My Story: From Zimbabwe To A Stanford MBA

by Lauren Everitt on

Stanford is best described as just mind-blowing. I’m not just talking about the school’s landscaping. It’s mind-blowing to be in this environment where you have such a diverse group of people doing incredible things in so many different fields.  My classmates are extremely intelligent but also very humble. It’s like talking to people to have the right words to say at the right time.

They’ve all done impressive things. You walk down the corridor and you talk to guys who have founded companies or started schools in Africa. It can actually be quite intimidating because there might be an expert on a particular topic in class, but often you’d never know it. I’m inspired by the impact they’ve made.

Apart from that, Stanford has a grade-nondisclosure policy. That just adds to the collaboration. It really makes the environment very risk free to help someone else – even for those who have ambitions of getting great grades.  As a result, I really get to benefit from my extremely smart classmates who know about a specific subject matter.

I also found it mind-blowing how the professors actually take an active interest in what you’re doing. For example, one of my professors spent an entire quarter with me investigating the possibility of setting up a paper mill in Zimbabwe.

Condoleezza Rice is one of our professors. I was starstruck when she taught my first quarter course about the role of business in politics. We also have great speakers.  Just recently the CEO of Microsoft and the chairman of Ferrari came to talk to us.

Stanford is also transformational.  There’s a class called Interpersonal Dynamics. It’s an iconic class I’d heard about before I came to Stanford. It was hyped up, but I didn’t realize the true value of it until I started taking it this quarter.

It’s really fascinating.  You learn how your interactions with other people affect them. I’m discovering things about myself that are not directly apparent to me, but are apparent to other people. It has brought me along this incredible journey of self realization and made me more conscious about how my actions might affect others.

For me the best advice came from my parents, particularly my father. He believed in hard work and education. Rather than verbal advice, I think he really communicated to me through his actions. He was an agriculturist working for the Zimbabwe government. He oversaw the national livestock herd so he would drive long distances to visit the farms.  He would get up at 3 a.m. to get on the road and come home at 11 p.m. and get back on the road the next morning.  He worked hard, but he’d never whine about being overworked, even the in face of Zimbabwe’s economic hardships, which naturally affected the agriculture sector.

My father also steered me toward academics. I swam and played basketball for Zimbabwe’s national junior teams, so I was very keen to continue. But my dad made it clear that the priority should be academics.  Based on his advice, I was able to access avenues of further development, such as coming to Stanford. I would not have been able to get this experience had it not been for my father, because I was never really an academic.

In Africa, a lot of parents realize after their first child that their childhood dreams could potentially be very difficult to achieve. So the next thing they think about is their children’s future. So I saw my mother and father living their lives in a manner that always tried to secure my future out their love.

The greatest challenge I’ve ever faced is what necessitated my move from Zimbabwe to South Africa. In 2008 my father was diagnosed with chronic renal failure. He needed to access dialysis for treatment.  The local currency was in hyperinflation, so I needed to earn money for his medical expenses in a foreign currency.

The intervening period between when my dad was diagnosed and when I eventually left Deloitte in Zimbabwe to join the consulting arm in South Africa was pretty challenging.  At that point you don’t really know how things are going to work out. It’s difficult to know how to raise enough money to pay for the medication.

My dad passed away in 2009.  But looking back, his illness actually brought my family closer together as a unit. Humans tend to find ways to make things work. You always adapt to the situation that you’re in, and you have to find a way to optimize what you have. That experience led to the toilet paper company.  My mom now runs it as the CEO.

Ultimately, I cannot name a single event that changed my life. A series of small events each provided stepping stones that created the path that eventually got me here today. But there were significant inflection points within that, one being my dad’s diagnosis with chronic renal failure.

Otherwise, the challenges that we faced as country, economic challenges that is, helped me to reflect on what we had lost economically as a country.

Through that, I witnessed a spirit of mirco-entrepreneurship develop.  That sprit made me want to take part in restoring my country’s economy, even in some small, modest way.  Those small companies that people start, they all contribute to our economy, so that’s where I want to go with my life.

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  • Stormin Honesty

    Lets be honest. Wall street, was always his objective, lets just be honest, don’t BS us about caring for Africa……… How by getting paid personally and giving back to Africa……. in the imaginary future. Go back to Africa later….. Yeah right.

    I have no respect for people who are not honest enough to say it straight.
    If he wanted to learn about business, then wall street is not the place, industry is.

    Integrity is all that matters when you are on your death bed.

  • Comment free

    I agree, smart way to get in though,

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