By: Sarah Wright

In today’s business environment, students are overwhelmingly concerned with getting a job after they graduate. Naturally, they are nervous about wasting the enormous investment of time, effort and money that is put into a college degree.   However, this concern is only multiplied as a student, like myself, decides to attend graduate school full time. Friends, mentors and family members are all worried that this even larger investment will be a bust in the end. So, of course, when I decided to continue on to earn my MBA straight after undergrad with no “real” work experience, everyone, including myself, felt a little bit nervous. I had a graduate assistantship, which would pay my tuition through grad school, but was getting the piece of paper really worth the risk of turning down a great full time position with a variety of growth opportunities? I think a lot of people hearing the story up to this point would probably say no.

However, my graduate assistantship is very different from the traditional one. I work here at the Taylor Institute, but instead of grading papers and teaching classes, I work on consulting projects in conjunction with the Director of Analytics, Vanja Djuric. These projects include research, analytics and client management, a portion of my work that often puts me at the table discussing strategic direction and recommendations with CEO’s of multi-million dollar companies. I doubt I would get these types of opportunities in any entry level full time job, which in and of itself shows just how valuable my experience has been.

But, the tools and techniques that I’ve learned along the way are also invaluable. Throughout my first two semesters here at the Taylor I’ve worked with three different manufacturing companies in a consulting role. These projects have focused primarily on market sizing, customer segmentation and market entry strategy. Through each project, I develop the methodology that guides our research and calculations, collect the primary and secondary data necessary and assist in preparing the final report delivered to our clients, all while being mentored by Vanja. Being able to relate to and understand the manufacturing industry, which accounts for a huge portion of the US and world economy, as well as structure and manage a consulting project from start to finish, has given me a huge edge over many recent graduates.

I’ve also gotten to work on a completely different type of project with an insurance company. For this project, the focus is on customer analysis and customer segmentation. I’m working in the company’s extensive database to identify their best customers and the growth opportunities these customers present. This project specifically has challenged me to expand my proficiency and experience with Tableau, JMP-SAS and SPSS. These three tools are used across the marketing industry and learning how to incorporate them within a real project is another great resume builder.

In addition to the great experience I’ve gotten in working on the client projects, I’m also encouraged to further my own learning during work hours. This past summer I took an introductory course to programming in the R language, a skill that few business graduates, whether undergraduate or graduate, have developed. I also analyze the Google Analytics website data for the Taylor Institute’s website and the blog. Using Google Analytics for this type of application has given me much more insight into the tool itself and how to leverage its unique capabilities. Because of the Taylor Institute’s consistent commitment to helping me further both my education and professional growth, pursuing an MBA degree as a Graduate Assistant straight out of undergrad has been one of the greatest career decisions I have ever made.