At Booth, EMBA student Leslie DeMoss found the support she needed to juggle coursework with family—and to make a successful career pivot into a new industry.
- November 29, 2021
- Executive MBA - Career Impact
In the spring of 2020, I was working remotely for a boutique consulting firm in Washington, DC. The work was interesting, and I had the unique opportunity to stay in the aerospace and defense sector despite being located outside the Beltway. I was exposed to intricate aspects of foreign policy and worked alongside seasoned defense officials. I gained skills as a manager, strategist, and communicator in more than one language—as a specialist on Asia, I spoke Japanese on the job. However, there were challenges both professional and personal. I didn’t see many opportunities for me to advance or grow further at the company. I also wanted to find a job that was based in Chicago, where I live with my husband and 3-year-old twins. Just as COVID-19 was beginning to spread around the world, I realized that I needed to make a substantial career pivot.
The desire for change led to my enrollment in the Executive MBA Program at Chicago Booth later that year. I chose the Booth program for a number of reasons, but chief among those was addressing my skill gaps. Despite working in consulting for 10 years, I didn’t really speak the language of KPIs and balance sheets. The EMBA Program offered a fresh perspective on business and provided me with the structure I needed to fill those gaps. However, I quickly realized that managing a family, demanding coursework, and a career change was a daunting challenge. Even with a supportive husband, the unpredictability of toddlers added more stress to this balancing act.
I found a great deal of support from the Booth community. Like many, I entered the program feeling intimidated by other people’s accomplishments. But what impressed me most wasn’t the senior titles or industry accolades but the humility and generosity shown by my classmates.
With my schedule, I didn’t have a ton of free time to study. I had to carve it out when I could, like before the kids woke up or after they went to bed. I was grateful that many of my classmates, including those who are not parents, understood this. I’ve never felt judged because I have to prioritize a family need. We have all helped each other get through difficult periods. I’ve had classmates take time out of their own demanding schedules to tutor me so I could keep pace in some of the more challenging and quant-heavy courses.
This support created space for me to focus on my career shift. I was really agnostic about the industry and didn’t know how my skill set would transfer after being with such a small company for a long time. I was guided throughout by a Booth career and leadership coach. We set up meetings every three weeks to touch base. She helped me break down job descriptions that felt foreign to me and translate them into my experience, even when I didn’t see it. She encouraged me, saying, “You’ve done this. You just have to reframe it.” Together, we mapped out my career story and made the correlation between entering business school and making a change. This work transformed me into a polished candidate. I know it would have taken much longer without her expert help.
A little under a year into the program, a classmate approached me about a position in his department at JP Morgan. I hadn’t really considered financial services, but the position required everything I had: management skills, a strategic mindset, and storytelling ability. I trusted him and his guidance. With the help of my coach and my classmate, I got the job and accepted a new position as vice president of business management, based in Chicago, in September 2021.
Achieving this career pivot was a direct result of my deciding to enroll in the Executive MBA Program. Booth buffered my confidence but also gave potential employers reason to have confidence in me. Not many employers in Chicago had heard of the small firm I worked for in DC, but seeing “Chicago Booth” on my resume helped them take a chance on me. While the role is still relatively new, the strong foundation Booth has given me makes me feel prepared and confident that I can succeed in this industry.
Most importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity without the lasting connections that are forged in the classroom and group work. Showing up for my classmates, working hard, and making valuable contributions proved that I was responsible and could be relied upon—in class or in the workplace.
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Executive MBA Student, Chicago Campus
Leslie DeMoss recently began at JPMorgan Chase in Commercial Banking as the Credit Finance & Business Management Chief of Staff. In this role, Leslie partners with team leaders and stakeholders in defining strategy and execution plans for objectives, creates robust program reporting for senior managers, and oversees cross-functional projects.
Prior to joining JP Morgan, Leslie was Senior Director at NMV Consulting, leading high profile projects and building relationships across multiple geographies with a focus on international initiatives in the aerospace and defense industry. She holds a BA in History and a BA in Japanese Language from the University of Michigan, an MA in International Relations from Waseda University in Japan, and is completing an EMBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.Leslie DeMoss