2020 MBAs To Watch: Sydney Swain, Babson College (Olin)

Sydney Swain

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

“I put my best foot forward and turn all my losses into lessons.”

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I love taking road trips. My record for being on the road without stopping overnight is 17 hours from Indianapolis, IN to Austin, TX.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University- B.A. Psychology & Criminal Justice

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cartrawler – Partner Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Humana – Workplace Solutions, Louisville, KY

Where will you be working after graduation? Humana – Workplace Solutions, Louisville, KY

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, Babson Black MBA/Grad Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Working as a Graduate Assistant Writing Specialist in the Graduate Center for Career Development. My Babson classmates are incredibly accomplished and talented but occasionally needed assistance to translate their accomplishments and personalities to the page when writing a resume or cover letter. I’m happy that I could help students refine their cover letters and resumes to communicate their value to potential employers. It’s a great feeling when my classmates thank me for my role in helping them land a job interview or offer. Part of the reason that I chose a two-year program was to take advantage of the long time period to “find out what I wanted to do.” I never imagined that I would partly find that out through my experience as a Graduate Assistant. I’ve greatly enjoyed this role and hope that I can continue to help others with their writing in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In summer 2019, I interned with the Workplace Solutions team at Humana and completed a project designed to improve our associates’ Workplace Experience by optimizing their clinical and administrative real estate cycles. I channeled my Babson classroom experiences to help my team create a clear value proposition that could be used to communicate better how Workplace Solutions could help deliver tailored real estate solutions that meet clinical and administrative leaders’ needs. It was challenging to simultaneously learn about a new industry and business function while working within a 10-week timetable, but the knowledge that I gained at Babson provided me the momentum to achieve my project. The feedback that my project would be put into action to address real-world issues was immensely gratifying. I believe my deliverable was part of the reason that I was offered a full-time role post-graduation.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Ruben Mancha. I’m incredibly thankful for being enrolled in Professor Mancha’s Global Connections Through Technology class during my first year because he taught us to use Tableau to evaluate data and to use its visualization technology as a storytelling tool to influence business outcomes. I really appreciated meeting with him during his office hours to receive feedback and direction on class assignments. I always felt that his feedback was especially sincere.

However, my favorite experience with Professor Mancha happened in our Agile Experimentation elective. Each class team received the opportunity to build an IOT (Internet of Things) prototype throughout the semester. Early in the semester, as teams began building prototypes, Professor Mancha bounced around the room to observe each group. I could tell by his posture, questions, and tone of voice that he was genuinely excited to see what each team was beginning to build. His energy made me feel that he was genuinely invested in our learning experience. He seemed to hope if we took advantage of the experience, it would serve us well in our careers. I believe that this is the type of teaching experience that should motivate students to study at Babson.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Babson Black Affinity Network Family Reunion was my favorite tradition because it’s a great opportunity for faculty, staff, undergrads, and graduate students to come together to bond over delicious food. This event reflects that Babson does support multicultural activities that make the Babson student experience enriching!

Why did you choose this business school? One night in 2017, I struck up a conversation with an acquaintance (and Northwestern MBA alum) about my dissatisfaction with a part-time MBA program where I was enrolled. He recommended that I look into Babson, (even over his alma mater Northwestern!) because of its focus on Entrepreneurial Thought & Action (ET&A). I subsequently visited Babson two times to attend an MBA marketing course and a diversity open house event. I was impressed with the quality of the classroom lessons and the perspectives of the students that participated in the class. Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought & Action appealed to me because of my belief that creativity was one of my strengths. I believe I’ve enjoyed the way that ET&A is woven throughout our coursework. I believe I made the right choice to attend Babson.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? First, take some time to think about your biggest professional accomplishments and ask yourself: “How did I arrive at these results?” You may find that there are common themes regarding your leadership, teamwork, or communication styles or business philosophy that have been the foundation that has driven your previous successes. Once you have this knowledge of self, take a stand, and be proud to communicate that stance in the application process. Second, because of our appreciation for innovation, share instances when you’ve introduced or refined a process, program, or new initiative that would not have existed without your vision and efforts. Don’t be too shy to sell yourself!

What is the biggest myth about your school? “Group Work sucks!” This was not my experience. I was fortunate that my semester-long group experiences in my first year were rewarding and revealing to help me understand my strengths and weaknesses. My teammates taught me class concepts that I struggled with, gave feedback on how to improve my presentation skills, and shared their global perspectives on business practices.

My favorite group assignment was the semester-long BCAP (Babson Consulting Alliance Program). I took that opportunity to focus on improving my data analysis, evaluation, and visualization skills by exercising these abilities to support the recommendations that we designed for our client. Developing these specific skills was one of the reasons I chose to attend Babson, so it was very fulfilling to practice these skills on a project that had real consequences for our client. Without my teammate’s strong performance in other areas of the project, I would not have been able to develop my confidence in these abilities.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? During my first year, I neglected some of the things that were valued parts of my pre-Babson Boston life, such as volunteering in my community, being physically active with sports and exercise, and attending Boston area networking events. In retrospect, I should have strategically managed my time to continue to maintain these aspects of my life.

I think having a balanced lifestyle helps keep your sanity while taking challenging courses and helps you gain a perspective on what your actual goals are.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lauren Hemingway – Lauren has a great sense of humor and a friendly and humble personality. I always appreciated her contributions to classroom discussions because she tactfully tied case discussions to her previous professional experiences. Lauren helped grow a true sense of community at Babson by opening her home to our international classmates to introduce them to U.S. traditions such as Thanksgiving. Most importantly, I admire the excellent way Lauren represented Babson and helped build our future community by conducting MBA admittance interviews and attending MBA candidate diversity events. She’s been a great member of the Babson family.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My Grandfather, John Swain, was a retail entrepreneur on Chicago’s South Side for over 40 years. As a child, he always encouraged me to prioritize academic excellence over any other interests. After I began my career in business as an Account Manager, he mentored me and provided advice on how to be a dynamic businessman. A significant portion of his advice was to return to school and earn my MBA. He always said that some of the business questions that I asked him could appropriately be answered by learning business foundations in an MBA program. His constructive criticism and encouragement to develop a long-term strategic vision for myself and my career influenced me to apply to pursue an MBA.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Throughout my career, I’ve been an individual contributor and hope to one day be a people manager. I’ve had great managers in my career and hope to take their example and provide direction to the younger generation to achieve business success. I also plan to write a book about my business career.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A great teammate who respected others and strived to achieve.

Hobbies? Basketball, Cycling, Volunteering, attending standup comedy shows & concerts.

What made Sydney such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“I have had the opportunity to serve as Sydney’s manager for his Graduate Assistantship as a Writing Specialist for 2 years. Sydney is a rock star! It is not easy to deliver a service to your peers and that is exactly what Sydney was asked to do. He guided graduate students on their Resumes, cover letters, and LinkedIn profiles which is a very important role. Sydney built a strong reputation as someone who truly cares about his students and offered them patient counsel on how to improve their writing documents. Sydney is a quick study, not afraid to ask great questions, open for feedback, and is a creative solutions-oriented person. Students sing his praises and my team appreciates all that he does to help our students towards their career success. He is accountable, reliable, patient, kind, smart, and a true member of our team; he makes a difference and is always humble throughout the process. My team and I all strongly endorse his candidacy for this recognition.”

Cheri Paulson
Senior Director, Graduate Center for Career Development


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