Marketing/MBA Pre Grad Intern Agha Raza

Agha Raza
I am an undergraduate enrolled in the Economics Department. I am graduating next month with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the field of Economics, with a minor in Business Administration. Even though I had plans of getting a MBA after get a few years of work experience, I decided to enroll in this course because I was unsure what field I wanted to pursue at graduate school.

This semester has turned out to be extremely rewarding for me, both professionally and personally. This course has made me realize that I'm specifically interested in a MBA in the field of marketing. I think the best decision that I made about this entire course was choosing my mentor.

My mentor is Saim Kashmiri, a Phd student in the marketing department at the McCombs School of Business. The reason I chose him was because his career profile and aims were very similar to mine, and I thought I would really be able to connect and get something out of this relationship. Saim has a MBA and has worked in a leading FMCG in Pakistan for a few years. I interned in another leading FMCG in Pakistan over this summer too. It was mainly over the course of this summer internship that I got seriously interested in studying marketing at graduate level. This course provided me an outlet to professionally discuss my career objectives and learn from a more experienced professional what I wanted to do in life.

I would like to talk about one of the major activities that I was doing with my mentor. My mentor was writing his doctoral thesis, titled 'The name's the game', in the marketing department of the McCombs School of Business. The paper explores the link between corporate name changes and the firm value. I was responsible for doing the coding for his project. The purpose of the paper was to analyze the shareholder value impact of these name changes. There are a certain set of variables that we studied as causes of name change. These included factors influencing the benefit of the change such as the firm's strategic intent, and factors impacting the cost of the change such as the firm's brand portfolio strategy.

Another important variable we looked at was the presence of key marketing personnel, such as a chief marketing officer, in the firm as these personnel influence both the benefit and cost of a firm's name change.

We conducted an event study on 125 publicly listed U.S firms' name change announcements between 2004 and 2007. The results showed that firms whose strategic intent was to leverage a strong brand or to signal a possible change in market strategy were rewarded more by the stock market than firms whose intent is to retroactively align their name with a change in market strategy. Additionally, abnormal stock returns were more positive for firms that have a chief marketing officer and less positive for firms whose name change results in a change in their product or service brand names. I was focused on studying 125 press releases about firm's name changes, and identifying the influencing variable behind the name change, such as those mentioned above. Later on, we calculated the cumulative abnormal returns for firms surrounding their name change announcements. A univariate analysis was then conducted to understand the main effect of name change without accounting for a number of control factors.

I would have to acknowledge that the work was academically challenging. Since the coding was a crucial part of the paper, it required us both working on the same thing and later crosschecking our results. Despite the technical nature of the work, our results came out to be surprisingly similar, and it made me feel very proud and confident about the work I was doing. Perhaps one of the more interesting aspect of working with Saim was that he did not have me stick to the calculations required in his project. He made me understand his work as a whole so I knew exactly what I was doing. It also gave me a perfect understanding of what a doctoral thesis would be like. I felt even more proud when a few days back Saim told me his paper had been accepted by the Journal of Marketing and that I was listed down in the acknowledgements.

To get further understanding of both, my subject of interest and graduate school work, Saim also asked me to review and critique marketing papers that have appeared in the Journal of Marketing. This was something I had never before done on this level, but Saim made a lot of effort to clarify things every time I felt unsure of something in the process. I was asked to point out mistakes and shortcomings in the papers, and suggest ways to eliminate those shortcomings. I had to focus on the thesis of papers and determine whether it was well investigated. I found this work so exciting and intertwined with my interests that I often asked him to hand me more papers to critique. And ofcourse it also helped me learn about a lot of ongoing researches on marketing.

This was a gist of the academic work that I was engaged with during the course of this internship. But it wasn't just this aspect that made this internship so interesting and insightful. A lot of my friends had terrorized me about getting enrolled in graduate school. Of course I knew it would be more demanding and challenging than undergraduate education. Saim has regularly been involved in teaching me how to prepare for and survive graduate school. He has always reinforced my thoughts about getting enrolled in graduate school, and presents his own experience to suggest how I can make mine even better. He had put me out in the open with all the research work to make me realize that there was nothing that was impossible, and I too realized that over time. His determination and hard work were truly an inspiration for me. With him it has been learning, as well as a rewarding experience.

The other beneficial aspect of this internship was getting an insight into applying and surviving in graduate school. The course required me to interview a professor, who had earlier taught me marketing, and also my mentor who I very frequently interact with, to discuss any questions I have about graduate school. I was able to get questions answered about choosing a graduate school and degree program, financing my education, improving my application, preparing for graduate admission tests, and so forth. In this sense, the course provided a lot of opportunities to learn about the things I've been waiting to be answered for so long. One very different aspect I noticed about graduate students is that they like to voice their opinions. Unlike undergraduate students, who usually go to classes to learn, graduate student commonly contribute to class with their knowledge and experience. Perhaps this is one very distinguishing feature of graduate school.

At the end I would like to say that I am thankful not just to my intelligent and helpful mentor, but also Dr. Cherwitz, Ruby Morua, and others in the Pre-Gradate School Internship Program, who have given all of us this opportunity to make the most of our time by learning about graduate school while we're still at college.

UPDATE: One of the least understood things about UT's Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) initiative is that it is NOT a recruitment program designed to entice students to pursue a graduate degree. Instead, IE provides an entrepreneurial approach to education enabling students to discover for themselves not only if but when graduate education is an appropriate pathway. Timing is everything. Agha Abbas Raza's experience is a case in point. Completing IE in 2009, he waited until this fall to begin graduate study in Management at the University of Toronto:

"Almost six years after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I have decided to pursue my MBA from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. During this period, I gained valuable work experience in different countries in various roles across diverse industries, primarily managing the commercial activities of a leading American oil and gas services firm in the Middle East. My decision to pursue a prestigious graduate business degree was strengthened during my time at UT Austin when I enrolled in the Pre-Graduate School Internship program of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium. The program helped me learn about my real passion in life and eventually helped me focus on my future academic and professional choices. Dr. Rick Chertiwz and his colleagues have done a great job developing this program over the last several years and I highly recommend all undergraduate students to take part in this program to identify their true aspirations in life. The program is not a means of pushing students into graduate school, but an opportunity for students to discover whether graduate school is an appropriate objective for them."