You can do anything you want.
That’s true…in theory. Just try to switch careers. It isn’t easy starting over. Experience? That’s what employers demand. After all, talent is expensive…and fast returns are expected. What company can afford to invest time with learning curves? Let’s not forget all-important mentoring. Where can someone find that patient guide who’ll position learners to succeed and stay patient when they fail?
Changing functions and industries requires reinvention. To do that, professionals need opportunity, training, and support. That’s what differentiates Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. You see, the MBA program was designed for career changers. The school maintains a career center specifically for business students, one that ranks among the world’s best. For two years, MBAs enjoy one-on-one counseling from certified career coaches. Of course, the program kicks off with the legendary Me, Inc. – a two-week look into students’ leadership and communication styles. Reflection-laden and feedback-driven, Me, Inc. requires students to examine strengths, blindspots, and aspirations – all while teaching them the best practices in job hunting, networking, and interviewing.
A BRIDGE TO THE INTERNSHIP
Such support enabled Allison Lawler, a 2020 graduate, to overcome the hurdles involved in moving from human resources to consulting. “As a career switcher, I wanted to make sure I found a program that would support me in taking steps to pursue a different career path,” she tells P&Q. “The support that our Graduate Career Services provides – resume reviews, mock interviews, and alumni connections –made me feel like I would have a reliable support system. Additionally, the academy structure acts as a bridge between coursework and applying these learnings to an internship, which made the idea of a career switch less daunting.”
The Academies are particularly helpful for students committed to changing to make their transition. Here, students take a deep dive into the function of their choice: Business Marketing, Consumer Marketing, Capital Markets, Consulting, Strategic Finance, and Supply Chain and Digital Enterprise, and Life Sciences. Think of it as a mix of coursework, client projects, research exercises, expert speakers, and company visits specific to their industry. During their first year Academy, MBAs work one-on-one with an academic director, industry-trained coaches and second-year peers to master the industry nuances and gain in-depth experience. In turn, this prepares them to hit the ground running in their high-stakes summer internship. Students even enjoy the flexibility to pursue a different Academy during their second year.
Not surprisingly, the Class of 2022 relishes the Academy format. Farrah Bhimani, a recruiter from Ernst & Young, is looking forward to taking on the Consulting Academy. “I believe consulting teaches you essential and versatile skills that you can apply to any career, including strategic analysis and problem-solving, public speaking, and team management. Additionally, Kelley’s Consulting Academy director and coach have more than 50 years of combined consulting experience across industries, so students are consistently offered real-world cases and direct access to endless networking opportunities.”
ACADEMIES NOT JUST FOR YOUR CONCENTRATION
Not everyone is choosing an Academy that furnishes a path to a different industry or function. Adam Cochran, for example, has spent his career in the non-profit sector, often in roles that required him to oversee construction projects. While Cochran initially considered a function outside Operations, he decided to stay in a role where he had a knack for success.
“Operations comes naturally to me,” he admits. “Operations is critical to business success and covers many disciplines needing innovation. The Supply Chain and Digital Enterprise Academy will give me an opportunity to more broadly see how operations management impacts an organization and technological innovations such as autonomous vehicles are disrupting traditional methods. I’ll also get hands-on experience networking and working with industry experts.”
Some class members are enrolling in Academies outside their chosen field. That is true for Sennel K. Threlkeld II, a product developer who decided on Strategic Finance to broaden his skill set. “I want to use the Academy experience as an opportunity to develop skills that wouldn’t necessarily be strengthened through my concentration or job function immediately following my program. Although I plan to pursue a marketing career path, I believe a sound financial understanding is vital to any leader who wishes to be qualified in handling multifaceted business issues.”
BATTLING COVID-19…FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
One reason for Kelley’s success with career switchers? The program balances a rigorous attention to business fundamentals with a heavy investment in professional development. This difference was quickly apparent during recruiting says Kofi Barko, a 2020 MBA graduate who joined the university health system’s management rotation.
