Meeting My Mentor

After listening to several second-year students and their mentors talk about their experiences being part of the D’Amore-McKim Mentor Program, I decided to sign up so that I could be paired with a mentor of my own. I am thrilled to be joining Hasbro for a Corporate Residency in brand marketing beginning in June, and thought it would be helpful to have someone experienced to lean on for support and advice as I navigate my new role.  After a couple of weeks, I learned that my new mentor, Yolanda, is a graduate of the full-time MBA program and has since proven her success as a brand manager for multiple major consumer companies.

Yolanda is based in the greater New York area, but she fortunately comes to Boston often, and we were able to meet at Peet’s Coffee in Harvard Square over the weekend.  Our meeting was great and I feel that there is so much I can learn from her experiences. She stressed that building and maintaining relationships is often the biggest challenge when entering a new workplace, and encouraged me to reach out to her whenever I need help working through any difficulties, managing stress, or just want someone to talk to. Having an experienced, third party contact that I can refer to will be extremely helpful since Yolanda will be able to provide an outside perspective on any tough situations I may encounter.  I am so impressed by the wide range of consumer companies she’s worked for, and I truly look forward to getting to know her better over the course of this program.

I felt excited and relieved to have my Corporate Residency in place by the beginning of February, but the coursework this semester has certainly been challenging. My team and I are gearing up for our Interdisciplinary Project presentations in just a couple of weeks, and it’s hard to believe the semester is flying by at such a quick pace—I can’t wrap my head around that fact that we have less than a month left as first-year students.  With the short amount of time that I have left this semester, I plan to work hard, enjoy spending time with my classmates, and continue to prepare for my International Field Study trip to Peru and Colombia in May!

Interviewing 101

We have hit the ground running in the second semester with six new classes starting and Corporate Residency interviews quickly approaching. I submitted my resume and cover letters for marketing positions to about six different companies, and am eagerly awaiting their responses. Knowing that all of our interviews would be held on the same day in the first week of February, Career Management has been helping us to prepare by scheduling both live and phone mock interviews.

It had been quite a while since my last interview (aside from the NEU entrance interview!), so I appreciated the chance to dispel my nerves and practice some behavioral interview questions with experienced interviewers who are able to give us direct feedback. I used the research skills we were taught to research the company for my mock interviews, and practiced answering common behavioral questions. During one Career Management session, we broke into small groups to practice interview questions. My group was led by Career Planning Program Manager Sallyann Kakas, and as an experienced counselor and consultant, she was great at giving us tips on how best to answer tricky questions while projecting confidence. Hearing my classmates’ answers gave me many ideas on how I can improve my interview skills as I gear up to meet employers.

As a result of all of this preparation, both of my mock interviews went very well. I realized that the more prepared I am for an interview, as with most things, the more confident I am and the better I perform. My interviewer’s constructive criticism has helped me to polish my answers, as well as be aware of body language and nonverbal gestures.  My game plan for next week is to be well researched for each company, to familiarize myself with my answers to common behavioral questions, and most importantly, to be myself.

That’s a Wrap!

Final grades are in and the first semester has come to a close! It’s hard to believe that our class of 72 students met just four months ago as we’ve made it through five courses, a semester of Career Management, team projects, skills workshops, networking events, informational interviews, and even a night of dancing to one professor’s blues band.

After developing a solid foundation in subjects like accounting, economics, and marketing, I feel more confident heading into my second semester to tackle finance, statistics, and strategy. While studying for finals, I realized how much I’ve learned since September. Coming into the program, I had very little knowledge of some subjects and had limited knowledge of the case study method of learning. Through hard work, knowledgeable professors, team meetings, and a fast-paced schedule that kept me on my toes, I was able to gain value from every class this semester.

