Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Adam Cochran, Indiana University (Kelley)

Adam Cochran

Indiana University, Kelley School of Business

“A Christ-follower who loves adventure, serving others and leaving my comfort zone to carpe diem.”

Hometown: Beaumont, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I love going out of my comfort zone. Before Hope Schools, I had practically zero experience with children. I’m petrified of heights, but I did the world’s tallest bridge bungee jump … twice (Bloukrans Bridge – Storms River, South Africa). First facing forward, then a few years later facing backward.

Undergraduate School and Major: Lamar University – Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:  Hope Schools – Operations & Strategy, full-time volunteer

In the second half of the year, you will be completing an Academy devoted to areas like Marketing, Finance, Operations, Digital Enterprises and more. Which Academy interests you the most and why?  The Supply Chain and Digital Enterprise Academy interests me the most. Throughout my career, I’ve found myself in operational roles. Initially, I wanted to transition to a different function, but I realized operations comes naturally to me. 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.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Me, Inc was a big draw in my coming to Kelley. I knew what I wanted to do, but it’s taken some time to fully understand what value I bring to an organization and how to package it.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? The feeling I keep getting from my classmates is authenticity. 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. I remember two 2nd-years I spoke to who gave me so much of their time in my application and decision-making process. One even connected me to her colleagues at a different program just so that I’d have an unbiased perspective.

What club or activity excites you most at this school Activity? Definitely Me, Inc. So much of leadership today is knowing how to work with others. It starts with fully knowing yourself, your tendencies, and strengths and weaknesses. Introspection does not always come easy, but it is incredibly valuable. I want to better understand how my diverse experience has molded me to what I am today.

Club? Outdoors Club because Bloomington is beautiful! Although if I can’t find an ultimate frisbee game or board games group, I may have to start them!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Without a doubt it was helping build Hope Schools. Hope Schools is a school for children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS from the surrounding townships and informal settlements of East London, South Africa. It started out of an HIV clinic with three children as a pre-school in 2005. My involvement started in 2011 with volunteer trips and then I moved there in 2014. The school has grown by a grade each year and provides transport, food and education. When I arrived, we only went to Grade 5. When I left, we were starting Grade 11 with 280 children. We built 12 classrooms, admin buildings, a 1,000-seater hall, obstacle course, campsite, and much more. Walking around the property on my last day, it was incredible to see how the school had grown from mostly bush to a bustling campus. It was symbolic of how the children, the staff, and I also grew over the years. We faced many challenges, celebrated many successes, and went on many adventures. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career?  I originally wanted an MBA several years ago. I had just taken my first volunteer trip to South Africa and thought I was dead set to work in non-profit, so I ended up only applying to one school. Fortunately, it didn’t work out. After moving back to the U.S., I realized that now was actually perfect timing. My experience and perspective has been greatly enriched by my diverse experience. An MBA now is helping me solidify my goals, refine and expand my skillset, grow my network, and polish my brand before jumping back into the workforce.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?  Ross, McCombs, Owen, Scheller, Tepper

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Surprisingly, the most common question was probably the most challenging for me: “Tell me about yourself.” My years in South Africa were a time of breaking free from the railroad tracks and creating my own story. Crafting an answer with such diverse experiences and verbalizing my goals will always be a refining process.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started the whole process by first deciding what I wanted out of a program, not what people tell me I should want. I wanted a program with a diverse curriculum that gave hands-on experience, a strong network, excellent career services, smaller class sizes and a brand that attracted – and developed – people who were competent, competitive, and friendly … not cutthroat. I wanted a program that was full of real people who genuinely wanted the best for their students. I also knew I wanted to stay with the top 30 programs. Of course, I used U.S. News and other rankings, but I didn’t obsess over them. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit any schools (which I would prefer), but ironically COVID-19 was quite helpful with all the extended deadlines. I spoke to current students at each program, researched online (i.e. Poets & Quants, Clear Admit, etc) and attended many webinars. I dug into employment reports. Many schools will say they’re the best. Find the one that’s best for YOU. I knew Kelley’s humble and collaborative brand was authentic and provided the supportive atmosphere to thrive.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school?  It was when I resigned from my career at J.P. Morgan’s investment bank to volunteer full-time in South Africa. One year turned into five and I’ll never be the same. 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 is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? This was tough as I have a several (REI, Rivian, Delta), but Permanent Equity wins. Their commitment to investing in small and medium-sized real “unsexy” businesses that are cogs in driving the economy is a breath of fresh air in a world that seems focused on big tech and other massive corporations.