Navigating the MBA Internship Journey

By Fundiswa Nkuta, MBA2024

One of the reasons why I decided to pursue an MBA now was to explore new career opportunities. After almost 10 years of working across various financial services roles, including investment banking and private equity, I wondered if my career decisions had been based on nature or nurture. I had also reached a critical inflection point in my personal and professional life where it was ‘now or never’ for me to decide on the next step. Most people make one of the following three changes after the MBA: location, industry, or title. I decided that I would use my MBA internships as an opportunity to test whether I wanted to move to a new country or switch to a new industry.

I decided to ‘go big or go home’ since this period was my only window of opportunity to make significant changes in my life. I am glad that I took this approach as it has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has profoundly shaped my outlook on life and my skills. From the gruelling interview processes to the immersive internships across three continents, this journey has been nothing short of transformative. I reflect on my internship journey with so much gratitude for the invaluable lessons learned, personal growth, and diverse experiences.


My husband did his MBA a few years back and, before starting my MBA, encouraged me to think about my post-MBA career options as he reflected on how recruitment ‘FOMO’ got the better of most of his cohort. The journey began with the process of selecting 6 industries that I wanted to explore. Over the next three months, I conducted research on each industry, analysing factors such as the key industry players, remuneration structures, career progression and lifestyle considerations. I attended company events and spoke with professionals across various roles to deepen my understanding of each industry’s nuances.

Through this process, I gained a clearer vision of the industries that aligned with my personal and professional aspirations. This exercise not only helped me eliminate options that initially seemed appealing but also unveiled new interests that I had previously overlooked.

With the selection process behind me, I turned my attention to preparing for the interviews. The start of the MBA program was intense, but I knew that leaving my preparation to the last minute would be a mistake. This included dedicating time to drafting cover letters and doing interview prep during my December holiday and postponed honeymoon (thanks to COVID-19). During the term I partnered with fellow students in my cohort and sought guidance from my network, including those who had previously navigated the MBA internship process. This collaborative approach allowed me to understand the nuances of interviews across different industries, countries, and companies, ensuring I was prepared for any eventuality. It also made the process less daunting and we found comradery in the ‘struggle’.

There are a few takeaways from the process. You have to approach the internship journey with an open mind and a willingness to learn as you are likely to have to iterate or change your plans. It’s crucial not to compare your journey to others, as every MBA candidate comes in with unique backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses. Disappointment and rejection are possibilities, but how you handle setbacks and bounce back will significantly influence the final outcome – which is what truly matters. This process is a marathon, not a sprint, so preparing well and taking care of yourself is essential to make it through the ups and downs. Maintaining a positive mindset is also key, as most of the MBA class is interviewing from January to March, and the atmosphere can quickly become charged with stress and anxiety. Surrounding yourself with a supportive circle can help you stay grounded and focused during this intense period.


BCG offices when the global CEO
came for the Johannesburg office
opening during the Rugby World Cup

I am very grateful to have bagged all three internship opportunities. In South Africa, we do not have a big culture of internships, and my internship journey has made my MBA all the more valuable. Working in three different regions in two new industries (consulting and asset management) was both challenging and rewarding. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to multicultural teams, a new perspective of the similarities and differences in ways of working, and the need to adapt to new environments. It also provided me with an opportunity to truly immerse myself in the company cultures, understand the inner workings of organizations, and assess whether the environment aligned with my long-term career aspirations.

My first internship was in London, where I had the privilege of working at PIMCO, the world’s largest fixed-income asset manager. As the only intern to experience both the UK Institutions and the MENA Global Wealth Management teams, I gained invaluable insights into operating in different regions with diverse product offerings. The timing of my internship couldn’t have been at a better time, as the markets were turning in favour fixed income, and geopolitical forces were at play, making for a rich and dynamic learning experience.

My second internship took me home to BCG Johannesburg, where I ventured into the world of consulting for the first time. The team went above and beyond to introduce me to the industry, and despite my lack of consulting experience, they provided a nurturing and supportive environment. I had the opportunity to contribute to meaningful work that addressed pressing challenges in the African context and would leave a lasting positive impact on clients.

My final internship with Kearney in Dubai and Riyadh left an indelible mark on my personal and professional growth. This experience not only introduced me to markets I had never explored before, but also, expanded my understanding of global dynamics and the evolution of emerging economies. The weekly travel between these two cities allowed me to witness firsthand the regional nuances and gain insights into ambitious growth plans, such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

PIMCO MBA interns

Looking forward

The South African proverb remains true, “umuntu ngumuntu ngabanto”, which means ‘I am because we are’. I am immensely grateful for the support and guidance I’ve received from the LBS community and my network, throughout this journey. Everyone felt the pressure of securing an internship and a potential job in this tough economic environment. Going through the process together made the load lighter.

As I reflect on these three internship experiences, I am reminded of the diversity and richness of opportunities available within the MBA journey. Each placement represented a unique chance to dive into different sectors, cultures, and challenges, pushing the boundaries of my knowledge and capabilities. The lessons learned, the relationships forged, and the personal growth achieved during these internships are invaluable assets that I carry with me as I embark on the next phase of my career.

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