I was so excited to hear that I’ll be traveling to Lima, Peru and Bogotá, Colombia in May for the required International Field Study (IFS) component of the program. I have studied Spanish for years and spent a semester in Barcelona, Spain during my undergraduate career, so visiting other Spanish-speaking countries has always been a dream of mine.  Professor Chris Robertson will lead the trip, bringing our group to different types of companies and helping us gain a hands-on understanding of the culture and business practices in each country.

We are also getting closer to interviews for our Corporate Residencies in February, so I’ve been working on fine-tuning my resume and cover letters in preparation. There’s already a lot to look forward to in the second semester, and although I’m enjoying the winter break, I can’t wait to see everyone again in 2014!

Mexican chocolate in Boston

What’s a guy to do when the deadlines are getting tighter, the days are getting shorter and it’s 30 degrees in the sun?


Why, visit a chocolate factory, of course.


Last Wednesday, four other first-year MBAs and myself toured the Taza Stone Ground Chocolate factory in Somerville. Founded in 2006 by employees from Zipcar, Taza uses a traditional Mexican method of grinding cacao beans with granite millstones or molinos. This produces a sugary, grainy texture in the finished product and a much more distinct and powerful flavor than the average grocery store chocolate bar.


We hopped on the bus at Ruggles and made it to the factory just in time for the tour. The entire Taza production process is housed in a small warehouse in Somerville; cacao beans come into the factory and finished chocolate comes out. Decked out in mandatory hair nets (and a beard net in my case), we got to see dried cacao beans being cracked and processed, finished product being packed for shipping, and raw molten chocolate being readied to put into molds. Willy Wonka jokes were kept to a minimum.

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Taza is a great example of both entrepreneurship and sustainable business, and makes an interesting complement to the case studies in our core courses. The company started by selling to local stores in the Boston area, and now places its products nationally with retailers such as Whole Foods and internationally through distributors. Taza has made sustainability a core component of its mission, using recycled packaging, clean energy, and sourcing its raw cacao directly from small producers in Latin America and the Caribbean.


One of the best parts of going to business school in Boston is that the city is brimming with small businesses like Taza that have staked out niche markets or developed new competitive models. As MBAs, this gives us a chance to see business challenges being met and overcome in real time.



Working the Room & Winding Down

When beginning a career-focused program like the D’Amore-McKim MBA, it can be nerve wracking knowing you’ll be networking regularly with top executives and alumni.  Between Executive Luncheons, Insider Insights, sight visits, and with a formal networking event on the horizon, Career Management helped us gain the confidence we’d need to make real connections with professionals.  A few weeks ago, senior VP Kim Littlefield of career management firm Keystone Partners lead a session on “How to Work a Room.” During her presentation, we learned about the importance of a firm handshake, tricks to remember the names of new acquaintances, ideas for making conversation, and ways to break into and exit from groups at networking events.

The session was immensely helpful, and we all utilized Kim’s tips at the formal networking event. Divided into groups of about five or six, we approached the event “speed dating” style and rotated from table to table conversing with executives and alumni in finance, supply chain, and marketing professions.  Armed with these new behaviors, I quickly got over my nerves and had some really informative conversations throughout the evening. Overall, the event was a success as I was able to make memorable connections and follow up with potential employers.

November has been a jam-packed month as the semester winds down. Last week, the Graduate Business program held its annual Harvest Festival before students break for Thanksgiving week. The school provided delicious turkeys, ham, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and other Thanksgiving staples while some students shared traditional dishes from their own cultures. It was a nice chance to take a breather from our schoolwork and relax with our professors and peers before the holiday. I can’t believe only two weeks remain after Thanksgiving weekend—this semester truly is flying by!

Halfway There!

After completing midterms last week, it struck me that the semester is already half over.  On one hand, I can’t believe we’ve already been in classes for almost two months, but on the other, I’ve gotten to know my classmates so well that it’s hard to believe we’ve known each other for just a couple of months.  At this halfway point, I feel so much more adjusted to the program. I’ve become familiar with each professor’s teaching style, expectations, and assignments, and my learning team is progressively getting more efficient with our time management and multitasking skills.

