SOM alumni network matures

Even though the School of Management earned BusinessWeek magazine’s top ranking for graduate job placement last year, many Yale MBAs are still struggling to secure work in a tough economy. So shortly before noon on Feb. 3, SOM Dean Sharon Oster sent out an S.O.S. — and alumni stepped forward to help.

In an e-mail to all SOM alumni, Oster called on the school’s graduates to step up and help current students, recent graduates and even other alumni seeking jobs and internships.

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“Although the economy seems to be showing signs of improvement, most of my faculty colleagues agree that we’re not out of the woods yet,” Oster wrote in the e-mail. “The strength of the SOM community is most visible in times of adversity, and so I am writing to you now to tap into some of that strength.”

Within a few hours, Oster had received hundreds of responses.

Some were just messages of encouragement, Oster said. One told the dean, “You go girl.” Another alumnus’ reply read, “We are family! That’s why I love SOM!!” But most importantly, Oster said, many replies also came with job postings and requests for student résumés.

Responses to the e-mail were forwarded to the Career Development Office, which began to set up pairings, though Oster said she was also able to think of a few matches herself. She added that students seemed pleased with, if not surprised by, the enthusiastic alumni response..

“This is the kind of thing they expect from the school,” Oster said. “It’s the kind of thing we have a reputation for.”

Ivan Kerbel ’96, director of the SOM Career Development Office, said this kind of personal involvement is one advantage of SOM’s small, roughly 200-person class sizes.

“Having a small community helps with job placement because it is possible to keep track of individuals’ job search efforts on a ‘per-student’ basis,” Kerbel said in an e-mail.

Though the SOM, established in 1976, is significantly younger than most of its peer schools, the close-knit community of students, faculty and alumni has already managed to help out SOM job-seekers.

Rebecca Lehrer SOM ’10, for example, obtained her 2009 summer internship with the non-profit WNYC Radio with the help of the company’s president and CEO Laura Walker SOM ’87. Lehrer will start a full-time position with WNYC this coming August. She said securing the job was an “unusual” opportunity and credited Walker for making it possible.

“I’d give 100 percent of the credit to this alum and her relationship to and excitement about the school,” Lehrer said. “[She] immediately took me on as a mentee.”

Last summer, Arjun Reddy SOM ’10 secured a paid internship with the hedge fund Paulson & Company. He will join the company as an associate this coming June. Reddy said one alumnus in particular — Putnam Coes SOM ’94, chief operating officer of Paulson & Company — made it possible for him to get the position. Reddy said Coes is “a really enthusiastic supporter of the school,” which is why he put so much effort into helping Reddy interview for the position.

The close-knit SOM community has already made its mark on some of the school’s most prominent alumni. Seth Goldman SOM ’95, president and “TeaEO” of Honest Tea, said the SOM network helped Honest Tea to grow when the company first launched in 1998. SOM’s emphasis on training students for both private management and serving public interest is finally resonating throughout the larger business community, he said.

“I think the SOM has always been committed to having managers bring an understanding not just of business, but also of how business can relate to society,” Goldman said. “I think the school has come of age because that mind-set has finally come of age.”

The SOM track record for job placement was particularly strong last year, with 92 percent of the class of 2009 receiving an offer within three months of graduation. Kerbel said his office has worked to provide students and alumni with more “expertise-based” advising in general, and to reach out to more potential employers. He also pointed to alumni’s high level of involvement, noting that many of them help out as “SOM champions,” or mentors to individual students.

Chad Troutwine SOM ’02, the co-founder and owner of test operations and admissions consulting company Veritas Prep, said he was glad to receive Oster’s message.

“I’m always impressed with a dean who rolls up her sleeves and dives in to perform what is perhaps her most important function — and that is doing everything in her power to help graduates or first-year students to land jobs,” he said.

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