By Kara Sherrer
For years, the Vanderbilt Business Career Management Center (CMC) has coordinated treks, or immersive trips that let students get a taste of working in different cities, companies, and functions such as finance and consulting. This year, the CMC added a day trip to Atlanta for the first-ever Corporate Strategy Trek. Students visited Delta, HD Supply, and Home Depot, networking with alumni and other employees and learning more about summer internship programs. Below, three first-year MBAs — Justin Kelloway, Aubrey Galbraith, and Brooke Ferry — share their highlights from the day.
Justin Kelloway (MBA’20)
I attended the Atlanta Corporate Strategy Trek to get a better understanding of how each company approached strategy internally. In school we have a lot of exposure to the role of external consultants, who are generally hired to come in and fix a specific problem. However, we had not heard as much about a company’s internal strategists who create the vision and implement the plan to reach the company’s targets.
One of the main takeaways for me on the trek was the focus on growth. Each company’s internal strategists are constantly looking for ways to increase revenue, whether through the expansion of existing product lines, new product lines, or even mergers and acquisitions. Internal strategists are always looking for ways to be one step ahead of their competitors.
My favorite part of the day was the visit to Delta. I have always been fascinated with airline operations, so the chance to directly ask internal strategists about operations and future plans was very exciting for me. The end of the visit to Delta was the highlight of the entire trek: We had a surprise appearance from Delta Airlines Chief Financial Officer and Owen alum Paul Jacobson (MBA’97). He told us about his time at Owen and how his perseverance led him to become CFO of Delta.
Returning from the trek, I now better understand the role of an internal strategist and have a much better idea of the type of position I am looking to recruit for. I would highly recommend the trek to any incoming Owen student interested in strategy. —Justin Kelloway
Aubrey Galbraith (MBA’20)
Coming from a background in finance, one thing that excited me about going to business school was the opportunity to explore different career paths. I chose to attend the trek to learn what corporate strategy entails and to figure out firsthand if it would be a career that I would enjoy.
We visited Delta, HD Supply, and Home Depot. At every company visit, we met with alumni and gained insight into how each company operates and plans strategic initiatives. Each company walked us through their internship programs, and offered valuable tips for the application process. We were able to gain a feel for the company culture and values as we toured each of the unique offices. It was evident that all of these firms make work-life balance a priority and highly value their employees.
It was great to see how alumni at these respective companies took a lot of pride in their current jobs, and wanted to help current MBA students find meaningful careers. One of the highlights of the trek was a surprise visit from Paul Jacobson, the CFO of Delta and an Owen alum. I really enjoyed hearing how an alum grew through the ranks and achieved both a successful and rewarding career.
In addition to gaining valuable insight into corporate strategy, the trek was an excellent opportunity to build relationships with fellow classmates. Overall, the trek was a great way to establish connections in the industry and help kickstart the recruiting process for corporate strategy. —Aubrey Galbraith
Brooke Ferry (MBA’20)
As someone who has not worked in a traditional corporate environment before, the Corporate Strategy Trek to Atlanta gave me an inside look at some of the top Fortune 500 companies. Meeting with current employees and touring the offices offered a different perspective than I had previously been exposed to. I also enjoyed networking with Owen alumni and continuing to build relationships outside of Nashville.
At each office we visited, my classmates and I were offered tours of the corporate campuses. We were also able to speak candidly with employees about their recruiting process, travel, and work-life balance. Each associate we spoke with provided invaluable information about the company as well as their contact information so we could follow up. I truly felt like each company was delighted to host us, and I look forward to applying to their internships.
Overall, I was able to walk away with an understanding of the culture of each organization and identify companies where I would add the most value. Bonding with classmates, networking with Owen alumni, and learning more about each company made this an extremely worthwhile and memorable trek for me. —Brooke Ferry