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Meet Justice Kwak.
A 2015 Economics grad, Justice carefully structured his network and extracurriculars to set himself apart as an applicant and professional. Nearly four years ago his efforts paid off, and he found himself in his preferred role: working in tech and strategic investment with Accenture.
Keep reading to learn how Justice secured his position at Accenture, and dive into his conversation with Hub Employer Engagement Coordinator Ashley Parker to hear more about the ways he’s still putting his liberal arts education to work in his current role.
Ashley: How did your undergrad experience prepare you for your current position?
Justice: Looking back, it’s not so much the content of what I learned in the classroom that’s been applicable at work—it’s actually the ability to problem-solve and develop a defensible point of view that I’ve carried over to my job. This is a core skill gained through the rigor of being constantly intellectually challenged by the [LSA] courses I took. Practicing and growing emotional intelligence is equally as important, a skill I developed by taking on leadership roles within student organizations or partnering with unfamiliar students on group projects.
Justice: If I had decided on consulting as my career path earlier, I would have been much more proactive in making connections to get a better understanding of what it means to be a consultant. A key piece of advice that I tell students is to talk to people who work at a company you are interested in. Most importantly, do your research in figuring out who the campus recruiter is for Michigan, and then make the connection there. After making those connections, create a list of the top three to four skills each person holds and ask yourself, what courses, extracurriculars, and jobs will help you gain those skills.
Ashley: What clubs, organizations, and activities were you involved in during undergrad? And do you think they assisted in your career exploration?
Justice: I was a part of the Roosevelt Institute, a national student-run think tank. I was really passionate about education policy, but our Roosevelt Institute at Michigan didn't have an education policy sector within the club, so my roommate and I created one. There, we were able to talk weekly about current policy issues and create mock policy pieces we could send to legislation on the local Hill. Holding that leadership position gave me the opportunity to talk about how the club positioned me to then be a candidate for any sort of job. Anything you do with extracurriculars needs to be able to tie back into your broader story about how your experience in these extracurriculars or leadership positions you held, translate directly to any job you're going for.
Ashley: Definitely. Why did you continue to recruit with Accenture? And what specifically about the organization stood out to you?
Justice: When the recruiter from Accenture reached out, I knew that Accenture was known for consulting but they also had a tech aspect, which personally interested me a lot. Also the role I had at the time had a very technical path, and I knew that's not really where I wanted to go. I wanted to continue working in technology, but with a more strategic role on the investment side, and the role at Accenture was exactly that. I also knew that the people that I'd be working for were individuals that I could really learn something from. I respected them not just on a human level, but also from a professional perspective. So for this part of my career, I was confident that this was the right path.
Ashley: Definitely. So are there any other ways you are able to leverage your LSA degree in your current role?
Justice: My role is very analytical and data-driven. So when I think about undergrad and my LSA degree, I am continuing to build my intellectual fitness in my current role. I think if you find yourself in a role and you're not being challenged, it's probably time to look for another opportunity. I definitely feel like I'm still being challenged and I'm able to keep up because I didn’t start from scratch coming out of the major I had at Michigan. I gained the tools and skills I needed to be able to succeed while at Michigan.
Ashley: Aside from your history as an LSA grad, what aspects of your identity that may have impacted your experience at Accenture?
Justice: Before beginning with Accenture, I knew diversity was important, but I didn't really know, in practice, how critical it would be until I started working. As I continue to progress in my career and get promoted into management roles, I really value looking at the leadership and seeing if there are people that look like me or have a similar background. At Accenture, that's definitely the case. I feel more confident and comfortable talking to my leadership team, even if they don't look like me or have the same similar background as me, because they are a part of the larger leadership group where diversity exists. In my previous role, I didn't really have that experience, so my time with Accenture has taught me just how important diversity in the workplace is.
I remember there was a time on a project where this analyst from Korea and English was his second language, and so he struggled to adjust to the working environment. Unfortunately, he was taken off of a project because of it. I didn't really feel like I had a place to say anything, but I wanted to do something. So, I created a forum for people who had English as their second language, especially Korean Americans, to have a safe space to talk about their adjustment and get advice from others on how to succeed in their role. That's how I really learned how important it was, and I also learned that taking any sort of action to help even one individual always makes it worthwhile.
Ashley: Yeah, definitely. What would you say has been your impact on the organization this far?
Justice: Over the last year or so, we started up an internal ventures wing at Accenture. Here, I helped create business cases and operating models to give to Accenture employees. Working at the cutting edge of technology, we aim to solve today's problems using future technology. The goal was to prepare our team members to feel comfortable pitching these ideas to senior people at the firm. We have close to 400,000 people at the firm, and pitching to the top five people at the firm to get people prepared for the future was definitely rewarding. Big picture: the first year wasn't as successful as we wanted it to be, we underestimated some of the difficulties of moving many parts of a firm of this size. But I certainly think it cemented my case for promotion, which was a year ahead of the average promotion cycle for someone in my role. That's something I've definitely accomplished so far.
Here are just a few ways Justice was able to build what he calls intellectual fitness and emotional fitness during his undergraduate career:
- Opting for courses that strengthened his analytical capabilities. The coursework taught him how to break down complex problems into tangible pieces, and ultimately form a point-of-view.
- Conducting industry research on prospective employers that includes internship recruiting timelines, the names of campus recruiters, and general industry knowledge.
- Teaming up with his peers and fellow students to create the education policy sector within one of U-M’s student-led think tanks, the Roosevelt Institute.
- Assisting with the development of business strategies related to technological innovation.
The Hub’s Approach to Career Exploration:
- Student Groups - Identify one to two student groups that relate to your identity and explore the possibility of holding a leadership position. Use Maize Pages to browse U-M 1,400+ Student led organizations.
- Campus Jobs - Campus jobs allow students to gain their first professional experience and can often be used as leverage during your hiring process. Check out the Student Employment site to browse on campus offerings
- Most Impactful Courses - Choose classes, like ALA 125 (first-years) and ALA 325 (seniors), that allow you to actively explore the connection between your LSA degree, identity, and career aspirations. Click here to explore the Hub’s Applied Liberal Arts (ALA) offerings.
- Coaching - Coaching is an opportunity to receive direct feedback and support from one of the amazing Hub coaches on career development, internship searches, graduate applications etc. Click here to learn how to schedule an appointment or find out more about drop-in hours.]
- Internships - An internship can help you explore career interests, build up your experience, expand your professional network, and increase your probability of finding meaningful opportunities after graduation. Explore summer internship opportunities still active on the LSA Opportunity Network.