Sometimes you really ought to look before you leap.
Other times, though, you just need to do the leaping before the looking. And that’s exactly what I did this past April when I was presented with the opportunity to work for IBM as a Financial Analyst Co-op.
It was mid April, a week or two after spring break, when I got an email from the career relations liaison at my school notifying me that IBM had an open co-op position for the June – January cycle, and that the dean of the business honors program had referred me (and three of my classmates) for the position. I responded within the minute saying that I was most definitely very interested and excited about the 6 month, full time, paid co-op at IBM (as one does when there is only one available position and four individuals emailed about that position). And about 5 minutes later I realized that it was a paid, full time, 6 month commitment – so naturally I started to freak out a bit. Still, my name was sent in to the hiring manager for the entire finance organization at IBM, I filled out an application (as a formality), and my interview was scheduled within a few days.
I’m sure some of you have been there – at your current place of work, smack dab in the middle of application season, which means interviews, which means scheduling phone and video interviews on your lunch break. Yup, I did that too. I was sitting in my horribly bare cubicle that seemed huge because of the lack of decoration when I talked to my now manager for about 40 minutes. Prior to my interview, I hopped on the phone with a friend and mentor of mine who went through the same co-op program I was interviewing for, and had received a full time offer upon graduation (he’s working at IBM now).
When you’re interviewing for a company, it is always a good idea to prepare. Learn about the company, what they’re selling, what the culture is described as, what they describe their culture as; understand the company and their values. Speaking with someone who understands from first hand experience is the best way to prepare, in my opinion.
We talked about how IBM is in the cognitive era, how they are more of a software company now, and how they are continuously striving to adapt and stay relevant. I was able to use this information during my interview which helped in the sense I already had some understanding of what my manager was talking about. I also had the opportunity to discuss some of the classes I took, one of which was Emotional Intelligence – the cool part was that IBM just started Emotional Intelligence education sessions for their finance managers.
The interview felt more like a conversation, and by the end of it I was pretty sold on the idea of joining the IBM family. Now, I just had to convince my family.
You see, I live about 40 minutes north of New York City. For a good 18 years before that, I lived in Central California (and if any internships ask, that is my permanent address and yes I would appreciate a relocation stipend); that’s still where my parents and younger siblings live. Also, I still hadn’t even finished my first year of college when I got that email – I came in a year ahead of the game (thank you AP credits). The cherry on top was I had an offer for another internship that would have me part time in D.C., and part time back in my home town. My parents preferred the idea of me coming home for a bit, but after a bit of coaxing and convincing (and realizing I wasn’t just chasing a paycheck), they were fully supportive.
Now, 4 months in, my day to day is very different than most co-ops. Although I’m a financial analyst, I’m not forecasting or budgeting. Currently, my team is working on a project to restructure the way in which attract talent and recruit on college campuses – and I’m actually getting to take the lead on it. We’re running a design thinking workshop which involves bringing in IBMers with anywhere from two weeks to forty years in order to get fresh points of view and perspectives to help us brain storm innovative ways to attract talent; this is just one instance where I’ve gotten exposure to higher ups within the company. I also organize various social and professional events for new higher and co-ops, including round tables with executives (SVPs, Directors, and CFOs). As the co-op on the Finance & Operations team, one of my other responsibilities include running Slack education sessions for various teams within Finance.
IBM was not a part of my plan, but I am so grateful that it has opened my eyes to the world of corporate finance and exposed me to a positive culture that I value and could see myself at in the future. Because of the my attitude and my work ethic throughout my first year of school, I was recognized as a strong candidate for an amazing opportunity – no matter what you’re doing, people will take notice if you’re working hard and striving for success. Wherever you end up, there are ways to add value to a company and take ownership of the work you’re doing; IBM has truly given me that opportunity…and landing at this company was not part of my initial plan.
As you continue on your path, don’t be afraid to sometimes leap before looking. You might not know where you’re going to land, and you very well might get spooked…but if you’re willing to leap, it will be worth it.
Sophia Caputo packed her bags and moved from California to New York to study Business Finance at Mercy College, where she will be graduating in May of 2020. She aspires to gain a wide array of experiences in finance, in both the corporate finance and banking world, while pursuing opportunities to give back to the theater community, which has impacted her life since it first became her passion in her childhood.