Innovations Group Product Manager at Blackstone, Amy McMillen, Talks Career Fairs and Resume Advice

"Hi I'm Amy- I moved to New York four months ago and am working in the Innovations group at Blackstone. Although we're given the title of business analyst, day to day I'm essentially a product manager for an internal platform. My responsibilities fall in between business, technology, and design, with user experience as an overarching umbrella. I've been a bridge between different entities ever since I can remember, so it's been a really great fit thus far.

I graduated in May from UVA with an interdisciplinary degree in Engineering Science, concentrating in systems engineering, sustainability, and design. In college, my main involvements were with the Human Library, AKPsi, and Enactus. I also enjoyed playing piano for local Charlottesville choirs and hosting a series of Design Your Life workshops. Over the years, I've researched machine learning applications in Alzheimer's disease, worked at Darden's iLab with a fashion startup, and designed a mental health research app. My eclectic nature led me to UX/product management, and working at an asset management firm in LA last summer confirmed my interest in financial technology. Outside of work I'm a mentor for high-achieving, low-income students, an advocate for sustainable living, and a lover of solo exploring."

Meet Amy McMillen
Wondering if you have any advice for crafting an elevator pitch for a career fair since you have been involved in the recruiting process with Blackstone?

"Great question! A quality elevator pitch is definitely important when it comes to making a first impression. Personally, when it comes to hour 4 or 5 of the career fair, for better or for worse I (and many other company reps I've talked to) will put you in a "yes" or "no" pile within the first ten seconds of interaction. It sounds harsh, but it does speak to the importance of not only content of your pitch, but the confidence and style in which you deliver it.

Make sure you do your research on the company beforehand! Many people at career fairs are cluelessly walking around, talking to any company without any direction (I've been guilty of this too, it's okay), so it's impressive when you can include how your experiences relate to why you want the role at that specific company. Even if you randomly come across a company at the fair you want to get to know more about and thus haven't researched it beforehand, it takes maybe 2 seconds to google it while you're standing in line. Someone asked me, "So Blackstone is a defense contracting company, right?" Needless to say, not the best first impression.

Lastly, don't rehearse TOO much. Know the components of what you want to include, and remember that ultimately, you're simply having a conversation with another human being."

You say that your position at Blackstone has the title of analyst but your responsibilities fall into multiple categories that aren't necessarily related to this title. Does the job itself differ from the expectations you had going in and what skills or experiences have prepared you the most for your daily responsibilities?

"Good question! I think Blackstone Innovations (BXi) strategically uses the title of business analyst because it's quite vague and can encompass anything that is necessary for the role. Ultimately, the role is to act as the in-between for the technology and business sides of BXi. Thus, it's true that we analyze the business, hence the title of business analyst.

Most of my expectations regarding the role going in were around the skills/experiences that I wanted to gain. These entailed understanding the business (finance and private equity in particular), working on products from an internal user perspective (Blackstone employees are our main users), and overall PM skills (design, management, UX, etc.)

The experiences that have prepared me most are my consulting and UX projects for real clients. I did a bunch of these in college (feel free to ask for more specifics), so working in this arena for a large corporation is just taking all those same skills and expanding it in scale."

If you don't mind touching on your college experiences with consulting and UX that would be amazing and also, if there's a title for data analytics, does this usually fall under a similar umbrella, at least for BlackStone?

"My first year, I joined consulting clubs that worked with real clients (VCG & Enactus) that gave me a taste of necessary skills and experience. This was useful as a general introduction to the field.

One of my most valuable (and fun!) experiences in college was going on the Systems Engineering study abroad trip in Sweden, where we did sustainability consulting work. Over the course of three weeks, my team went through the entire technical consulting lifecycle and delivered a working product for a social enterprise.

Another really great class for me was User Experience Design in the systems engineering department. The class is entirely comprised of real-world projects, so I delivered UX products for four different clients that semester.
Radify's goal is to provide opportunities for this real-world experience, so you're definitely in the right place!

To my knowledge, data analytics falls under the similar umbrella of the business analyst role. We constantly work with data and try to use that data to drive business decisions whenever possible."

Given what you have seen at Blackstone, what are your thoughts on the current technology/business landscape? What are some exciting opportunities you think are worth getting into now?

"I can't speak on Blackstone specifics, but I do think that overall, the technology/business landscape is only going to get more intertwined. Pretty much any industry is going to be (if not already) entrenched in both technology and business, so a strong skillset in both will be important.

Because of this, I think what will set people apart is their knowledge and expertise outside of technology/business. These are opportunities to really get to understand real problems in society in order to make the most impact. Get outside, talk to people, and do firsthand research as to what is worth your time!"

From a recruiter's standpoint, what best can an applicant do to their resume to make the largest impression on the small amount of time used on the single sheet of paper?

"Make it easy for the reviewers to want you! You don't have to convince the company of your potential success if you've already demonstrated previous success at similar roles. Even if what you're doing does not relate directly to your past experiences, you can use key words/language from the job posting that show the reviewers why you will succeed. Tailor your resumes to specific companies. For example, I applied to and received positions in insurance, HR, consulting, and technology. Not because I had direct experience in any of those industries, but I knew how to frame myself in a way that fit with each role.

In relation for Blackstone specifically, my previous internship experience was very similar to what the BX business analyst role entailed, so I think that I stood out as a natural fit. Additionally, my extracurriculars proved leadership and entrepreneurial qualities that fit with the culture of Blackstone Innovations."

My question is about the path people take from school to where you are. Do you consider yours to be straight or roundabout? Did someone make you turn towards one direction and eliminate another and did the people around you seem to take a path similar to yours?

"My path, at least on paper, from 3rd year of college onwards is pretty straight. I got a summer internship in technology at a large asset management firm, then continued to work in technology at a private equity firm.

In between, there have been many twists and turns that do not show up on paper. From almost taking a year off to travel, to applying and getting accepted into a grad school program in the UK, there have been many roundabout decisions made along the way. Ultimately, I had to think about what I value most at this point in time and pursue that alignment with my decisions.

Throughout life, I've surrounded myself with friends on many different paths. Many have pursued a similar, more "traditional" path of corporate work experience (many in finance/consulting), some are in the peace corps or Fulbright fellows, others are pursuing their own ventures. There's no one path for everyone, and I think it's all about understanding that life is not a linear progression."

One more question: what have your high achieving, low income students taught you?

"Love this question! I've learned that so much of growth and opportunity comes from both awareness and equity. In my experience, the most effective change comes from both bottom-up and top-down action. For example, it might not be enough that a student is a smart, motivated self-starter; there needs to be organization and structure in place to enable those individuals, such as financial aid or mentorship.

Coming from a low-income family myself, I was unaware of many opportunities out there. Or even if I knew about them, there would be no way I could pursue them due to financial constraints. I got lucky and received an amazing scholarship in middle school (shout out to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation!) that changed my life forever.

Now that I work directly with high achieving, low income students, I want to expand similar resources to beyond those who receive certain scholarships."
SEPTEMBER, 30 / 2018