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An MBA might not have been the most foreseeable path for speech pathologist and Evening MBA student Julia Jain, but it is allowing her to pursue her future goal of impacting healthcare and wellness on a larger scale. Julia talks to us about coming to the MBA from a non-traditional background, how she connects with the community, and what inspires her as a woman at Booth.


Julia Jain, Evening MBA student, Graduate Women in Business co-chair and Speech Language Pathologist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Tell us about yourself

I’m so honored to be profiled here. I have a different background than most in the Chicago Booth community, so I was excited to share my story. I grew up in Chicago and when thinking about my career, I knew I wanted to pursue something where I could help others, and to me that meant healthcare. I did an undergraduate degree at Elmhurst College in speech language pathology and then went on to do a master’s degree in speech pathology at the University of Iowa. I’ve worked at a hospital in Chicago called the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab since 2016. My main day-to-day role is helping people who have had a stroke or a brain injury in their recovery. It’s been a rewarding and amazing role, but I realized I wanted to be able to make an impact on a larger scale within healthcare and also understand how to run a business.

On transitioning from a non-traditional background into an MBA program

It was incredible but also nerve-racking. It was amazing to be with a wide variety of people from so many different professional backgrounds. I loved getting to know people and learning about their career paths. Coming from working in such a healthcare bubble, I was inspired to think what my future could look like. I was also fearful of how I was going to fit in because of my less traditional experience and how I would bring value to the classroom. I quickly learned that my fellow Boothies were genuinely interested in getting to know my unique perspective and learning from me. 

Chicago Booth Evening MBA student Julia Jain

"Coming into the MBA program with a non-traditional background, I felt a little uncertain as to the value I would bring to the table...The courses and discussions that are facilitated at Chicago Booth push you in a good way, to say what you believe confidently, and be open to other people's perspectives."

— Julia Jain

What are your long-term aspirations?

I would love to become a leader within the healthcare or wellness space. I really want to continue making an impact on others and help people live a healthier or happier life, whatever that looks like to them. With all of that said, I also have loved the entrepreneurship classes and do have a bit of an entrepreneurial bug in me. Long-term I’d love to start a business within the wellness and healthcare space and put to work some of the skills I’ve learned at Chicago Booth.

Chicago Booth student Julia Jain teaches a yoga class on Zoom

Do you currently pursue other passions?

I started yoga when I was back in high school and have always wanted to be a yoga instructor. I completed my teacher training in 2016 and taught yoga at CorePower Yoga for a couple of years. Lately, I took it back up again because throughout the pandemic I’ve felt a loss of community and human connection. I teach yoga weekly again to my Chicago Booth community, friends, family, really anyone I’ve connected with as it’s kind of grown each week. Yoga is a silver lining from the pandemic because it’s been such a fun way to feel connected to people and to have a sense of community.

What is the most important skill you took away from your time at Booth so far?

Confidence and being assertive. Coming into the MBA program with a non-traditional background, I felt a little uncertain as to the value I would bring to the table. Throughout my courses in leadership and as a Graduate Women in Business (GWB) co-chair, I have improved my ability to say what I believe and to speak to my experiences with more confidence. I think the courses and discussions that are facilitated at Chicago Booth push you in a good way, to say what you believe confidently, and be open to other people’s perspectives.

Booth MBA student Julian Jain with colleagues at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

Why did you choose to become a co-chair of Graduate Women in Business?

In my work experience as a speech pathologist, almost everyone in my organization is a woman; I work with a group of really strong women. The male to female ratio at Chicago Booth is very different, so I wanted to seek out a group of women with whom I could build a support network. As I attended GWB’s events, I found this group of women to be very supportive, sincere, and genuinely wanting to build each other up. I decided to apply to become a co-chair because I wanted to have the opportunity to foster that kind of support network for future Boothies coming in. I started as a co-chair right when the pandemic began so I’ve been able to foster connections with fellow Boothies and have a direct impact on programming.

What is your favorite GWB event? What other signature events should we know about?

We lead Coffee and Tea events, which are meant to be casual conversations about topics our members are interested in discussing with others. During the pandemic, we noticed Boothies bringing up topics in our GWB Slack channel that they had questions about. For example, there was a ton of discussion about family planning as a female leader in business. We ended up having a Coffee and Tea chat around that subject and included male allies. People who had gone through this shared their experiences. These chats are meant to be a safe space, an open conversation, and an opportunity for us to hear each other’s stories. I love these events because they give us the forum to have meaningful dialogue in a casual setting and allow us to connect together.

Our signature event each year is International Women's Day. Typically it is one day with a variety of events and panels, but this year it will be spread over a number of days. This year’s theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. The idea is that we can all choose to challenge and identify gender bias and inequality. We can choose to speak out and celebrate women’s achievements and come together to create a more inclusive world. From challenge comes change. We are working hard to integrate this theme into our programming.

Which woman has inspired you most at Chicago Booth?

Professor Linda Ginzel. I haven’t taken her class but I work with another co-chair to spotlight Chicago Booth female faculty. We interview women professors and create videos on our Instagram channel to give students an insider peek. Linda was the first interview we did. She has had such an incredible career with many achievements and when I was interviewing her, she was so sincere and captivating with her words. She had many suggestions for growing as a leader and spoke about reflecting on who you are, what you value, and how that can make you a more impactful leader. Linda talks about structural integrity, in which it is important to find strength and courage and believe in yourself in order to be a strong leader to others.

Who is a woman outside of Chicago Booth that you look up to and why?

My mom has a lot of qualities that inspire me. She’s empathic and kind towards others. She goes out of her way to connect with others and is genuinely interested to learn about their experiences. She is always there to listen. I am lucky to have her as a role model and I value the warmth she brings to those around her.

What advice do you have for current and prospective students?

For prospective students, something I found helpful in the application process was reflecting on ways that my life experiences, career experiences, and volunteering made me unique and related to my long-term career goals. That allowed me to think about how I could contribute to the community and classroom at Chicago Booth. People at Booth value learning from one another, collaborating, and having discussions that come from a variety of viewpoints.

For current students, go to any club event or leadership workshop that’s offered by Chicago Booth that interests you. These events have helped shape what I want my career to look like and what industries and functions I’m interested in pursuing.

Be kind to yourself and take breaks. In this virtual environment, it’s so easy to be constantly plugged in and over-work yourself. Taking time out of your day to take a break is important!