2016 Best MBAs: Jessica Davlin, Duke Fuqua

Jessica Davlin Duke Fuqua

Jessica Davlin


Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“I’d heard school was busy, but I consider myself to be pretty good at time management. However, until I was in the throes of a full course load, recruiting, classwork, and extracurricular activities, I didn’t fully comprehend just how little time there was in the day. It’s a different kind of busy compared to working full-time. While it was occasionally a challenge to manage, it forced me to be intentional with my time. Throughout this process, I was surprised at how much I learned about myself, especially during first year.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

Undergraduate School and Degree: Duke University, BA Public Policy Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The White House (National Security Council), Special Assistant to the U.S. Cybersecurity Coordinator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Microsoft, Redmond, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft, Business Program Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: MBA Association (MBAA) Community Service Chair; Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE) Fellow; Career Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am really passionate about giving back and I am proud that I was able to strengthen Fuqua’s ties to the community and provide opportunities for students to serve in Durham.

Last year, I started a “Spring of Service” initiative and worked with different organizations in the community to provide students with various volunteer opportunities across an array of causes throughout the spring term. We are continuing the “Spring of Service” initiative again this year and I hope it will become a longstanding Fuqua tradition. I feel so fortunate to be at a school like Duke and to have so many incredible opportunities, so it’s important to me to keep things in perspective and to take time to give back to others that aren’t as fortunate. I am proud that so many of my classmates have also answered this call and it has been inspiring to see my peers serving others and extending the “Team Fuqua” spirit outside of the classroom.     

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working in public service was an amazing opportunity and I am proud to have served alongside so many bright, dedicated, and hard-working people in government. I don’t know if there is one specific achievement that I am most proud of, but prior to working at The White House I worked at the FBI on a team dedicated to managing significant organizational change to meet the rapidly evolving cyber threat. My team worked on internal and external policy issues, and I’m very proud of the work we did to further the Bureau’s mission – much of it behind the scenes. Knowing I was able to give back and help make an impact in an area that affects our national security is very rewarding.

Favorite MBA Courses? Strategy Implementation, Marketing Strategy, Leading and Managing Human Assets and Organizational Change, Corporate Finance

Why did you choose this business school? The decision to attend Duke was a no-brainer. I wanted to be in a collaborative, supportive environment and the “Team Fuqua” culture really resonated with me. The values of Team Fuqua – such as collective diversity, authentic engagement, and impactful stewardship – are exemplified by students day in and day out. These values hold everyone to a higher standard and it was evident to me that students strive to create a community of respect and encouragement. Additionally, I was attracted to the “leader of consequence” philosophy at Fuqua. Going back to school is an investment and I wanted to ensure I’d have a meaningful experience, not a transactional one. I feel challenged at Duke to think beyond the bottom line and find solutions to benefit the greater good, and having this perspective when I graduate is something that was incredibly important to me. Fuqua was the clear frontrunner as a place where I could focus as much on my leadership development as on my classroom studies.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The people I’ve met have been phenomenal. My classmates never cease to amaze me and I feel so lucky to have had the privilege of working with such a diverse and impressive group of peers. I’ve enjoyed getting to know people from all over the globe and learning about new cultures. For instance, I just returned from a trip to Israel, led by five of my Israeli classmates. The opportunity to travel with them to their home country and experience a slice of their life was such a special experience.

I’ve also enjoyed mentoring and getting to know a small group of first year students through my experience as a COLE Fellow. COLE Fellows guide teams through their first year leadership development journey. It’s been rewarding in all of the ways it has allowed me to grow and develop as a leader. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve formed with first year students and the incredible cohort of other COLE Fellows. I am so thankful for the experience and certainly view it as a highlight of my time at Fuqua.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I began working with a senior executive who convinced me of the value of applying a business lens to public sector work and encouraged me to think about an MBA.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working on policy issues at the FBI, but definitely thinking about applying to business school.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I most admire my old manager and mentor, Sasha O’Connell, Chief of the Office of National Policy at the FBI. Not only is she incredibly passionate about her work, but she also manages tough situations with grace. She provided such a positive influence in my professional career and has been an incredible role model. Sasha is one of the most humble and good-natured people I know.

Perhaps what I admire most is her genuine leadership style. She really takes the time to get to know people, always putting her team first, and can motivate others to work towards a common goal. It’s admirable that despite a busy schedule and stressors in the workplace, she is always approachable and invested in others’ development. She has taught me valuable leadership lessons that I strive to emulate.

What are your long-term professional goals? I very much want to stay in the tech space, but I am passionate about public service and would like to return to government one day. Given the fact that the private sector owns much of the tech infrastructure, but the government is formulating policies, I think it’s incredibly important to understand how both sides operate and are incentivized. After gaining private sector experience, my long-term goal is to return to government as an executive and make an impact in the technology policy space.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I’d like to thank my family for their support, specifically my parents (Tom and Leslie Davlin). They’ve made a lot of sacrifices over the years to enable me to be where I am today and I would not be where I am without them. I believe their commitment to my education opened up numerous opportunities. Additionally, having their unconditional love and knowing I can always count on them has led me to take risks and challenge myself to do better. Overall, the values my parents instilled in me have given me a strong sense of purpose, which pushes me to do good each and every day.

Fun fact about yourself: Duke is the only school I’ve ever applied to! (for undergrad and grad)

Favorite book: The Kite Runner

Favorite movie: Forrest Gump

Favorite musical performer: Coldplay

Favorite television show: House of Cards

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Town, South Africa

Hobbies? Running, hiking, yoga, travel, Duke basketball

What made Jessica such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Jess Davlin was recently nominated by another student for representing the best of Team Fuqua. That nomination concluded with the statement, “Jess is someone you want on your team, on your side, and she undoubtedly represents Fuqua and Duke in the most favorable light.” I could not agree more. In so many ways, Jess has selflessly and authentically given of her time to help others develop and make Fuqua a better place. Through her role as the VP of Service for Fuqua’s student government, she has elevated all that we do around community service with the Durham community, including activities like Project Share, where students provided hundreds of holiday gifts to individuals and families in need. That care extends to her classmates. The nomination continues to highlight Jess as “helping her classmates achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals. Whether it’s prepping for case interviews or presentations, providing career advice, or just listening to someone’s personal issues, she never neglects an opportunity to support a classmate.”

As a COLE (Center on Leadership and Ethics) Fellow she has mentored our first year student teams and helped design and execute an end-of-year capstone day designed around personal growth and reflection. All of these activities, which are committed to the development of others, are an authentic representation of who Jess is. This level of commitment to others is personally rewarding for me to see, primarily because it is born from a student advocating for the things that are important to her.

Finally, Jess is just someone who is interesting to spend time with. She ran cross country for Duke as an undergrad, worked for the FBI and for the White House on cybersecurity, and is transitioning to the private sector with Microsoft.” — Russ Morgan, Associate Dean, The Duke MBA – Daytime and Master of Management Studies, Professor of the Practice of Marketing

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business


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