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Spotlight on Student Life: Industry Trek Experiences

Join our online chat to hear from current students and their most recent trek experiences. Students participate in industry treks each year in the US and around the world to learn about the industries of interest to them by meeting with alumni and professionals in a wide range of fields. Industry treks are coordinated by the student groups and expose students to the top jobs all over the world. 

Chat Transcript

Guest: I would like to know which treks you each participated in?

* Kimberly Ge: Thank you for joining us today! We have several students on the chat today! Candace participated in the marketing trek, Laurie participated in the tech trek, Inbar participated in the healthcare trek, and lastly, Juan & Samantha participated in the investment management trek.


Guest: Hi, thanks for being here. I was wondering if the treks you participated in had any impact in your recruiting process, if they were helpful in this sense. Thanks!

* Candace Tkac: Yes definitely - I led marketing trek to the West Coast, where we visited both bigger and smaller tech companies. It was very helpful to see the culture of each company first hand! A few of us on the trek ended up applying to companies we visited that we were not considering before the trek.


Guest: I would like to speak with students in the dual MBA and masters program in computer science. How can I find students in this program?

* Eileen Feng: Please navigate to https://apply.chicagobooth.edu/portal/studentvolunteer; you'll be able to see information about the joint MBA/CS program there!


Guest: Are there any specific (e.g. PE) treks that are consistently popular each year?

* Inbar Goodman: Tech, Banking, and Investment Management treks are consistently popular, but there are many opportunities for those interested in other industries as well, such as Marketing, Healthcare, PE, and Retail.


Guest: I have a career path in mind, but I would also like to explore a couple other options. Can you talk about how that would work with recruiting and with Booth's resources?

* Eileen Feng: The summer before Booth is an excellent opportunity to try to work at another company in an industry you're interested in. Booth has many connections with these types of summer internships. Additionally, the first 1-2 months at Booth are when students are joining clubs, finding out about different career paths, and deciding on one. Even after that though, there are still students now who are still trying to figure out what they really want to do. Some take the internship between 1st and 2nd year to explore also.


Guest: will you please tell us about the timing of industry treks, and timing of subsequent recruiting events? Does recruiting happen during these treks or on campus?

* Inbar Goodman: The timing of treks varies: most of the treks happen in the first week of the winter break, but some have other timing. Recruiting events start in Mid-October, but those are more informational in nature. Applying to companies starts around November (but is ongoing throughout the year, very much depending on industry). So when you go on the trek, it's usually when you already know what you are recruiting for. The treks are meant more to understand the culture and learn more about companies, not necessarily get a job.


Guest: How difficult is it to join a popular trek? Is there a selection process?

* Samantha Xue: Hi, I can speak to the investment management trek. It is easily to join, and there wasn't a selection process. I know for the tech trek, there is a selection process (written application) that shows that you're serious about the trek.


Guest: Can any of you speak to the opportunities for international treks?

* Inbar Goodman: There are international experiences, and it is totally based on student interest: Booth encourages student initiatives, so if there are enough people interested, it is possible to form a group and go on a trek! Some of the past international treks included Dubai, India, London, and Brazil.


Guest: Do second year students go on Treks, or is it primarily first year students?

* Eileen Feng: For most treks, primarily 1st years go!


Guest: Is there a selection process before signing up for a trek?

* Laurie Michaelson: Most treks are available to all students with interest, although some of the more popular ones do have application processes (e.g., Tech Trek). We worked with companies to increase the amount of students who could attend, though, so most everyone who made an effort on their applications could attend.


Guest: Did you know which industries/treks you were interested in before arriving at Booth? Or did you find resources on campus that helped you solidify your interests in a particular area? Also, did any of you find the trek helpful in helping you understand what you did NOT want to do?

