Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles In Courage

Maya Anderson

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Decisive, pattern-loving strategizer who finds efficiencies in everything.”

Hometown: Decatur, Georgia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a cookbook collector who loves to experiment with making it all from scratch.

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University, English

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Hodges-Mace, Platform Delivery Analyst

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working in real estate was extremely rewarding because I got to be a part of over 60 families’ journey to create long-lasting wealth. Growing up in a single-parent family, I always wanted us to have our own home. Working in real estate, this desire became more concrete as I saw the positive effect that home ownership has on both the future finances of a family as well as the freedom it allows them in their own home. I learned home ownership is not just a feeling of pride, but also can be a sound financial investment. While my family never owned a home in my childhood, getting to be a part of so many other families’ home-ownership stories, creating trusting referral relationships with them, and helping them to invest their money wisely is an accomplishment I’m very proud to have achieved.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Since I arrived on campus for my first day of Analytical Skills Workshop, my classmates have been amazing. While only about half of the class is on campus so far, we have all gelled quickly. The group is down to earth, ambitious, intellectual and helpful. They are equally like to meet you for a beer at Pantana Bob’s as to sit down with you to discuss their career experiences and industry functions. They’re as ready to start a study group as to discuss business ideas spawned by their experience on campus so far.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? As a career switcher, I was looking for an environment that would help me grow in areas that I was less familiar with. For its extremely collaborative nature, UNC Kenan-Flagler stood out to me. UNC Kenan-Flagler’s best resource is its people. From the staff I met to the applicants and other students, I could see that UNC puts together a group of MBAs who don’t just learn from the school, but also learn from their peers. And while UNC is amazingly competitive, it also doesn’t alienate students from non-traditional backgrounds. Every person, staff and classmates alike, is there to give you a helping hand in landing your dream job.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m most looking forward to the opportunity to participate in the Nonprofit Board Consultants program. MBAs serve as non-voting board members to help a nonprofit strategize to achieve a fundraising project’s goal. This opportunity will allow me to find solutions to real-life problems faced by nonprofits and improve my ability to strategize with new people to execute and achieve our goal.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been an avid learner and the kind of person who invites challenges. Working in small business was an amazing experience that allowed me to experience almost every facet of business in a few short years. What I couldn’t experience was the opportunity to tackle complicated, global business problems whose solutions could positively affect millions. I knew that I was ready to be a part of the teams developing these solutions. More importantly, I knew that I wanted to be able to spend as much time doing it as possible – so now was the best time to start. An MBA was the best way for me to have the skills needed to fast track my career to the point where I get to be a part of these projects.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? In your first foray into the world of MBA programs, you will find a lot of articles decrying the MBA as a useless degree for which the opportunity cost alone is so large it could never be worth the time. I read those articles. I did the math. Then I realized that what I was looking for was not an amount of money, but the opportunity to accelerate my career path, create an amazing network, and learn from some of the brightest business minds in the country. It is then that you realize that you can’t put a price on your MBA. If it is just a question of money, then think about this: How much harder can you work at a job you like? How much more likely are you to get that bonus or promotion when you love your role and company? Now think about lost career-long opportunity costs because of those factors and the MBA is a sound investment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Emory-Goizueta, UT Austin-McCombs, Duke Fuqua, GT – Scheller

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I am rooted in the southeast and so location was the first way I cut down on my list. After that, it gets much more difficult to choose between all of the amazing schools there are. The secondary criterion was ranking, though only insomuch as I am on a certain career path and so needed to make sure the schools I was applying to would give me the access I needed. I used school websites; Poets & Quants, U.S. News &World Report, Bloomberg rankings and stats; and polled students. I highly recommend visiting the schools that top your list. I learned more about culture from interacting with the staff, current students and other applicants than I did from online forums. This tertiary criteria really helped me to find a school that would support me in my career path. Undergraduate and other graduate schools within the university system’s culture are also important. Try to look for a system that has the cohesive culture you’re looking for to get a better view of what life will actually be like.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Money was tight in my house growing up. As a kid, I had a chip on my shoulder about the idea of “business,” which to my young self just took money from poor people. I only ever associated money with negatives: a source of stress, something that made people do bad things, or made people unequal. To add to that, my single mother was a social worker, further fueling my belief that what was “good” was completely separate from money. Even still, I was always fascinated by business and have more than one entrepreneurial kid-venture to show for it. When it came time for me to think about what my future would look like, I felt lost between the two seemingly opposite poles: doing what was “good” or doing what would allow me to provide for the family that had sacrificed so much for me and the people around them.

In my high school graduation speech, written while contemplating my future, I wrote about my love of learning. I wrote about how amazing it was that we got to learn so many subjects at the same time in school, and how they collectively helped us to understand each one more deeply. I realized that continuing to link ideas was what I wanted to do in my life. For the next four years though, I struggled with the fact that there wasn’t any one major I could find at college that fit that broad definition. I also purposefully avoided majors or career paths I thought were “just about the money.” When I graduated, I worked in real estate because I wanted to renovate houses. I wanted to know how to fix things. I didn’t have any kind of association with working in real estate as a business career: to me, it was just another way to hustle.

A year into my career, I joined the AtlantaBen Team and Keller Williams Realty and it was there that I fell in love with business strategy. I couldn’t get enough of the big picture stuff: reading business research to improve our team’s functions; playing around with numbers to see how we could hit goals; finding the best way to invest our money; working with clients to discover how we could best fulfill their needs; discovering how to create a strong referral network; and getting the power to make some of my own business decisions and see what I could do with a little bit of money. This experience empowered me to consider an MBA, which sent me flying back to my high school graduation speech. I finally understood how to make my younger self’s dream possible: business is the opportunity to study it all, apply it and help people. That was what I wanted to devote my life to. With business, I finally understand how I can help and inspire others to see outside of their own economic barriers and create something great for themselves.”

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I plan to go into consulting for a few reasons: 1) It combines my love of learning with the ability to help a client solve a business problem; 2) It allows me to work across industries and functions, promising never a dull moment; and 3) It attracts like-minded co-workers with whom I hope to geek out with about cutting-edge business research. I can’t wait to contribute to a team that will help contribute to the business world at large.

Where do you see yourself in five years? There is so much strength in knowledge. As a curious person, I can’t wait to be a part of the next wave of business research. In my career, I want to help navigate the automating of jobs, devise solutions for resource allocation, educate the next generation of technicians, and inspire workers all over the world to pursue their best. I hope to still be in consulting in five years in a more senior, client-facing position. As well, I hope to be a mentor to those who work under me and to serve the community around me. With my community, I specifically hope to be a part of the discussion on addressing gentrification and creating economically viable ways to ensure there is inclusion for all socio-economic levels in the cities and towns of the future. There is so much work to be done and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

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