Student Profile: Coopetition
Julia Serbulov ’11
Internship: J.P. Morgan
I took an economics course my freshman year in college because I thought it would make my parents happy. They came to the U.S. from Russia for better opportunities and wanted me to do something that would lead to a real job. So I figured I'd enroll in an econ course, show them I hated it, and move on. Of course, I loved it and ended up majoring in economics and political science.
In college, I interned at an organization that does community development financing — they invest in commercial and residential real estate in low- and moderate-income communities. They do great work and I stayed on full-time after graduation. I loved working there, and I had a job that was created for me. But I saw that it would be difficult to advance, plus I wasn’t really using my economics degree. I decided to get an MBA to develop my finance skills. Both my manager and the CEO of the organization recommended SOM and the more I looked into schools, the more I saw they were right. I wanted a school where somebody with my background would be appreciated. I didn’t want everyone to be like me, but it was important that I not be looked down upon because I came from the nonprofit world. The more I researched schools, the more it became clear SOM was a natural fit.
It was one of the relationship managers at the Career Development Office who suggested I consider doing my internship in public finance. The more I looked into it, the more it made sense. I could get some real finance experience and work on projects I believed in. The relationship manager also put me in contact with two recent graduates who were now in public finance and connected me with the handful of students who were already preparing for their interviews.
Public finance is more of a niche part of the finance space. The banks that came to campus had one or two positions and the competition was tight. But the group of us going for these internships worked together to prepare. Someone would come across a great article and send it around to everyone; or they’d share some advice. Professor Barry Nalebuff calls this "coopetition" — even though we’re competing, we cooperate. Why do we do it? Do I gain any advantage by helping someone I’m competing with? I think so, because that’s how we build the sense of community that defines SOM.
Interviewed on April 9, 2010.