* Candace Tkac: I did know which industries and treks I was interested in - I was deciding between the tech trek and marketing trek because I knew I wanted to do tech product marketing. Talking to both groups beforehand and understanding which companies they had visited in the past was very helpful in understanding which trek I was most interested in. The trek also did help me understand what I did not want to do - we visited a few firms where the culture wasn't the best fit, which helped me prioritize which companies I was interested in recruiting for.


Guest: To what extent are the treks student organized?

* Eileen Feng: The treks are almost primarily student organized-- some advisers in Student Life may be contacted for help with booking hotels or rental cars and for reaching out to recruiters who the students haven't been able to make contact with yet.


Guest: for Juan and Samantha - did you have prior IM experience? Where was that trek to, and is it separate from the banking trek? Did you happen to attend both?

* Samantha Xue: I have experience in banking but I would consider myself a career switcher to IM. The banking trek coincides with the IM trek (both happen the week after fall quarter finals). It is difficult to recruit for both banking and IM, so I would carefully think about which path to pursue before the treks.


Guest: Inbar - I'm interested in hearing more about the West Coast healthcare trek. Were you focused on biotechs, health tech, or a bit of both?

* Inbar Goodman: We planned the healthcare trek to accommodate the preferences of our participants, and ended going on a mix of pharma, biotech, medical devices and venture capital firms (working in both life sciences and medtech). We met with executives and Booth alumni in these companies and also had the privilege of visiting factories, plants and labs for some of the companies, which was a really unique experience.


Guest: Are the treks part of a class or organized separately?

* Laurie Michaelson: Treks are generally organized by the clubs at Booth. For instance, the Tech Trek is organized by Booth Technology Group, and the Healthcare Trek is organized by the Healthcare Group. All treks are student-led, though, with input from Career Services and Student Life.


Guest: Hi, Inbar. I will like to know how you found the overall experience of the healthcare trek.

* Inbar Goodman: The healthcare trek provided amazing access to how healthcare companies operate. It was really exciting to see pharmaceutical plants, labs testing medical devices, and meet c-suite executives who took time out of their day to have lunch with us, all thanks to the Booth network. I was blown away by how willing people were to host a group of 12 students. It was both an educational experience and an interesting data point to have while considering a career in healthcare, particularly as a career switcher.


Guest: Could you please elaborate on how the tech trek helped with product management recruiting? Are there any other specific resources that can help someone with a business analyst background transition into a PM role?

* Laurie Michaelson: Sure! We visited many companies on Tech Trek that recruit for PMs (e.g., Amazon, Google, etc.). The Tech Trek was a great way to gain insight into what's expected of PMs at the various companies, as well as create more targeted applications. The Booth Technology Group has many resources to prepare someone to make the transition (e.g., small "prep families" with 1 second-year and 4-5 first years), and Career Services organizes very useful events.


Guest: Are all the treks to different cities or do any happen locally?

* Nima Merchant: The nice thing about treks is that these trips are student driven. Over the last several years based on interest, students have arranged healthcare, IM and start-up treks in and around the Chicago area. With local "treks" they can happen any time during the year which is nice.


Guest: I am curious about the marketing trek - did it include ad agencies, or was it mostly internal marketing teams, marketing consultancies, or perhaps all three?

* Candace Tkac: We went to primarily tech companies and corporates (on the food / bev / consumer side). We did go to any marketing consultancies or ad agencies this year, but that was based on our group's interest. Because the treks are student planned, each year the leaders take into account their groups preferences and try to visit as many companies in that set as possible!


Guest: Hello, Thank you all for your time! My question is for Eileen: What classes/activities such as the tech trek at Booth, did you find helpful in helping you prepare for the Product field?

* Eileen Feng: Hey! For the product management role, I found that leading the tech trek, being involved in Booth Technology Group, and networking with alums/2nd years who have experience in product was most helpful. In terms of classes, Application Development has been really great in helping me learn about coding languages.


Guest: How do students source potential meetings for the treks and how does the group ultimately decide what companies are included on the trek?

