Hometown: Spring Valley, New York
Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a first-generation college graduate.
Undergraduate School and Major Stanford University, Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Google, Recruiter
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? Explore Wharton was a game changer for me. Coming from an untraditional background, I was uncomfortable with the idea of attending a school known for its quantitatively rigorous curriculum. Getting the opportunity to hear directly from students about the resources Wharton provides to help them manage life here gave me the boost of confidence I needed to follow through with an application and ultimately, enroll.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Audacious. Although I’ve only just started classes, I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn about some of the challenges my classmates have had to overcome and the risks they took to get here. I’ve been inspired to be vulnerable and share parts of my own story.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m most excited about participating in more collaborative events between some of our affinity clubs, such as African American MBA Association (AAMBAA) and Out4Biz. As a Black gay student, the representation of intersectional identities in our programming is incredibly important – especially as it relates to building the pipeline of underrepresented prospective students. I’m ultimately interested in fostering a stronger network of queer MBAs of color and I see getting involved in programming with these organizations as a great stepping stone towards that.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Wharton? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I’m most excited about the talent I have an opportunity to engage with over the next two years and beyond. From my classmates to the alumni and our faculty, the brain power and potential for global impact amongst my peers are astounding.
I’m most nervous about the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought. So much of the Wharton experience is fostered around the social element and traveling. Given that I’m a proud introvert who didn’t travel abroad as an undergrad, I wanted to leverage my MBA experience to stretch myself by meeting new people and getting international exposure. Although Wharton has been adamant about fostering virtual connections, the pandemic has largely postponed some of my big goals.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In undergrad, I applied for a marketing internship at Google with my legal name, ‘Rashawn,’ written on my resume. After not being offered an interview, I reapplied the following year and received an offer with the same resume but with “Shawn” written instead. With this experience in tow, I knew that I was uniquely positioned to be a leader within staffing by challenging hiring biases and getting hiring managers to think holistically about candidates –while ensuring that others wouldn’t experience what I went through as an applicant. I’m proud that I’ve had the opportunity to make Google a more diverse and inclusive workplace through my work as a recruiter and as a diversity specialist. I helped change hiring attitudes for one of my client organizations by getting hiring managers to think outside of playing musical chairs with internal candidates (an already homogenous applicant pool) and not only hire externally, but actively participate in diversity-focused events to build pipeline for underrepresented talent.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After years of learning about hiring managers’ teams and being a part of the process that made dreams come true for candidates, I was reminded of what my original dreams were while in undergrad. I knew that I ultimately wanted to manage brands and influence how people think about not only products, but larger societal issues. I was able to accomplish that as an employment brand manager at Google. I realized it was time for me to look for my next adventure to put me back on the path I initially wanted to pursue. I decided to leverage an MBA to help me pivot.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kelley, Goizueta, Ross, Fuqua and Kellogg.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “You’re extremely busy and you’ve worked hard to get here. What do you do for self-care?” It stumped me. Out of all of the topics I had prepared for leading up to interviews, self-care was not one of those topics. By that point, I had already integrated coping mechanisms to help me deal with the stress and anxiety that came with testing for the GMAT and the application process. But self-care had not been as top of mind for me in that moment as it should have been. It was an important lesson for me in always making sure that self-care was front and center in all that I do.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized community and reputation within my desired field and skills that I wanted to gain. I knew that I would need a diverse community to center me through the stretch experiences I wanted to take advantage of while in school. I also knew that I wanted to pivot into marketing and sharpen up my analytical skills. I visited most of the schools I applied to so that I could get a real feel for not only what each program had to offer but how I might be able to add to their cultures. I spoke to a ton of current students for the most immediate pulse on life at these programs. At the same time, I spoke to alumni to figure out how their experiences paid dividends for them over time, especially on the career front.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I remember being told by my second grade teacher that I wasn’t ever going to amount to anything after not performing well on a string of spelling tests. That was all of the motivation I needed to draw on over the last 21 years to push me towards business school. Whenever I get down on myself or face imposter syndrome, I think back to that moment and about all of the Black boys who are being discouraged in their classrooms. I’m no stranger to accepting a challenge or being told that I can’t accomplish something.
What have you been doing since you were accepted to prepare for business school? I spent the bulk of the Spring recruiting for my MBA internship next summer. As a career pivoter who has spent the entirety of my career post-undergrad at the same company, I knew that I had to get ahead with interview preparation and industry exploration so that I wasn’t caught off guard once school began. I also spent time getting acclimated to business school coursework by brushing up on business math (i.e. statistics and calculus).
DON’T MISS: MEET THE WHARTON SCHOOL’S MBA CLASS OF 2022