When you think of the fashion industry, you probably think of fashion designers dreaming up new trends and models showcasing the latest looks on the catwalk. But Jane Castro thinks of the industry: retailers’ business strategy and companies tracing supply chains.
“When you go into an industry like fashion, people want to know — are you design major or an art major?” said the Stevens Institute of Technology junior, whose major is actually Business & Technology.
Castro, who just completed an internship at PwC’s Philadelphia offices, said her work in the firm’s internship program gave her the opportunity to better see the business sides of industries like fashion. “You get to see up close how these creatively driven industries work with consulting firms like PwC to build their business,” she said.
An emphasis on career placement skills
The road to her internship started in the Business Career Seminar course that all students in the School of Business take as sophomores. The course, which includes instruction from professionals in the Stevens Career Center, emphasizes résumé writing and interviewing skills that contribute to the business school’s incredibly strong placement rate.
“In the seminar, you do worksheets and mock interviews that really help you prepare for those kinds of questions where you show how you turned a problem or a weakness into an opportunity,” she said. “That work gave me a few back-pocket examples of, say, a time you didn’t get along with someone in your group, with a learning experience and a happy ending.”
Unlike many Stevens students, who leverage the campus’ Hoboken, N.J., location to take internships and jobs in Manhattan, Castro chose to work in the City of Brotherly Love. “I love being so close to New York City all the time, but I thought it might be a fun adventure to live on my own and get an apartment in Philadelphia,” she said.
Once on the job, she was able to shadow professionals in PwC’s tax, assurance and advisory areas, enjoying most her time in advisory but picking up valuable new skills from her work in each area. She gave presentations and had plenty of opportunities to build out her professional network, including with several of the firm’s partners.
“When it came to the presentations we did, I was really proud of the on-the-spot thinking I’ve developed,” she said. “I’ve done so many different assignments where you’re on the go all the time, you don’t really have time to plan out every single thing you’re going to say, or plan for every question that’s thrown at you. Seeing how I was able to leverage that at work, I think that was a big accomplishment for me.”
That wasn’t the only way Stevens helped prepare her for the internship. A big challenge Castro faced was understanding the myriad industries for which PwC offers its consulting services. She said Dr. Murad Mithani’s strategy class gave her the confidence she needed to talk the talk, regardless of the business category.
“We’re business students — we’re not studying medicine, we’re not studying fashion — but he has you learn all these different cases, which gives you insight into so many different industries,” Castro said. “Because of Professor Mithani’s class, when I was in meetings and people were having these intelligent conversations about solving problems or giving clients advice, I was able to contribute, because I felt like I had that experience.”
'A supportive atmosphere at Stevens'
Her friends at Stevens were also a help to her as she prepared for internship interviews early in her sophomore year.
“There’s a supportive atmosphere at Stevens,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect going into interviews, so I talked to some friends who were juniors and seniors, and they helped me know what to expect. It gives you more confidence when you’re interviewing.”
As Castro continues to explore her options for entering the fast-paced fashion world, she said she looks forward to the additional skills she’ll cultivate in her final two years at Stevens.
“As a Business & Technology student, you kind of develop this mindset that you don’t even realize you’re developing, this information systems mindset, where you just learn how to approach things differently,” she said. “It really helped me add value as an intern, and it definitely showed Stevens it hitting it right at home when it comes to pushing a career forward.”