Recently in our Career Management course, we were tasked with a networking assignment in which we had to speak with three second-year students about their corporate residencies, as well as one recent alumnus. Northeastern, and the MBA program in particular, stress the importance of networking, as an extremely high number of jobs are often landed from relationships and personal connections with others. I really enjoyed speaking with the second-year students, as they not only told me about their residencies, but also gave me advice for courses. I was impressed by each of them after hearing about their current roles and responsibilities, and it was comforting to know that they were in my shoes just a year ago and have since made major strides in reaching their career goals.        

Career Management has also been arranging a series of Executive Luncheons, in which executives from a wide range of companies, industries, and positions have conversations with a small group of MBA students over lunch in the Alumni Center. So far, I have attended luncheons with representatives from Lindt (a high-end chocolate company), The Bulfinch Group (an independent financial services firm), and The DIGITS Project (a Massachusetts nonprofit). Each of these conversations was unique, and I was able to gain valuable advice and insights from each one. 

There were some points from each luncheon that really resonated with me. Jillian Pierce and Laura Tello from Lindt talked to us about the importance of Lindt as a luxury brand and how they strive to make that message resonate with the consumer. Because I have strong interests in consumer marketing, I was grateful for the opportunity to pick their brains about everything from brand teams and organizational structure to social media campaigns.

Dave MacMillan from The Bulfinch Group countered the old adage, “High risks yield high returns,” when he explained the philosophy of his company—one can earn high returns with low risk through strategy. Joyce Plotkin, CEO and Founder of The DIGITS Project and long-time leader of the Mass Technology Leadership Council, explained the importance of attaining leadership positions. Although it is often difficult to reach a leadership position in a company at the start of one’s career, she suggested pursuing leadership roles in the community, industry, or networking groups outside of the job.  

I appreciate these luncheons because they provide students with the rare opportunity to have intimate conversations with senior level individuals who are actively working in the industries we are exploring.  The ability to get a glimpse into their lives and hear about their career trajectories has been invaluable. 

Two months down

Howdy, MBA world. I’m Jesse Huselid. I grew up in Oakland, California, and came to Northeastern to complete my MBA in Supply Chain Management. My last job was in retail management at a chain of bicycle shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was a position that gave me a great perspective on the need for good supply chain management, as the bicycle industry is full of tiny companies with global supply chains that face a lot of challenges in getting products to the end customer. Supply chain is a great way for a company to innovate and differentiate itself from competitors making the same product. Supply chain is also a major opportunity for companies to cut down on their environmental impact and develop new ways to save resources, which is another topic I’m passionate about.


When I first started planning my next career move, an MBA program was pretty low on my list. I already had some great experience in management and leadership, and at first I didn’t see the need for two more years of school. But in looking at the kinds of job opportunities I thought were interesting, and in looking at the kinds of skills and knowledge I’d need to be competitive, I realized that I needed something more to differentiate myself. For example, I knew how to make a store full of cash registers balance out at the end of the day, but financing and cash flows were new to me. And knowing that I want to be a bigger voice for sustainability in my next job, I needed to be able to make that argument in dollar terms.


After grinding out my applications, I was lucky enough to get great offers from several distinguished schools. Northeastern immediately stood out from the pack because of its six-month corporate residency program. I think what sold me on the school was the small class size, the quality of the faculty, and the focus on real-world decision-making. Textbook knowledge is important, of course, and the academic content of our courses here is great. But theory can only take you so far; I could have sat around after hours at my old job and read finance textbooks, but it wouldn’t necessarily have given me much more insight into how to run a business.


