Can you share an experience when you had to navigate a difficult time in your career? What happened and what helped you through it?
Brick: It came from an unlikely place. It didn’t result from a reorg, economic crisis, or a not-so-great relationship with my manager. It occurred when I was crushed and nearly severed in half by an elevator. I was literally out of the market for multiple years while I recovered from serious physical injuries and emotional trauma. I waged a significant battle to regain my confidence, courage, and sense of self-worth. Three things really helped me: my family and friends, my faith, and Booth.
From the Booth side was the alumni community, where I was valued and encouraged to engage. I was invited to write a short series on careers—which later ran in the career section of the Wall Street Journal—and give a speech. While I was really scared, the support of fellow alumni in the audience boosted my spirit and the positive evaluations reminded me of my value as a professional.
Mboma: In 2017 I abided by the unsolicited decision of the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, appointing me as president of the national insurance regulatory board. Even though I never raised my hand for that high-profile role, and even though I was aware of how my personal ethos stands out in the challenging ways governments of developing nations can operate, I embraced the opportunity. I wanted to use my skills, my experience, and my exposure to the best practices in the industry to contribute to expanding financial services for the benefit of society. A Chicago Booth and Harvard alumnus, I could not have been any prouder and more honored to serve DRC for the first time in my life.
Two weeks into the role, and after resigning officially from my role of CEO of Standard Bank DRC, I knew I would eventually be fired. I was rapidly faced with the litmus test of my moral and professional integrity. Every time that I would promote high standards and the most transparent processes to the organization, some of my stakeholders would systemically sabotage my executive decisions and dismiss my concerns, thus undermining the national agenda. Five months into the job, my resignation had been rejected twice before I was irregularly suspended and indefinitely put on garden leave. I was paying for choosing my integrity over a job in which my work ethic would suffocate.
My trust in the administrative system took a tremendous beating: I was de facto fired for promoting the right thing. Subsequently, I needed to heal my wounds, protect my reputation, and bounce back. To prepare for similar challenges in the future, I took responsibility and learned lessons from all stakeholders. Resilience is also about owning the script of our lives and shaping our personal narrative. In the end, how we respond to situations matters more than what happens to us.
Dash: I graduated with my MBA into a year that I hoped would be flush with possibilities but instead was a minefield of difficult decisions. For one, the economy had tanked—and it all happened right around when we graduated. Being an artist with an MBA was an incongruous pairing, and I was the risky outlier whom no one wanted to take a chance on in an economy that was listing out of control. Two, and even more pressing, I was faced with a serious health scare that needed to be dealt with immediately—my right kidney was failing, and quickly. Three, I had no income and no health insurance, and apparently no career prospects. The career I imagined I would have when I graduated with a Booth MBA had dissipated with the stock market, my physical limitations, and the overall anxiety of the future.