Secret Pro Tips for International MBA Students who Want to Work in the United States

As a former Northwestern Kellogg MMM (MBA + Masters in Design Innovation), I’ll tell you something that you want to know but that no one at Kellogg will ever tell you:

Secret Pro Tip:

If you’re an international student who REALLY wants to work (and  / stay) in the United States (USA) after graduation, invest in the MMM program.

Here’s why:

  • As an international MBA student in the US, you will be on a F-1 Student Visa for full-time students (if you are an exchange student, you will be on J-1). You are allowed to work up to 1 year in the USA on OPT period (Optional Practical Training), given that you find a job no later than 3 months after graduation.
  • In the unfortunate situation you have not found a job three months after graduation, you must leave the United States.
  • If you find a job with a company that is willing to sponsor your H1B Visa, you enter a one-time lottery for the H1B Visa. The probability of winning this year (2016) was just 40% for those holding a Master’s degree from the US. The odds were lower if you only held a Bachelor’s degree. Generally, this percentage becomes lower with each passing year due to increases in demand (from people like you who are reading this).
  • If you lose the lottery (odds are you will), you go back home.
  • Now, with MMM, the M.S. in Design Innovation is an engineering degree (that does NOT require an engineering background) from the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern. This engineering degree allows you to stay in the US an extra two years (3 total) and participate in the lottery a total of 3 times.

It can be said that the MS DI program is not really an engineering program, in the way that most people think about engineering (hardcore math & science). Nonetheless, it’s classified as an engineering program.

Beyond that are the more traditional reasons to be part of Kellogg: long-time elite business school brand, the amazing new all-glass lakefront building, rise in the rankings, leading percentages for diversity in gender and internationality, continued emphasis on tech, and my articles on the experience). Plus the MS in Design Innovation offers a great core of classes that will help you understand problems from bottom up (“what is the user/customer thinking?), rather than just top-down (“well, it’s clear from the financials, we have too many employees, let’s just fire them”).

All that sounds sound great, but let’s be real. The reason you go to business school is to fulfill your professional goals. If your goal is to be in the United States long term, apply for Kellogg MMM.

The simple math: at today’s acceptance rates, you have a 60% chance of getting rejected and having to leave the country after one year. With MMM, you can stay at least three years and the chances you will end up having to leave the US without a Visa is only 21.6%.

Is this worth an extra quarter of tuition? Of course it is.

How we won the Kellogg Marketing Conference’s Creative Lab (and a really big shoe)

(This was written by my friend and teammate Justin but reposting it here after it was originally posted at the Kellogg Blog)

How we won the Kellogg Marketing Conference’s Creative Lab (and a really big shoe)

Kellogg’s Marketing Conference is by far one of the largest events at Kellogg. More than 500 attendees, hotshot panelists from companies like Google, SC Johnson, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Pepsico and Uber, incredible keynote speakers and the vibrancy of the student leadership team make this an exciting and informative event.

For the first time, this year’s marketing conference featured a creative session competition hosted by the Google Brand Studio. Six teams of four members competed to solve a marketing prompt delivered the day of the competition.We were excited to participate because of our interest in the rapidly evolving tech industry.  Prior to Kellogg, each of us had spent some time in the tech industry:

  • Shriansh worked with mobile and financial software
  • Josh ran several startups in the internet technology space
  • Michael served as COO for Vietnam’s first social networking website
  • Justin worked in venture capital and product development for startups in mobile and clean-tech.

 The ‘crazy, fun and different’ nature of the Creative Lab began with how the challenge prompt itself was chosen. The 500-odd audience members had to vote (with the results being live-streamed right in front of us) on their choice between two challenges. The winning prompt was basically given to us on the spot for us to work on. 

The session itself was 35 minutes of brutal creativity. Spurred on by three of Google’s best, we brainstormed and came up with a solution. Using some of the tools and methodologies used at Google, we worked in our team to flesh out ideas, challenge thought processes and uncover insights to form a strategic solution to the prompt.

The four of us definitely felt the pressure as the clock was winding down to present in front of the other five teams and the three leaders from Google’s Brand Studio. In the last few minutes we wrote down our strategy and how we’d execute it, while also figuring out who’d tell the story.

