Tell us about the joint degrees you’re pursuing at the University of Chicago.
I decided to pursue my Masters in Computer Science from the University of Chicago, but career-wise I realized that would only get me ten years down the line. To get farther along I needed an MBA for managerial training. I was the guinea pig for the joint degree program between the two schools. I started in 2017 and have a year left.
What were you most excited to focus on at Booth?
I’ve loved getting involved in the community and learning how to build a better network. Leadership development has been my priority at Booth- there are events every quarter plus a leadership retreat and I’m trying to take advantage of everything.
Has getting your degree while working been a positive experience?
The best thing about taking a class at Booth and working at the same time is that you can implement what you learn right away. I was taking an operations class and at the same time a project at work had a deadline moved forward. My class helped me identify the critical path and solutions to help us meet that date.
My division at work knows I’m getting my MBA and they constantly ask- have you taken a class on this specific topic? How would you solve this problem? So they’ve kind of been using me as a consultant. Sometimes the problem is technical and sometimes soft skills based, but ultimately because of the reputation of the Booth MBA, I’m asked for my opinion on all kind of things and that has been an excellent learning experience for me.
How do you juggle your school life, career, and family?
I juggle school life, career, and family by prioritizing and pre-allocating my time for each of these areas.
The trick that works for me is being disciplined to stick to my schedule and not letting one area cannibalize the time of another. Of course, the biggest leverage is to have the understanding and support from my family and my manager at work who allow flexibility in my schedule.
Outside of class, what else are you involved with at Booth?
I’ve actually chosen to spread my classes out a bit so I can participate in more activities. I’m the co-chair of the Public Speaking Group, Book Club, and Studio Booth. Studio Booth engages the community through arts and culture and while that’s not part of my background, it is helping me develop my creative side. I’m part of the admissions committee. It’s been a great learning experience in how to interview all kinds of people with different profiles. I try to attend the activities of about 11 other clubs in addition to these.
You keep yourself busy! Any favorite experiences come to mind?
The Student Advisory Council organized an alumni mixer which I really enjoyed, where alumni discussed what their experience has been like after graduation. My other favorites were a book store crawl with the Book Club and a private Art Institute tour with Studio Booth.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
It’s important to balance your classes. I recommend taking one quantitative class which has a heavier workload at the same time as a less time intensive qualitative class. It’s also good to be less focused on the grades and outcome on paper and more about the learning experience itself and what you take out of class. I look at my time spent on activities as an investment because I won’t have as many of these opportunities after I graduate and because it strengthens my connections with my classmates. Get involved as early as you can and expand your network within the Booth community. The tips, advice, and help from the network can make things easier in and outside of the classroom.
Libby Smoler is a marketing specialist for the Evening and Weekend MBA Programs.