November 4, 2013

3 Steps to Landing a Silicon Valley Internship from Boston

Before setting foot in Boston for the start of 1st year, I targeted Khan Academy as the place I wanted to intern. I've been a long fan of the organization's mission of providing a "Free world class education for anyone anywhere" and was excited by the wave of disruptive innovation they are bringing to the education sector. But with an internship target on the opposite coast and little background in the education industry, I faced a few major questions around how to get there. 

One the most under-promoted skills you gain in business school is strategic planning. This goes beyond big firms making decisions about which project to launch next, customer segments to target or companies to acquire. Strategic planning in the "life-sense" is picking an ideal scenario in the future and building a road map backwards to look at the paths that will take you there. Here are the three ways SMG friends, clubs and resources helped me land a spot at Khan Academy:

1. ITEC New Venture Competition
Participate in a business plan competition, regardless of whether you want to peruse an entrepreneurship career path. Venture competitions force you to get out into the real world and do your own industry analysis, find out the holes in a market and explore different business models. I pitched my way to the final round of BU's New Venture Competition based on a concept for a new mobile product to increase parent engagement in K-12 education. To learn what parents, teachers and students cared about most in a new potential product, I had to go and interview tons of parents, teachers and students. The process both clarified the product vision and armed me with the language and trends in the education technology sector. 

2. West Coast Networking Club
Location matters. Khan Academy is based in Silicon valley, so I joined the West Coast Networking Club for the Tech Trek learn the culture and visit firms in the Bay Area. The trip is student coordinated so we get to both leverage SMG's West Coast network and build new relationships with target companies. Twenty of us escape four days of class in early February to visit Google, HP, Zynga, NetApp, Chevron and an interesting collection of startups. I also took this opportunity to arrange a personal informational interview at Khan Academy to learn what they were looking for in candidates and areas where they planned to grow so I could figure out how to align my skills with their needs. I can't stress enough how valuable the process and knowledge that come from the New Venture Competition was in giving me the background to have a high quality conversation in an newly familiar industry. (Photo: so shocked by finding the House from Full House that I leapt into the arms of my fellow MS-MBA cohort-mates, Adhiraj and Shourya)

3. Classmate Connections
You can never stop networking. I got the chance for the informational interview by reaching out to all of my SMG classmates who had LinkedIn connections to the organization. People at SMG really are excited to help each other, so the clearer you can articulate your goals, the more likely you are to find a friend who can put you on a path to landing that dream internship. (Photo: damp after a foggy bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge with fellow SMG Bay Area interns Mark, Adhiraj and Jon. This pic also proves how few clothes I brought with me for the summer.)

Matt was a finalist in BU’s New Venture Competition based on a mobile product to increase parent engagment in K-12 education. He is focused on technology strategy and developing new media products and services. Outside of class, Matt bounds around Boston visiting tech networking events, applies strategies from his Negotiations class while planning his upcoming wedding and is the reigning champion in his Fantasy Congress League.

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