Through the lab, we learned that creativity can be rapid, structured and apparently time-boxed. We experienced first-hand how rapid brainstorming floods the mind with ideas. Frankly, we feel that being left with more time to ponder the challenge might have derailed the intuition and raw expression that came forward in our strategy. Given how much fun we had, we’ll definitely carry these methods into our classrooms and future organizations.

After each of the six teams presented, the Google representatives selected three teams to move forward and present to the conference attendees. Afterward, the audience and judges voted using a phone app. After tallying the votes, the speaker announced, “And the winner of the Google Creative Lab competition is … Team 1! Michael, Shriansh, Josh, and Justin!”  We were extremely excited!

We won a trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where we will present a more detailed version of the idea to a few Google Executives.

Oh. And we won the Kellogg Marketing Conference shoe!

Justin Saeheng ‘16 is currently a student in the MMM program. Prior to Kellogg, he spent two years at a venture capital firm in the silicon valley focused on clean-tech, semiconductor, telecoms and sensors.  He worked closely with startups through product innovation, development and commercialization as well as strategic market entries into Asia and Europe. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Shriansh Shrivastava ’16 (@Shriansh) is currently a student in the MMM program. He grew up in India, spent 10 years in the UK (undergrad + an awesome job working with unreleased cellphones +  then worked on a mental health suicide prevention project – using smartphones, of course) and finally spent a year in Canada working for an ATM software company. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Joshua Borin ’15 is currently a student in Kellogg’s One-Year MBA program. Before Kellogg, Joshua ran a small business, survived the rise and fall of an e-commerce company and made an industry-noticing impact on stopping trade of counterfeit goods online. He loves helping small companies overcome the challenges that arise during rapid growth and scaling. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Michael Nguyen ’16 is currently a student in the MMM program. In the past he served as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Cyworld Vietnam, the country’s first social network; co-founded Mimo, a popular Twitter-like service in Vietnam; and helped RedOctane launch the Guitar Hero video game franchise. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Kellogg MMM – The Secret MBA Program Everyone Wants to Be In

Kellogg MMM Program

The Kellogg MMM program might be one of the biggest secrets in the MBA world. Even among new Kellogg students I have met this fall, many are curious to know more about MMM, and when I explain it to them, they say, “Wow, I wish I had know about it when applying – I would love to be in MMM”. I’ll also often hear from someone that she thought it required an undergraduate engineering degree.

Last week I met a new student at Booth who told me that if he had known about MMM, he would have gone to Kellogg instead (he had been accepted into Kellogg’s standard 2Y program). One of the current MMM students didn’t know about the program when he applied, and after he was accepted into Kellogg, he made a request to be considered for it.

With all these anecdotes in mind, I can only conclude that Kellogg has done a poor job of promoting MMM.

So what is MMM?

(The above slide was taken from an official MMM presentation to students)

First, you do not need an engineering background – I studied Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley. Another student studied History at Harvard. Another studied German (uh) Studies in China. MMM students come from a very broad background from all over the world.

Second, the MMM combines two Masters degrees. One is the awesome Kellogg MBA. The other is a Masters of Science in Design Innovation from the Segal Design Institute, which is part of the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. The program is still two years in length, though MMM programs begin 1 quarter early in the summer. You graduate with the normal 2 Y program in the spring of your second year.

Design Innovation pertains to how you look at the world in solving problems. It’s an end-user empathy approach at the world, but one that is not just relevant to developing products. If you manage a team, you need to be able to put yourself in team members’ shoes before you can create a rally point. If you are trying to sell a product, you need to know what your target customer is thinking – who they are, why they do what they do. It’s not that someone is just “stupid” or one of “those people” you can generalize. Everyone is unique and design thinking helps you use those lessons in your career.

Professor Eyal Maoz was fond of saying to us this summer (in Marketing Management), “once you understand the customer and his point of view, see how easy it is to design a product for him?” And he was right, it was. Design Innovation is highly relevant to anyone who is looking create something better for a group of people – to resolve a set of needs, whether that be through a product (digital or physical) or service. I think the degree is great for a career in product development or product management, but I think the lessons are applicable anywhere. The Innovation is the change you make in an existing product, process, or organization; the Design is the user-driven approach.

