the SOM Operations and General Management Club, they were eager to sponsor me. I contacted some professors and within a couple weeks, everything was coming together.
The first professor we hosted was Amy Wrzesniewski, who teaches the Careers course, and has been doing really fascinating research into how people view their jobs. Why is it that some people find value and worth in their work while others with the same job are miserable? Weíre following her with Rodrigo Canales, who is leading a discussion on the banking crisis, and Lisa Kahn, who is a labor economist who has done research into the long term impact on MBAs who graduate during a recession.
I didnít know what to expect when I came here. My background isnít typical for business school. But I quickly found that this is a very diverse place. If you took a random sampling of my class youíd find people who worked for the United Nations, people who are entrepreneurs, who have worked in finance ó just about anything you can think of. This is a real strength for SOM, because you can always find someone who wants to try something new. Itís built into the culture ó this idea that any of us can have a positive impact on the school and help make SOM a better place not just for us, but for the students who will follow us. Thereís a real sense of ownership here ó itís in the courses, itís in the clubs, itís in every part of the school.
Interviewed on February 26, 2009.