Interview with Justina Kwong '16

Interview by Howie Rhee '04, with contributions by Coco Chen. Added May 21st, 2016

Tell us about what you studied at Duke and which program you were in? 

I joined Duke’s Daytime MBA program at the Fuqua School of Business in 2014 with a concentration in strategy and financial analysis. I was the co-president of Fuqua’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club (EVCC) and involved in Program 4 Entrepreneurship, Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP), Fuqua on Board, Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Academy and creating Fuqua’s Mentored Studies for Entrepreneurship Program.  

Talk about your prior work experience. 

My work experience before Duke was in the retail/fashion industry both in LA and NYC.  I enjoyed a variety of roles predominantly in business development, sales, marketing and licensing across PVH Corp, Nordstrom, BCBG, Guess Jeans and a British company launching as a startup in the USA called Pretty Polly.

What did your recruiting process look like?  How many people did you reach out to? 
For my summer internship, I was focused on startup or boutique companies and wanted to explore a role in consulting/internal strategy.  The recruiting process was primarily off-campus filled with a lot of googling, 10 info interviews per week in my peak and interviewing from December up until the beginning of June for my summer internship.  Over the summer I worked at IBB Consulting Group, a startup boutique consulting firm focused on media, tech, cable and wireless.  The skills I obtained were transferable to the startup environment I aspired for in my future; yet I recognized more potential for growth at a larger firm.  In my second year back at Duke, I switched my fulltime career recruiting to large consulting firms in Phase 1.  I planned for Phase 2 to be boutique consulting firms/brand consulting agencies and Phase 3 to be startups. Large consulting firms was a 100% on-campus recruiting process with office hours, company presentations and networking mixers in the Fox Center, WaDuke or surrounding Durham restaurants.  I was lucky enough to get an offer with Accenture, New York in my Phase 1.  Collectively I reached out to at least 160 people across 66 companies for my internship search.  Fulltime I reached out to at least 57 people because I was more targeted with Deloitte and Accenture and the process ran much shorter from August-October. 

How did you come up with a list of companies to target? 

For off-campus recruiting, it was all about researching the company online, seeing if there is personal interest for the type of work, what is the brand’s reputation for growth and excellence, and is there a personal connection to the company (ex. Duke alumni, classmates’ past careers, etc.).  These factors helped me narrow down my choices as I completed the Fuqua Lamp List for career searching. Fulltime recruiting was based more on brand awareness of the firm culture and my personality fit with classmates who were signing with each firm.  I generally gravitated towards Deloitte, Accenture and BCG because I had more friends who complemented my personality heading to those firms. Then the more people I spoke to at these firms, the more my assumptions were confirmed.

Talk about how you thought about location (city) as it related to recruiting.  Did you know where you wanted to end up or were you exploring?  

I had considered heading back to my family in California with the SF office or returning to NY where I lived prior to business school.  Most firms allowed me to choose both locations however I knew once I had an offer, it would also come down to the people at each location and type of work available per industry and function.  With Accenture, I thought NY would be a better fit. 

What was a favorite article or tip that someone gave you on the job search process? 

I read an article in the WSJ on defining your individual policy and commanding them in the workplace.  The article referenced a need to differentiate between what I could/can’t do versus what I do/don’t do, the latter being a part of your individual policy.  For example, a parent’s policy could be I don’t leave the office after 5pm because I will pick up my child from school, no exceptions.  Another policy could be, I do not work weekends because that is reserved for personal/family time.  The notion of differentiating between a preference (could/can’t) versus a policy (do/don’t) is important to clarify and command when starting in a new role so there is no confusion.  The article suggested that men are better than women at commanding their policies; furthermore, women are more inhibited to speak up about their policies.  This tip resonated with me as I oftentimes find myself wanting to prove myself early on in a new role, afraid to say no and consequently taking on more than I can handle. In terms of job search, it was important for me to find a company that valued work-life balance and would respect my individual policy.

Anything else you'd like to share with Duke students that are doing their own job search? 

Start early, then stay focused, stay optimistic and stay in the game.  Starting early will allow you to get to know people at companies more casually before the rush and help you to narrow down your list of companies according to your goals.  Staying focused is crucial to your happiness at the end of the job search, do not sway your recruiting direction (ex. industry, career, function) by what your friends are doing. Keep your chin up and stay optimistic.  The process is tedious, depressing, rejuvenating and torturous at times, but the end will absolutely come (c’mon you’re a smart kid at Duke!) and it will be more than rewarding.  Lastly stay in the game and keep your mind open.  Oftentimes the job offer most fitting for you was not the target company you were hoping for.  Everything happens for a reason so make sure you do not lose sight of your goals and never give up. 


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