What I Learned From My Northwestern Externship Experience

Two current MEM students reflect on their chance to shadow industry leaders and see what it takes to become a leader in product management and data analytics.

One of the primary goals for students in Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program is to envision what they want their future career to look like. What type of role do they want to have? What responsibilities will they have? What skills do they need to know?

The MEM program facilitates site visits to a variety of companies throughout the Chicago area to expose students to different job opportunities. Northwestern also has multiple university-wide opportunities for students to go behind-the-scenes of a job that interests them, from dinners with alumni to structured networking events. One unique opportunity is the Northwestern Externship Program (NEXT), where students spend one day shadowing a Northwestern alum in order to learn more about their job and respective field.

Chabely Fernandez and Udbhav Trivedi are two current MEM students who participated in NEXT earlier this year. They recently took time to talk about the experience and what they learned from the experience.

Where did you do your externship?

CF: MediaOcean at the software company's Chicago Location.

UT: My externship was with Protiviti. It's a mid-size global consulting firm headquartered in Menlo Park, California that provides consulting solutions for internal audits, risk and compliance, technology, business processes, data analytics, and finance.

Who did you follow on your externship?

CF: I followed Matthew Greenhouse, who graduated from McCormick Engineering in 1995 and is the founder and head of product for Lumina, which is one of the advertising management platforms owned by MediaOcean.

UT: My host was Terry Fisher. He is a senior manager and his consulting practice focuses on data, analytics, and business intelligence.

How would you describe the experience?

CF: It was a great experience. I was given the opportunity to join several meetings and see how Matt interacted with three different customers. I saw how he actively listened to their pain points and then quickly communicated with the team to make updates. I also got the chance to talk to him about his journey as founder and CEO of the product.

UT: It was an enriching experience meeting people from various practices. I was extremely moved and excited by the business performance improvement arm and technology consulting arm at Protiviti. Since I am an engineering management student, I loved the solution they had for enhancing business performance and how they are devising solutions to leverage new technologies to meet growing business challenges. I have always been motivated to be at the crux of business and technology, and Protiviti is pillared in that confluence.

What are two or three things you learned from the externship?

CF: Taking the time to go on-site to speak with customers about their user experience is extremely important to get product insights. Also, I saw the importance of interpersonal skills and communication across multiple teams in order to succeed as a product manager.

UT: Meeting people from different practices at Protiviti was an enriching experience. I gained both the knowledge of what hard skills are required to succeed at a consulting firm and what solutions are being devised to meet the ongoing business challenges. Further, I also got to know the soft side required to succeed in the technology consulting space or in any career, which is based on engaging work, building meaningful relationships, personal learning and growth, and work/ life balance.

How does this experience help support the importance of being a part of the larger Northwestern community?

CF: It significantly helps and opens doors for students to network with alumni and get a closer look at industries of their interest.

UT: This externship provided me with a platform to interact with people in the consulting space at one of the best mid-sized consulting firms solely because of me being part of the Northwestern community. My host was very helpful in letting us know all that we wanted and made the experience as great as possible.