Living On Locust: Making The Most Of The MBA Opportunity Utopia

Graduates of Wharton make the most of any international MBAs from top-50 U.S. schools: more than $142,000 to start. File photo

2) Evaluate Your Professional Attributes Another important aspect of achieving your MBA goals is to take inventory of your professional skills. Ask yourself, ‘What are your desired post-MBA goals’ and ‘What skills do you need to be successful in that industry and function’. Your first semester is a whirlwind of people, resources, recruiting, and socializing; use these events to your advantage. My passion is business development in Africa. Business school is the perfect environment to explore a variety of industries to understand how I can leverage my professional skills to add value to the continent. I learn best by doing – so I was hungry for experiential learning opportunities in a virtual environment. After speaking to second-year students, others interested in Africa, and connecting with student-focused clubs, I located an opportunity.

My pathway for professional growth is facilitated by the Wharton Africa Investment Partners (WAIP) program. This student-led organization facilitates volunteer consulting projects for start-ups in Africa. Here, MBA students are contributing to growth projects in emerging markets, conducting due diligence, and refining their business framework. This program allows me to strengthen my linear thinking and gain exposure to various enterprises in different regions across Africa.

Azline Shelby Nelson

My project is focused on due diligence within private markets. I don’t have any background in private equity, but I quickly learned the ABC’s: Assume nothing, Believe no one, and Check everything. Learning how to conduct market intelligence and build a go-to-market strategy in a country that I have never visited is challenging. I am quickly absorbing new content and unfamiliar data, formulating robust questions, and consulting with my colleagues to present innovative solutions to the client. Furthermore, I plan to include this unique experience on my resume to elevate my international business mentality and mention this leadership experience to future employers. This program stretches me to be a consulting strategist, yet I am empowered by my creativity, strong teamwork acumen, and passion to work in Africa.

3) Snowball Networking Brace yourself for the incredible people within the MBA community; Do not be intimidated or compare yourself. You earned your spot in the program and you have many talents to contribute. Once you organize your goals and internalize your competitive advantage, tactically pose questions to network among students who possess your desired skillset. They are assets who can connect you with their network and organically teach you successful attributes to land your dream job. It is essential to harness your new-found connectivity and manage your personal brand accordingly.

I mentioned earlier how I want to learn to manage a profit-and-loss budget. My curiosity led me to consider brand management within the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. I connected with a classmate and she shared how brand management roles are similar to serving as a CEO of a select brand. The comprehensive experience would expose me to marketing, finance, strategy, and operations, and advertising functions. After an informative discussion, I told my classmate to keep me in mind if she came across someone else that I should speak with who works in a similar industry. Sure enough – one month later – my classmate connected me with another amazing classmate. Do not underestimate your network or your classmates’ willingness to support your goals. More importantly, always reciprocate and look out for other classmates.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned the MBA curriculum and other career center resources. While important and valuable, I trust that many students will quickly capitalize on these well-advertised resources. As you are cultivating your MBA “seeds” and dreams, remember to revisit your goals often and ensure they are guiding your time commitments. Additionally, align yourself with other leaders in the MBA community who will empower you to succeed, and become the best version of yourself. Curate a strategy and keep your eyes on the prize to maximize the ROI of your time. In this way, you can maximize the MBA utopia environment of unlimited opportunities. I hope to see you “Living on Locust” with soul, purpose, and a spirit of collaboration!

Azline is from Waterloo, IA and became a National Gates Millennium Scholar in 2009. She studied International studies and French at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA and graduated Cum Laude in 2013. During her undergraduate tenure, she studied abroad in Fort-de-France, Martinique, and Geneva, Switzerland and also interned at Black Entertainment Network and Google, Inc. Azline worked for Delta Air Lines for seven years before starting a dual degree MBA/MA program at the Wharton School and the Lauder Institute.

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