Graduate students who participate in the Industry Roundtable networking events have the opportunity to ask deeper questions about the career fields they hope to enter.
By Briahnna Brown
For Johnathan Fluitt, M.B.A. ’14, the Industry Roundtables, hosted by the George Washington University School of Business, were always a unique opportunity to network with those working in the fields that interested him.
His experience attending the events when he was a graduate student helped him prepare to ask the right questions as he hosted one of the roundtable discussions on Friday morning. As a senior deals manager with PwC, Mr. Fluitt wanted to focus his roundtable discussion on the different aspects of consulting as a career, he said, because he recognized that very few of PwC’s interns know what consulting is when they come into the firm.
Mr. Fluitt said that he would have appreciated more of that knowledge as a student, and he made sure that the four students in his roundtable discussion had the opportunity to ask those kinds of questions.
“For me, the event was less about potentially anything that I wanted to pontificate or get on my soapbox and talk about,” Mr. Fluitt said. “I went in thinking, ‘I want to open up more time to help you out and help you answer questions that are going to drive decisions on where you end up after you've finished your program at the university.’”
The Industry Roundtables are designed to go beyond traditional networking events and connect graduate students in GWSB directly with alumni and other business leaders who are working in fields those students are interested in pursuing. The events are held twice a year, and the next is scheduled for Feb. 26.
Liesl Riddle, associate dean of graduate programs with GWSB, said that the breakout sessions aim to “catalyze deep-learning conversations” between students and alumni in a way that is mutually beneficial.
“The main objective is for our students to glean industry insights from trailblazers that will help our students enhance their own trailblazing career journey,” Ms. Riddle said. “I've been on faculty for almost 20 years, and over the years I've had the great fortune to see many of my students, who once sat at the table to learn, come back to this event to share their expertise and experience with the next generation of GWSB students.”
Elizabeth Montoya, M.T.A. ’07, said that her experience hosting a roundtable discussion was just as beneficial to her as she imagines that it was for the students. Even though she currently serves as chief of protocol and investor relations at Rubicon, Ms. Montoya was an event management student at GWSB, so she was able to talk to the event management students in her group about making the pivot to working in the waste management industry. She said that it felt much more like an interesting conversation with a colleague because she was encouraged to ask questions of the students just as much as they asked questions of her.
Caroline von Schrader, M.B.A. ’15, who is a senior manager for revenue strategy for the Washington Nationals, said that she did not know what to expect during her first time hosting a roundtable discussion. Her group focused on the changing dynamics of the sports industry, which Ms. von Schrader said was especially helpful because constraints that have come with the pandemic make it less likely that she would engage with someone she does not already work with.
“Maybe now more than ever, because you have less of these opportunities to network, it's important to take advantage of things like Zoom,” Ms. von Schrader said. “I felt like the experience may have been better because you're put into this small group, and you're actually speaking with each person and having a conversation of substance outside of just somebody coming up to me at the end of a panel to ask me how to get a job in sports.”
Tough questions are the key to rewarding conversations during the Industry Roundtables, said Andy Walker, M.B.A. ’98. Mr. Walker leads Accenture’s communications and media industry consulting for North America, and he answered student questions about work/life balance and how he manages traveling regularly while he has a family. Some of the best questions, he said, revolved around becoming a successful consultant, so Mr. Walker was able to bring his decades of experience to the conversation.
“You have to make your own board of directors in this world, and you have to find people who will give you good advice,” Mr. Walker said. “At least to students, I can say, ‘look, I've been there, done that, this is what worked for me this is what didn't.’ If it helps them at all, I think it's great.”