Spring – it’s the time of year when everything gets better. The weather is warmer, the days are longer, and we can finally get back to socially distanced gatherings outside. If you’re an MBA, spring is also when you pass on leadership roles to the next class and reflect on the past two years.
Looking back on my own time at Tepper, I am proud of the personal growth I have achieved. Business strategy and entrepreneurship classes have prepared me to make an impact at all levels of a company. The Accelerate Leadership Center (ALC) has helped me to develop my own leadership style focused on the value I bring to others. Finance, accounting, and economics projects – while a headache at the time – have given me a financial literacy that I could have never gained on my own.
That said, there is one achievement that makes me especially proud: the launch of Tepper’s student-led podcast, Humans of Tepper.
A CHANCE TO SHARE THEIR STORIES
In my last blog post, I talked about how community, in my mind, is one of the most important ingredients for a successful MBA. Ever since I started this journey, I have been floored by the amazing people and incredible stories that have come together here in Steel Town. We have former aircraft carrier pilots, a founder of a drone-based fire control company, and even our own hockey coach! Early on, I realized I had a goal: I wanted to give my colleagues and friends the chance share their stories.
To accomplish that goal, I wanted to make use of podcasts, a quick and easy way for people to share their stories. Last spring, I spent a good amount of time going between different administrative offices at Tepper to get support for this new podcast. I leaned heavily on my entrepreneurship classes to develop a convincing pitch on how this podcast would deliver value to Tepper and prospective students. The 30-second version of the pitch: current students could share their stories of why they came back to get an MBA, and prospective students could interact on a more intimate level with these stories.
Looking from the perspective of a current student, the podcast has accomplished my goal of enabling others to share the stories that led them to pursue an MBA. One of my favorite episodes so far featured Melissa Bizzari, our class president. Melissa and I have worked together on the student government for the past two years, but I never knew that she was once a successful hockey coach. Other students have shared that they loved learning why their classmates decided to pursue roles in healthcare, or the pro-bono consulting work they were doing around Pittsburgh. I am hopeful that, by sharing these stories, Tepper students can continue to get to know one another on a deeper level. Even after I graduate in May, I plan to continue listening to stay in touch with the students in the program.
GETTING BUY-IN FROM ADMINISTRATION
Since the podcast launched in February, we have had almost 700 unique downloads! I’ve recently spoken to prospective students who’ve shared that the conversations from Humans of Tepper have allowed them to answer some important questions and feel closer to the Tepper community. For example, one person said he was originally apprehensive about pursuing their MBA while balancing life with his partner. By listening to Becca Kilburg’s episode, he was able to have an example of what that would look like.
Whether you want to know more about pursuing an MBA with a partner, switching careers, or maintaining your own health and wellness you can hear real students talking about their experiences. If you aren’t able to visit Tepper because of the pandemic, distance, or time constraints, listening to Humans of Tepper is the next best thing. Find a story that connects with you, and then reach out to some of our student ambassadors to dive deeper
The most important task after establishing the podcast was to ensure it would be around after I graduated. Every two years, you have a completely new population of students who have their own priorities and goals. That’s why working with the administration was the only way to make anything stick long term. In my pitches last year, I was trying to find the best administrative office to “own” this podcast. In the end, Student Services provided equipment; the ALC was happy to contribute additional communications training for the hosts; and the Marketing Office provided funding, web hosting, and the administrative interest needed to ensure Humans of Tepper would around for years to come.
Another key factor that made this podcast possible is the amazing people I got to work with. I leaned heavily on my relationships within the Marketing Office and the ALC to help establish relationships with a sound engineer and make recommendations for equipment.
WHAT LIFE IS LIKE AT TEPPER
Cynthia Mills is a VP for our Tepper Women In Business Club and a fellow Advisory Board member for the Business and Technology Club. She is also an editor for the Robber Barron, Tepper’s student-published satirical newspaper. Cynthia joined the podcast as a host because meeting active Tepper students was a crucial part of her decision to come to the school. In light of COVID restricting in person tours, she says the podcast filled a gap for applicants considering a Tepper MBA.
“With the current pandemic, it’s difficult for prospective students to get an idea of what their future classmates will be like.”
When asked why people should listen to the podcast, Cynthia believes it exposes candidates to what MBA life is really like at Tepper.
“I’m excited to be a part of this project and share diverse perspectives about what it means to be a Tepper MBA student.”
“MORE THAN JUST A SCHOOL: IT’S A FAMILY”
The other half of our dynamic duo of hosts is Rohit Dayal. Rohit is the outgoing Healthcare Club president, a chairperson of CMU’s Graduate Student Association, and a communications coach with the ALC. He is also one of the first people I mentioned the podcast idea to during fall of last year, and Rohit has been involved with the project since day one. Rohit wanted to host Humans of Tepper to help share the stories behind the professional journeys of our classmates.
“It lets prospective students hear the unique journeys and lighter side of Tepper students.”
Emphasizing the human aspect of Humans of Tepper, Rohit has a specific goal in mind for listeners of the podcast.
“I’m hoping that this podcast will show prospective students how Tepper is more than just a school: it’s a family.”
THE NEW HOSTS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN
The past two years have been an amazing experience, and it would not be the same without each of the people who make up our close-knit cohort. As our class transitions out, we have handed over this project to our first years. Scott Mentzer is my replacement as the student government’s marketing chair; he is a strategic genius who will be pulling the strings to make sure Humans of Tepper continues to provide an authentic view into the student experience.
Rohit and Cynthia have found successors in Kara Buggy and Ben Fontana. Kara has over 4 years of marketing expertise under her belt. She is looking to give prospective students a better look inside the community at Tepper, especially as the pandemic makes it hard to visit the school in person. Ben brings a background in broadcast journalism and experience as a Cleveland radio personality to the table. While he might not be able to get Lebron James on the show, he is looking to share his story of getting off the waitlist and becoming fully immersed in the Tepper community. Ben and Kara have now fully taken over as hosts, and you can learn more about them by listening to their transition episode.
Getting this project off the ground was one of my main goals over the past year. To now have almost 700 downloads, and to have prospective students mention Humans of Tepper in calls is an amazing feeling. As someone who appreciates irony, I think it is appropriate to end this column with the intro to our new podcast:
“Whether you’re thinking about getting your MBA, a current student with a story to share, or an alumni wanting to stay in touch with the school, we hope you’ll sit back, relax, and enjoy meeting some of the humans of Tepper.”
CLICK HERE to access the first seven episodes of Humans of Tepper.
Chris Wendt is a second-year MBA student at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. From humble beginnings as an aspiring music teacher, Chris has built his career as a digital marketing guru and spent his summer internship as a Product Marketing Manager at VMware. Chris enjoys music, whiskey sours, rock climbing, and long walks with his pet FitBit.