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Reaching Out: One Woman at a Time

by Sharmistha Singh
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
Indiana University – Bloomington (Kelley School of Business)

Since I started the process of applying to Business schools, I started to notice the gender gap that existed within not just Business schools but my own industry and company as well.  While embarking on the process and trying to figure out my goals, there were many times where I wanted to be able to reach out to other women in my industry who had taken the same path, however, there were far but few of them.  So it became apparent that, within the previous generation in India, not many women had chosen roles within business, or the ones who had were hesitant to explain to me the rationale behind their decisions and how I could benefit from an MBA.

Forward a year later, coming to the U.S. and being selected as a Forté Fellow by Kelley changed a lot for me.  Not only did I get a support system to talk to and feed off of in terms of ideas and opinions, but it made me realize that I could be a part of these organizations and help the next generation of businesswomen as well.

So, the question frequently arises, I know I want to move forward in my career, and I feel I lack certain skills and resources, but how will the MBA specifically benefit me? This is one of the toughest questions to answer during the application process, and one that should not be answered alone.

I implore all women applying to Business schools to contact students who are open to discussing their journey. This can be done online, and in certain cases, please feel free to contact the schools and ask for references to women who are pursuing their MBA.

Some great questions to ask can revolve around how the college has helped the women to tailor their elevator pitch, their resume, their company research, as well as how resourceful and open the alumni of the school have been in speaking to them regarding internships and full time jobs.

Additionally, please don’t hesitate to dive into the details, such as, which companies regularly visit campus for information sessions and how taking specific courses or electives helped them perform during their internship.  The MBA requires a lot of hard work, and knowing and preparing yourself for what is to come, will make your transition much smoother and your journey much more rewarding.


Upcoming Webinars This Week: Careers with Social Impact and the Call for Strong Women Leaders in Education, Jan. 13; MBA Admissions Insider: After Your Application Is In, Jan. 15; and Navigating Conflict, Contention and Competing Perspectives, Jan. 16

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Why You Should Consider An MBA

by Victoria Young
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)

Have lunch with the founders of a company that just made a multimillion dollar exit, see the CTO of the White House speak about the impact of Big Data, interview the CEO of a local startup for a class project, and end your night seeing traditional Japanese kimonos modeled at a cultural fashion show by your classmates. This is a sample of a very typical day in a busy week for me at MIT Sloan and is irrefutable evidence to me that my decision to get an MBA was one of the best I have ever made.

What ultimately makes an MBA special is the opportunity to re-experience something utterly unique: a return to the university, an environment rigged for learning, exploration, and connection. Escaping from the grind of professional life, you have an opportunity to rejoin an environment designed to help you develop academically, personally, professionally.

But like anything in life, an MBA is what you make of it. When done right, returning to a university can offer you a wealth of resources within a structured environment that will empower you to grow and fully realize your own potential. So, what are the best reasons for getting an MBA?

1. Meet Fascinating People.

The sheer volume of people you are exposed to while in an MBA program is jaw-dropping. Just taking into account my incredible classmates, there is a mezzo-soprano opera singer, Olympic athlete, and prolific tech journalist. Many of these people will become your lifelong friends who share your interests and aspirations. Throw in lunches, conferences, talks, hackathons, volunteer events, class projects and speakers (all of which happen every week), your exposure to fascinating people will not only inspire you, but help you learn valuable lessons. Which takes me to my next point…

2. Be Exposed To New Experiences And Ideas.

From classes to school-sponsored programs, you will have the opportunity to learn about and experience things you never even knew existed. MIT, especially, is rich with these opportunities, from hands-on action learning labs in India to study tours to visit companies like Spotify and Zara.

3. Accelerated Learning.

Of course, you also learn important skills and build a knowledge base that will help prepare you to create, manage, and lead an organization. In my rigorous 7-class schedule, I am often simultaneously working on my presentation skills, learning how to analyze decision models, and developing competitive frameworks. Unlike your experience as an undergraduate, you are now armed with years of real world business experience, so classes give you fascinating tools to apply to problems you have dealt with firsthand or will can easily foresee yourself encountering in the future. The material has context and therefore is extremely powerful.

