What was one of the most important factors you were looking for in a business school?
During the MBA program application process, I was very focused on ensuring that the business school had a supportive student body and alumni base. Building relationships with classmates, alumni, and future business school attendees is the key to sustaining close ties with an institution and being woven into its cultural fabric. Personally, I applied and was accepted into three top schools, and I chose Chicago Booth due to the academic rigor, student culture, and the opportunity to live in the Windy City.
How did you take advantage of the flexible curriculum?
The flexible curriculum empowers students to shape your own experience, giving the opportunity to optimize what you want to take away from your time in business school. Since my short-term goal post MBA was to pivot into investment banking, I focused on taking courses that were quantitatively heavy in my first year to prepare for my internship. That summer, I secured a role working as an Investment Banking Summer Associate in Silicon Valley. Despite receiving a full-time offer, I knew the lifestyle was not a fit for me. Therefore, when I returned to Booth my second year, I enrolled in classes that helped me develop my leadership foundations and contributed to my professional accolades upon joining American Express after graduation.
In your words, describe the culture and community at Booth.
The culture at Booth is diverse and collaborative. I had classmates from all over the world to share and learn from. Another benefit about the flexible curriculum is that it helped me broaden my network, since I was able to take classes with second-year, evening, and weekend students during my first year. As time has passed, it seems the Booth culture has evolved to be even better. Former classmates and alumni alike have been very helpful in my postgraduate journey. They have supported me in everything from interview preparation to sharing insights about elementary school systems in Phoenix, AZ, when my family and I were relocated for a role.
Considering the current state of the world, would you still encourage prospective students to get an MBA?
Even in the current state of the world, an emphasis is still placed on the MBA degree as a differentiator. As much as it’s about the degree, it is also about the relationships, the lessons learned, problem-solving frameworks, and building a strong leadership foundation. Personally, numerous opportunities opened once I got my MBA. I was exposed to higher levels of decision-making in leadership and given more responsibilities with opportunities to drive business goals.
What are some of the challenges you are able to conquer at work because of your MBA?
My MBA was instrumental in allowing me to truly work across an organization, understanding what was important to stakeholders with different goals while ensuring everyone was successful. Most importantly, while at American Express I was on the finance team that supported the spin-off of the Global Business Travel business. The spin-off resulted in the organization transitioning from the AMEX culture that I thrived in to being private equity owned. While many employees in the business were thinking about an exit strategy, I jumped into the deep end. I left American Express and accepted a role as Chief of Staff to the head of the supplier relations team and moved my family from New York to Phoenix.
Many questioned my decision given the mentors and sponsors that I cultivated at American Express, but I was confident that my professional experiences and my Booth education prepared me for the challenge. Less than a year into my role as Chief of Staff on the supplier relations team, I earned the opportunity to lead the hotel strategy and reporting team, and transition into roles with increased responsibility and scope. Now that I have transitioned into a role in telecommunications, my goal is to continue leveraging the resources in my toolkit (including my Booth MBA) to bring the team fresh and innovative ideas to grow the business.
Name a class you took that you rely heavily upon in your current role.
There are a few Booth classes and professors that I always refer to nostalgically. One that comes to mind is Power and Influence. I use the teachings from that course to coach my direct reports and mentees, given the importance of gauging the power structure in an organization, understanding the landscape, and building relationships with key organizational stakeholders. Additionally, I really enjoyed taking Scott Meadow’s private equity courses. I attended one of his Commercializing Innovation courses while I was a prospective student and still remember the case. His classes enabled me to refine my ability to build business cases and swiftly communicate the financial value across the organization for swift leadership buy-in.
Describe the type of connection you have with other Booth alumni.
I try to attend one Booth alumni event each quarter to stay connected to alumni and students. I am also actively involved with the Chicago Black Alumni Association and look forward to getting more involved with the Chicago Booth Women’s Network. Personally, a few Booth alumni hold a permanent place in my heart, becoming my extended family and life-long friends. One of my classmates is the Godfather to my daughter, another classmate offers my daughter weekly Bible study sessions from California, while other classmates have graciously earned the title of “auntie”.
What has Booth done since you graduated that makes you proud to be an alumna?
My relationship with Booth didn’t end at graduation. Once I reached my third-year post business school, I felt like I needed help transitioning from a finance role to a client-facing role in hopes of becoming a GM in the longer-term. Career Services was excited with the opportunity to assist and offered me a program that helped create an action plan. One month after completing my virtual meetings with Career Services, I was promoted into the business role. Additionally, Booth has always extended a variety of ways to stay involved as my availability shifted post-graduation. While I was engrossed in my career and family life, I benefited from events geared toward alumni. I’ve also been instrumental during the relaunch of the Chicago Black Alumni Association and have actively participated in the planning of the annual alumni brunch hosted during our Reconnect Weekend.
So far, what has been your greatest achievement in your career?
I’ve spent more than fifteen years focused on accelerating business and revenue results for organizations. During my professional tenure, I’ve successfully navigated partnering with organizational leaders to drive operational and commercial results, sales leadership to enable deal success, and spending time in sales/business development front-line facing roles. That said, the achievements that grant me the most satisfaction are when I can coach an employee to meet a major milestone (i.e., promotion, dream role, advanced degree, project completion). At this point in my career, I’m as focused on results as I am the legacy I’m leaving behind.
Any regrets for something you wanted to try or accomplish while in business school?
While at Booth, I focused my time on building my quantitative skill set and didn’t take the opportunity to completely engross myself in the entrepreneurship offerings. In hindsight, I wish that I would have spent more time in the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation building business ventures alongside my fellow classmates. That said, the Polsky Center has numerous opportunities for alumni to get involved. For example, the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program provides mentorship and coaching to University of Chicago students and alumni launching a company, trying to scale a company, or looking for guidance. I have personally used the resources offered while working on a few start-up ventures of my own--from scheduling informational coffee chats with alumni, to borrowing some desk space when in Chicago for meetings and attending boot camps organized by the Polsky Center.
What book, movie, or podcast do you recommend given the current times?
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chicago Booth Women’s Network hosted by Linda Ginzel, Clinical Professor of Managerial Psychology. I was excited one of my favorite Booth professors was going to be in New York for an intimate conversation with fellow alumni. During the event, Professor Ginzel shared insights from her book, Choosing Leadership. The book guides you through a discovery journey that leads to a deeper understanding of leadership on your own terms through self-understanding. Personally, the book allowed me to process my life lessons, reflect on my experiences, and create a plan for my personal and professional future. Recently, I started listening to the Mind Your Business podcast. Host James Wedmore untangles the common misconception that hustle and hard work are all that it takes to be successful. I also enjoy picking up investment nuggets from Mark Monroe’s Come Up series on YouTube. His long-term investment strategies and community are unmatched.