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MBA Recruiter Interview: Connie White, Genentech

Genentech employer interview

For MBAs looking to get into the biotech space, Genentech stands out an industry-leader with a patient-centric mission. It is also ranked 57th on Universum’s Ideal MBA Employer list and has been on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list for a very long time. To get more information on what it is like to work at this biotech giant, we spoke to Connie White, Genentech’s head of college programs.

Genentech is ranked 57th on Universum’s Top 100 Ideal MBA Employer list, why do you think so many MBAs want to work for Genentech?

MBAs are typically candidates who do a lot of research on employers and Genentech has a very positive name, both for the great work we do in life sciences as well as our culture. We are top for both and I think that that is a really appealing proposition for someone looking to gain a full-time opportunity or an internship to start.

We also offer outstanding pipeline strength, and have been on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work for list for 16 consecutive years. Our very clear patient-centric mission makes Genentech a really motivating place to work since the work that we do ties into a clear benefit for patients.

The majority of our current MBAs are in the millennial generation, which has come forward strongly with a desire for opportunities to have an impact and to find meaning in their work as well as global exposure. Genentech offers all those things.

MBAs may have their own special interests, either from their education or from their skills and talents. I feel that Genentech's opportunities offer something for everybody since we have a breadth of interesting opportunities.

Our parent company, Roche, has even further opportunities. So, if you are an intern at Genentech and end up with a full-time opportunity, you have the chance to be competitive for future global roles if that fits into your career plans.

In summary, what we offer is comfortable and inclusive culture – a culture in which we value our MBAs having exposure to senior leadership. It’s something that we are very intent about. Genentech also offers really meaningful work. MBAs get projects that are important to the company, along with very enthusiastic guidance and continued significant exposure to senior leadership. When you think about the generation or you think about the whole intent of obtaining an MBA which is to really be competitive in the marketplace and have a great career that is something we can definitely offer as an employer.

Not to mention, the Bay Area is a very attractive place to live. We are adjacent to Silicon Valley and our whole region is one of continuous innovation, which I found appealing in joining Genentech. You have that exposure to so many companies that are outside of our field that are really doing intriguing work.

What are the most common internship and rotational roles for MBA graduates at Genentech?

We offer MBA internships in the following areas: commercial development, finance, business development, pipeline portfolio planning, global pharma procurement, and global product management. These are also the six functions that formally support the MBA rotational program.

We have several rotational programs: the commercial development rotation development program, the finance rotation development program, the program in marketing, and separately market analysis and strategy, market managed-care customer operations, pipeline and portfolio planning and business development.

What full-time job opportunities does Genentech offer MBAs?

Our full-time opportunities generally stem from the internship opportunities that I just mentioned. All interns are considered pipeline for roles.

What do Genentech's internships and rotational program entail?

Starting with MBA internships, they are 10-12 weeks in length and the span across the groups mentioned previously. MBA interns are paid a very competitive salary including a sign-on bonus. The internship program includes a very significant project, mentorship and exposure to senior leadership including vice presidents from the business group. We also conduct training sessions, social events in which we facilitate our MBA interns networking with each other and building a culture and having support. The project is a business-critical project and the culmination of the project is a presentation to a senior leadership committee. This is an important event that not only showcases their work and celebrates their efforts, but it is also a very important component of being able to present yourself as a strong candidate for hire for the rotation program.

The rotation programs differ depending on area, but a common factor with the rotational program is that they are both two years in length with three to four different assignments That's another exciting opportunity with the rotational program, because not only do you have the ability to work on different things, but you work also with different people and you have exposure to different senior leaders. So, you can really have a robust experience and gain in-depth knowledge of the business after the rotations are over.

In our commercial rotational development program, there is an assignment in the field which I believe is unique among our competitors and definitely important to Genentech. We want our MBAs – our future leaders – to be able to have that exposure to the field and be able to understand the experience. That's important if they consider leadership positions in the future.

The financial rotational program consists of a global rotation to Basel and in that experience the new hires have a chance to collaborate with partners on special projects and initiatives so that's an exciting dimension to the finance program.

What level of involvement does senior management have in Genentech’s MBA programs?

We have very strong senior leader support and involvement in our MBA programs, which are run in collaboration with them. Graduates from the universities that we recruit highly from are highly engaged in the process. I think that's another advantage that we have, is that there are so many different facets of people in the organization. We are well represented by people who are engaged and interested in making sure that MBA interns care to be taught good information, and given experience and exposure both as candidates as well as if they are able to secure an internship or full-time role. I think a differentiator for Genentech is the level of involvement our senior leadership and alumni have in the process.