4. New Doors Will Open.

This structure of accelerated learning will of course lead to new opportunities as recruiters, professors, and companies take interest in the knowledge you have invested in developing. Companies from Google to McKinsey actively recruit straight from MBA campuses. Want to start your own company? There’s no better place – most programs now have an accelerator and entrepreneurship building on campus, such as the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT.

5. Experience Personal and Professional Growth.

Lastly, you will experience extremely rewarding advances in your personal and professional growth. The challenges in the program will help you learn about yourself more and aid you far beyond just developing your presentation skills. The diversity of your classmates and experiences will give you a deep sense of self-awareness and empathy that can create defining self-growth at a critical point in your career.

Personally, I knew I needed to jump out of my comfort zone and into an environment that would be rich with resources and opportunities to spur my growth. Everything is what you make of it and finding the right program for you is a critical component of having a truly pivotal, valuable, and rewarding MBA experience. By knowing yourself and putting in enough due diligence to understand what each school can offer you, you can invest in an experience that will help shape and accelerate the rest of your career.


New College Webinars: Career Paths: Focus on Finance and Career Paths: Focus on Consulting, on-demand

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What is the First Step to Tackle My Essay?

by Diana Dai
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
Duke (The Fuqua School of Business)

As this year’s first round deadline for MBA application is approaching, some of my friends anxiously came to me for advice about the whole process, especially about essay writing.  And one of the most frequently asked question is what should I do first? After repeatedly sharing my two cents, it occurred to me maybe I should write down some of the tips I found useful to ace MBA application essays.

Before jumping into “dreadful” essay writing, SELF REFLECTION is crucial to strategize your application package, and the deliverable is the one or two key words you would like to emphasize on in your whole package, including the essay, the resume and the online application information.

Start by ask yourself several questions:

  • What are my most outstanding skills and characteristics?
  • What helped me succeed in the past?

Sometimes, it is difficult to have a whole picture of yourself if you dive too deep in your own memory. It is always great practice to ask others. Seek feedback from people who know you well, including but not limited to friends, your teacher, your parents, and colleagues etc.

  • What is their impression about you?
  • What unique thing did they found about you and why?

Remember to ask for specific stories and encounters.

Such quires will eventually land you bunch of stories and a list of adverbs about yourself.  Categorize them into two groups: skill and characteristics. And then pick up one or two most mentioned words from the two categories. Now you have your keys words for the whole package. This will guide you on story selection and essay structuring.

Some might find it difficult, especially to ask others for feedback. Take this as a process of self-exploring rather than a competing task can make you feel less stressed. Believe me, I’ve been there, and when I looked back at my application process, I feel grateful to those essay questions that drove me a better understanding of my past, present and future.

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First Impression of B-School

by Erin Nusbaum Rehm
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2014
Goizueta Business School (Emory)

My name is Erin Nusbaum Rehm. I am a 28 year old Emory Eagle with nearly six years of Corporate Finance experience under my belt.

I am also a Vanderbilt Commodore with a BA in Economics. I decided to enroll in the One Year Program at Emory’s Goizueta Business School because of the world-class education offered and because of the passion that radiates from every alum, faculty member, current student, GBS administrator and heck, even the custodian. I wanted to be part of that community and share that passion. Everything had led me to this moment – this exhausted, sleep-deprived, enriched, enthused moment.

What I didn’t anticipate was how excited I would be for each class, how I actually don’t mind the Socratic method, or how professors will lovingly grill you until you reach an acceptable answer. How incredibly gifted all my classmates are in their fields. How much I can learn from the people sitting next to me. How lucky I am to be here.

Sure the team meetings run long, the readings never end and the need for eight hours of sleep is a distant past, but once I took a step back and looked at this semester as a whole for a moment, it dawned on me:  the classes are all related to one another, each lecture is built upon the last, and very similar overarching lessons are being taught through several different lenses. It is all connected! For example, I think we have discussed different strategy choices of companies in at least four different classes. In undergrad, as wonderful as it was, each class I took was discrete and singularly-focused. At Goizueta, it all weaves together in a magical way.

