By Guillermo Kalen, MBA ’17
Reaching Out MBA, Inc., or more commonly known as ROMBA, is a non-profit organization that educates, inspires and connects LGBT business graduate students and professionals to lead the way to equality through its year-round events and its new fellowship program. Its main event is the annual ROMBA conference, which was held in October in Chicago this year. More than 80 companies and 1,400 participants attended. We are grateful to the Institute for Global Organizational Effectiveness, which provided the financial support that allowed us to attend this conference. Conferences like this one enable students to connect with recruiters and other students, to learn through panels from current professional practices, and participate in case competitions in several areas such as entrepreneurship, analytics, marketing, innovation and finance.
Networking at ROMBA was easy to do. It started early with an online job-posting portal and a very useful mobile app that served as a social media tool to connect both students and recruiters in an engaging way. Throughout the event, there were corporate treks, receptions with recruiters, workshops and panels with representatives from different companies, a networking lunch with recruiters, and the career expo. In addition, most companies also hosted or invited students for private coffee chats that were also a great opportunity to network, know about the culture of the company, and ask questions about future opportunities in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Panels and workshops dealt with a wide range of topics, including the power of networks, brand management, case interviewing, investment banking insights, big data in today’s business environment, strategy, trends in healthcare, rotational programs, experiential innovation, trends in travel and hospitality, exploring non-profit careers, the airlines business and advice from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Not only did students get a chance to learn about new trends in different industries, but also to actively participate and engage with company representatives.
As a first-year MBA student, I found case competitions particularly interesting to watch because it gave me a general picture of what the judges expect from the teams, and how there are different types of cases and dynamics in these competitions. I would strongly recommend other students to participate in these in the future because they serve as practice and give participants exposure to recruiters.
Keynote speakers were also very impactful during the conference, particularly in terms of inspiring professionals on actively participating towards equality. These included Bruce Rauner, governor of Illinois, Tim Gill, software entrepreneur, George Kalogridis, CEO of Disney’s Parks and Resorts, Morgana Bailey, TED-talk speaker and human resources activist, and Laverne Cox, actress and LGBT advocate.
Our experience was amazing. We learned, networked, made friends and got interviews. The key for all of this is to do your homework in advance, to be genuine, to reach out and to be open to learn:
- Research about all the companies that are participating (not only the ones you know), and about what they are offering. You might be surprised on how interesting something you find in this process might be for you
- Contact them and show your interest, either though the portal or by e-mail, since you might get invited to interview, chat or network with them in a private environment.
- Remember that networking is not about getting a contact, but about building a relationship. Be genuine, collaborative and open, since this will always come out as strengths when getting to know new people. One of my strongest networking experiences came from a recommendation from an MBA student from another school I met during the conference that recommended me to reach a company that was looking for someone with my background.
Looking forward to ROMBA 2016!