Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Marissa Miles, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Marissa Miles

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“A curious career-switcher with a lot of hobbies and even more spreadsheets.”

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I captained a 12-person relay team to run 200 miles from Frisco to Snowmass, CO. We lived and napped in two large vans around the clock while we ran up, down, and through the mountains to complete the course in just under 34 hours!

Undergraduate School and Major: Case Western Reserve University, Chemical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Solvay, Process Engineer

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? Like many of my classmates, I was drawn initially by the program’s strong analytical reputation and innovative spirit. What really set Tepper apart, though, was the Accelerate Leadership Center. I knew coming into this process that I wanted to take more from the experience than just new business knowledge. In terms of my own personal growth, a big piece of what I am looking to accomplish is further developing my communication and leadership skills. The Accelerate Leadership Center (ALC) provides many opportunities to do so. Through individual leadership coaching, creative workshops, and many other programs, the ALC teaches leadership through building empathy. I am excited to take advantage of this resource, and I plan to work a lot with them throughout the year.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am really excited to join the Net Impact Club. The Tepper chapter focuses on inspiring future leaders to seek social and environmental change through business. The club hosts a variety of events showcasing key aspects of social impact in business such as business ethics, sustainability, and social justice. I’m excited to collaborate with my Tepper clubmates and the national Net Impact community.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Tepper? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? The opportunities to learn and grow even beyond the classroom are what makes me most excited about getting my MBA at Tepper. On any given day, there are so many interesting things happening around campus. Between the insightful programming facilitated by the student clubs and Masters Career Center, leadership programming through the ALC, and happenings at the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, there is so much to take in. At the same time, however, this is also what makes me most nervous. As a career-switcher looking to take advantage of many of these resources (as well as investing a lot of time learning from my extremely talented classmates), I’m going to need to learn quickly how to best prioritize and manage my time.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In a recent role, I was fortunate enough to have a very rare opportunity to lead a commissioning team for a new production process. This responsibility involved testing the new equipment, validating the process through large scale trials, developing procedures and training operators, and eventually chemically commissioning and ultimately optimizing a brand-new process at my manufacturing site. Aside from the key project management component, this project was an accomplishment not only in terms of hard work and dedication (working several 12+ hour night shifts over the course of many months), but also in successful facilitation of cross functional collaboration.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Prior to coming to Tepper, I spent 7 years working in manufacturing in the chemicals industry. I was fortunate enough to have some really great experiences, and to learn and grow a lot along the way. However, I was ready for a change. Even after Tepper, I’ll probably always think of myself as an engineer (did I mention I like spreadsheets and data-based decision making?). I’m hoping to combine that background with the skills I’ll develop here at Tepper over the next two years in order to position myself for a long term career that best suits my skills and provides the opportunity to find meaning in my work.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Chicago Booth and Stanford GSB

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I don’t recall any particularly off-putting questions specifically, but I do recall that the admissions process revolved largely around discussion of what I was uniquely positioned to bring to an extremely collaborative and diverse Tepper community. Tepper is small on purpose, and the inclusive sense of community is something that they work very hard to strategically assemble from the very beginning of the admissions process.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Before even stepping on CMU’s campus, I had the chance to connect with many current students and other applicants virtually. The environment was so welcoming that I could tell right away that I’d be able to easily trust and build important relationships with my classmates. When I came for my interview and campus visit, it was easy to see that the small classroom size facilitated open discussion and collaboration in a way that I connected with.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? A few years ago, I had the chance to spend three months working on a project in Italy. While I was familiar with international travel – and had been reasonably-well experienced at working with colleagues from around the world – I had never before been so immersed in a different culture for such a period of time in a professional work setting. Through this experience (both at work and outside work), I gained a new perspective for just how different and wonderful the world can be from one place to another. This sparked a curiosity in me, along with an understanding that being uncomfortable is the only way to learn and grow. These realizations are ultimately an important piece of why I ended up in business school.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I think business students could learn several important lessons from the Certified B Corporations. The growing B Corp movement is comprised of thousands of companies committed to “using business as a force for good.” B Corp values have recently expanded to put a higher emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion, in addition to long-established principles like supporting vulnerable workers and mitigating climate change. In the eyes of a B Corp, business is about creating value for more than just your shareholders, but also for your employees, customers, local communities, and the planet.

For instance, I’ve always looked to Patagonia as well-known example of a leader in the environmental movement, and a company in which practicing responsible business is deeply ingrained in the culture. I think there is a growing trend among my peers that doing business is about more than just the bottom line. As future leaders in the world of business, it is important for students to recognize and take action around this responsibility.

Pretend you have just graduated from business school. How do you picture your experience being successful? For me, a successful business school experience is one in which I can look back and know that I was brave enough to spend significant time outside my comfort zone. Success will look not only like I’ve increased my business knowledge, but also that I’ve enhanced my leadership skills, built lasting relationships with my classmates, and leveraged all the resources available at Tepper in order to find an impactful post-MBA role that is right for me.




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