All this talk about Academics would make one believe that all we do is work. Well, my friends, that simply is not true. One of our class’s new favorite pastimes is the weekly KEGS (Keeping Everyone at Goizueta Social) event in the Business School courtyard.  As one can easily predict, there are kegs of beer involved. It is a fantastic way to wind down at the end of the week and soak up some of that Vitamin D we are all so lacking. So far, my only regret about not enrolling in a two-year program is the fact that I will only be spending one year with these incredible people I met less than 6 months ago.

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Preparing for the MBA Experience: Things I Wish I Had Done with My Summer

by Kat Cinkova
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate Class of 2015
UCLA Anderson School of Management

It has been about a month since I have started classes at UCLA Anderson, and it has been the greatest experience I could have asked for. My calendar has never been so overcrowded with classes, career fairs, corporate presentations, club meetings and of course social activities. As I am making my way through these crazy, jam-packed days with my classmates, there are a few things I wish I had known before starting as an MBA that would have helped ease the transition.

Reading & Research

Depending on what career path a student is seeking, there will be varying degrees of preparation necessary for the job search. I am currently pursuing consulting, which has one of the most rigorous recruiting tracks and a very demanding interview preparation process. For anyone considering a similar career in consulting, I would recommend reading “Case in Point” by Marc Cosentino. It will not only introduce the concept of case interviews, and allow you to decide whether this path is the right one, but also gives a great head start on reading and practicing actual business cases, which is invaluable.

Network… and then Network Some More

Once school starts and the MBA experience completely engulfs your time, there will be little time to backtrack and reach out to people such as a former employer or coworker. It is therefore imperative to solidify these connections before getting to campus. Even though there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people once at school, the focus is on company representatives, recruiters and classmates and time to play catch-up will be extremely limited.

Get in the Study Habit – Even if it’s Just a Little Bit

Getting back into the swing of classes, assignments and tests is never easy, especially when there are so many other events and distractions that are constantly vying for students’ attention. Many schools offer waiver exams, and give students an opportunity to free up their schedule in the first year by passing out of some core classes. Even if waiving a class is not an option, studying statistics, accounting, economics and finance before arrival on campus will be a huge asset, and will allow a bit more free time away from studying to engage in club and career activities.

Hope you find some of these helpful, and good luck with the MBA application and preparation process!

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My MBA Journey in Europe from First Day to Graduation Day

by Karen Kagoo
Forté Fellow Alumna & MBA 2013
INSEAD

I recently graduated from the INSEAD MBA program. For my first post, I am sharing my thoughts from last September before I started at INSEAD. Watch for my posts over the next few months, as I will let you know how things actually turned out.

Every time I told acquaintances I was moving with my boys to start school in France they gave me a look of utter bafflement. My husband and I made the trek from sunny California with our feisty 9 month old (going on five) and our five year old (always 9 month old puppy) German Shepherd.

The day we arrived in France we had our hummer of a stroller which is hard to miss and takes its own parking space and our dog in his giant crate which looked like our entire family lived in it. We had our belongings packed neatly into three suitcases of which the airlines helpfully lost one, and at that point I was baffled as well. But the feeling soon passed and I continued on to contemplating about my life changing 10 months. I imagine it will parallel my pregnancy last year. The initial euphoria of finding out I was accepted will quickly be followed by the grueling first and second period. Like the first trimester, tiredness will be a constant companion along with the nervous excitement of what is to come.

The second trimester will bring relief with it that I made it through the most difficult part of the program and maybe some respite and some travel as advised usually in pregnancy. Just as I get used to the pace of life at INSEAD I will be thrown into the world of recruiting where the frenzy to get a job will be similar to the nesting before the baby’s arrival.

Soon it will be graduation day and I will walk away with a degree, earned after lots of hard work and support from my family and friends. My husband on the other hand will have an awesome ‘network without the homework’. He will also be part way through his INSEAD GEMBA (Yes, we are that couple working on our MBAs together while raising our boys). My son would have lived in two continents before he turns one and probably speak more French than the two of us put together. My GSD would have explored every rock in the forest and maybe just maybe be tired for once.

