On Balancing an MBA & a New Job

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Evening MBA student Ashely CornwellYou applied to Booth and switched jobs at the same time. What was that like?

I spent most of my time pre-Booth in financial services at Bank of New York Mellon and transferred with them to Chicago. I began the application process and was accepted to Booth while still there but had the added challenge of also interviewing for new jobs at the same time. The MBA was my priority and I was willing to search for the right employer who would allow me to complete it while working. Northern Trust was receptive and accepting of my doing an MBA while with them.

Tell us about the experience of balancing your MBA while working.

My employer has been great. Last year for one quarter I took a full-time afternoon class, and they let me adjust my schedule to make up my time in different ways, to accommodate the class. If there’s anything important I feel I need to attend mid-day, they’re very flexible. I think it’s a combination of my manager and the culture. Northern Trust gives you a couple of days off if you’re getting tuition reimbursement so it signals to management that your education is important.

How do you juggle it all?

I wake up and start work really early, by 6:15 am. I maximize my time on the bus by reading or writing notes for a paper. I’m then usually off by 4 and do homework on the way to school or home. If you’re conscious of your time and manage it well, you can do more. I also don’t stress about my grades and that allows me to better balance my time.

What did you want to get out of your MBA?

I wanted to try something new, outside of financial services. For example, I was interested in consulting, but once I did a few Booth Social Impact projects and a strategy lab, I realized it wasn’t for me. I was open to trying new things and seeing what I’d find interesting. I’ve gone to a lot of lunch and learns to hear people talk about all kinds of jobs and have decided to go into entrepreneurship. I’m working with a team on a laundry business (Lavie Laundry) and we’re currently competing in the New Venture Challenge at Booth.

What else have you been involved with in your time at Booth?

I was involved with Graduate Women in Business, Booth Women Advance, and Booth Social Impact and Booth Consulting Club. I enjoy the ‘choose your own adventure’ aspect. I’ve chosen not to chair clubs, so I could have time to attend whatever events I’ve found interesting. I also went on trips with Boothies, like the ski trip to Tahoe, and the career trek to Hong Kong. I also studied abroad for two weeks one summer, in China, when I chose not to take classes as a way to stay engaged.

Do you have any advice for incoming students?

Don’t stress about doing it all. You will get so many emails for clubs and events and it may feel overwhelming. Give yourself permission to not do everything so you can pick and choose what you will enjoy. Focus on taking care of yourself. I promised myself when I started school that I would never sacrifice sleep; that was non-negotiable. It forced me to be very efficient when I was awake!