U.S. Marines aren’t supposed to be scared. As I transitioned to the civilian world, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. I was leaving a profession I loved for the uncertainty that comes with two years of business school followed by a career in a new field. What I knew for certain was that I wanted to remain in an environment that mirrored the Marines Corps, where my peers shared similar levels of community and commitment to a cause.
To my surprise, I found this at a business school with a reputation for marketing and a purple logo to match. As I look back, my time at Kellogg has been filled with amazing discoveries and memories. Even more, I’ve come away with some unforgettable lessons too. Here are a few of the big takeaways I gained from my MBA experience.
1) A Deeper Level of Understanding
Before stepping foot in the classroom, my wife and I took part in Kellogg Worldwide Experiences & Service Trip (KWEST). On our KWEST to the French Riviera, we joined 23 strangers exploring Monte Carlo, the Verdon Gorges, and the beautiful waters surrounding Nice. For the first four days of the trip, participants are prohibited from disclosing their careers, education, and hometowns. This forces the “KWEST-ees” to appreciate one another on a deeper level expected of students for the remainder of their time at Kellogg.
Without information that most people use to frame their opinions of others, our conversations on KWEST delved into pressing social, political, and cultural issues. In one conversation, my friend Carol discussed the challenges she faced at her previous employer. Despite her record of accomplishments, her opinions were always discounted because of her gender. Coming from the infantry community, which is composed entirely of men, this exposed me to a major problem in the civilian workforce. Since KWEST, the obstacles that women face at work have been the topic discussed at many small group dinners where I have been a part. It has also led to the creation of “Manbassadors” at Kellogg: men who want to understand women’s issues in the workplace and then increase awareness among their male coworkers.
My wife and I experienced another one of Kellogg’s global offerings on a ski-trip to Whistler, British Columbia. While we spent our days bungee jumping, dog-sledding, and snowboarding, we also deepened our relationships with other members of the Kellogg community. Waiting in line for an event, my friend Dave and I spoke about his role as an investor before business school and the difficulties he faced as a person of color. He shared, in excruciating detail, the extra measures he took to prove his credibility when meeting clients and the numerous hurdles he faced in the private equity industry. The ability to have these candid and often difficult conversations fosters the inclusivity and cross-cultural exchanges that characterize the Kellogg community. It is this environment of trust that helps Kellogg prepare its students to be leaders brave enough to ask tough questions and do the right things for the organizations we will one day serve. I can confidently state that these interactions have opened my eyes to biases that I would otherwise have remained ignorant.
2) The Importance of Asking for Help
Despite Kellogg’s reputation as a “marketing school,” it also offers excellent accounting and finance courses. In my spring quarter, I enrolled in Linda Vincent’s Securities Analysis course. There, I was immediately challenged by the first assignment: construct a fully articulated financial model for a specific Fortune 500 company. After seven hours of failing to make the model balance, the thought of dropping the class was tempting. In a matter of minutes after e-mailing Professor Vincent to say I was in over my head, she scheduled time that day to address my questions. When I walked into her office, she led with the fact that her time was my time and that we would figure this out together. In addition to the one-on-one meetings, Professor Vincent created a recurring tutorial for students from non-finance backgrounds where she spent an enormous amount of time ensuring that her students were grasping the important factors of each case study.
Thanks to Professor’s Vincent’s dedication, the lessons I gained in this course were instrumental in receiving an offer to return full-time to J.P. Morgan’s Mergers & Acquisitions group in New York City. This is just one of many experiences with professors and teaching assistants at Kellogg that demonstrated their passion for their work and their accessibility to students. Sometimes, the biggest hurdle to overcome is checking your ego, raising your hand, and asking for help.