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How To Land A Startup Job: A Success Story, With Advice

Wharton School MBA candidate Daniel McAuley - Ethan Baron photo

Wharton School MBA candidate Daniel McAuley         – Ethan Baron photo

Daniel McAuley, second-year University of Pennsylvania Wharton School MBA candidate, has some things to say about getting a job in a startup. In fact, McAuley has a lot of things to say on the subject. But so do many people. Why pay attention to McAuley? Because he not only worked an internship last summer at spectacularly successful Silicon Valley online investment startup Wealthfront under entrepreneurial prodigy CEO Adam Nash, he got himself a job there starting after he graduates. Also, he spends a great deal of time thinking up ways to fill the gaps between business school and the fast-changing realities of the startup job market.

His advice applies to just about anyone interested in working in startups and early-stage companies, from business school applicants to MBA candidates to graduates looking for work.

McAuley, who has a BS in finance from Arizona State University’s Barrett honors college, came to Wharton as a financial engineer, having spent five years as a director and manager of quantitative products and as a product engineer at financial technology firm Verus Analytics. Ultimately, his advice comes down to leaving behind the comforts of tradition and convention, to add breadth of knowledge and – especially important for MBA-program applicants and job seekers – to differentiate yourself from the herd.

THE HARD SIDE OF EMPATHY

The method he suggests rests on the development and exercise of empathy, a mix of soft and hard skills that requires caring about other team members’ problems, plus a readiness to help solve them and the knowledge base to understand their issues well enough to be able to assist.

McAuley, a 28-year-old dual U.S./UK citizen raised in Manchester, England, has a history of intense competition and risk-taking. In academia, his marks earned him Magna Cum Laude designation at Barrett. In his private life, he’s a bicycle and motorcycle racer. “Once you take a motorcycle to 180 miles an hour,” he says, “you can’t really do anything that’s that exciting.” He practices the brutal martial art muay Thai, known for its devastating blows with knees and elbows. Last summer he commuted 35 miles from San Francisco to Wealthfront in Palo Alto by bicycle, listening to career-related audio books during the two-hour trek.

McAuley got his dream job of adding value to a fintech startup by adding value to himself. In February 2013, before applying to business school, he embarked on a self-education program that saw him take eight MOOCs – from Coursera, the Santa Fe Institute, the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, and the Kauffman Fellows Academy – in subjects including Startup Engineering, Computational Finance and Financial Econometrics, Machine Learning, and Introduction to Dynamical Systems and Chaos. By broadening and deepening his education in his target career sector, he was positioning himself for recruitment, and preparing for his future work. The supplemental education gave him a selling point for internship interviews, helping him tell his story, “probably one of the most important parts of the recruiting process.”

REACHING OUT FROM BUSINESS SCHOOL

Some MOOCs are also networking opportunities, notes McAuley, who took a VC course with long-time early-stage investor and entrepreneur Brad Feld, and VC Jason Mendelson.

Once at Wharton, McAuley immersed himself, of course, in his core studies. However, given his ambitions in the financial technology sector, he founded Wharton FinTech, a student-led organization that works closely with innovators, academics, and investors. He participated in the Wharton Design Club’s Penn Design Challenge, which had him collaborating with students from Penn’s design school. He also stepped outside Wharton to take Commercializing Technology in the engineering school. And via a Wharton finance department independent study course in millennial-consumer preferences, he engaged with startup practitioners and industry and academic researchers outside Penn.