Our student, Kanchana, shares her insights about what is it like to study MEM at Duke in a detailed QnA. She also talks about why she did not choose UIUC MSTM program over Duke in the end. So, all those who are considering applying to Duke MEM and wondering what to expect, here we go.
What kind of technical courses are MEM students allowed to take?
Anything, simply anything
Are there any restrictions as such?
No. Provided you deliberate with the management on why you want to take up a course from the law school or Fuqua School of Business (if it’s not an allowed elective).
My main area of interest is Computer Engineering, so if I wanted, could I just pick up some courses in that area that are listed for the MS Computer Engineering course?
In the end, you are investing in an amazing experience where you can take away something new. Would you want to learn what you already know or expand your horizons? Think about that, sincerely!!!! Rope in people who are close to you and discuss your options. Don’t do an MS just for the sake of it…
I do not want to take up the course with the view of becoming a technical manager or anything of that sort. I would be more leaning towards being an entrepreneur. In that aspect, how do you think the course would help me?
Makes you managerially fit, lets you explore dimensions of studies that you never thought would affect your deliverables as an entrepreneur.
How are the job prospects? Like what kinda companies hire us? and do we get paid well?The common notion is companies don’t hire freshers for a managerial post. Is that true?
It all depends on what you have to offer, if you are good enough, you can get whatever role you want. If you don’t have the aptitude and skills for it, you will never get the job, until you work towards it by taking related courses. No one will hire you as a manager if you don’t have the experience or substantiate with enough work/ study experience. If you are searching for a non-technical position, you may have to start from the beginning of the growth ladder for that non-tech position in any company. Avg salary is somewhere in between $75,000 to $85,000 for starter positions. For people with prior experience and who have niche skills, it can cross even $1,00,000.
Do you get enough good companies to pick and choose among them?
Companies don’t come to you here. You have to network and get your job. It’s not impossible to get a job though. You have e-recruiting sites here, but you have to get in touch with new contacts through LinkedIn. Your choice of companies are not limited to the ones that come to the campus, you can apply to other companies through their respective sites and using a referral that you personally get in touch with through LinkedIn. And Duke trains you for this.
How is the course and what kinda projects do we have to do? Is it a lot of theory? OR is practical stuff involved?
Here it’s a constant learning process. Any subject you take, will require you to do substantial amount of work after the lecture. There is no such subject as a light subject. It’s the case in any University. It’s a system of learning where the practical problem is thrown at you first and you figure out ways to solve it, then the concept related to the same is something that is taught in the last. There is no theory and practical concept. Try googling “case study”. Duke MEM involves a lot of case study analysis. Most of the courses will have different case study analysis that is to be submitted by you every week. It will stimulate your intellectual thinking and make you understand the concepts that you will learn in class. In fact most of the non-technical jobs like Business Technology Analyst, Business Analyst etc have case interviews. They will put forth a problem to you and you have to find out all possible angles of approaching it. It’s purely creative and not technical…. So don’t worry when I say case interview.
Apart from the curriculum what kind of other opportunities are available to a MEM graduate (like some sort of consultancy club etc.) anything you can think of which is not mentioned in the curriculum but helps networking and developing?
Check out the MEMPDC at Duke http://www.dukemempdc.org/ . I am executive member of the CDAR club and I have conceptualized and organized a few activities for MEM student community. Apart from the four main clubs we have the Finance and Consulting clubs that have some exciting workshops and activities organized as well…. You can take part in any of them or even opt to be in the leadership team. Your fees also covers the gym and all the athletic facilities at Duke. So you can make use of the same. There will also be MEM Olympics that covers an array of sports that you can take part in as well. Honestly, I would suggest you plan your academics in such a way that you get to participate in some activities atleast. The course itself is very heavy, even though it seems to be easy. Duke’s MEM is rated higher than Stanford’s MS&E and having had a stint with Stanford MS&E curriculum, I can personally tell you that it is true.
I have three years of work experience. Would I still have to complete an internship before joining? Further, how tough is it to get an internship immediately after nine months from arrival?
The Internship Presentation is a chilled out thing, really. It’s a final 15 min presentation on your take-aways in your work/internship experience. It doesn’t even involve a lot of technical know-how to be presented. So if you are planning to take up an internship for the assessment, there is no point. You can leverage your work experience itself. You don’t need to separately do an internship if you have had the work experience.
The way getting a job or an internship works here is different. There is the concept of NETWORKING that you will detest after some point. It is basically keeping in constant touch with your contacts that you make at career fairs, LinkedIn and other people you would have met otherwise. IT IS A FULL TIME COMMITMENT OR JOB TO DO INTERNSHIP/JOB HUNTING. It’s the same case in any University. Just that Duke sometimes brings the company representatives to the campus. That’s the only difference between UIUC and MEM. Duke will actively train you to Network! And you will have a series of Resume, Cover Letter Workshops and many such personal development activities that you have to promise yourself to make use of once at Duke. Because you honestly won’t find the time to do anything else besides managing your coursework and the endless team meetings.
I have admits from UIUC MSTM and Duke MEM and I am confused what to choose. You had the same choice, why did you decide on Duke?
I personally did not choose UIUC because I wanted more international exposure. 90% of the admits in UIUC last fall were Indians whereas it is around 50% in Duke. Having more diversity in a collaborative program like MEM enhances the experience multi-folds and it was an important factor I used to assess UIUC against Duke. Industry collaborations and exposure to the industry opportunities is slightly more than UIUC is what I hear from my counterparts at UIUC who decided to proceed with the same. Duke having more feathers on its cap in terms of companies and industry relations, will only prove beneficial to you. Last but not the least, Duke has a very reputed Business School, Medical School, state of the art facilities as it is a private university, and is proudly called “The Stanford of the East”. It definitely has more visibility in terms of the MEM program.
What other advice would you give to students who are going to Duke for MEM?
If you are joining Duke:
- Please come with an idea of whether you are going to finish it in 2 or 3 sems. Your peers here will confuse you. The program is completely doable in two semesters. But if you are adamant on going through the Career Fairs thrice then 3 sem option would be ideal. But people have told me that they waste a lot of time doing it in three semesters. I am completing it over two sems because I want to get back to work-life as soon as possible, I work effectively in lesser time as opposed to being complacent in three sems and this will also reduce my financial burden by a semester of living expense.
- Plan your courses beforehand as registrations for the famous courses closes within 2 secs of it opening…. I am not kidding. Also make sure that you plan to have all your classes over two to three days of the week instead of one subject a day, as you may lose time to go out and explore the University and what it has to offer besides academics. Look at which courses have a lot of team meetings as well. That will help you narrow down the courses.
- Most (95%) courses have team meetings. It will get really cumbersome. So be prepared to interact with people you may not like and also may have to shell out your weekend for the same. That is also one of the reasons why you need to have some free time over the week as well for yourself.
It’s how you extract value from the MEM program at Duke that will matter in the end.