* Nima Merchant: Trek leaders with assistance from Career Services work together to source companies based on several factors including trek size and interest. Many of the groups will ask their participants to share their "want" list and build a trek that includes a combination of companies that can accommodate a group of a certain size, alumni presence, recruiting relationship and/or high interest.


Guest: Hi thank you for your time today. For the investment management treks, where did you attend and what types of funds (sector, size, strategy, etc.) were you able to meet with?

* Samantha Xue: For the west coast IM trek, we visited 14 funds of various sizes, asset class (fixed income/equity), and strategies (active/passive/quant). For the east coast trek, that group visited a similar set of firms.


Guest: Are you able to list any of the companies visited on the Investment Management trek?

* Samantha Xue: Sure, we visited a great list of firms, and definitely helped with my recruiting strategy. On the west coast, we visited Dodge & Cox, Orbis, Hall Capital, Franklin Templeton, Green Street Advisors, PAAMCO, PIMCO, Causeway Capital Management, FPA (First Pacific Advisors), Dimensional Fund Advisors, Hotchkis & Wiley, TCW/MetWest, Oaktree, and Western Asset. On the east coast, I believe they visited PIMCO, Fidelity, MFS, T Rowe Price, Baupost Group, etc. (this isn't the complete list).


Guest: Hi Laurie! Could you share examples of the companies you visited on the tech trek?

* Laurie Michaelson: Hi! Sure, we visited most of the "big tech" companies that are known to hire a lot of MBAs (e.g., Microsoft, Amazon, Google) as well as a mix of more niche companies targeted towards students interested in specific fields (e.g., Square, Thumbtack, Tesla).


Guest: On the tech trek, did you learn about specific roles at the firm, or more about general culture?

* Eileen Feng: Both! We heard from panelists who spoke about their positions and internships, and experienced the culture through tours and networking.


Guest: How much time do you spent at one company? Is it a group tour or do you get a chance to talk to the professionals one-on-one?

* Candace Tkac: It typically varies - for our large tech visits, we combined marketing group with tech trek. We spent about 2 hours per company, which consisted of a company presentation, Q&A and a campus tour. We were a large group (~70 people), so there wasn't much one on one time. Comparatively, there were only ~8 people who came on marketing trek, so our visits were much more individualized. We typically spent 1 hour with each company, got to talk to employee and leadership panels, and sometimes had more social activities so we could interact with employees in a more casual setting!


Guest: Could you talk to some of the highlights of the experience?

* Eileen Feng: I loved planning tech trek. It was not only great to visit companies and see their cultures in person, but also being able to bond with other 1st years who I hadn't had a chance to meet yet was great too. My favorite memories would be a mix of playing board games one evening, going to a random karaoke bar in SF, visiting companies, seeing their great amenities, and meeting alums.


Guest: How many/what percentage of first year students participate in treks?

* Candace Tkac: Overall, there are about ~100-150 students who go on treks each year. It varies by industry; tech had ~60 people, marketing had ~10 people, IM had ~20 people, healthcare had ~12 people, and bank week had a variety of participants as well. It's all based on student interest, so next year they may be more participants! For example, this year was the first year for the Healthcare Trek because our class had a large interest in healthcare.


Guest: How to become a leader of a trek? What are the specific things you can do as a trek leader?

* Candace Tkac: The process to become a trek leader varies. For the larger treks (e.g. tech), there is an application process and an interview. For smaller treks (e.g. marketing), there was an application process with no interview afterwards. The applications are pretty straight forward - just asking why you'd like to lead the trek and your ideas for visits. As a trek leader you are planning and leading the entire trek (contacting companies to visit, finalizing company visits, planning travel logistics, planning group meet ups, organizing company research pre-trek, gather contacts for the trekkers post-trek). It's a large time commitment but it was by far one of my best Booth experiences so far!


Guest: Hello, my question is to Inbar. What kind of companies were part of the healthcare trek? Also, was this trek limited to Chicago area?

