Moms Conquer It All: Juggling Work, Family and an MBA

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Happy Mother’s Day to all of our students, alumni, and staff! Below we profile two of our amazing mothers and students who give us honest advice about how they pursue MBAs, juggle families and careers, all at the same time.

 

Weekend MBA student Maryam YusufMaryam Yusuf, Weekend MBA, Chaska, MN

Regulatory compliance manager at Scoular

Children: 6 years, 4 years and 15 months

Tell us more about being a parent while pursuing your MBA and working full- time

I started Booth in 2015, when my second child was 4 months old. As a mom, it’s a challenge to figure out how to juggle your full time job, children’s needs and school. Even little things like a conference call present a challenge when you’re tending to a baby. But none of this should be a deterrent to a mom getting an MBA - my classmates have been so understanding, and with technology we have many ways to interact.

Why were you interested in an MBA and why did you choose Booth?

I have worked as a chemical engineer and a plant engineer for 11 years and was looking for ways to grow my career and move into a managerial role. I was excited to join a group of high caliber students and to learn from such distinguished faculty. Booth fosters diversity in groups and perspectives that has been priceless; I have learned more than I could ever have expected and met people I would never have met otherwise. Booth’s flexible curriculum allowed me to keep going even while having children during this period of time, so the program’s flexibility was one of its biggest selling points.

What has been the biggest challenge of being a parent while pursuing your MBA?

I always head right back to Chaska and my kids after class, so my biggest challenge was being impacted in the ability to join student activities. That said, with the way the program is structured, I still get exposure to and am able to engage with different clubs during the day and between classes on Saturdays. I couldn’t fly in the middle of my pregnancy because I was sick so often and Booth and my professors helped me with special accommodations.  I also don’t sleep much!

Do you have advice for parents (or soon to be parents) considering an MBA?

I had my third child in 2017 and at that time I took a year and a half off. If you choose to take a break early on, it's harder to come back because it feels like there's a mountain ahead of you, so it's easier if it's closer to the end. My advice is to chat with student services and other students who have done it. There's beauty in Booth's flexibility- I chose to fly in on Tuesdays for class with full-time students and again on Saturdays; you need to think about what will fit best into your life and schedule. Part of what makes everything possible is being extremely strategic in the classes you take. Pace yourself- consider taking less demanding courses during more challenging periods so you can keep moving forward.

 

Evening MBA student Jessie Chen

Jessie Chen, Evening MBA, Deerfield, IL

Senior Manager, Student Loans Collection Strategy at Discover Financial Services

Children: 17 months

 

Tell us more about being a parent while pursuing your MBA and working full- time

Before I had my son, I took 2 courses each quarter. After I became pregnant I switched to 1 class per quarter. You need to take care of yourself during this period of time. I learned it was tougher than I anticipated to go back to work and school so I took two quarters off before returning. I have now managed to ramp back up to my regular course load.

The Booth community has also been extremely helpful and easy to talk to. I’ve received great parenting advice from various friends within Booth and have also bonded with others who were pregnant at the same time. We regularly talk about how to handle pressure and balance our lives.

Why were you interested in an MBA and why did you choose Booth?

I chose Booth because I liked how analytics driven the Booth program is. I felt the analytics learnings would help me with development and promotion at Discover. Booth’s entrepreneurship concentration also has a great reputation. I have entrepreneurial aspirations and felt that Booth could open a door for me. I have the background to fit into US and Chinese cultures and would like to serve as a bridge and link opportunities from each side.

What has been the biggest challenge of being a parent while pursuing your MBA?

Juggling it all. Initially I thought I couldn’t handle everything, but after putting all the pieces together you learn it’s all about how you manage your time. Right now, attending Booth events is a lower priority for me. I’ve had to learn to prioritize and let go of items that are less important to me.

Do you have advice for parents (or soon to be parents) considering an MBA?

Pay attention to the details in the syllabus and class evaluations to make sure you can handle the workload. Build the right team in class so you can learn from each other and get better results. As an Evening MBA, I’ve found that taking one class early in the week and the other later in the week helps me balance time with family and provides me with more time to work on homework and class projects.

 

Libby Smoler is a marketing specialist for the Evening and Weekend MBA Programs.