Byrne: I often think that one of the most under-appreciated aspects of an MBA education is professional development. We assume you’re going to learn accounting and finance and marketing and strategy. But a lot of people don’t really get how some of the rough edges get sanded down in an MBA program, and that you emerge as a true professional. Can you speak to what kind of professional development you gained in the MBA program that helped you ultimately in your career?
Moser: What I do remember specifically was just the relationships that I built with second-year students, with folks that were on the faculty who took an interest in me and helped me pursue my goals. Those are people that did offer me one on one coaching, and a lot of the second years were really helpful. They would take time out to speak about their various experiences, whether it came down to case interviews and case practices and things of that nature.
Byrne: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? And how did you apply it Elizabeth?
Cathles: I would say the best piece of career advice I’ve ever received is to be authentic. Know who you are, what really makes you tick, and to continue to be in positions that allow you to shine.
Byrne: Dayna how about you?
Moser: When you make a decision, own it, really own it. Don’t look back and say what if. Just make your decision. Sometimes it helps to write down why, and then just own it. And that’s it. Don’t look back. My dad’s an entrepreneur and told me several years ago that success isn’t just what you accomplish, but what you inspire others to do. And I think as you start to progress in your career after business school, I think the hard skills actually matter a little bit less. And the softer skills start to matter a lot more. So leadership skills, being able to build relationships and influence others are things that I’ve certainly taken over the last few years.
Byrne: And MBA programs have really upped the ante on the soft skills in the last 10-15 years without question. Okay. We are in a strong economy with full employment. How does the economy affect your own prospects in your own companies and industries? Dayna?
Moser: I think there is a war for talent going on. Personally, I work very hard trying to recruit and retain talented people for our team and for our organization. One on one coaching and development is critical to make sure people are happy that they’re feeling challenged.
Byrne: Here’s another question from our audience: what mistakes are commonly made when MBAs transition to consulting from another industry?
Cathles: One mistake that I’ve seen is when somebody comes in saying, I’m pretty sure I know exactly what the answer is because they have some background in an industry. It’s really good to have a perspective, but it’s also good to remain very curious and open to feedback and to the particular situation that your client is facing.
Byrne: Dayna, you went from consulting to finance? Is there a similar answer you have for that question?
Moser: When you’re a consultant, you want to design something from scratch every time and build it to get to a brand new solution. In finance, there’s a little more dialogue and back and forth in investment management. Before you run off and put the book together, you’re really having a conversation about why do we need this information? What are we looking for? What are the three questions behind the question? And then it’s about making sure that that information is really going to answer and drive decision making. What I had to beat out of myself was the desire to run off and build slides. It was a rookie mistake, but I’m through that.
Byrne: Here’s another question. What is more valuable to pursue during the MBA program, depth in a specific subject area or breadth?
Cathles: Again, I would say you really need to know yourself. If you need a specific depth of subject matter in order to get the position that you’re seeking, then perhaps you need to spend a little bit more time there. But if you really are interested in a wide variety of subjects as I am and inspired by connecting topics across different industries or connecting people across different industries, then it could be really valuable to get that breadth of exposure.
Moser: I was a person who went very deep on a subject once I realized I wanted to spend my time in the MBA program focused on financial services and finance. I knew I wanted to do investment management, but I wanted to round out my knowledge of other areas in finance valuation. So I did a lot of case competitions around private equity. I wrote four business plans and sought out capital to fund those. I did finance roles in clubs, like raising all of the money for the Women in Leadership conference. And then I did a nonprofit economic development project. So again, thinking financially, but with a double bottom line. So I really tried to find experiences that were diverse and well rounded but with that core focus on finance.
Moran: I approached finding a career one way and then taking classes a little bit separately. I did take quantitative classes, but the career discovery process involved a lot of engagement with other people. In my second year, I took the most interesting professors, independent of whether I had any knowledge in those domains. There were things that I didn’t learn that I would not have otherwise learned.
Byrne: We had a great panel discussion here. I want to thank all three of you for contributing. It’s been fun to get to know you. And I think our audience is better for it.
THE COMPLETE 2019 MBA SUMMIT
Candid perspectives from MBA students, admission officials, and employers