Business school students with an eye toward employment options face the challenge of figuring out how their aptitude and interests align with the business world — not an easy task for those who aren't quite sure where or how their skills might be a good fit.

Charlie Michel, Weatherhead School of Management
For Cincinnati native Charlie Michel, matriculating at the Weatherhead School of Management paved the way for well-defined career goals. The 2016 Ashland University alum, who's finishing up his last semester in Weatherhead’s Operations Research & Supply Chain Management Program, found the program's one-on-one support and Employer Advisory Board-influenced curriculum enormously beneficial. Michel has also had several internships — including one working as a demand forecaster at MTD Products and another in the department of operations research and analytics at MetroHealth — which have given him a much clearer idea of how his undergraduate math degree fits in the business world.

Michel, who's currently looking for a full-time job and applying to PhD programs, spoke with beyond about how Weatherhead's professors and curriculum have directed his career path.

beyond: Since you started the program, what changes have you seen in yourself in terms of preparation for your future career, or in the way your skills have developed? 

Charlie Michel: Learning how to synthesize different areas of expertise. Coming out of undergrad, I had a really strong foundation in head-down, looking at a computer screen or writing a paper, cranking out math problems and proofs. I’ve really improved at translating that technical, detailed work into actionable information. 

I've also had to work on communicating results I come up with in a way that's digestible for a general audience and also concise and effective. I've had a couple of internship experiences where I was frequently interacting with people who didn't have the same mathematical background that I did. I had to take very detailed technical work and convey that in a way that would keep their attention, and would let them know the immediate next steps.

B: What role has Matt Maloney (Director of the Business Analytics and Operations Research & Supply Chain Programs) played for you?

CM: He exposed me to the universe of options that are out there. Apart from a handful of LinkedIn searches I had done on my own, I didn't understand what type of companies and what types of departments would be interested in someone with an operations supply chain background. A small company might just have one person who has that kind of expertise. 

Matt asks really good questions, and in a 20- to 30-minute conversation with him, he gets information from you about what you're interested in, and what kind of work environment you feel comfortable in. He's very familiar with the culture of different workplaces and industries. He's able to read your personality and interests and then suggest and describe in a meaningful way what it would be like to work in different fields. 

Even in the internships I've had, he's been able to talk about specific people who might be my boss or my coworker whom he has relationships with. Hearing him describe how they are, how they go about their work, is an amazing level of insight to be able to have before you even interview with a company. And he always follows up with students after they've had internships. Every time I bump into him, he asks, "How's this going? How's that? How's this person?" And I've seen him do the same thing with other students.

B: What specific way has Weatherhead's program given you an advantage in the career development sense?

CM: The culture of Weatherhead in particular — there's a sense of professionalism in the building. They host a lot of events, and recommend other events on campus. Having a lot of exposure to people coming to campus to speak — or to do workshops or talk about a startup, for example — there's a lot that you can take in. Just by observing as you go about your day as a student, that teaches you how you should act, and how you should carry yourself as you move forward with your career. 

B: How did going through the program make you more prepared for a PhD program?

CM: The first thing that it did was give me the confidence to say to myself, "Hey, this is something that you should go for." I think that was a product of being exposed to a lot of really great professors. Especially in undergrad, you often have a lot of the same professors throughout your four years. I went to a very small school, and I felt like I was a good student, but everything was very familiar and comfortable.

At Case, I had experienced professors with years of research under their belt to re-affirm what [I sensed] my potential [was as an undergrad]. They demonstrated a passion for research work they had either done previously, or were doing now, that I hadn't been exposed to before. It made me identify with what made them passionate and see myself [in them].

There's a good mix of abstract, research-oriented skills alongside more applied pieces of knowledge. It's given me this constant ability to weigh the two against one another and say, "Do I like the idea of doing this in a business setting?" or "Am I more interested in the theoretical and the abstract that might be more front and center at the PhD level?" I learned that I like both, and it's opened my eyes to what the possibilities are.