* Inbar Goodman: The healthcare trek was to the west coast - we went to Seattle and the Bay area, and visited pharma, biotech, medical devices and venture capital firms working on life sciences and med tech projects.


Guest: How do first years get involved in planning a trek? Specifically, I am interested in the Tech Trek.

* Inbar Goodman: For every trek, the process is a little different, but generally, it requires an application for the relevant student group that initiated the trek. The Tech trek had an application to lead the trek, interested 1st years interviewed and eventually, the trek had four 1st-year leaders. First-year students exclusively lead the treks.


Guest: I have a question for Candace about marketing treks - sounds like the West Coast trek mostly focused on tech companies recruiting for product marketing roles. Are there any CPG-focused treks where recruiting is more for brand management roles?

* Candace Tkac: Each year the trek takes into account the interest of its members / the interest of people who would like to attend a trek! This year, we had a large interest in West Coast tech, but in years prior, there has been an East coast trek that visited luxury / CPG brands. On our trek, we visited a few CPG / food and bev companies because we had one trekker really interested in that space and we wanted explore it! If you are passionate about CPG-focused brand management treks, I suggest you apply to lead one and help get other people on board!


Guest: I notice that there are not many international treks. Do students with international career interests find the trek experience helpful or are their different recruiting/job research systems that they prefer to use?

* Samantha Xue: There are international treks that I know the private equity group and investment management groups do. I think it just depends on interest. For the IM firms, they have international locations, so you can still go on the domestic trek, and then ask about international opportunities.


Guest: Were there any brand new treks organized for the first time this year?

* Eileen Feng: Healthcare trek is the newest one this year, the last time it occurred was a few years ago.


Guest: A question on logistics of the treks: how are expenses distributed?

* Laurie Michaelson: Hi! Students in most treks pay a deposit to join, which generally goes towards various trek expenses (e.g., transportation, certain meals, entertainment). All students were responsible for their own airfare and hotels, although some treks will have clear expectations about where students should stay.


Guest: What would you do differently if you had to plan the trek again?

* Inbar Goodman: I would have liked to spend another day in Seattle - we only had one day in Seattle, which has many interesting things going on in healthcare, so it would have been great to spend some more time there.


Guest: Hi, I realize that most consulting companies recruit on campus and have networking events in Chicago. However, if we are looking for a specific region - is there a trek for this also? Or is it a network on your own?

* Laurie Michaelson: Hi, I don't know of any consulting treks, although there are events organized by consulting companies from all over the world (e.g., European offices hosting large events in Chicago for all schools in the Chicago region). Students do visit offices on their own, although that is neither required nor expected.


Guest: Thank you, for the IM trek - are the west coast and east coast treks held on different weeks, or held on the same week?

* Samantha Xue: The IM trek are held during the same week, so you'll have to decide which one you want to go on. The good thing about IM is that these firms have both west and east coast office locations, so students end up visiting similar firms.


Guest: During a trek, what other things you do beside visiting companies?

* Samantha Xue: There are many social events that we organize (small group dinners, drinks with other MBA school's student groups, karaoke, exploring the city, etc). Not only are the treks professional in nature, they are also fun!


Guest: Another question for Candace - why tech marketing/product marketing over brand management? I know the roles are both marketing, but they're pretty different. What attracted you to one over the other?

* Candace Tkac: I really want to be in a high-growth, scrappier space where things are constantly changing, so tech product marketing really appeals to me. Brand management is great and I know I would learn a ton, but I've seen a lot of cool marketing innovations in tech companies that I'd like to pursue!


Guest: How do you go about contacting companies? Does Booth have established partnership with the companies that you visited? If not, how do you establish that partnership from a trek leader perspective?

* Laurie Michaelson: The process of choosing companies really depends on the trek. For instance, Tech Trek has been going on for years; as such, we have many established relationships with tech companies from past years that we can lean on. That said, we also reached out to many new companies we were interested in. This was often done through alumni, contacting recruiters directly, or using Career Services to make connections. If you're interested in crafting a trek, I'd recommend you becoming a trek lead!


