“I am a proud transgender woman, CFA Charterholder, advocate, and baseball aficionado.”
Hometown: White Bear Lake, MN
Fun Fact About Yourself: I have bowled a 300 game and won a state title in bowling while in high school.
Undergraduate School and Major: Luther College ’14, Economics Major
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Goldman Sachs, Associate
What is the best part of coming to New York City for your MBA? I’ve been in New York for the last 5 years, but this is my first time seeing the City as a student. I’ve loved getting to know Harlem and Morningside Heights, communities I hadn’t previously explored, and have appreciated the change of pace that they represent relative to lower Manhattan.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Curiosity. I have consistently been amazed by the questions my peers ask, both inside and outside of academic settings. I’ve been inspired by my peers’ boundless appetite for knowledge and relish being in a community where people genuinely view learning as an opportunity and privilege rather than an obligation.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment was in the Fall of 2017 when I went to Goldman Sachs as Kate for the first time. While there had been months of preparation and messaging to colleagues prior to “go live” my first day in office as Kate was a mix of trepidation, anxiety, and elation. I would now be living and working authentically, but not without opening myself up to scrutiny and criticism from peers and colleagues.
My co-workers were beyond gracious toward me. Although my first day included hiccups, I could not imagine it going better. By the end of the day, I felt as if a fog had lifted and could sense that I was at the beginning of a positive chapter in my life. This experience of overcoming adversity and stress to bring my whole self to work was extremely informative and is one that has paid huge dividends thus far in my business school journey. It has helped me to forge stronger friendships, engender vulnerability in the classroom, and engage in difficult or uncomfortable conversations with peers.
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? Columbia lives up to its credo as the “Center of Business.” The school’s location is unparalleled, providing endless options for professional advancement and the ability to network beyond a surface level. I intend to leverage the location to secure at least one in-semester internship, and in doing so use practical experience to build on and cement Columbia’s core curriculum.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Columbia Business School? What makes you most nervous about your MBA? An MBA at Columbia Business School is a formidable credential that will travel with me through the rest of my life. Coming from a suburban Minnesota town and an unassuming liberal arts school in Iowa, having a degree from CBS means I’ll never be asked, “Where is that?” in a job interview ever again.
Like many of my peers, I’m most nervous about the global pandemic and its effect on daily life. Not only is the pandemic a huge source of uncertainty as my peers engage in on-campus recruiting, but it is also creating a pervasive sense of FOMO. The MBA experience under COVID is undeniably different than the pre-pandemic experience, and getting the most out of the experience as it is today can feel daunting.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far. In mid-2018, I joined a small group of LGBTQ+ individuals championing an initiative at Goldman Sachs, known as the Pronouns Project. An industry first, we developed content for and launched a public website with guidelines on how to engage in discussions about individuals’ pronouns – particularly trans and gender non-conforming individuals – as well as the importance of pronouns in the workplace.
Today GS not only has resources for allies looking to create an inclusive workplace but also provides implicit public support of its TGNC workforce by allowing the inclusion of pronouns within email signatures. The initiative’s launch event was a panel called “A Discussion on Supporting the Transgender Community.” During this hour-long discussion, I became the first employee in firm history to openly and publicly identify as trans. I candidly shared my professional coming out story including others’ reception to my transition and advice for those contemplating a similar workplace transition. The event served as a catalyst to provide comfort to others seeking advice on the transition journey; notably, I was approached by two senior members of the firm seeking advice, both of whom have since publicly transitioned. The experience of launching a firm-wide, global initiative in support of a more inclusive workplace and seeing its subsequent impact is an achievement that will always stick with me.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After more than three years at Goldman Sachs, I realized that I had achieved everything I could at the firm for the time-being. Business school represented the chance to broaden my horizons – something I was very interested in having come from a highly technical role at GS – and to create a fresh start in a new role. I transitioned while at Goldman and, while I will be forever grateful for the courtesy and support I was shown by my colleagues, my professional brand within the firm was inextricably tied to my transition. The MBA gives me a chance to refocus the conversation on my experience, skill set, and personality rather than my status as a trans woman.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? During the application process, I was asked, “Who is a leader you admire and why?” On its face, it’s easy to pick an admirable leader with a long list of accolades, but accolades do not directly correspondent to admiration. The question forced me toward the realization that I had regularly conflated leadership and achievement. Having to answer the question in this way made the difference clear and changed my personal views of leadership coming into the MBA experience.
What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? I took P&Q contributor Angela Guido’s You Only MBA Once (YOMO) program in the months leading up to school. The course provided frameworks that formalize many things that MBA students already know. In doing so, it equipped me for pre-MBA recruiting. Through the course, I spent countless hours thinking about my achievements, personal qualities, development areas, and associated anecdotes to differentiate me from peers I would be measured against through recruiting.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? As someone who’s only four months into school and experienced at two companies, I’m no expert in what b-school students need to learn from specific companies!
In my experience, the deepest learning – whether technical or soft skill – comes from individual mentors and peers who buy into your success. I’ve been extremely privileged to have mentors in my career at Goldman Sachs who taught me that a great team can be worth more than the sum of its parts, how to excel under pressure, and that great work begets further opportunity.