By Kara Sherrer
Founded in 2009, the MBA Veterans Network® is a professional networking and advocacy organization for military veterans and alumni. The organization’s flagship event is the MBA Veterans Conference, which connects 350+ first- and second-year MBA students, all of whom are military veterans, with more than 50 of America’s leading MBA employers. Every fall, a group of Vanderbilt Business veterans attend the conference, building relationships with employers as well as veterans at other schools.
This year’s conference was held from October 11 to 12 in Chicago, IL, and two of Owen’s attendees — Gina Colucci and Seth Staugler — share their thoughts on the experience below.
Gina Colucci (MBA’20)
The MBA Veterans Conference seemed like a logical place to start my recruiting, and I was not disappointed with my decision to attend. It was a great place to learn about companies, network with fellow veterans, and get a head start with interviews. The conference’s online platform allowed me to connect with companies before the event and express my interest in the positions they were offering. Several of those companies reached out by asking me to invite-only happy hours or breakfasts and one company even conducted an over-the-phone, first-round interview.
One of the most beneficial aspects of the conference was the opportunity to learn about so many companies, some that I had never heard of, through veterans who currently work there. It was very easy to connect with them since we all shared that common experience. Fellow veterans know what kinds of questions we have and the challenges we face, and they were eager to share their experiences of what works and what doesn’t. Every person I talked to went above and beyond to answer my questions honestly and to provide me with actionable advice moving forward.
After interviewing with a vet from one company, he asked if we could meet later in the day so he could give me feedback on my interview. He didn’t know whether or not I was going to get a second interview, but he told me that he had received this kind of feedback from a vet at his company while he was recruiting and he wanted to pay it forward. This experience and several others I had at the conference reflect the camaraderie and support shared by veterans in MBA programs. —Gina Colucci
Seth Staugler (MBA’20)
The MBA Veterans Conference provides veterans with an opportunity to network with companies that value both military experience and the business acumen gained while pursuing an MBA. When deciding whether or not to attend the conference, the choice was quite easy for me due to all the amazing companies in attendance, which included Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Deloitte, KPMG, EY, PwC, Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, and Barclays. The MBA Veterans Conference also enables veterans to share their stories and lessons learned with other veterans from different backgrounds and business schools.
The conference is two days of one-on-one informational chats, panels, dinners, and some interviews prior to the normal recruiting season, so it gives veterans the opportunity to connect with companies that do not recruit on campus at Owen. For many MBA veterans, the conference is how they get their summer internship or first job following business school. Since the start of the conference, the talent pool continues to grow, and more companies continue to attend with the intent of hiring veterans.
While it was not a part of the MBA Veteran Conference, my favorite part of the weekend was attending the Google Student Veteran Summit (GSVS) at Google’s Chicago office. The GSVS is Google’s flagship MBA veteran event, which included 39 participants across 18 different business schools for the Chicago cohort. It was a truly amazing experience that provided me with insight into Google’s culture, and I could visualize myself working at a company for the first time.
Transitioning from the military is not easy. Most veterans, including myself, struggle with finding a career that is bigger than themselves and gives them a purpose similar to the military. From the conference, I learned that I can still make a positive impact on the world without being in the military. Many companies value this sense of service and duty that was ingrained into me for the last eight years. —Seth Staugler