Guest: I've read about Amazon being one of the companies visited in Booth's Tech Trek... are other companies in the e-commerce domain also visited in the Tech Trek? If yes, for someone interested in a business development & strategy role in an e-commerce / marketplace setup in this space, how helpful would be the Tech Trek?

* Eileen Feng: We didn't go to any others in the e-commerce space besides Amazon this year; however, if you are really interested in this space, I would recommend applying to be a trek leader. As trek leader, you have a big influence over which companies are visited, so you can choose to organize a visit with companies in the bay area like Walmart, etc.


Guest: What's something that surprised you on the trek? Something about the experience, you hadn't expected going in?

* Candace Tkac: I didn't expect just how tiring the experience would be! We visited 2-3 companies per day, which didn't seem like a lot when we were planning it. However, after two visits, travel in between, and dinner afterwards, I was exhausted each night. It was 100% worth it though and I would trek again for another week in a heartbeat!


Guest: Could you please explain in detail of the few interesting things that you saw in Seattle during the healthcare trek?

* Inbar Goodman: In Seattle, we met with the CEO of Cascadian Therapeutics (a biotech Oncology company), the EVP of Juno Therapeutics (clinical-stage cell immunotherapy company) and execs from other healthcare companies in the city. It was interesting to visit their facilities as well as to sit with them for a conversation about their take on the industry and their experiences after business school.


Guest: Are you grouped together with other MBA students during the company visits, or are they all-Booth?

* Samantha Xue: We organized the treks so it's just a Booth students with the firm.


Guest: It was mentioned that local treks happen throughout the year. Are local treks a one-day tour or several days together but all based in Chicago? Also, how many students participate in local treks?

* Candace Tkac: Groups may do half-day treks to companies - Startup, healthcare, and fintech groups have done local treks in the past. Usually local treks are spread out over a few weeks, based on alumni availability. The local trek groups are typically smaller (<15 people).


Guest: I have a question for Inbar: what is the general focus of the healthcare trek? Would you say it's more healthcare management or biotech/investment oriented?

* Inbar Goodman: It is up to the people leading the trek to decide on its focus - this year, because of student interest, we focused on biotech, med devices, and healthcare VC. 


Guest: What were the best questions that your trek-mates asked on trek where the answers you got from the companies were really surprising/useful?

* Candace Tkac: By far the best questions were the non-recruiting focused questions. Across the treks, it was much more beneficial to understand each company's strategy and culture. For example, we sat down with AirBnB and got to talk to them about their strategies for growth. That is a pretty unique experience!


Guest: What are things you can do while visiting the company to maximize the effect?

* Inbar Goodman: Come prepared - do some research on the company and prepare some thoughtful questions. It is also great to connect with alumni in the company on a personal level. The treks provide an educational opportunity and also a chance to see "what it's like" to work at these companies, so you can make a more informed decision on recruiting. They are also a great bonding opportunity with classmates who are pursing similar interests.


Guest: Are the major treks scheduled at different parts of the year... if one had an interest in attending more than one trek?

* Candace Tkac: Most of the treks are scheduled the week after finals during fall quarter. Last year, healthcare, tech, marketing, and IM all trekked that week, so it would have been difficult to attend multiple treks for those industries. There are some treks that have alternate timelines - for example, Media & Entertainment's studio day will be held this quarter.


Guest: Trek leaders, what was the hardest part of organizing a trek?

* Laurie Michaelson: Two things immediately come to mind. First, the logistics of organizing 50+ people on our trek was immensely complicated. It takes a lot of work to ensure that nothing (or as little as possible) goes wrong! Second, students come on the treks with many expectations (e.g., social, professional, etc.), so making sure that the week is worth their time and money is an incredible incentive to work hard to create a fun experience.