2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Nicole Howe, University of Florida (Warrington)

Nicole Howe

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

Driven, competitive, and compassionate – I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself, contribute, and grow.”

Hometown: Gainesville, Florida

Fun fact about yourself: I love photography and I taught myself to maintain and repair vintage Polaroid cameras from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. It feels so special to take a picture with a camera that has been capturing memories for over 45 years!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wilkes Honors College, Florida Atlantic University, B.A. – Environmental Studies, Minor – Studio Art (2011)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Before business school, I worked as an Interim Development Director and Community Involvement Manager at Impact NW, a large, regional nonprofit in Portland, Oregon that helps people dealing with the effects of poverty.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I was a Strategic Marketing Intern at Owens Corning.

Where will you be working after graduation? I accepted a full-time offer in the Marketing Strategic Leadership Development Program at Owens Corning.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I’ve been a UF MBA Ambassador since 2018 and I’ve worked in the Graduate Business Career Services office as a Graduate Career and Peer (CAP) Mentor since 2019. As a CAP Mentor, I have the chance to help fellow students with resumes, mock interviews, and general career coaching advice. This year, I was also selected as a CAP Captain, where I support a team of 10 CAP Mentors who each serve over 40 mentees.

I am also involved in our Student MBA Association or MBAA. Last year I was chosen as both the President of the Women in Business Club and Co-Lead of the Social Committee. This year, I have served as a student committee member for the Diversity & Inclusion Open House and I was selected to lead a team of five as the CEO of Gator MBA Gear, a student-run organization that fundraises for the MBAA, selling branded apparel and merchandise.

I have also had the opportunity to compete and represent the University of Florida at national case competitions including the Deloitte & HP Human Capital Case Competition at Vanderbilt University in 2018, the University of Colorado, Denver Race & Case Competition in 2019 & 2020, the SEC Case Competition in 2019, and the Association for Corporate Growth Case Competition in 2019.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the mentoring program I started last year as the MBA Association Women in Business President. Working with the staff in the Programs office, I designed an initiative for MBA’s seeking support during their summer internship.

When I entered the MBA program, I grappled with the shift from a nonprofit to corporate culture and often I felt the weight of “imposter syndrome” or the feeling that I didn’t belong. Anytime I struggled, I always had mentors to turn to and I wanted to help create a space for other students (especially women) to find additional support. For the pilot program, I researched mentoring best practices, prepared a project plan, created resources, and connected and supported all the mentor-mentee pairs. Overall, the experience was incredibly rewarding and a great learning opportunity, and it is humbling to see the program continue to grow again this year.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the work I did this summer as a strategic marketing intern at Owens Corning. As a career switcher getting my MBA, it felt like learning a new language – but this summer I pushed myself to take my previous skills and experience and translate them into my new career. I was able to work on high impact projects analyzing market size and opportunities around a potential new product. I was new to marketing and the manufacturing sector, so I spent as much time as possible learning from the amazing marketing, science and technology, and sales professionals at Owens Corning. All my hard work paid off during my final presentation when I was able to present in front of the CEO – something I would never imagine, even a year ago.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dr. Aner Sela, He was so intentional about structuring his class to combine lectures with interactive case analysis. He asked real-world marketing questions, helped stimulate discussion, and promoted critical strategic thought. As a future marketer, his Brand Equity class challenged and energized me to take what I learned to my new career.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? We have a saying during the career search: “Gators! Get all the jobs.” It’s a rallying cry during career fairs and interviews, but more importantly, it embodies our support for each other. To ensure a Gator gets the job, we have a tradition of helping each other with mock interviews, sharing our personal and professional networks, and just cheering each other’s successes.

Why did you choose this business school? I wanted to attend a business school that delivered a return on investment without compromising on culture. Coming from the nonprofit space, I wanted to still be a part of a community that both challenged and supported each other. The UF MBA full-time program is a small, tight-knit group. With only 34 members in my cohort, I am able to forge strong bonds with other incredible, intelligent people. It was definitely the perfect program for me!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Know what you want to get out of your MBA experience. Whether you are a career switcher or a business undergrad looking to grow professionally, be able to articulate your goals. The tagline for our MBA program is “Transformation Guaranteed” and it’s true. However, the people in the program who are most successful leverage every opportunity to achieve their ambitions. Two years goes by so fast and you can only go through the process once – so know what you want and the UF MBA program will be that much more transformative.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Honestly, I am incredibly happy with my time in the MBA program. The only thing I might change is that I would do more case competitions. They have been such a great way to learn through hands-on experience and they are truly the best proxy for how you have to tackle real business situations. I even used the skills I built in case competitions during my internship this summer.

