Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I try to “keep [my] eyes on the stars and [my] feet on the ground.”
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Fun Fact About Yourself: I was in Athens in 2007 when the U.S. Embassy was attacked by an extremist group.
Undergraduate School and Major: Birmingham-Southern College, Business Administration
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:
Regions Financial – Management Associate/Credit Underwriter
Surgical Care Affiliates – Financial Analyst, Development
Senior Financial Analyst, Development
Senior Director, Development
ProxsysRx – Senior Vice President, Finance
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While I was at Surgical Care Affiliates working in corporate development, I was charged with saving a merger that our company had been working on for a number of years. The transaction would occur in Alaska, of all places, and would be one of the more complex transactions our team had ever worked on.
This experience was so meaningful to me because I was given the opportunity shortly after becoming a director, and it was the first time I personally led a transaction from beginning to end. There were many challenges that arose along the way, and the magnitude of the transaction was materially important to our company. It would require my collective experience, and I would be forced to draw on that experience in entirely new ways.
I personally believe the most meaningful growth comes when we are forced outside of our comfort zones. We build confidence when we rise to the occasion and find ourselves capable. This is exactly how I felt after we closed that transaction. To this day, I still reflect on everything I learned during that time, and it gives me the confidence to tackle daunting obstacles that people tend to shy away from.
Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? For me, the GMAT was the worst part of the application experience. Unfortunately, it really is a necessary evil. The perceived difficulty of this test varies widely from person-to-person, so I would be very careful about which advice you take to heart. I think most people make the mistake of focusing too much time and effort on content. Your overarching mindset towards the test is every bit as, if not more, important than the material you study. The test is meant to challenge you, and no matter how much you study, you will still miss some problems.
A light bulb went off for me when I read a blog comparing the test to a boxing match. The GMAT will punch you hard, but you have to learn to punch back! The idea is not to win every single round, but rather focus on winning the match. From a practical standpoint, the single largest contributor to consistently achieving 700+ scores came when I shifted my focus to pacing. I would suggest everyone start with taking an actual practice test and design a study plan around the results. It is impossible to recreate the stress of solving difficult problems under pressure outside of an actual test, and so this experience is critical to fully understanding your specific strengths and weaknesses.
The application essays are also typically one of the harder aspects of the process – and rightly so. The prompts at top schools are all very focused and require you to have truly vetted your underlying motivations for wanting to attend business school. You have to remember that there are thousands of candidates out there with great GMAT scores and work experience, all competing for an extremely limited number of spots. You simply cannot afford to have generic responses to your essay prompts. They need to be unique to you and preferably colored with both your emotion and individual experiences.
Ultimately, schools are looking to maintain a brand that characterizes their students, so they are evaluating candidates through this lens. If they think you are not being genuine, you really do yourself a disservice in this process, even if you excel in other areas of your application. Therefore, I would highly encourage applicants to speak with authenticity in their essays. This is your best chance to distinguish yourself as an applicant, so take advantage of the opportunity!
What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? While Vanderbilt Business certainly checks all of the boxes in terms of academic quality and future job opportunities, what really distinguished Vanderbilt for me was the people. I believe there is a major advantage to a smaller class size in terms of developing deeper, more meaningful relationships with both your peers and professors. I attended the school’s Welcome Weekend event prior to making my decision and was struck by the collaborative nature of the class. Students I had never met and who were not working at the events would go out of their way to introduce themselves, offer help, and simply tell me their story (which was always impressive). At Vanderbilt, you quickly realize that your greatest resource is your fellow students. There is a general spirit around Vanderbilt where if one of us succeeds, we all succeed. This same principle is reflected in the strength of Vanderbilt’s alumni network, which really goes to bat for fellow alumni.
Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My dream job would be to manage my own impact fund focused on global health, natural resource conservation, and clean technology. I believe impact investing will be the key to addressing many of our planet’s top challenges, and I want to be a part of it.
What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I would like my peers to say that our relationship was meaningful and will extend well beyond our time at Vanderbilt Business. More than any skill or acumen, I hope my peers talk about the times in between classes and recruiting when we struggled with a new concept, asked each other for advice, or talked about our passions and dreams.
DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE CLASS OF 2018 SERIES