Besides meeting admissions directors and others from business schools, attendees at the CentreCourt event in London also got the chance to hear from five alumni who spoke about their experiences at business school.
Whitney Morgan began her MBA at Chicago Booth in 2012, and is now responsible for regional partnerships at Prodigy Finance, which is helping to reshape financing of MBA studies. She told CentreCourt co-director Matt Symonds about how to tell admissions staff about a top-secret job, the importance of community in choosing a business school, and the way her network continues to yield dividends.
Matt: Whitney, thanks very much for being with us.
Whitney: Thank you for having me.
Matt: Applying to a school as selective as Booth, you get to talk about your accomplishments and your background. But what is one fun fact that maybe you didn’t share with Chicago Booth?
Whitney: I can juggle, so that’s a fun party trick. I think as a kid I saw somebody juggling, was very intrigued by that and learned it over the course of a couple of months. I pull it out occasionally here and there, which is fun.
Matt: Does that also mean that you’re very good with juggling responsibilities and projects?
Whitney: Yes! I am quite particular about my schedules, so I even send meeting invites, sometimes, for coffee chats or for get-togethers with friends. Those who aren’t so much into the scheduling can get annoyed by it. But yes, I would say with all the travel that I do, being organized and scheduled is one of my skills.
Matt: Booth, of course, with the university’s tradition, does academic rigor. Applicants typically have great GMAT scores. What was an accomplishment pre-MBA that you were particularly proud of?
Whitney: I would say before business school, one of the things that I was involved in was working in cyber security engineering. I had a top-secret clearance, which a lot of people think is lights and lasers and all the things you see in the movies. But it wasn’t like that in the real world. There was, like, one room where I was involved in that kind of stuff. But on a technical side, really exploring a lot of that in my early career was personally very fulfilling and something that I think brought a little bit of more diversity into the Booth community.
Matt: Did that mean that there were certain aspects of your job that you couldn’t then share with the admissions office? How do you get around that challenge?
Whitney: Well, I just don’t share them. I talk about other things. But there were a lot of aspects that you could share. Talking more about the technical side and less about specific projects or systems that I was working on, and more about processes or applications.
Matt: What really attracted you to Booth?
Whitney: I know they’re very known for the intellectual rigor. But actually, I was narrowing my business school choices down to about three schools at the end, including Booth. And I found that the qualitative side and the connections I made with folks before accepting Booth were very, very strong. Even throughout the program it was far more about connecting with people, rather than competing with them. The real intent on connection was something that I found very strongly woven throughout the whole community, and was one of the reasons I ended up attending Booth.
Matt: Now, schools somehow can attract a stereotypical type of student. As you think back on your MBA classmates over that two years, what were the common traits and value system that you identified in them?
Whitney: I know a lot of people say it, but I would really say a sense of community. Everybody there has the brains, everybody is capable, certainly. But it’s really the sense of community, the sense of helping one another, even in trips. We would take a lot of trips. I went to Israel, Russia, Mexico — all over. There was a feeling of making sure everyone was included and that we faced new experiences together as a team, which really turned into a family. And I think that from day … I’m not going to say day one, even. It starts before you even get to school. That ran through the whole experience and through to today.
Matt: Right. During the two years, was there one skill that you think that you developed at business school that’s served you particularly well?
Whitney: I had only worked in the U.S. prior to business school, formally. And a lot of my closest friends at Booth were the internationals. So the ability to really understand business culture from their perspectives, and where they were coming from, has really helped me today. I work in a very global role now. I’m traveling a lot to Asia and Latin America, and having an induction to that through business school was certainly helpful for me being successful in my role today.
Matt: Right. Many people who are with us at Center Court and who you are working with at Prodigy Finance know that an MBA is a big step and a massive investment in time and money. Was there a moment in the program where you thought, “Ah, this is why I did all of this. This is why I made this investment”?
Whitney: I was just having fun the whole way through! For me, I think really there wasn’t one moment that stood out. As soon as I got there I felt a sense of belonging. I continue to go to weddings and different reunions and things like that. And because I’m traveling a lot for my role too, I do see a lot of my former classmates quite often. And so, even to today I think that confirmation continues to manifest.
Matt: What do you miss most?
Whitney: Being in school. Not working. The full-time experience is great. The two years off, whether you’re switching jobs or if you know you’re going to go back into the same kind of function or role or company, is a great time to learn a lot about yourself and just a nice space to do that.
Matt: Right. Now, Prodigy Finance is growing incredibly quickly. As you think about the next five or eight years and where you’d like to see yourself, where would that be and how does the MBA continue to help you to achieve that?
Whitney: Well, the five to eight years question is the new version of the old 30-year question or the 10-year question. I feel like even five years from now is a very long projection. But I do like where I am and the company is quite agile, and it’s very global in nature. So I’m not sure I would move. But I will say that the MBA certainly has helped with respect to the network. Whether it’s in my current job or personally or in other ways, I know I will continue to use the network. You have people in such great avenues, entrepreneurial and from multi-nationals all over the world. Being able to tap into that — whether that is people from my program, who were there before or came after me — everybody is very responsive and open to meeting, and I know that will serve me as I continue.
Matt: Great. Well, thank you for being with us.
Whitney: Thank you.