I will say, knowing how much time it takes to prepare for a case competition, my husband might not agree with me on this one.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate Chris DiBiase. Chris is dependable, easy-going, dedicated, and kind. I have gotten to work with him on case competition teams and as a Career and Peer Mentor. Chris is always quick to share his skills and insights – he has coached so many students providing career advice and preparing them for consulting interviews. He is also one of those rare people who can work with anyone and is always positive, forward-thinking, and encouraging. I can’t wait to see Chris succeed as he continues his career in consulting at Accenture this summer.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The CFO at my last job, Kevin Washington, motivated me to get my MBA. He knew I was considering a master’s degree and, as an MBA himself, he was an incredible believer in the transformative power of a business degree. Within our organization, he was an advocate for using strategic thinking and business insights everywhere, including nonprofits. I feel so lucky to have had him motivate and guide me through the application process and encourage me as I studied for the GMAT.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I know I will miss working in the nonprofit field, but I hope to one day be able to continue to serve my community by joining the board of a nonprofit.

Also on my bucket list, I want to one day lead a company. When I was first accepted into business school, my husband bought me a mug that says, “Girls just wanna be CEO” and it sits on my desk every day as a reminder to challenge myself to build the skills and experience I need to achieve that dream.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered as a leader, a mentor, and a friend – someone who was quick to laugh and always there when they needed her.

Hobbies – I am an avid quilter. I love to design patterns and sew quilts for my family and friends. Before I left for business school, I was a member and served on the board of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild – one of the largest modern quilt guilds in the US with over 200 members.

FOR FACULTY MEMBER OR ADMINISTRATOR: What made Nicole such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Nicole Howe (UF MBA ’20) was understandably nervous as she transitioned into a full-time, two-year MBA program at the University of Florida. As a career switcher coming from the non-profit sector, she reached out to a few mentors in her life for advice. Those conversations provided her with much-needed guidance and encouragement to help her feel more confident and successful in the program. Nicole then thought broader and identified that she was not the only student seeking mentorship. In her new role as the Women in Business President under the MBA Association, she approached the program and alumni development offices about creating a mentorship program that connects 1st-year students preparing for their summer internship with alumni 2-5 years post-graduation with the goal of deepening and diversifying ways for Gators to continue supporting one another, a core element of the UF MBA experience. At the end of the summer pilot, feedback from both sides was outstanding. The student mentees appreciated the opportunity to be transparent about fears or concerns with someone who has been in their shoes and the alumni mentors felt they were able to help and practice how to be better mentors or managers themselves! The program will continue in 2020 and Nicole is working tirelessly to not only successfully transition the program to the next UF MBA Women in Business President but also identify how to grow and expand the program with other student populations. Learn more about Nicole’s mentorship program here.

Nicole’s efforts to develop herself and others does not stop at the mentorship program. Since joining the program, Nicole has represented UF MBA at 4 national case competitions and is getting ready to compete in her 5th in just a few weeks. During her time preparing for these competitions, Nicole has sharpened her skills analyzing real-world business problems, troubleshooting, storytelling and presenting. Nicole also works directly with the Admissions team as an ambassador dedicated to providing students with a great experience while they are on campus for their interview. This includes providing tours to competitive applicants, as well as one-on-one conversations to answer questions. She has been an active member of Admitted Students events, again sharing her perspectives and experiences within a range of topics such as case competitions, academic preparedness, student involvement, and more.

Our faculty also sing her praises. Dr. Alan Cooke in the Department of Marketing stated: “Nicole is the sort of student who raises the performance of everyone around her, her professors included. She is smart enough to go beyond what is being taught into applications and extensions of the topic. Her contributions to class bridge the technical and conceptual in ways that highlight issues students are likely to encounter in using the knowledge. And she certainly did use that knowledge. Naturally, she and her teammates used it in their class assignments, but she also used it in her internship at Owens Corning, to serve others in her role as President of the Women in Business Club and to create a valuable career mentorship program. Taking our ideas, understanding them deeply, and creatively applying them to help others? That’s the sort of student that we all wish we had!”

Meghan Blake
Assistant Director, Training and Professional Development


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