Up Close With Zain Master (MBA 2011)
Published on May 30, 2012
Zain Master (MBA 2011)
Hometown: Bombay, India
Current Job: product manager for Mercury Payment System
As a student in the Bauer MBA program, Zain Master was results-driven. He excelled in his classes, worked as a peer advisor, served on the recruitment committee of the MBA Advisory Board and held a full-time job. His return on investment? Six job offers from technology companies stretching from Silicon Valley to the east coast upon graduation. He chose to take a product manager position at Mercury Payment Systems in Denver.
Q: What was the job search process like for you?
A: I approached the job search as a job by itself. I had just parted ways with my previous employer; an oil and gas company in September 2011, and knew it was a very tough job market. However, empowered with the MBA, love and support from my wife and a few close friends, I was confident that I could change industry and get back into technology.
In order to achieve my goal (a position before graduation), I needed to organize my thoughts/strategy and work like crazy towards it. To be successful I knew I couldn’t cast a wide net, so instead I narrowed my focus. We (my wife, Lisa Jammer, & I) started off by weighing criteria that was important to me – Job Title desired, Location, Company, etc. Once we were able to line up my priorities, my search followed that path and focus without distraction.
I knew I had to be a little bit more aggressive to demonstrate my value to the hiring manager in the niche I was concentrating on. I brushed off my résumé, and although it sounds painful, I positioned my résumé for each job I was applying to. Yes, I had a hundred different versions of my résumé, but the response rate from managers/recruiters was far better than throwing out a blanket one-for-all résumé. I was going after a niche and was focused on positioning each of these résumés to show I could deliver above and beyond what they were exactly looking for.
In addition to traditional methods like cover letters and résumés, I cleaned up my online presence, participated in LinkedIn discussions to position myself as a thought leader in new product development, leveraged my network, and created an interactive online portfolio to display my past accomplishments to potential interested parties. I even adopted the use of snail mail, a useful tool in our present world of overflowing email inboxes, to reach key folks in companies I was hoping to work in.
My “no pain, no gain” approach paid off; by November, I had 6 offers in the technology sectors I was seeking employment in.
Q: What skills from your Bauer courses have been most applicable in your job?
A: Honestly, I was a hellion in class that pulled pranks not only on classmates, but also on our professors. I’m sure if you ask around they’ll concur that I was sometimes a pain in the butt always challenging and asking them questions. Not just any questions, but questions around ‘Why’ a particular principle or law was so.
The information they, classmates and faculty alike, imparted helped me create a foundation to build atop on and connect the dots. I don’t believe that a single class or professor that can get all the credit, but there are exceptional ones like Paul Galvani, Steve Koch, Dennis Adams, Richard DeFrank, Andrew (Skip) Szilagyi, Radha Radhakrishnan, Bill Alexander and others that deserve the praise for they learned how to handle me well and fill my thirst for knowledge.
Some of the skills that embedded themselves into my thick head are looking beyond just the immediate future, realize that there are consequences to your actions, perception is reality, pitching and positioning an argument or idea, and at times you just need to risk it and pull the trigger based on the data at hand, regardless of need for additional data are ones that I will live with. These are and will continue to be applied daily not only to my professional, but personal life as well.
Q: What do you think gave you an advantage in the job market over grads from other schools?
A: Networking is a key component of life and it becomes even more important for those in B-Schools. Far too often I saw classmates, either jaded or burdened by their responsibilities outside of school, just attend class and leave. Only a few truly took the opportunity to build relationships with classmates or with faculty.
In our ADHD world that only pays attention to 120 characters or less, who has the time to read through your job application or cover letter. Instead of being blessed with information abundance, we are now cursed with information overload. Humans are lazy and when stressed, will choose the path of least resistance. Therefore, searching for a job is no different than marketing. You have to suit your message for your target audience. Your message has to be relevant, appealing, and most importantly be able to cut through the clutter to get your value across to the target.
You have to take a risk and put yourself out there; experiment a little. Prior to Bauer, I had a fuzzy idea on how to market myself, be it on paper or in-person. However, only after taking the relevant coursework was I able to connect the dots that helped the package come together. I realized I didn’t have to tackle the world all by myself, nor did I have the capacity to do so. Instead, I could crowdsource those around me (faculty and peers) and ask for help. I truly believe that reaching out to others, not being ashamed to ask for help, while simultaneously connecting all the dots helped me obtain and secure a job in this tough market.
Q: What advice would you give to students looking for work?
A: The best advice I can give to those looking for a position is the same advice that my guiding light, my mother, brought me up on — ”There is no failure, only feedback.” If you fail the first time at your dream job, try again by going about it a different way refining as you go. Here is some general advice:
- Watch what you post online in order to manage your brand. Recruiters and hiring managers do sniff through what you post online on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. before hiring you.
- Have your family, friends, and faculty review your résumé. It’s a living document that you’ll continually have to refine.
- As much as you may hate to, participate in a couple of mock interviews before you head into an actual interview. It will help you come across as calm and confident during the interview.
- Don’t just network, form and build actual relationships. If you are fake about it, people will see through it.
- Research the company, research the team, and research their competitors. Demonstrate to the team you actually learned something that you’re capable of contributing to the position.
- In your cover letter, mention that if you fail to hear from them after a week that you will call them to follow up. Then do exactly that, call them. It will demonstrate that you are really motivated to get the job and that you keep your promises.
- Create a ‘Brag Book’ or portfolio of accomplishments that you can take to your interviews with you, make it interactive if possible.
- Leverage LinkedIn to network and build a presence. That’s where most of the recruiters are looking to hire from nowadays.
- Don’t be afraid to mine your friends’ contacts on LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised how close you might be to the hiring manager of your dream job.
- Subscribe to Google alerts and feeds based on the industry or company you’re trying to get with, and read through the company’s 10K on EDGAR if it’s a public company. By understanding the business and industry better, you’ll be able to present yourself as the messiah to their problems.
Just remember, if you fall, just dust yourself off and try again. I believe there’s a lot more to learn from failure than from success.