“I could have felt isolated but my classmates kept me grounded and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in my experience.”

Sugirtha Stathis: Why don’t we start with you introducing yourself? Tell me about your background, your interest in coming to Wharton, where you interned and where you’ll be working full time after graduation.

Stephanie Garcia: I went to the United States Military Academy and I spent five years in the Army as an Army Engineer stationed at Fort Carson. I held several roles there and then in 2016 I made the decision to leave the military. I ended up working in the private sector for a company called McMaster-Carr Supply Company in Chicago. I did some project management work and eventually was a call center supervisor.

My husband was actually at business school at the time, I saw what he was gaining from business school and I wanted to get that experience. I saw this as a great transition both to get the experience that I wanted, and then to transition back into the workforce.

I knew I wanted to do general management and I was looking to stay in the area. Unfortunately, my original internship was canceled due to the pandemic. I was super fortunate because I ended up interning with DaVita. I had interviewed with them and turned down their offer. On a whim, I reached back out to the recruiter, explained my situation, and they were happy to give me another offer.

Last spring, obviously the world changed pretty dramatically and your internship became remote. What were some of the challenges that posed? And how did you adapt to make sure you would be successful?

The two biggest challenges I faced were building relationships with a new team and getting a feel of the company’s culture all in a virtual environment. In order to be successful, I was much more diligent about scheduling time with people. As a new member of the team, I didn’t have the opportunity to just run into people in the office, so I made a point to schedule regular coffee chats. I set a goal to schedule at least 16 coffee chats a week. This was an ambitious goal, but because I couldn’t be there in person, these chats were important for me to get to know my team and the company.

I also found that it was much harder to connect with people initially over Zoom, so I didn’t learn as much about the role and the company culture during my first few coffee chats. I found that it often took a few touchpoints and asking more specific questions in order to get the information I needed in order to make my own assessment of the company. Instead of asking generally about the company culture, I would ask about the company’s culture when it came to working parents and the need to juggle work and family. By knowing specifically what I was looking to get out of these conversations I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the company as a whole.

When you came back to Wharton in the fall and you decided to re-recruit it was a virtual experience. What was that like for you, and how did it compare to your first-year experience?

Being that I’m a mom, my schedule is unpredictable at times, and so commuting to info sessions and coffee chats during my first year was a lot to juggle. Whereas in the virtual world, I wasn’t shuffling back and forth from campus as much. Scheduling time to talk with people was much easier, both on my end and theirs.

The obvious disadvantage is not getting to see and meet people face-to-face. There was something nice about the structured recruiting process — going to the sessions and getting to meet the recruiters. You do lose that personal aspect but it didn’t impede me from getting a full-time offer. The responsibility fell on me and in a different way. I felt like it was a much more enterprise recruiting process for me in the second year.

I got the support that I needed and I was able to find some really great opportunities and, ultimately, was able to get a couple of offers and was able to make the choice that was the best fit for me.

One of the things that is especially hard is assessing company culture and personal fit from a distance. Did you use a similar approach with full-time recruiting to determine that?

I think first and foremost, is sitting down and figuring out what I want in a culture. Until this process, I never really sat down and asked myself, “what am I actually looking for?” Taking that moment for introspection, I think, is really important to do at the start.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can ask the appropriate questions and dig into more specifics. I think just talking to as many people and getting as many perspectives, as you can is super important.

How did you stay connected with your peers, whether it was for support through the process or with insight on other companies?

I could have felt isolated but my classmates kept me grounded and made me realize that I wasn’t alone in my experience. I was super fortunate in my first year to be part of a cohort of four of us who were going to spend the summer in Philadelphia. We created a small support network right away when our internships were canceled due to the pandemic. We were helping each other find opportunities. I’m also tied into the Veterans group and when I mentioned my situation people reached out with opportunities.

If you were to choose three words to describe your recruiting experience this year, what would they be?

Enterprising. Open-ended. Longer than anticipated.

What aspects of Wharton overall do you feel are most valuable to you along the way?

Community 100 percent — and then the resources. The student and the alumni networks and the MBA Career Management office were probably the three biggest factors that helped me both get an internship and a job.

Posted: July 8, 2021

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