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Tommy Essoka is a 20-year-old rising senior at Syracuse University. A former film major, he now studies finance and aspires to become a management consultant at one of the big three firms. Though he interned at J.P. Morgan in Johannesburg, South Africa last summer, he wanted to build his network in New York City, gain internship experience in the U.S., and receive one-on-one mentorship from a Columbia business professor. He enrolled in Business Practice, a new intensive summer offering for undergraduates, which combines an internship at a New York City firm with coursework grounded in business fundamentals taught by Columbia faculty who double as mentors. We spoke with him about what his internship was like, why working and studying in New York City was essential for him, and how Business Practice is helping him reach his career goals.
Tell me about yourself.
I'm studying finance at Syracuse University, but I started out as a film major. I feel like I can make a greater impact in the world through financial services than I could have by telling stories through film.
My family's originally from Cameroon, but I'm from Rockland County, NY. Last summer, I interned for J.P. Morgan in Johannesburg, South Africa. I have a twin brother, who's also in the program. Last summer, he interned at Bain.
Why did you choose to enroll in Business Practice?
A business analyst at Bain & Company told my brother and me to look at business leadership programs across the nation. I did get accepted to another program, but I chose Business Practice because of its unique offerings: six weeks in New York City over the summer, an internship, and an intense, graduate-level course at Columbia.
I wanted an insider's look into what it would be like to work and study in New York City; I would like to work here once I graduate.
But also, the program promised this one-on-one mentorship with a Columbia professor. The other programs didn't offer that. This program gave me one-on-one mentorship that I really, really needed in order to stay competitive in the job market.
What are you hoping to do in your career, and how is Business Practice helping you meet those goals?
Well, I had interned in Johannesburg, but I realized that Johannesburg and New York City are very different playing fields. So I just wanted to see how that felt to work in Manhattan. What would corporate America expect from me? What kind of mindframe should I have? I feel like my professor and mentor really helped me get that perspective.
What was your class like?
I studied under Prof. St. Clair in the Management and Leadership in the Knowledge Domain class. He was also my mentor. I've learned a lot about the concept of intellectual capital, knowledge services, knowledge development, utilization, and sharing in the greater organization. It just makes me more competitive on the job market.
Tell me about your internship. Where are you interning, and what's the experience like?
I'm interning at Macias PR, a financial PR firm. I walked in there not knowing anything about public relations. But I accepted the challenge because it's still relevant to my work; I want to be a management consultant, and part of being a consultant is that your brain is for hire for any company in any industry.
Macias PR was a phenomenal environment. [The founder] Mark Macias is also a great mentor. He's taught me so much about media outreach and how to get a story into various news publications. I was able to get one of his clients into three major news outlets: Crain's, Entrepreneur, and Inc. But, five weeks ago, I had no idea what public relations was. I thought, "Wow, this is huge!" All I'm doing is using everything he taught me about media outreach.
I thank the program for that. It's added another skill to my skill set.
Is there anything else you wanted to mention about the Business Practice experience?
I have a friend who just completed his summer business leadership program at another institution, and I would argue that this was probably a more intense program. We're undergrads, and we don't quite understand what it's like to work in the real world.
In some ways, the experience was stressful. But it's also a good kind of stressful because I'm learning so much. Now I have a better understanding of what the corporate world is like. I'm glad I'm learning this while I'm younger. It's been a really great community experience for me.
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