What do you look for when evaluating a candidate’s résumé and experience?

We have a couple of important general qualifications that what we typically look for including four to six years of pre-MBA experience. We tend to recruit people with a background in biotech or pharma consulting, finance or drug development.

We also really have an eye towards hiring diverse candidates based on a broad definition of diversity in order to ensure that we are representing the broader population and making positive opportunities available for as many people as possible. We keep an eye on that and we work closely with our partners in diversity as well business leaders and alumni.

Some competencies that I think generally we look for which are an innovative or entrepreneurial mindset, people who can communicate and present themselves well, and people who are naturally oriented towards teamwork and collaboration. Our business is moving fast, we are a company that is always looking for innovative solutions, so we also prize agility in people and the ability to deal with ambiguity.

How many MBA students do you typically recruit each year form the US?

We receive an average of around 1.2k applications per year so we there is very strong interest in Genentech. Generally speaking, we hire approximately 35-40 interns every summer for the rotation program and about 15-20 rotational program development associates. We have a target that extends to 50% summer interns for full-time opportunities.

Is MBA hiring up or down this year and by how much?

Hiring is actually up, we just established a new MBA program in our global pharma procurement business and we are in the process of establishing a rotational program. Our function in college programs is building new business within the functions. The talent and experience MBAs bring is very appealing, so I am expecting my group to be able to even expand further in 2015 and beyond.

In 2014, we had the largest class to date, with 40, and we are even expecting that number to go up in 2015. We are not in the process of interviews and offers, but we are expecting growth.

Overall, MBA hires are going to be consistently in demand. We are expecting more growth and more functions. We have a very healthy representation of Genentech functions now and we are expecting more MBAs to come into the company. I am expecting their contributions to be strong in all areas of the business. An advantage in our MBA programs is that since we have such diverse functions, our MBAs and alumni are able to influence the company in different areas based on their expertise and their interests.

Which business schools and MBA conferences do you recruit from and why?

Haas, Fuqua, HBS, Kellogg, Sloan, Tuck, Wharton, Stanford GSB, Ross.

Which conferences do you recruit from?

The National Black MBA Conference, NSHMBA, and Reaching Out MBA

What steps should MBAs take in order to make a good impression?

MBAs should be able to showcase corporate maturity. Executive presence is huge. They should also have an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset, good communication skills, a collaborative nature and the ability to deal with ambiguity. Our MBAs work on highly desirable projects that are put in front of senior leaders so they should be curious, very engaged, ask good questions, and be very participatory during the experience.

We end up hiring people that have all those traits and are prepared for a multitude of scenarios. They are prepared for conversation with an executive. They are prepared to take the time to participate in areas of our culture that interest them, to support their colleagues, and to work effectively with their manager during their internship.

Something that is important when it comes time for a potential offer is that we want to make sure our MBAs have a clear preference for location for their full time opportunities. Our MBA interns should have a good idea of whether or not they are globally mobile, whether or not they are committed to staying in the Bay Area and working because we don't want to waste their time or ours. We hope that MBA students that take an internship with us are serious about staying with Genentech if they are offered a rotation program job or would seriously consider it.

Being able to move to south San Francisco is something I would say is a requirement . We hope that people would figure that out prior to joining us for the internship.

Is there anything I didn't address that you would like to cover?

We want original thinkers. We want people who have done research on our company and who are prepared to talk about why they would be a good fit for Genentech by reading up on the culture, reading up on the pipeline and speaking to alumni.

A lot of people come from excellent business schools, but we want those folks with the competencies that I mentioned that really differentiate them. We want people that are comfortable taking smart risks, we want out of the box thinkers, and we want people that are continuous learners and that challenge themselves to continuously learn and grow.

Something that, personally, seems kind of basic, but is huge is asking very intelligent and interesting questions during the interview process. Ask about things that you are really curious about that are maybe unique to you. The questions you ask indicate your level of study into our business and your level of interest in working at Genentech.

Be really thoughtful of learning from the interviewers. You can have a variety of interviewers from a variety of backgrounds and steps in the hierarchy, so you definitely want to be able to engage everyone and you want to make your experience with them an impressive one.

Interview edited for flow and clarity.

Written by Nicole Willson

Nicole is the SEO manager of TopMBA.com, as well as a contributing author. She holds a BA in history and sociology, and a master's in library science. Aside from her work for QS, Nicole is a long-time contributing editor and administrator for WikiHow.

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