From Internship to Full-Time Job — All Before Graduation: An MBA Story

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Ian Western (MBA student at the University of San Diego) wears a hard hat at his internship with SiemensIan Western '20 (MBA) on site visiting a client during his internship at Siemens Smart Infrastructure
begin quoteThe graduate business career services team gave me all of the information and coaching I needed to be able to take full advantage of the University’s powerful network of employers and alumni.

My name is Ian Western and I am a full-time MBA student, and soon-to-be graduate, at the University of San Diego School of Business. Prior to moving to San Diego, I had roughly five years of experience working in advertising agencies, digital marketing, SaaS sales, and more. After developing self-awareness, refining my goals, and clarifying my life vision, I decided I wanted to start a long-term career in consultative sales in an industry that would have longevity - in other words, would always be needed. After conducting some research, I decided to focus on pursuing a sales career in the utilities, construction, and infrastructure industries.

Standing out at a job fair

As an MBA student at USD, I have the opportunity to attend on-campus career fairs with representatives from countless industries. When I learned that Siemens Smart Infrastructure would be attending USD’s biannual Career Fair, I made a point of doing some background research on them and showed up early — before the reps became tired of talking with hundreds of students. 

I wanted to stand out. Despite my lack of industry experience, my ability to ask intelligent questions, maintain eye contact, shake hands firmly, follow up promptly, and interview with determination and humility earned me an internship with Siemens Smart Infrastructure. The USD School of Business’ graduate business career services team and professional development courses also helped me secure my internship. They gave me all of the information and coaching I needed to be able to take full advantage of the University’s powerful network of employers and alumni. 

Shadowing the experts

Siemens Smart Infrastructure, a business unit of the global corporate giant Siemens AG, provides a range of technical solutions and services that help building owners optimize their investments in real estate. Siemens helps other businesses make the best use of their business by installing, maintaining, and optimizing systems for HVAC, energy, fire and life safety, and security. Additionally, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), Siemens is rolling out products that utilize smart technology to fully automate and connect workspaces — ranging from simple offices to high-tech operating rooms and pharmaceutical development labs. 

My first internship with Siemens was rotational — every week I shadowed someone new. I expressed my interest in sales during the interview process and so was most frequently scheduled to shadow professionals on Siemens’ sales staff. I did my best to develop relationships with each and every person I shadowed throughout the four months of my internship. And I was blown away at how generous they were with their time. 

The sales team shared their work history, explained their roles, and took me to various meetings including sales presentations, contract negotiations, networking events, lunches, and project kickoff meetings. While shadowing the sales team, I visited more than 30 businesses around San Diego — all of them Siemens customers and interesting in their own right. 

One day, I would be shadowing a salesperson while they met with laboratory facilities directors from Thermo Fisher Scientific. The following week, I would follow another person to Scripps Institute of Oceanography to discuss how Siemens products help control environments for their fish tanks and wildlife labs. On other days, I went to Sony Electronics HQ, The Intercontinental Hotel, Scripps Hospital, UCSD, military facilities and more. 

In addition to shadowing, I would support the sales team by obtaining information for clients, preparing proposals, researching product information, reading though legal documentation and contracts, etc. 

Seeing so many different businesses firsthand, learning about their operations, and meeting members of their staff made the internship stand out as one of the best learning experiences of my life. 

Pitching my worth

Siemens’ products are highly technical and complex, and although I didn’t understand much of the conversations I witnessed in these meetings, I did my best to take notes and in between project meetings, I would conduct my own research about the clients. I sought additional training resources, did my best to internalize Siemens’ value proposition, and worked to understand the company’s core products/solutions and customers. 

At the end of this internship, I prepared a “hire-me” powerpoint presentation that summarized my experience, accomplishments, projects, business exposure and more. I delivered this presentation to the branch’s management team and proposed that I continue to work with Siemens. My goal was to work in an operations support role so that I could develop a deeper technical knowledge of its products, markets, and processes with the greater goal of becoming a full-time sales executive after completing my MBA. My managers agreed with the plan, and set up my next internship which was to be focused on supporting our operations department. 

Learning the product and working in the field

My operations role was much different than my rotational internship. While I had gained some experience from my first internship at Siemens — going on job sites and observing technical specialists working with Siemens products — my operations internship helped me gain an appreciation for how incredibly complex construction projects are. 

I would show up to new construction sites at 5 a.m. and shadow specialists as they installed a variety of devices (mostly building controller devices, mini computers that control parts of a building like HVAC components, thermostat response, lighting, etc.), attached them to power supplies, coordinated with other specialty contractors to ensure operability, and program these devices to do their specified jobs. My time on construction sites was exciting and opened my eyes to how these projects require the mass coordination of highly skilled laborers and teams. Understanding the business landscape and “following the money” of these projects was a fascinating learning experience as well. 

Landing the full-time job

After completing both internships, my managers promoted me to a full-time sales position before I even completed my MBA program. Tactics and verbiage from my negotiations course at USD helped me support my case for full-time employment. As I write this, I am roughly two months into the new position and still feel as if I have barely scratched the surface in learning Siemens’ portfolio of products and services despite my internship and operations experiences. 

I also started the job amidst the COVID-19 crisis, which has been a bit chaotic but also fruitful in terms of learning experiences. Learning is constant and I am grateful I have not yet been laid off by the company or branch. 

Siemens is constantly evolving its products and solutions, and I can see that the company will play a major role in shaping buildings of the future — where everything is connected to the internet, systems use clean energy at high efficiencies, and professionals of all trades are empowered to carry out their jobs with increased performance due to better building utility. 

Thanks for reading! If you are interested in connecting or speaking with me about my experience, please add me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ianwestern/ or email me at ian.western@siemens.com

— Ian Western '20 (MBA)

For more information about the MBA program at the University of San Diego School of Business, please visit https://www.sandiego.edu/business/graduate/mba/.

Contact:

Renata Ramirez
renataramirez@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-4658