That INSEAD is one of the best business schools in the world and will without a doubt give me a boost in my career is a given. That I could not have chosen a better set of people to spend the next one year also holds true. But what I am most excited about is in addition to these perks my family also gets to be a part of this transformational journey. Before he starts speaking my 9 month old will have friends from countries whose names he or for that matter I will probably never be able to pronounce. And that makes the INSEAD experience all the more awesome.

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You’ve Sent in Your First Round Applications… Now What?

by Kat Cinkova
Forté Fellow & MBA Candidate 2015
UCLA Anderson School of Management

Today was the first day of my career as an MBA student, and I could not be more excited about what the next two years have in store. The energy within our class of 2015 is incredible, and I am looking forward to sharing bits and pieces of what is sure to be a life changing experience here with you.

Applying to business schools, especially if there are more than a few on the list, can be an extremely time consuming and somewhat daunting process. However, putting maximum thought and effort into each application is definitely worth it, and only makes the moment of clicking the final submit button that much more satisfying.

So the last application has been submitted, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. No more soul searching (for the time being), no more late night research sessions, and no more stress over looming deadlines. Perfect time for a long and well-deserved break, right? Not quite. While a break is definitely in order, this is also a great time to start proactively preparing for school, and in some cases, supplementing submitted applications with additional information to enhance candidacy.

Professional developments. An important promotion or successful completion of a major project is a great reason to send a supplement to the admissions committee. During my application process I was working on a large M&A deal to sell off a company subsidiary, but the information was not yet public. Once the deal completed, I was able to send the details of my involvement in the project along with a revised copy of my resume to the AdCom.

Addressing weaknesses. Some schools recommend that students take summer classes, especially in calculus, statistics and excel, before they come to campus in the fall. Since these can get a bit expensive, it is worth checking out a few (free!) online options. I took courses in both statistics and calculus through Coursera, a great website with a multitude of free online classes taught by faculty from top schools around the country. Definitely worth it!

Interview preparation. It is never too early to start preparing for AdCom interviews, especially since they all tend to come at the same time in early spring.  Researching interview formats and preparing interview questions and answers are all constructive ways to pass the time while waiting to hear on admissions decisions, and will make life much easier down the road.

Good luck with the application process, and I look forward to meeting those of you who visit Anderson!


Upcoming Events this Week: How to Become Top Dog Webinar, Oct. 15; Part Time/Executive MBA Alumnae Panel Webinar, Oct. 17

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Is an MBA Right for You?

by Bailey Butzberger
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
Southern Methodist University (Cox School of Business)

I’ve been asking myself the same question for about three years: is business school right for me? 

After my first few intense weeks of school, I have my answer. It takes me hours to get my balance sheets to balance. I need to learn Greek in order to calculate probabilities. Every hour of the day is filled and not usually with sleep. I’ve never been so consistently busy in my life.

And I love it. Business school, as it turns out, is exactly right for me.

I was nervous about returning to school because of the quantitative nature of the work.  I’ve been doing curriculum design and training. There aren’t exactly a lot of stock valuation calculations in that line of work. However, business schools are prepared for people like me. Prior to even arriving on campus, SMU Cox was giving us online and optional in-person classes to preview the content of our Accounting, Finance, Statistics and Economics classes.

Classes are certainly still challenging, but you are far from going it alone. My classmates are extremely collaborative. It’s odd to think that I met all of them just a few weeks ago. You get very close very quickly when you sit in a room for 6 hours straight, sharing the frustration of working through difficult concepts and the ultimate celebration of completing all of your homework problems.

Even though the math doesn’t all come easily, it feels amazing to make learning my full-time job. I used to be the one designing lessons for other people, and now I get to be the one benefiting from other people’s knowledge. Being a student is a phenomenal thing.  Stressful, sure. Challenging, absolutely. But your sole job is to improve yourself. In three short weeks, I’ve learned a LOT in class. I’ve been to seminars on leadership, wealth creation, negotiations, and customer service. I’ve spoken to recruiters at Fortune 100 companies, practiced case method interviewing, created and delivered my personal elevator pitch, and joined the entrepreneurship club.

If these first few weeks are indicative of the huge amount of gain that I can expect in the next two years, then it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Business school is definitely right for me. And if you are up for a challenge, it could be right for you too.


Upcoming Events This Week: From Engineering to Business Webinar, Oct. 9

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