2016 MBAs To Watch: Kera Bartlett, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

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Kera Bartlett

Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University

Age: 29

Hometown: Piedmont, CA

Undergraduate School and Degree: Occidental College, Bachelor of Arts in Diplomacy and World Affairs

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The Clearing Inc. as a Management Consultant in Washington, DC

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Johnson & Johnson as a Consumer Marketing Summer Associate in Fort Washington, PA

Where will you be working after graduation? Veeva Systems as a Product Marketing Manager in Pleasanton, CA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • President, Graduate Business Association (GBA)
  • Chair, Discover CMU Cross-Campus Collaboration Committee
  • Chair, Graduate Business Association Academic Committee
  • Project Manager, CMU Idea (Space) Cross-Campus Interdisciplinary Competition
  • Communications Coach, Accelerate Leadership Center
  • Student Representative Speaker, Groundbreaking Ceremonies, CMU Tepper Quadrangle

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leading the creation of the Tepper School’s first-ever Culture Statement gives me considerable gratification. I spent the summer at Johnson & Johnson, a company with a clear, visible, and firmly rooted credo that makes it easy for employees to align their actions with the company’s vision and values. Upon returning to school last fall, I realized that our MBA community lacked this valuable common view of our values and aspirations. I partnered with the GBA Marketing Officer to gather and synthesize ideas from key administrators, alumni, and current students. Using these inputs, we developed a first draft of the culture statement and released it to the student body for input. The draft touched on topics such as developing ourselves into analytically empowered leaders, succeeding with our classmates, not at their expense, and embracing our diverse blend of people and perspectives. This feedback process catalyzed fierce, reflective conversations within the student body about how our community behaves today and what we hope to become — conversations that ultimately brought us closer together. After several rounds of edits, I am proud to say that we produced a robust culture statement that reflects our tight-knit Tepper School MBA community and hopefully will inspire students for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The establishment of The Clearing’s Pro-Bono Consulting Program is my proudest professional accomplishment. After privately organizing a strategy session for one of my favorite local nonprofits, I saw that we could have greater impact if we formalized and expanded strategy sessions beyond the one-off approach into a sustainable pro-bono consulting program. The program I designed and implemented asked our clients to nominate small, local nonprofits for a pro-bono strategy session. Nominees included organizations such as Higher Achievement, an after-school and summer program for low-income public school students. Senior consultants mentored junior consultants as they delivered a strategy session for these worthy nonprofits. To date, the program has worked with seven local nonprofits, with one finding so much value in the experience that they participated three years in a row. Through the creation of this program, I was able to identify and seize an opportunity to create value for our organization, our employees, our clients, and our local community.

Who is your favorite professor? Professor Robert Kelley, who taught my Customer-Driven Strategies and Developing Star Performers courses. Throughout my life, my best teachers have not only conveyed valuable content in a compelling way, but also shifted the way I think and see the world. At the Tepper School, Professor Kelley and his courses exceeded this standard and armed me with new perspectives that will allow me to make a greater impact in my organizations and communities.

Favorite MBA Courses? Customer-Driven Strategies, Developing Star Performers, Marketing Research, Negotiations, and Acting for Business.

Why did you choose this business school? Coming in with a strong qualitative background, I was looking for a business school that would outfit me with the analytical abilities I needed to become an impactful business leader. The Tepper School instills a powerful combination of leadership and analytical skills that enable me and my peers to confront complex business issues, make data-based decisions, and lead teams and organizations. Combined with the small class size and tight-knit community, I knew the Tepper School was the best choice for my MBA.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Learning and living in the most diverse community I’ve ever been a part of. The opportunity to collaborate with, travel with, and become friends with people from different countries, professional and academic backgrounds, and ideologies has been my favorite aspect of the business school experience.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Before entering business school, I always prided myself on being a strong individual performer, someone who efficiently and effectively saw through tough tasks to completion. Through my business school experience, I’ve realized that the qualities and behaviors that made me a strong individual contributor are not necessarily the ones I will need to become a great manager and leader. Within this broad lesson, the idea that vulnerability can be a strength in leadership has been the hardest aspect for me to adopt and the one that has spurred my most profound growth over the past two years.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was surprised by how much I grew as a person during my business school experience. I’m more empathetic, a better problem-solver, and more confident than I was two years ago. This personal growth has seeped into every area of my life, and I expect that going forward these changes will be as impactful as the business training I received through the Tepper School program.

