Melissa Rondi WG’17 interned at Ibotta in Denver, Colorado

2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by the Rosalind (WG’76) and Roy (WG’76) Neff Entrepreneurial Internship Fund

I love my home state of Colorado, so when I met with MBACM a year ago, I inquired about companies and internships in Denver. Unfortunately, Denver is still not a hotspot for MBAs post-grad. I realized I would need to rely on my own network if I wanted to work in Denver.

While working elsewhere was a possibility, my desire to intern in Denver was driven by the fact that I eventually want to end up back in Colorado. I believed expanding my network in Denver while working as a summer intern in Colorado would open doors in the Colorado tech and startup community. Although my network within my consulting firm is strong, I’ve come to realize this network is not as helpful outside of consulting. Switching industries and functions is not easy, even when attending a top business school, especially in the competitive tech environment. My search focused on emerging tech companies with impressive leaders who also have strong ties to the community. I was able to leverage my connection to Colorado to stand out and pitch an internship to Ibotta, a company that was not actively recruiting MBA interns.

After spending the year researching and recruiting for internships at large and small tech companies, here is my advice to those looking to switch careers and work at a startup.

  1. Always reach out and use your network! After I discovered Ibotta, a mobile shopping app headquartered in Denver, I looked up all the leaders and found connections to them. The CTO and I went to the same undergrad, so I reached out to him directly. He responded right away, and we chatted on the phone. This summer he told me I was one of the only people to reach out to him directly. People are busy but you never know who will take the time to reply back to you! You can return the favor by chatting with the undergrad interns, alums from your undergrad or previous employer(s), or Wharton applicants who reach out to you.
  2. Have an idea as to what you would like to work on for the summer. Even if the company is already working on it, they like to know that you are thinking about problems they are facing. People at startups are busy and have a lot on their plate, so make their lives as easy as possible. Make your case so compelling it’s difficult for them to say no to you! Even if you don’t yet have an idea for a project, exude confidence, say you will do research and get back to them with a potential project, and that you are a self-starter.
  3. Use your internship or externship to learn a new industry or function. I enjoyed consulting but started to plateau after four years. The benefit of working at a startup is you can work in multiple functions. Take time before and during business school to gather as many data points as possible before determining the next step in your career.

Luckily, Ibotta realized the value of MBA interns, so I was able to spend my summer with a great group of MBA and undergrad interns. I enjoyed learning from the leadership team and having the opportunity to impact the product roadmap this summer. I hope to be a part of the thriving tech and startup culture in Denver again after graduation.