Bekey Kettering wishes she’d become a mom before business school — not because of the grind of raising a small child while studying, though that is reason enough. No, Kettering, who worked as a brand manager for game-maker Hasbro, would like to be able to use the customer insight she gets from playing with her 2-year-old son Taeo.
“I was a brand manager overseeing all of Hasbro’s games, so I managed the global brand development and marketing process for all licensed games spanning 13 entertainment brands, with a focus on Star Wars, Despicable Me, and the Marvel franchises,” Kettering tells Poets&Quants. “I then moved on to brand development and marketing for classic preschool games like Operation, Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, and Mouse Trap. It was a lot of fun! I wish I had been a mom then because I’d had a much more direct line of insight into consumers, but alas.”
It was while working for Hasbro that Kettering decided she needed an MBA. Having graduated from Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in English, and after three years in the board game biz, Kettering wanted to go back to school.
“It was a lot of fun at Hasbro, but I was one of the few people there that did not have an MBA,” she says. “So I knew that I needed to go and make sure that I had a little more of a foundation when it came to business knowledge.”
It was while applying to business schools in 2016 that Kettering discovered she was pregnant.
‘I DIDN’T THINK I COULD DO THIS BY LONG DISTANCE’
Kettering and her husband, Alex, had met during undergrad at Dartmouth. He began medical school at the college’s Geisel School in the fall of 2016; after Bekey found out she was pregnant, she concluded that a long-distance relationship, plus a child, plus an MBA curriculum was likely too much for her to handle. So she turned her focus to her alma mater in Hanover, New Hampshire and applied to the Tuck School.
“I didn’t think I could do this by long distance,” she says. “So that was one of the big reasons I decided to come back to Hanover.”
First, though, she had to get in. There was one big complication. Taeo arrived right in the middle of her preparations for the GMAT.
“The summer before I started applying was when we found about Taeo, which is another reason why I wanted to make sure that I could finish my application process in round one. I was pregnant while preparing for the GMAT, and I was sick, so it had to be a one-and-done.”
‘WE CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE’
Getting accepted wasn’t even half the battle, of course. Even with a supportive partner, the challenges ahead were enormous. Taeo was three months old when Bekey started at Tuck.
“I think the biggest thing for me, and you might laugh, is that he didn’t sleep for the first eight months of his life,” Bekey recalls. “So that was really tough. We ended up having to hire a sleep consultant, like a sleep trainer: ‘We can’t do this anymore.’
“We were kinda stupid we rushed to do it, we didn’t know what we were getting into. People never tell you, they always tell you ‘What a great choice.'”
Things improved — a little — once her son was old enough for daycare. But there were still bouts of sickness and other unforeseen complications. “When we got over that hump, he started daycare for couple of hours a day,” Kettering says. “And then he just was sick for, well he still is sick sometimes. So I think that is tough just in terms of scheduling and the team projects — you are not fully rested, or you might not be as well rested as you think.”
A STRONGER, BETTER LEADER
About to graduate in June, Kettering is preparing to take her family on a long journey. She’ll go to work as a product manager for Amazon on the other side of the continent, in Seattle.
She’ll be stronger for the experience of motherhood during her MBA, she says. And a better leader.
“If you think about it, it’s such a great training ground for what the ‘real world’ is going to feel like, when you get out there, what parents like you are also struggling with every single day,” Kettering says.
“I remember when I was trying to like figure out what this was gonna be like, being a student and a mom at the same time, I talked to another Tuck student who graduated 2017 and she said, ‘I believe that if you’re a happy individual, you’ll be a better mom,’ and I think that’s absolutely true. I think I’ve gotten really great training here and I need to apply it to a more real-world setting.
“At the same time, as much as I think that school is evolving and there are more female students making up the class, it’s still rare — which I find a little disappointing — to find other moms, or female students who have children. And I feel like I’m really excited to be joining a workforce where there are going to be moms who have young kids, and who are doing that and balancing their careers. So I think that is going to be beneficial for me.”