There are consulting firms (Deloitte) and large companies (Samsung) with separate innovation divisions,  but also companies that focus only on Design Innovation (Ideo, Gravity Tank) consulting. You don’t need to think of the MMM program as pushing you towards that type of career, but it definitely prepares you for one. I am taking a MMM class this fall, Research, Design, Build, that uses the same process defined at Design consultancies such as Gravity Tank and our instructors are actually from Gravity Tank! We are producing real world applications of what we learned and applying them on-campus with Kellogg students. This is a great way of understanding how a startup idea can be developed, prototyped, and iterated.

There are 60 people in MMM each year, and you must apply to be in MMM when you apply for Kellogg – there are no transfer students (many tried earlier this fall when there was a rumor that a slot had opened). Our MMM class is very close, with unique social events for program students. Unlike Kellogg sections, whose students only takes classes together during the first year at Kellogg, MMM students will be in at least one class together each quarter for the entire two years.

If you have any questions about classes or the program, leave a comment below or learn more at Kellogg. (MMM 2016 in the Jacobs “Jake” atrium shown below; I am bottom row middle.)

(This article was also posted in an edited format at:

Do Grades Matter? [Kellogg, MBA, MMM]


Do Grades Matter?

This question comes up a lot in normal everyday Kellogg student life. The answer, time-tested by generations of Kellogg MBA students (I’ve asked alumni as far as 15 years back), is no.

Actually, the answer is “it depends” – this is probably the answer to any question you are asked in class. Try it the next time you are cold called, seriously!

So, to explain this is more detail, grades do not matter unless you are looking to go into consulting or finance. Even then, they may not really. For example, a friend of mine got a finance internship after getting a 2.8 GPA his first quarter. Students were told a story (by Kellogg staff) of a recent student who received a great consulting offer despite a 1.8 GPA. (I am not even sure how a 1.8 is possible, as it is generally accepted – again, time tested – that you will not fail a class. After all, this isn’t a public undergraduate university!) I got a B over the summer in Marketing Management – it was humbling, but I have no regrets as it was likely the best class I have ever taken.

It is rare that you will be asked your grades, and even if you do, you can explain it away (I would assume) with a good reason. The time at Kellogg is a balance of social networking, career preparation, and academic needs, and while related to each other, these activities can also be mutually exclusive. Thus, as long as you use your time according to what’s most important to you, you will be just fine. If grades matter to you as a measurement of your performance relative to your peers, then yes, grades do matter.

Otherwise, #gradesdontmatter.

Ending the First Summer of the Revamped and (Redesigned) Kellogg MMM Program

“It depends” – Marketing Management with Eyal Maoz

“Little League” – Program Management with Mark Werwath

“Are we good?” – Accounting for Management Decision Making with Daniel Aobdia

“Take a Peeky Poo” – Business Analytics with Brett Saraniti

I (and perhaps some others here) have to admit that I did not quite know what to expect with the new Kellogg MMM Program. This was the first time the MMM Program would start in the summer, adding an extra quarter to our workload. The Masters in Engineering Management degree (a larger focus on Operations) was also changing to a Masters in Design Innovation (a larger focus on Product Innovation and Product Management).

Now in our final week of this first quarter, preparing for finals and KWEST (Holland, here I come!), there is an excitement for what’s next in our Design Thinking-focused curriculum. I am left with the four quotes above, playful reminders from each of our four classes this summer. Many in the MMM program are looking to be product-focused managers for the next steps of our careers, and I can already tell that the MMM program is going to be the perfect training ground for us to fine-tune the instincts needed to succeed at the next level of technology.

From Professor Eyal Maoz showing just how easy it is to design an amazing product when you can reduce the “degrees of freedom” to Professor Mark Werwath discussing how hard it can be to launch that product within organizations even when you have, our summer has simultaneously been a fruitful, stressful, and highly (ahem) social start (like visiting the super famous and soon-to-be-closed Hot Doug’s with program mates – see photo above! Do visit there if you can, it’s great and well worth the 1.5 hr wait in line as you try to squeeze a meal in before your next group meeting!) to Kellogg within this accelerated summer quarter.  What I appreciate most so far is being able to spend the first 2 months slowly getting acclimated to Evanston with 59 other brilliant people. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like in September when the full Northwestern and Kellogg student body arrive and the Jacobs building and every meeting room inside it is constantly booked.

Stay tuned, I’ll keep you updated!

[note: I originally wrote this in the middle of August, during our summer quarter finals – this post can also be seen in edited format on the official Kellogg blog:]