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This is the second excerpt from a series ofinterviews I conducted with four MBA candidates who graduated—or expect tosoon—with a focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR). [Read the firstpart on Vault's CSR blog: ] In this portion, the graduates discuss theirmyriad backgrounds, and how they came to focus on CSR as a career choice.
None of the graduates started business school withCSR in mind: Ashley Jablow's* background is in nonprofit fund raising;GeetanjaliSingh worked in technical training and communication; WhitTice specialized in project management and quality testing; LarryFurman spent almost three decades in IT and database administration.
For each of the four, the motivation for attendingbusiness school stemmed from a recognition that they needed to expand theirskill sets. But what prioritized their focus toward CSR was the realizationthat its core principles were the necessary bridge between civic and corporategood. As Jablow put it, "My initial thoughts were in the direction ofcorporate philanthropy. It was really through all the core classes and businesstraining I realized that CSR is an incredible opportunity for there to be alignment between business, community and environmental goals—that there reallyare opportunities to create those win-wins, where a business can be aboutmaking money and be a good corporate citizen."
2008's spectacular collapse of revered Wall Streetinstitutions like Lehman Brothers helped underscore their interest. Both Singhand Jablow noticed that conversations inside and outside the classroom wereincreasingly veering toward questions of ethical mismanagement, risky and unsustainable behavior, andshort-term decision making, often leading to lengthy debates onresponsible business practices. Many times, these extended to self-doubt andasking themselves what this meant for their personal career objectives. As theywatched the financial industry get drastically reshaped, students like Ticerefocused their career trajectory to align with personal priorities.
For Geet Singh, the transition from mere interest in CSR to core career focus was enhanced by the essay-writing pre-admissionprocess. Much like Jablow, for Singh it made the perfect link between corporateand social. "My work with Cisco had allowed me some insight into theirexemplary corporate responsibility initiatives and I decided to talk aboutsocial entrepreneurship in my essays. My niche became helping companies do CSRas well as helping the community who needs it the most and becoming that linkbetween corporate and social."
Tice, with a few more years of work experienceunder his belt than Jablow and Singh, connects corporate responsibility with his penchant for systems thinking. He explained: "While you may understandthe three Ps, it's what happens next that is important. This comes about bytaking different facets of organizational life and applying a wider range ofthinking that goes beyond questioning 'Should I use paper cups instead ofStyrofoam cups because that's bad for the environment?' to 'Are we going tocreate more waste with these paper cups? Will the transportation costs andemissions that the paper cups require to get here actually be more waste orharm to the environment than, say, using the Styrofoam cups?'"
In the end, he said, it's simply about a shiftfrom simple thinking to complex and long-term thinking because of a realizationthat the tradeoffs are not usually simple and transparent.
Nextweek: Dilemmas of conducting a job search in CSR.***************************************************
*Ashley Jablow graduated fromBoston University's School of Management with anMBA in CSR Marketing, Communications and Strategy in May, 2010. She is activelyengaged in discussing CSR through Twitterand her blog, The Changebase. Currently, she islooking for a fulltime job in corporate responsibility in the San Franciscoarea.
Geetanjali 'Geet' Singhgraduated in June 2010 from University of California-Irvine's Paul Merage School of Business with a concentrationon CSR, general management and strategy. Formerly from Mumbai, India, Singh iscurrently looking for a corporate responsibility job in Orange County,California and hopes that Silicon Valley will wake up to the business value inCSR. Connect with her on Twitter.
Whit Tice graduated with an MBAfrom Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management in2008 and decided to back it up with a Master's in Positive OrganizationalDevelopment and Change, also from Case Western, which he completed in 2009.Whit is currently with consulting firm Logic 20/20, where he is a ChangeManagement Senior Consultant, and continues to discuss systems thinking andorganizational development through his blog, The Organizational Strategist.
Larry Furman is a SustainabilityConsultant and currently pursuing an MBA in managing for sustainability fromMarlboro College. He is a member of the program'sfirst graduating class and is looking forward to combining his experience in ITwith his passion for sustainable energy and green solutions.
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