What was the hardest part of business school? With so many opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun, managing my time was the hardest part of business school. There are many different paths one can create within the MBA program. It has been challenging at times to confidently select one initiative, like a leadership role or an internship, at the expense of other great opportunities. This was especially hard in the first semester of the program but became easier as my priorities clarified.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? The Tepper School is a small, tight-knit community that asks each member to contribute their own unique skills to benefit their peers. We succeed with others, not at their expense. I’d advise applicants to show that they are willing to give of themselves to help others and to convey how they plan to contribute to the community. Whether they share an anecdote about going out of their way to help colleagues at work, or suggest ideas for new initiatives or club events, it’s important to demonstrate one’s ability and intent to contribute to the Tepper community.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I had my third star-performing female MBA boss in a row.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… working as a strategy consultant, likely in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, when she visited campus last fall. Her authenticity, intellect, and devotion to her company, her team, and her family made a very strong impression on me. I hope someday that I can strike the balance she demonstrated of being a strong, authentic woman leader and a mother.

What are your long-term professional goals? Long-term, I would like to take on a marketing leadership role at a technology company that enables people to live healthier, fuller lives. Healthcare and access to education have long been passions for me. I see incredible opportunities for technology to improve peoples’ health and create educational opportunities in the U.S. and around the world.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the help of many, and most directly in my MBA journey my fiancé Nat Binns. He has been unconditionally supportive of me pursuing my MBA, counsels me when I struggle or have doubts, and heartily shares in my successes. I have made more of my MBA experience because of his encouragement. I am so grateful to have a partner like him.

Fun fact about yourself: I am an accomplished pole vaulter. I was on the Division III All-American team in college, and I earned the bronze medal for the United States in the international Maccabiah Games in Israel in 2013.

Favorite book: Angels in America by Tony Kushner

Favorite movie: Pride and Prejudice

Favorite musical performer: Sara Bareilles

Favorite television show: “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”

Favorite vacation spot: Portugal

Hobbies? Yoga and meditation, tea, horseback riding, Airbnb host

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

“Kera Bartlett is well deserving of this recognition. I have worked closely with Kera in my role as senior associate dean at the Tepper School while Kera served as president of our Graduate Business Association. Kera was elected to this position in the middle of her first year in the program, serving as only the second female GBA president at the Tepper School. Kera and her vice president met biweekly with the school administration (me, the dean, and the head of the MBA program) to share student perspectives and provide input. She effectively balanced an optimistic and positive outlook with serious presentation of students’ needs.

“Kera is a natural leader, able to think strategically and act tactically. By focusing on her peers’ professional and personal needs, she made the Tepper School a better place. Here are a few examples of her accomplishments and activities:

  • Led the creation of a new Tepper Culture Statement by identifying the need for a unifying statement for the MBA student community, soliciting feedback from key stakeholders, and managing the process such that people felt heard and their inputs considered.
  • Worked closely with the incoming GBA leadership to ensure transition to the next class.
  • Helped to integrate efforts regarding women’s leadership programming for the school. Brought together efforts spearheaded by the school’s Accelerate Leadership Center and the Tepper Women in Business club.
  • Proposed and secured funding for a faculty and student lunch program. She enrolled professors, communicated the opportunity to students, and led the GBA Academic Committee to execute a pilot program. She then collected feedback from participants and presented a compelling case for the school to continue supporting the program going forward.

“In addressing student life, Kera responded quickly and proactively to student needs. In responding to student stress, she founded a “Treat Yo’ Self” student appreciation series to provide mood-boosting treats and opportunity for GBA members to listen to student concerns. She started the Tepper Health Challenge to encourage students to form teams and set health or wellness goals after the long, cold winter.

“In addition to her contributions within the school, Kera committed herself to having an impact campus-wide. She drove results as chairwoman of the Discover CMU cross-campus committee: Team members executed a Robotics Case Competition (including students from business, public policy, and engineering schools), multiple cross-program social mixers, and lunch-and-learns. She also made it easier for MBA students to take courses at other schools. Kera demonstrated her leadership by giving team members significant autonomy in these projects; her role was to keep the whole committee moving forward in pursuit of mission.

“I hope it’s clear from this that Kera’s contribution went beyond what one would expect from president of the GBA. She balances a strong task orientation with significant people skills to accomplish her goals. The school is a better place as a result of her efforts.”

Laurie Weingart

Senior Associate Dean of Education

Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University




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