The Stereotype-Defying MBAs In The Class of 2018

Frances Dixon

Frances Dixon

Harvard Business School

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Striving to be part of something larger than myself. Military veteran, servant-leader, passionate and always curious.

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Fun Fact About Yourself: I tried out for the Olympic Team in synchronized swimming.

Undergraduate School and Major: Tufts University, Bachelor of Arts (double major) in International Relations and Community Health. University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Master of Science in Crisis and Emergency Management.

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

2006-2016 United States Air Force – stationed in various locations in the US, overseas and deployed

• Maintenance Operations Flight Officer-in-Charge

• Aircraft Maintenance Unit Officer-in-Charge

• Director of Maintenance

• Maintenance Operations Officer

• Maintenance Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a career maintenance officer in the U.S. Air Force, I was honored to be named the Field Grade Officer of the Year as the 2015 Lieutenant General Leo Marquez Award Winner for Maintenance Excellence in the Air Force Reserve Command. To be named the top maintenance officer in the entire Reserve Command is truly the crowning achievement of my military career thus far. It is very humbling and truly a testament to the outstanding men and women with whom I have had the honor to serve and who have mentored me along the way. Mentorship comes from all sides, and there is always something to be learned from every leadership challenge.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? To quote Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” My advice would be: Just go for it! The biggest thing standing in my way during the application was me and my fear of how my non-traditional background would play in b-school applications. Having a non-traditional background is not a show stopper and can only make you more interesting; I wish I had known that while I was applying.

As someone coming from a non-business background, I needed to work on my GMAT quant skills and based on my own experience, the best advice I can give is to hire a tutor. First, they will be less expensive than going through a formal program where you sit in a class. Second, they will be able to target your specific weak areas and focus on what you need to learn. This helped me save money and time while working and putting together the applications.

Finally, be nice to your partner/family/friends. This can be a stressful process, but having supportive people around you is very helpful. From listening to you obsess about specific wording on your application to helping choose the right shoes to wear to an interview, be sure to thank your partner/family/friends who helped you along this path. My husband was the MVP of this whole process for his patience and unparalleled support.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Quite simply, as soon as I observed a class with the case method I knew exactly where I wanted to attend. HBS’s commitment to the case method as the main tool for learning is unique, and I found it very compatible with my own learning style. As an adult, I know that I learn best from my peers and from debate and discussions that challenge my core assumptions and views, which forces me to widen my aperture and view problems from different angles and through different lenses, I am incredibly excited to participate in these discussions and to observe the diversity of thought that is present with so many people from such a wide variety of backgrounds.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? As an undergraduate, I had an opportunity to conduct research on the politicization of access to potable water and water rights in emerging economies. I hope to leverage the lessons from HBS to implement internationally-focused and responsible private business solutions to the growing economic, political, and security threat of water resource scarcity. Transitioning from the military, it is difficult to fully know exactly what I want to do after business school, but I am committed to continuing my service in a new way and working on this very important topic. There are some exceptional consulting firms and start-ups working in this space that are leading the way. With any luck, I will be fortunate enough to work with them in the future.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I would like my business school peers to say that I was a collaborative team player who helped elevate everyone’s performance.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.