Warwick MBAs Solve The Networking Conundrum In The Virtual World

Since this isn’t currently possible, MBAs have had to find different ways to connect. A group of Warwick MBAs has the answer.


Aditya Vikram

In early October, MBA CSEA, the global alliance of graduate business career management professionals and employers, released a short survey of business schools showing that more than half have seen increased engagement in virtual networking events. Attendance has increased significantly at such events, according to 29% of respondents. However, most — 30% — said that employer turnout for such events has increased only slightly, while 29% said employer attendance has actually decreased.

Rutgers Business School in New Jersey is among the few B-schools to tackle the question of virtual networking’s efficacy, hosting a webinar on the topic in September. That same mid-September week, Bloomberg Businessweek released a survey showing that MBA students “craved contact” with peers, alumni — and recruiters. “Networking,” Bloomberg writer Caleb Solomon wrote, “is one of the main reasons they go to business school. So what did they do if they couldn’t meet in person with others? Same as everyone else, according to 8.6% of students surveyed: ‘Zoom happy hours.'”

The Warwick MBAs of MBA ConneX have evidence that MBAs want something more.

The group currently has 35 active members divided into nine groups across 13 European countries, spread across 13 sectors such as consulting, finance, technology, consumer goods, pharma, and so on, Juan Pablo Raczy says. “More than 200 people reached out from top-level companies during a time frame of three or four months, from May to August,” he says. “We attended more than 35 meetings across those 13 European countries, primarily concentrated on the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and Denmark. We’ve gotten to meet professionals with roles such as CO, CFO, CEOs, directors, managers, senior consultants — basically people with high hiring power. And companies, just for example IBM, Unilever, Heineken, PwC, Deloitte, Nokia, Siemens, Bayer, Hoover, and so on and so forth.

“What was the outcome of these so far? For example, we’ve got some referrals for job interviews. We’ve also built some meaningful connections. Some of us could find a long-term mentor from this. We got the information for companies, recommendations for landing a job, about recruitment processes, how they are, about the culture, about the lifestyle, about key facts from each country. So — a lot.”


Juan Pablo Zeballos Raczy

Raczy says MBA ConneX has found that for networking purposes, the optimal number of people on a Zoom call is six. Any more than that, he says, and you lose the “Goldilocks zone” of realistic engagement.

And there are rules.

“Everybody in the meeting has to turn on the camera because it would create a more personal environment,” Raczy says. “Also, everyone has to have a proper question. It’s all about creating more meaningful relationships, so that is the goal: Increase the in-person relationship, because it’s a challenge to do that online or virtually.”

Adds Aditya Vikram: “You can’t go to a meeting with a director or a CEO or someone who’s probably hiring without knowing about the company and the industry they are in. I think that requires some homework from everyone who was attending that meeting. That’s how we could have some rich conversations with these people. A lot of ideas being shared from the students and from the participants and being appreciated by the people who were coming in for these meetings — these small, easy rules basically helped us a lot in making it a very good network.”


Small cohort and intimate groups make for a very good network, as MBAs from Warwick — whose Class of 2020 was about 119 people — know well. And making a very good network is what B-school is all about.

“You do get closer to people,” Damian Manire says. “You do create more trusting relationships with people. You look at just this call, and this is reflective of the entire cohort and of this networking group that we created: We’re very diverse, we’re from everywhere. Juan Pablo’s from Peru, I’m from the U.S., Victoria’s from so many places, Estonia, New Zealand — and Aditya is from India. So, we’re really diverse, but I think because you go through this very intense experience of studying intense classes together, elbow to elbow, you develop trust for each other and that means that we can continue.

“This networking group was a voluntary effort. If we didn’t know each other, maybe we wouldn’t have been able to do it, but we had that trust already. I guess we already had that trust cemented between us in the first terms that we had in-person classes so that when we moved online, we knew each other, I would say, pretty intimately.

“We think that there’s a new demand for virtual networking and how to do that successfully and how to do that meaningfully. And our experience is a testament to this — it’s not just about adding someone on LinkedIn, it’s not just about writing an email. How do you build trust? How do you create relationships? So we developed, through some trial and error, over these months, what works, what really works, what really carries through, what shows success, and what actually gets you hired. We think we have some good answers for that and how to do that.

“We developed a methodology. We have a platform, we developed a database for charting success and charting progress, and for showing how to navigate these different territories and different companies, and how to work together. It’s a collaborative tool. What we’d like to do is, we’d like to bring that knowledge and that service to MBA programs and to MBA students, to show them the best practices and how they can get in touch with their dream company or top executives in their industry.”


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