2016 MBAs To Watch: Kaitlin Sheehan, Penn State (Smeal)

Kaitlin Sheehan-Penn State-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Kaitlin Sheehan

Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

Age: 31

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Undergraduate School and Degree: Johns Hopkins University, BS Environmental Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Environmental Planner
  • Environmental Resources Management, Project Engineer
  • HDR Engineering, Staff Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Ford Motor Company – Dearborn, Michigan

Where will you be working after graduation? Ford Motor Company, Plant Environmental Control Engineer.

I’ll be focused on developing environmental subject matter expertise, building a broad understanding of the environmental aspects of Ford operations, and establishing strategies to support the achievement of environmental and sustainability business plan objectives.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Graduate assistant for Associate Dean Brian Cameron, Penn State Net Impact

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I took Professor Judd Michael’s Sustainable Business Strategies course and, based on my interest and involvement in the class, I was presented with the opportunity to develop a sustainability report for the Pocono NASCAR Raceway. The raceway is heavily involved in sustainability initiatives but this will be the first sustainability report for the organization. I’m proud to have a role in developing their first report and for that reason it’s a memorable part of my Penn State MBA experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my work achievements with the city of Philadelphia’s public transit agency, SEPTA. I led a team to develop and implement an environmental and sustainability management system. I was successful in obtaining ISO 14001 certification of the management system, the first such certification in the organization’s history.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Denny Gioia. Professor Gioia taught the Management course at Penn State. His lectures were extremely relatable to what I had experienced thus far in my career and I often found myself leaving his class wishing I had known some of his lessons earlier. I’m looking forward to applying what I learned in his course moving forward in my career.

Favorite MBA Courses? Management, Power & Influence, Integrated Strategic Communications

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Penn State for a number of different reasons. Most importantly, it was the sense of community and welcoming environment that I experienced when I first visited the program. After I sat in on a class and spoke with current students, I knew this was a place where I would be happy to spend the next two years studying. I wanted to attend a smaller program where I could really get to know my classmates and have more personal interaction with faculty, but still have access to the vast resources that are offered throughout the university. Penn State was able to provide that experience for me and I’m so happy I came here.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Business school has been a very positive experience for me. I most enjoyed being in a fast-paced learning environment, surrounded by motivated and talented peers. Every day has brought new challenges and opportunities that enabled me to learn and grow.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? I think business school has helped me to become more persistent in the pursuit of my goals. Coming into the program with a different career path than most of my peers, I quickly had to learn how to be more active in creating what I wanted out of the business school experience. I learned a lot about myself during the process and I’m so very proud that I was able to find the job of my dreams as a result of my experience here.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I came to business school prepared to work hard over the two-year time frame. What I didn’t expect was how many great friends I would walk away with following completion of the program. The opportunity to travel with my class to Shanghai as part of the Global Immersion course was an amazing opportunity. Being able to share that experience with my classmates has also allowed me to make some great friends. I have already continued to travel with some of those classmates who were on the trip, and I look forward lifelong friendships as a result.

What was the hardest part of business school? The most difficult part of business school has been time management. I always thought of myself as an organized and efficient person, but business school offered so many opportunities that it was difficult to take advantage of everything I wanted to do. Between classes, homework, team meetings, an internship/job search, and other school events, there was very little time left at the end of the day. I quickly had to learn how to prioritize like I had never done before. The time management lesson was especially difficult during the first year, when the coursework was the most demanding. Coming out of this experience, I feel like I have the capacity to manage more than I ever thought I could have.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? My best advice is that two years goes by extremely quickly, so you should have a good idea of what you want out of the experience and start planning for it on day one.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… the colleagues whom I admired at work had MBAs.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… still working in an environmental sustainability role but struggling to build the business case that will help me sell my ideas to others in the organization.”

What are your long-term professional goals? Long-term, I want to lead a corporate sustainability program.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my family for my success. My parents and brother have been there every step of the way, encouraging me to pursue my academic and career goals. I’m doubtful I would be where I am today without their support and guidance.

Fun fact about yourself: I love to learn and I try to continuously experience new things outside of school. As a result, I’ve enrolled in a number of classes over the past few years including archery, glassblowing, pottery, cake decorating, beer brewing, horseback riding, surfing, and pastry making.

Favorite book: The Great Gatsby

Favorite movie: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I watch it every year.

Favorite musical performer: Mike Snow

Favorite television show: “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad”

Favorite vacation spot: Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Hobbies? Traveling, yoga, trying new restaurants, and reading

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

“I nominate Miss Sheehan, not only for her professionalism and leadership in the classroom, but primarily for her dedication to making sustainability her core mission to her course work, internship, and full-time employment. Many MBAs come back to school to create a stepping stone to a new career path. Kaitlin was certainly in this camp, as she wanted to find a different path that built upon her outstanding consulting experience. This was evident to me late in her second year of study, as her assignments continually focused on sustainability. As we got to know each other, I learned about her summer internship with this and Ford and her efforts to help them with several sustainability efforts. In the process, I also learned about her work with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), as environmental planner. Kaitlin has a great ability to talk about these matters with confidence and pride without sounding boastful. She is a great member of our MBA community, and I am proud that she will carry the Penn State name forward as she makes her mark on the business world.

“This year, I learned of Ford offering her full-time employment, and I am confident that they will see — first hand — the value she brings to the firm as she helps them find the gentle balance between sound business practice and sustainability.”

Duane “Andy” Gustafson
Associate Professor of Leadership Communication
Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College of Business   

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