International student finds second 'home' within Penn State Smeal MBA community

Benedetta Piva wanted to jump-start her career, but first had to adjust to a new culture

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Benedetta Piva, a second-year international MBA student, always knew coming to the United States would provide her with a top-notch education. As a consistently ranked No. 1 leader in supply chain education, there was no doubt in her mind that the Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Program was the best way to jump-start her career.

Piva enrolled in the Penn State Smeal MBA Program after spending time as a financial controller at OTB Group, an international fashion company headquartered in Italy. Although she enjoyed her time there, Piva believed switching careers would ultimately help pave the way to her success and advance her goal of working in the tech industry.  

Piva admits it took her a while to adjust to a new culture and competitive environment.

“I am from Vicenza, Italy, so I don’t think the same way as someone from another country,” Piva said. “It’s different, but it’s really nice at the same time because it brings a lot of diversity.”

Piva especially found culture in the U.S. to be a lot more structured than life at home. However, she was able to find a strong support system that has brought her comfort. Through this support, Piva has been able to succeed academically and socially by finding a home away from home at Smeal.

In her graduating class, there is a 30 percent international student enrollment rate. Piva believes it’s important for Smeal to maintain diversity because it creates conversation regarding cultural differences among topics like women in the workplace, human rights, or ethics.

“I have many smart classmates that really help me to bring the knowledge we learn in class to the next level,” Piva said. “In a master’s degree, it’s not just what your professor teaches you, but the conversations you have in class and the things you learn beyond that.”

Leveraging the alumni network

Being an MBA student at Smeal also has provided her with opportunities to connect with Penn State alumni. Piva said having access to the largest dues-paying alumni network in the world — made up of more than 690,000 graduates — played an instrumental part in getting her full-time senior consultant position at Deloitte.

“MBA career services has really helped me. They always organize information and networking sessions, help polish resumes, conduct mock interviews, and host career fairs for students,” Piva said. “Not only do they know every student by name, but also know all alumni. This makes it easy for MBA career services to connect you with alumni, especially if you have a specific goal in mind.”

Piva greatly appreciates how alumni make an effort to get to know her beyond her resume. With companies like Deloitte that are heavily involved in the MBA program, she was able to see firsthand how employers want to ensure they are taking the right people. Most importantly, she learned that recruiting companies understand the value of selecting candidates that are a good match.

“The first job you have after completing your MBA is really the one that pivots your career,” Piva said, “and you need to make sure it’s the right one. By the time I sat down for the interview with Deloitte, I knew almost everyone present and they already knew me by name. It was much less stressful because they could see beyond the time I was sitting there. I would have never gotten this job and the additional five job offers without Penn State’s network.”

Prior to her job offer, she interned at Deloitte in the summer of 2018. Interning at Deloitte reaffirmed Piva’s passion for consulting and the exposure she had to the tech industry during classes, and company visits encouraged her interest in product management. She found consulting to be the perfect way to explore different functions in the industry and while honing new skills.

Looking to the future

“In the next few years, I want to keep growing by becoming a well-rounded individual and build skills to open new opportunities for my future,” Piva said. “I thought receiving my MBA would be the best way to round out my degree and would be the best opportunity for me.”

With the newfound knowledge she received from Penn State, Piva has become a more confident person — personally and professionally. During the “best two years of her life,” her biggest takeaway from the program was learning to become open-minded to new ideas.

“I have learned not to be shy, but to jump out of your comfort zone as a student,” Piva said. “From the MBA at Smeal, I’ve learned strategic approaches to tackle both small and big problems and have the critical thinking necessary to envision scenarios beyond what already exists. I am now ready to apply my learnings in challenging work environments.”

Last Updated April 26, 2019