Jay Mulki, our marketing professor, is fond of saying that “if 100% of the information a company needs was always available, nobody would need MBAs.” Making the leap from incomplete information to theory to a workable decision is where a good manager can really add value. The D’Amore-McKim faculty constantly press us as students to take a position on questions that we don’t have hard answers to. Picking an MBA program is a big deal, especially if it means you have to pack up and move across the country like I did. A good MBA program will not only give you the skills but the confidence to make real-world decisions in the face of hard deadlines and shaky information. I believe that’s what makes a candidate stand out in the modern job market.


Orientation Week

I’m glad I completed the accounting pre-work before August 26th, because Professor Hertenstein wasn’t kidding when she said we wouldn’t have time to work on it during orientation. Orientation week was certainly a whirlwind, and it left me with a lot of information to process, a lot to look forward to, and a lot of new friends. 

I walked into the lobby of Dodge Hall feeling a bit nervous and apprehensive, but I also knew that I was in the same boat as everyone else in the class of 2015. To help us get to know each other better, Professor Glick led a series of icebreakers during which we broke up into different teams of eight. The activities ranged from requiring us to chat about basic information such as where we’re from, where we’ve worked, and what we’ve studied, to out-of-the-box questions such as who can crack an egg with one hand and who has seen a kangaroo in real life. I learned so much about my new classmates in just these first few hours, and Professor Glick had us all laughing when he brought out a bowl of actual eggs to put some students’ talent claims to test.

He then divided us into our Learning Teams, which we learned are an integral part of the full-time MBA experience at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.  Each team then spent time getting to know each other on a more personal level by sharing past experiences, skills, and career aspirations. We ended the day with an infamous Boston Duck Tour, which was a nice way to unwind after a long day and have a bit of fun as well.  I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and it always amazes me how many new facts I learn about my city every time I’ve gone on a tour. 

The second day of orientation week was by far my favorite, and I think many other students would agree. The entire class traveled to NEU’s Warren Conference Center in Ashland, MA for a day of team building and development. We were split into our respective cohorts and engaged in some friendly section-to-section competition with problem solving, logic, and reasoning games that required us to understand the importance of communication, trust, and collaboration. The final exercise combined both sections and required us to use small pictures to put together a larger picture in the right sequence. The catch was that we couldn’t show our pictures to anyone but one partner, so we had to describe our pictures to each other and hope that 72 people could somehow use that information to place them in the right sequence without looking at them. I’ll admit, I had little faith that the class could accomplish this—there were so many of us, and there seemed to be so much confusion and chaos. I was in disbelief when we actually pulled it off with only a few minor mistakes!

The rest of orientation week consisted of various presentations by faculty on everything from academic integrity, to ethics and cultural awareness. I loved getting a first impression of the unique teaching styles of some of the professors that will teach us over the course of the next two years. We also got to put our teams to work for the first time by preparing for our case presentations on the final day. My team did great and earned a place of first runner-up for our section!  It’s been just a couple weeks since orientation ended, and I already feel so comfortable working with them and getting to know them better.

Undoubtedly, the best part about orientation was meeting my diverse and talented new group of peers. Having attended Northeastern as an undergraduate, I’m used to being surrounded by people from different cultures and walks of life, but it still amazes me that I have the privilege of learning from students from all over the world. In this program, I’ve met students from China, Belgium, India, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Turkey, and Pakistan, just to name a few. I’ve found everyone to be so engaging, intelligent, and excited to be here, and it’s nice to see so many friendly new faces around campus. It’s not easy adjusting to a new schedule and workload, but it really helps to know that I’m surrounded by great people who are ready to tackle our MBAs together!

Hello all!


