Meet The MBA Class of 2022: Jim Fiene, Duke University (Fuqua)

Jim Fiene

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“In my life, career, and along the road, people are more important than the destination.”

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Fun Fact About Yourself: My favorite form of meditation is riding my motorcycle. From riding dirt bikes with my dad when I was young to exploring the woods of North Carolina on my sportbike now, it always clears my head. I’m excited to ride the winding roads of the Great Smokey Mountains soon!

Undergraduate School and Major: Marquette University, Finance and Business Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deloitte Consulting, Senior Consultant 

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? It’s funny, when I applied to Fuqua, I wrote about the first three. Now, after further reflection, Loyal Community is something I embody. Looking back at my life, I’ve moved many times only to make new friends or work on new teams. I’ve been blessed to carry so many of these relationships forward as I’ve moved on to new cities or roles. The reason is loyalty.

Prioritizing the support and wel-being of people around me builds loyalty on both sides. Recently, I was on a Zoom Happy Hour. One of my friends said, “If I’m ever in jail, I’d use my one phone call for Fiene. He’d either smooth talk his way in or break down a wall to get me out.” If that ever happens, I’d be flattered to be the one phone call but wouldn’t recommend it legally.

Coming to Fuqua, we took a thorough strengths assessment and evaluated our results with our cohort. I wasn’t surprised when 3 of my top 5 strengths were focused on supporting and empowering people around me. That is something I plan to prioritize at Fuqua. Team Fuqua is far beyond a saying. It’s a lifestyle. Loyal Community means I will have everyone’s back when they need it and they will have mine. We listen to each other when we need someone to talk to, and if necessary, we can be that one phone call.

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? Entrepreneurship has always been a priority for me, even going back to when I started a commercial landscaping business at 16. Bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to my career has been a skill I’ve worked to refine.

Leaving Fuqua’s people and culture out of the conversation is tough, but Fuqua’s entrepreneurship opportunities were a key characteristic that attracted me to the program. While at Fuqua, I plan to engage with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to move through all phases of business creation. The experiential curriculum takes you through ideation to execution and scaling. I’m excited to get the opportunity to work on a new start-up idea with my classmates and see how far it goes.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Humble. Everyone at Fuqua has accomplished so much and has great passions that they are following. But they don’t wear it on their sleeve all at once. Instead, they are genuinely interested in your story, passions, and building a connection with you. My classmates have already worked hard to build meaningful relationships during these strange, semi-virtual times. This year, we will continue to support each other and foster our passions together.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? Duke Basketball. I know this is not a traditional business school trait we discuss, but it is so unique and impactful to our culture. It is something no other top program has. You might not expect it to permeate the MBA culture as much as it does, but people really bond over it.

Coming from Marquette, I know just how much college basketball can define a community. Marquette games and tournament runs framed my undergrad experience. It is rare to find any activity that can pull a whole school or community together, but basketball can. I hope to fully participate next year in home games, away games at UNC and Wake Forest, and camping out for three days for tickets in Krzyzewskiville! Go Blue Devils!

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment of my career and my personal life will always be the impact I have on those around me. While at Deloitte, I had the honor and responsibility of taking over a customer offering of executive-level, all-day visioning workshops. Taking the reins for this offering was not a single person job. I had the opportunity to design a team utilizing my network within the firm. I was humbled when many of my previous colleagues jumped at the chance to work together with me again. We ended up with a highly diverse team that bred healthy debate and new perspectives.

Over the next year, our team delivered innovations and thought leadership for our clients. But as I said, my team’s success and growth were my greatest accomplishment. We worked to build our strengths and connections on a personal level, bringing our team closer. The change I saw in each of them through this process was incredible. We elevated far beyond our levels or experience. It was unbelievably tough to leave this team when choosing to enroll at Fuqua. But I am confident they are equipped to succeed.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? To achieve my career goal of leading or starting a company, I felt an MBA would give me the leadership skills, supportive network, and diverse perspectives needed to be an effective leader. I have known an MBA was in my future for a while.

Starting in finance enabled me to embrace diverse experiences in many teams, industries, and countries, constructing a strong business base for me to build on. I knew it was time to go back to school when my interests started swaying towards the creative and consumer-engaging areas of marketing. I started to feel this as I progressed in consulting, focusing more of my time on client motivations, perceptions and ideals. Once I knew the next area of business I wanted to tackle, I knew it was time.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Northwestern Kellogg, Michigan Ross, and UCLA Anderson

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? A common question in interviews but framed differently for MBA’s is, “What is your biggest weakness on your application?” I wasn’t expecting this one, but I found it an opportunity to show both honesty and humility. If there is a weakness in your application, you should be aware of it and address it. I think admissions teams are looking for your self-awareness and are receptive to your rationale for why the weakness exists and how you have solved it.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? The most important thing I’ve done to prepare is “rest.” I write “rest” because it has been more purposeful than simply relaxing. I think everyone can agree that to find rest has been difficult since the pandemic started. I originally had international travel plans throughout the summer, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that I couldn’t leave. This time allowed me to spend the summer refocusing on what I had in my life before business school.

First, I took a three-week road trip with one of my best friends to hike 150 miles in four National Parks. I found out it can snow four inches in Yellowstone in June. Next, I spent a month living with my family in Detroit, playing tennis with my little brother and spending very late nights on the patio with my parents. Last, I went to different Chicago parks every day with friends to absorb every last drop of summer in Chicago that we could.

Before arriving at business school, it was easy for me to constantly look forward to the people and experiences I’ll have for the next two years. But when the world shut down, I took time to look at the phase of life I was in. Even though I’ll carry forward with all the great people, I wanted to savor what I had until the very end.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment was on a recent client project where I had the opportunity to lead an engagement with a peer. I didn’t feel fully prepared or confident to manage the situation without much leadership oversight. The moment came after weeks of preparation for a client workshop. Our leader had a last-minute emergency and couldn’t attend. My peer said I should lead the workshop; despite the setback, we could be successful. Their confidence pushed me to step up. Towards the end of the day, with a dozen clients looking to me to lead, I had a, “This is really working!” moment.

This moment showed me how preparation and confidence have helped get me to this point in life. These skills led me through the application process, tested my resolve and made me revisit my goals. They are the reason I’m on Team Fuqua, and will be critical while I’m here.

DON’T MISS: Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class of 2022

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