Alumni Series - The Impact of Networking & How To Network During COVID-19 with Maya Taishidler
Farheen Akhter, Member Development Associate, had the opportunity to speak with
Maya Taishidler, an associate at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), who graduated from Schulich in 2018 with a specialization in Finance. This discussion will explore the
importance of networking within the recruitment process, and how to leverage its
value in a post-COVID world.
FARHEEN: Hi Maya, can you give us an overview of your current role and responsibilities at BCG as well as highlight your past experiences in the consulting industry and how it's helped shape you?
MAYA: My current role at BCG at a high level revolves around working with clients to solve problems by finding creative solutions. I know this sounds ambiguous, but we help clients structure ideas, analyze information, uncover meaningful insights, all with the purpose of helping them achieve a goal and/or solve a problem.When you work in consulting you build a diverse toolkit, where you become good at problem-solving, dealing with ambiguity, and working with diverse teams. I believe all of my past experiences, including working at Monitor Deloitte, have prepared me well for this role as it helped me start to build this toolkit.
FARHEEN: That is amazing to hear! Consulting is such a broad industry but what would you say sparked your initial interest in it, specifically, management consulting?
MAYA: For me, I truly love to learn and be challenged. Consulting is very conducive to that as you are challenged every day. The consulting industry is very unique because it's so broad and allows you to have a diverse set of experiences. For someone like me, who was not sure of exactly what I wanted to do, management consulting was a great career avenue because it gave me access to a diverse set of opportunities. It is up to me to find and experience these opportunities and reflect on what specifically excites me. Ultimately, it ties in the two main elements that I always wanted in my career, constant learning and curiosity.
FARHEEN: For sure! There are so many paths present so how do you think networking reaffirmed your interest in consulting? Did you have other prospective paths you were looking into?
MAYA: Networking is truly the best way to learn about someone's job without doing it, but it needs to be done in a smart and strategic way. Essentially, when going to a networking session, always come in with a hypothesis to test and ask questions to confirm or deny that hypothesis. This is how you get the most value out of your time and helps narrow the scope of what may be of interest to you when it comes down to finding a job. Throughout my time at Schulich, I was open-minded and looking into other paths as well. I attended several networking sessions for different industries like accounting,finance, marketing and so forth. I believe that on top of learning about different careers, it is an amazing opportunity to build your confidence and communication skills.
FARHEEN: I agree, there is so much opportunity to grow from these networking experiences. How were you able to improve your networking skills throughout your time at Schulich and in the recruitment process?
MAYA: Not every networking session is a great experience, sometimes you lose your train of thought or get intimidated in circles; this is okay – it’s a part of the journey. Over time you understand that the questions you have are always valid and fair. Firms also want the best talent to come to their organization so it's a two way street; you’re getting to know the firm and the firm is getting to know you. You improve your skills and confidence over time as your practice. In terms of networking during recruitment, in the consulting industry it is a crucial part of understanding the job and learning about different firms. Be creative about networking especially with our alumni base because ultimately, they can help you navigate this challenging, and at times ambiguous, process.
FARHEEN: That is a good insight to hear that we can utilize during a chat. Do you think personally that networking has played a part in helping you get to the position you are in today?
MAYA: Yes, networking really helps a firm learn about you and you learn about a firm. However, while it may help you land an interview, it is a combination of that alongside your resume, grades and preparation that help you hopefully land a position. So networking is very important in your early stages and actually becomes more important when you’re on the job, needing to build relationships with your colleagues and clients.
FARHEEN: Many people network and you can get lost in the crowd at times so what do you think is the key difference between a good networking session and a great one?
MAYA: Sometimes it's a matter of luck - you need to have one person really connect with the other. There are moments where its common interests, right kinds of questions and the right space that make it a good session. The best types of networking sessions are when the students are present and curious, they are eager to learn, and respect other students that also want to learn. Students that ask researched and targeted questions truly display that they want to use your time effectively. Being genuine and curious is important and always shows during networking.
FARHEEN: It's amazing to hear how those positive traits show and impact a conversation. What advice do you have in regard to networking and building connections, for students specifically in first and second year just getting started?
MAYA: Keep your options open, there are a lot of opportunities for you to learn and understand how specific jobs work. Be open-minded and curious, step out of your comfort zone and ask questions to learn about new things and talk to new people. You also develop important skills in that process. Always do your research prior and have 5 questions prepared that you want to be answered at a networking event.
FARHEEN: It's good to hear that students should be open minded in their first two years to see what best fits them. On the flip side, what advice do you have for upper-year students starting the recruitment process this fall? How can they make the most of these next few months to leverage those connections and succeed in recruitment?
MAYA: For upper years recruiting that are looking at consulting, they should look at all options available and identify a couple of connections they want to make at that firm, reach out to those people and get creative, whether it's through Linkedin or Facebook. Don't be afraid to ask for help. In addition to networking, start preparing for the recruiting cycle, have a clear understanding of the process and have a plan for case prepping.
FARHEEN: For sure! However, given the circumstances of the pandemic, how do you think students should approach networking in an online setting as it is an important part of recruitment preparation?
MAYA: Time doesn't stop, and we are going to be in this period for a while so people should continue to network and be creative. Now you can easily have a good conversation via Zoom so people should continue to progress similarly to before. Everyone is understanding of this unprecedented time so you can continue to try to reach out via Linkedin or email to make a connection and speak to people within the industry.
FARHEEN: It's amazing to hear how everyone is adapting to this new change even in a networking context. How do you think students can make the most of their networking experiences, and extend them beyond just a one-time coffee chat, to truly gain the most from these experiences?
MAYA: For some purposes, networking is a one-time interaction where you ask questions and you learn. In other instances, when you connect with the other person and want to learn more, you should keep in touch.You make the most out of a session where you take a one-time interaction and turn it into a long-term relationship. The way you can do that is through genuine relationship building by sending follow up emails, holiday greetings, or sending an article about something you talked about during your chat. Continue to reach out to them and set up more chats with them in the future. With that being said, always read the room and engage accordingly.
FARHEEN: And that concludes our interview! Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences with us. I know this will benefit many students, so thank you again.