Sunday, September 5, 2010

Autumn: Conferences and Career Fairs

August is often a time of planning for the fall and the months thereafter. It's commonplace to slow down during the last weeks of the summer and defer projects until September and October or prepare for big events, big deals, big transactions, and big roll-outs of new strategies or business plans. Or attend big conferences, conventions and network gatherings. Professionals in business and banking roll up their sleeves and get back to trying to finish the year with a big bang.

In finance, there is an eye on the November elections. Many want to see who will emerge as victors in Congress and who will influence the follow-up steps in financial reform or determine whether there will be another round of Government stimulus.

And there is another eye on financial reform itself, as Congress hands off responsibility to many agencies and regulatory bodies to decide in detail what will happen to the structures and size of banks or the ways derivatives and other complex financial instruments will be traded and priced.

It's an important time for recruiting at top business schools (including at the Consortium 17). Top companies, banks and firms head to campus in September and October to sell and show off the best of themselves to students--even if they aren't yet sure how many they intend to hire in 2011.

Nonetheless, it's conference season, too.

Right now there's buzz about the National Black MBA Association Conference in Los Angeles (Sept. 21-25) ( MBA students, alumni, and professionals turn out annually for the event. This year's event is practically in the backyards of Consortium schools USC and UCLA. Many banks and corporations make it a priority to participate in its career fair. (The Consortium, too, always has a presence at the conference.) This year's theme is "Blink--the speed of change."

The conference is an important networking event; over 12,000 are expected to attend a five-day series of events geared to MBAs of all interests--marketing and sales, finance, business management, and operations.

"National Black MBA" is not the only game going on this fall. The Opportunity Finance Network is hosting its annual conference in San Francisco Nov. 2-5. OFN ( is a seven-year-old organization that facilitates financing to support low-income, low-wealth groups in the U.S. It arranges funding for community development financial institutions and now has over 170 members in its network. It has arranged over $23 billion in financings.

This year it reached out to the Consortium to establish ties, learn more about the Consortium and use the Consortium's own networks to spread the word about its mission and purpose. Donna Fabiani, an Executive Vice President at OFN, says at its annual conference this November it expects "over 600 community development practitioners, investors, funders, and policy makers from around the country to attend."

MBAs and finance professionals interested in community development in all phases and segments will want to attend or learn more about OFN's role. (Contact Fabiani at to learn more about OFN. The Consortium Finance Network plans to highlight more about its programs and financings in the periods to come.)

Amidst a brisk conference season, don't forget the National Society of Hispanic MBAs ( Its annual conference will be in Chicago October 21-23. Its agenda will include several professional-development seminars, including some finance-focused. A highlight of the conference is its CEO speaker series. CEOs from Humana, Campbell Soup, and State Farm are scheduled to appear. The Consortium will make appearance in Chicago, as well.

For young entrepreneurs and those interested in the next earth-shaking startup, there is the "Lean Startup Machine (New York)" : Says Kyle Kelly, a co-founder of the New York group, "for an early-stage start-up, the idea is to build something that people want."

The organization hosted a conference for budding entrepreneurs in New York in July. Its next event is in Chicago November 6.

It emphasizes developing a product or service based on what a customer specifically wants and doing so before reaching out to investors for funding. Kelly described the methodology as a "customer discovery process," where entrepreneurs learn what the customer wants and analyze feedback during product development. The entrepreneur uses an iterative feedback to design and tailor the product to a customer base. In the end, when the product is fully developed, a known market already exists.

LSM intends to teach and spread its principles at weekend sessions (like the one in July) and hopes to lead more sessions elsewhere. At the events, experts and entrepreneurs show how the principles lead to a defined market base, funding, and business success.

The principles are based on methodology developed by Eric Ries, an advisor for many technology startups and venture-capital firms and a co-author of books on entrepreneurship. He shares his experiences and lessons learned in his own blog (

Tracy Williams

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