“As I interacted with the then-current MBA students at Kelley, I recognized that there was truly a transformation happening in their lives. They were not only intellectually inspired at the school, but also had a strong sense of self-direction and confidence that came from practical experiences that the school had provided to apply their business skills.”
Soon enough, the next Kofi Barko will say the same about the Class of 2022. Take Morgan Bedan, who cranked out a home run in her first at bat in collegiate softball. Since then, she has worked on public health crises ranging from the Flint water crisis for the Executive Office of the Michigan Governor to COVID-19 for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In these roles, Bedan says, she learned grace under pressure.
“My last six months at the White House working with state and local governments to triage the challenges and uncertainty of the impacts of the Coronavirus was pivotal. My whole career has involved some level of crisis management, but this was exponentially more difficult as each city and state was experiencing varying challenges related to COVID-19 at the same time. What that experience did prepare me for is collaboration with leaders of diverse backgrounds, to be adaptable and to be resilient.”
MAKING AN IMPACT EVERYWHERE FROM EY TO UBER
The class also features Santiago Gamboa Peralta. He has already made a steep career shift. After six semesters in medical school, he moved into finance, moving into a senior rate in valuation, modeling, and economics at Ernst & Young. In this role, he built the financial model for the consolidation of four government-owned companies. Gamboa Peralta wasn’t alone in making a difference at EY. Here, Farrah Bhimani successfully piloted the company’s program to cut employee separations related to the United States’ H1-B lottery. That was hardly Bhimani’s only accomplishment during her five years with the firm.
“EY provided me with amazing career opportunities, including developing a customized recruiting strategy for a recent acquisition, streamlining trainings and best practices for 100+ recruiters across the country, and being at the forefront of the firm’s growth.”
As a project manager, Shivani Handa rolled out a national employee engagement program that was estimated to save her employer $20 million dollars. John Olsoni was entrusted to lead Uber Asia’s Electric Vehicle strategy for the Asia Pacific, which enabled him to reduce fossil fuel usage in the region. In the U.S. Marine Corps, Shreedhar Patel served in an unheralded role of a logistics officer. Translation: he kept the movement of repair parts running throughout the Iraqi and Syrian theaters in the war against ISIS. His defining moment, however, came earlier in his career when he became a platoon commander.
“This job involved leading up to 70 Marines in day-to-day operations and various large-scale military exercises. After multiple successes and failures over my two years with my platoon, I was able to better define my leadership style, which I carried with me through the rest of my military career and will further refine through the MBA program.”
“HUMBLE, CURIOUS, FRIENDLY, AND DRIVEN”
True to the Kelley spirit, Adam Cochran also made a career change before business school. He left J.P. Morgan’s investment banking arm to volunteer full-time at a South African school for children suffering from HIV and AIDs. During his time in Africa, Cochran helped the school build a dozen classrooms, a 1,000-seat auditorium, an obstacle course, and a campsite. He even found time to make a 709-foot bungee jump – the world’s highest – from the Bloukrans Bridge. Oh, and he did his second jump there backwards.
“One year turned into five and I’ll never be the same,” he reminisces. “It helped prepare me for business school because I had the opportunity to take on challenges in organizational management and leadership that I never had before, full of autonomy and variety. I learned that with the right training, I could take on more. Most importantly, I lived within another culture in a country full of amazing, yet challenging history. Seeing first-hand the needs of how most of the world lives, plus living as a minority in a foreign country, enriched my perspective.”
What does Cochran think of the Kelley classmates he has met so far?
“Everyone just seems comfortable in who they are and where they want to go (even if that’s still being figured out). They are humble, curious, friendly, and driven. They all want to make the most of the Kelley MBA experience and that starts with knowing we don’t know everything. They know we’re in it together and the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.”
Go to Page 2 for an exclusive Q&A with the Kelley School’s MBA Director.
Go to Page 3 for in-depth profiles of class members.