“Hire the right people.”
That’s the foundation of any business. When you hire, you’re not filling a seat. You’re redefining a role, expanding your possibilities. That comes from ideas and energy, the questions asked, relationships built, and sacrifices made. The best hires don’t take shortcuts or fluster quickly. They share your values and live your mission. Most of all, they rise to the occasion – and make everyone around them better in the process.
In the best organizations, every person contributes something indispensable: intellect, experience, diplomacy, spirit, conscience, or raw talent. That’s how classes are built at the Kellogg School of Management. Kellogg knows who they are and what they want – and they’ve fashioned a philosophy that works. Every Kellogg student matters because they’ve been chosen for a reason. They weren’t given a spot to hit a quota. Instead, each one was interviewed to ensure they would enrich the experience and fit the culture. By fit, they are expected to operate in a team-driven dynamic and become heavily involved in a student-partnered program.
Bottom line: who you are matters as much as what you know at Kellogg.
A CULTURE OF “YES, AND…”
In this program, the strength of the individual is measured by their ability to elevate the whole. In fact, MBAs can expect to attend over 200 team meetings by graduation, exposing them to a wide range of personalities, work styles, and roles. In other words, they are rehearsing the same interpersonal skills in the same team environments they’ll face at the next level.
“People talk in terms of collaboration and working in teams,” explains Dean Francesca Cornelli in a 2020 interview with P&Q. “The way I think about it is that we produce people with empathy and the ability to inspire others. When disruption comes and you have a great idea, you need to convince the people around you, your colleagues, your team or your investors that your idea is worth investment. You can’t do a good idea alone. You need money or talent or other things. How people influence others is so important to learn.”
Call it a culture of saying “Yes” – yes to people, opportunity, change, and growth and yes to what’s scary, risky, demanding, and humbling. Being a leader at Kellogg requires more than just saying “Yes,” writes Michelle Morales, a MIT-trained engineer who joined Kellogg this fall. Before business school, Morales was part of a different team – an improv comedy team. Here, she learned the fundament rule of comedy: “Yes, and.” By this, she means that scene partners should be open and supportive with each other, taking what they’re given and expanding upon it. That’s the type member she hopes to be at Kellogg.
“I think that the “yes and” principle applies to any team,” Morales adds. “Not in the sense that we should blindly agree to any idea, but in the importance of giving and receiving support. Giving and receiving support is essential in building the trust that is necessary for people to feel comfortable being open with their ideas, taking risks, giving feedback, and ultimately producing a quality output, no matter the context.”
LISTENING, LEARNING, LAUGHING
What brings the Class of 2022 to Evanston? Most will say they want to be part of a team. That’s because Kellogg students find an identity through the group, becoming a leader by first acting as a servant. As team members, each plans to make a distinct contribution to the whole. Gonzalo Roque, a Bain & Company consultant, hopes to adopt a “Yes, and” approach to advance every interaction in new and unexpected ways.
“In the classroom, I hope to internalize my classmates’ points during discussions and build upon (or debate) those points, rather than interjecting with a separate “pre-scripted” contribution. Outside of the classroom, it will mean asking meaningful follow up questions during conversations, making sure my peers feel heard and understood.”
When it comes to “Yes, and,” Mashiwat Mahbub’s approach involves using “and” to bring new voices into the conversation. “By listening to members from other functionalities with various areas of expertise, a successful outcome is bound to emerge. I actively try to listen to everyone’s ideas, especially those of people who are not as willing to speak up, to make sure that we have a 360o view of the project at hand.”
Of course, it is easier to operate as a team when members possess underlying expertise, savvy, and character. Thus far, Christianne Johnson has found her classmates to be “full of ideas” – not to mention “smart, articulate, and highly motivated to make an impact on the world around them.” This has instilled a sense of respect – an inclination to listen first and weigh ideas before voicing his own. Raman Malik, however, intends to carve out an entirely different role as a team member.
“In my experience, individuals who are low-ego, open-minded, and never forget to have fun are the backbone of any team’s success. Whether in industry clubs, interview-prep groups, KWEST hangouts, or Zoom breakout sessions, I try to always bring an enthusiastic and light-hearted attitude to the team.”
STUDENT SURPASSES THE TEACHER
In the end, the Class of 2022 is united by one virtue: they look beyond themselves, pushing aside short-term wins for the greater good of all. “My classmates have been amazing in making every group still feel like a collaborative environment where we all have the chance to contribute,” adds Alyssa Posklensky, who helped manage the Elmer’s Glue brand before business school. “Whether this manifests in someone with a finance background taking time to explain problem solutions step-by-step – or simply everyone coming to a group meeting ready to truly listen to new perspectives – I think these elements are important to creating the “team-driven” culture here and something I’d like to keep in mind in the classroom and beyond.”
Teamwork is all about relationships – and it was a lesson that Christianne Johnson learned years ago as an investment associate at BlackRock. On paper, her job was smilin’ and dialin’ – cold calling prospects to move products and services. However, Johnson followed the Zig Ziglar model of bringing value and building relationships – sending helpful articles or birthday wishes to prospective clients. Quickly enough, Johnson’s approach paid dividends.
“In my first year as an associate, I was consistently the top-ranked performer in my cohort. I ended up mentoring analysts and teaching them my client relationship building techniques. One of my favorite mentees in San Francisco has done so well that she beat me in sales two years ago. I joked that the student had surpassed the teacher!”
COVID BRINGS OUT ONE FIRST-YEAR’s BEST
Her classmates followed a similar ‘doing well by doing good’ ethos. Aishwarya Bedekar headed up a marketing campaign for one of India’s top anti-bacterial hand-wash brands. The result, according to data, was 178,000 fewer disease infections (to go along with a 19% spike in sales). As a volunteer for Out for Undergrad (O4U), Emily Kuo managed a nine-member team that ran the organization’s annual Marketing Conference for LGBTQ students. Through her leadership, O4U conference attracted a record number of students and boosted revenue by 30%. Speaking of leadership, Raman Malik was part of the development and launch team for Lyft Pink, the company’s global subscription service. At Anheuser-Busch InBev, Roberto Chavez Flores was assigned a seemingly impossible task: open 1,501 Modeloramas (retail stores)…in a year!
“Opening that many stores was, ironically, easy,” Chavez Flores admits. “The harder task was ensuring that I created a positive business impact by opening them in the right locations. With no previous experience in retail or construction, I surrounded myself with a great team, collaborating with other areas in the company, to create a clear process that allowed for the development of a new tool to identify optimal store locations. By the end of the year, we opened 1,514 stores with above budget profitability and the tool we developed was adopted by other areas in the business.”
By day, Hereford Johnson was a Deloitte consultant before starting at the Kellogg MBA. Outside work, he applied his business know-how to growing a residential cleaning company, Marvelous Maids. In fact, he asserts that his side hustle taught him more about sales, marketing, and operations than his consulting gig. Even more, the pandemic – which sank many similar businesses – served as Johnson’s finest moment as a leader.
“Facing the decision to immediately shut down or take on the challenge to lead my team through a high stress, unpredictable environment felt like a true test of character. I have been able to persist through the pandemic without employee layoffs despite losing over 60% of our recurring customer base at the beginning of Covid-19. Having the strongest financial performance year since launch this year is something I am very proud of.”
Page 2: Class Stats
Pages 3-4: Interview with Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
Page 5: In-depth profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2022