Hello! My name is Emily Barbagallo and I am a first year MBA student at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.  My hope is that this blog will help prospective or curious students get acquainted with the NEU MBA experience—covering everything from the admissions process, courses and workload, International Field Study, and Corporate Residency, to what it’s like to live, work, and play in the wonderful city of Boston.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in communications from Northeastern in May of 2013, and completed two co-ops, or full-time internship positions, at public relations agencies in the city.  I have always been interested in continuing my education through a graduate program, but I didn’t know that would be an MBA specifically until I began working in public relations while simultaneously gaining more interest in the courses I was taking as a part of my business minor. My co-ops were so valuable to me because they guided me toward my current intended career path, and also helped me determine what I don’t want in my career.  Working in public relations, I realized that I was passionate about working with consumer brands, but that I had a strong desire to be on the client side as a brand manager or marketing representative.  As that realization occurred later in my undergraduate career, I decided to embark on the search for an MBA program that would provide me with the business education and experience necessary to enter the consumer marketing industry.

I kept my search to four Boston area schools, including Northeastern, but I chose Northeastern in the end for many of the same reasons I chose it for my undergraduate career, as well as for its unparalleled reputation for post-graduation job placement. The program differentiates itself from other programs with the Corporate Residency feature and the required international component, and I understood the value of both of those experiences through co-op and studying abroad in Spain.  What struck me about Northeastern during the admissions process, though, was that I felt as though the staff cared about my educational decisions and future from the second I walked through the door on Admitted Student Day.

I hadn’t yet accepted the offer, but that day easily sealed the deal for me. I was able to meet with my potential academic advisor, career management advisor, and the admissions staff, and I noticed how excited they all were to tell me about the program, the people, and the MBA experience as a whole. Those details and that level of passion reminded me of why I chose NEU in the first place and allowed me to visualize myself as a graduate student in that setting. The faculty and staff are committed and passionate about what they do, and it quickly becomes clear that there’s a whole network of people available to guide you and push you toward success and fulfillment.  Although orientation week has been a whirlwind, the people I’ve met and things I’ve learned in just a week have reaffirmed my decision to attend the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, and I’m excited for what’s to come.

First Few Weeks on the Co-op

Victoria I had met with my boss at MCCA a month prior to starting my co-op to talk about the finance department and both his and my expectations for the next 6 months, so I had some idea of initial projects that I would be working on. [This meeting did not, however, prevent my exiting the wrong door on the first day and walking for 20 minutes around the exterior of the massive building].

I was amazed, though, at how quickly I was given responsibility for projects and how independently I was expected to work. My second week in, for example, I gave a presentation to the transportation department on the implications (financial and political) of increasing parking rates in the South parking lot. From marketing class, management skills, and the IDP, I was familiar with a very scripted method of giving a presentation: I would speak for 5 minutes, my other teammates would each speak for 5 minutes, and then there would be 10 minutes of questions from the class. From the few meetings that I had attended during my first week, I had an indication that a presentation at MCCA would be much more laid back. I was prepared with back-up data for my recommendations, but we ended up having an informal discussion of the findings. It was exciting to be explaining our historic donations, the method I chose to allocate expenses to the South Lot, and offering my recommendation for a rate increase after 8 days on the job. Since the transportation department is amenable to the changes, the next step is to pitch the idea to the strategy department (who I have already been warned will be much more critical).

The other thing that caught me by surprise is how much of my MBA experience I can draw upon. In a finance co-op, I expected to draw from finance and accounting (and the background given by those classes has certainly been helpful). However, in my first week I also worked on a report on Lean processes and its applications outside of manufacturing. Currently, I am working with the IT department on re-designing the asset management system. The implications of this are both budget and supply chain related, and I have already found myself returning to my supply chain notes to recall key terms and ideas.

In career management, we had a panel discussion with advice for beginning a new job or internship. One of the panelists made a comment that the most important thing is to “leverage your newness,” and that comment has stayed in the back of my mind during the first few weeks. Because my work seems to be project-based, other members of the finance department can show my how they use the systems to pull data, but cannot necessarily help me locate the exact data for the project. As a result, I need to ask for help from a variety of resources, including people that I have met briefly in the hallway. This has been a challenge for me, but it has given me a better grasp of how different departments approach issues (and the tools they use to problem-solve) and I know these early introductions will serve me well during my 6 months at MCCA.