2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Tess Belton, University of Chicago (Booth)

Tess Belton

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Full of life, passionate, grounded, go-getter, collaborator, White Sox fan, lover of yoga and Kygo.”

Hometown: Wilmette, Illinois

Fun fact about yourself: Through a series of random events, I ended up on a 3-way call with Nicki Minaj, and she rapped the first verse of Super Bass to me. Best phone call of my life.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston College, BA in Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Deloitte, Strategy & Analytics Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Facebook, remote (supposed to be based in San Francisco)

Where will you be working after graduation? Facebook, Product Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* Technology Career Advisor: Support first-year students through recruiting process by reviewing resumes, editing cover letters, crafting elevator pitches, conducting mock interviews, and acting as a sounding board for recruiting strategies.

* Booth Technology Group Co-chair: Design and execute programming for the 400+ members of the tech club, including recruiting information sessions, alumni speakers, educational workshops, socials, and more.

* Belgian Club Co-chair: Organize infamous annual Halloween party and beer tasting events.

* New Venture Challenge Participant: Part of a 5-person team competing for seed funding through Booth’s accelerator program. Check out our startup at weat.us!

* Kilts Center for Marketing Fellow: Awarded a scholarship and access to a mentor based on my interest in Marketing

* National Finalist, 2019 Microsoft AI Business Innovation Challenge (First place among Booth students)

* Active member of Wine Club, Booth Analytics Club, and Marketing Group

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my role as a Career Advisor. I applied for idealistic reasons: I wanted to contribute to Booth’s pay-it-forward culture and help shape the next class of Boothies. I knew it would be a ton of work, and I assumed it would be exhausting at times. I was right about the workload, but wrong about feeling exhausted. I’ve conducted almost 100 one-on-one resume reviews, which to some might sound crazy, but I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve enjoyed learning how to read others’ personalities and anticipate what they need from me, whether it’s a confidence boost, tough love, or just a listener. I leave almost every meeting feeling more energized than when it started, which has confirmed my passion for mentoring others. Getting to know the first-years has been a great bonus, too.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of a project I worked on at Deloitte. I was on a team of three that designed and facilitated a 200-person, all-day “fair” to debut our client’s new organizational strategy. The task from the client was vague: Get my organization bought into and excited about our new strategy. As the only team member who was onsite each week, I loved the opportunity to play up and lead the project. I also enjoyed the challenge of designing something that had never been done before. We created six-foot murals, live demos, videos, and blank posters to capture feedback. It was surreal to see the strategy we built on paper, in our team room, come to life. We collected over 1,000 pieces of individual feedback on sticky notes throughout the day, which signaled the organization’s buy-in and engagement.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Booth because I loved the “choose your own adventure” culture. Both academically and socially, Boothies are expected to chart their own unique paths. Academically, we have a very flexible curriculum; in fact, there is only one course that every Booth student takes.

For me, this was important because I wanted to change functions and industries, so I needed to gain hands-on skills right out of the gates that would help build my resume for internship recruiting. Socially, we don’t have the traditional cohorts or sections that other schools do. In my opinion, the flexible curriculum and lack of cohorts leads to more organic friendships and relationships. Classes are a great example of this. Since Boothies create their own curricula, they spend bid points to be in certain classes for their own unique set of reasons. When they arrive in that classroom – and look around at the other 60 students there – they know deep down that everyone chose to be there for some set of common reasons. I love uncovering the reasons behind why the people I meet have chosen to spend their limited time or resources on the same things I have. This has led to some long-lasting, organic relationships founded upon common interests that I know will continue post-graduation. At Booth, one of our slogans is “Why are you here and not somewhere else?”. Boothies follow their passions and interests to chart their own unique Booth experiences, and I’ve loved being a part of that.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Gunter Hitsch. Professor Hitsch teaches Data-Driven Marketing, which I took last spring. Funny enough, I wrote about the class in my Booth application, and he and the class far exceeded my expectations. In my opinion, Data-Driven Marketing defines Booth’s unique approach to Marketing. Our homework assignments were hands-on and highly applicable. We worked with Nielsen datasets and analyzed real Facebook ad campaign data, which was extremely helpful as I prepared for my internship. Professor Hitsch was engaging, hilarious, and managed the quick transition to remote classes like a pro.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Booth is that it’s only a Finance school. Don’t get me wrong, our Finance curriculum and faculty are downright impressive. However, there are so many other disciplines that Booth is at the forefront of, including Marketing. Booth’s multidisciplinary, data-driven approach to Marketing has redefined my understanding of the Marketing function, and confirmed that its combination of psychology, statistics, and creativity is the perfect fit for me. Even the introductory Marketing Strategy course is grounded in economics and data; I was coding in R for most of my homework sets! Classes like Pricing Strategies, Data-Driven Marketing, and the Lab in Developing New Products and Services attract students who are interested in a wide range of functions, demonstrating how Booth nails the multidisciplinary approach to Marketing and makes its courses widely relevant.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I visited Booth twice, and through those visits, I obtained a deep understanding of the culture and values of the school. I learned about traditions that were not obvious online or through info sessions, and chatted with dozens of students about what makes Booth unique. One of those things is that second-year students conduct the admissions interviews. In my interview, I was so passionate about Booth and excited about all of the classes I wanted to take and clubs I wanted to join that my interviewer actually started laughing and said something along the lines of, “Wow, you’re really hyping me up on Booth right now!”. If you are not able to visit, then you should try to speak to as many Boothies as possible to really get a feel for its culture and traditions.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Morgan Franklin for several reasons. First, she’s a total go-getter but extremely down-to-earth about it. She runs an incredible blog (MBA the Blog) where she shares Boothies’ stories, highlights Booth entrepreneurs, provides monthly reading lists, and shares application tips. She’s also our go-to emcee for every event, no matter if it’s a virtual costume contest, an interview on diversity and inclusion initiatives with Dean Rajan, or a virtual comedy show. Oh, and she is one of the best cooks I’ve ever met (which says a lot because my mom is trained chef!).

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Why? The shift to a hybrid environment was disruptive, but Boothies and the administration definitely made the most of it. Academically, the biggest challenge has been maintaining focus after feeling “Zoom fatigued”. Socially, students have gotten impressively scrappy with designing virtual and COVID-friendly events, including a costume contest, fake wedding, comedy show, and more. I’ve been really impressed by how the administration has also taken advantage of the hybrid environment to offer us more access to prominent alumni speakers and sessions with faculty.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I actually received a liberal arts degree in Economics, but the reason I ended up in Consulting is because of my oldest brother, Johnno. When I was a junior in college, he was a first-year at Columbia Business School. He’s always been a role model to me, so when I was trying to figure out what internship to pursue during the summer before senior year of college, I asked his advice. I’ll never forget what he said: “Some of the smartest, most accomplished students in my class did consulting before school. And they have the most fun out of anyone”. I was sold!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The first item on my professional bucket list is to lead a team. I’ve worked with some awesome managers at Deloitte and Facebook, and I’m excited to one day be a manager as well. I’m passionate about mentoring others, and look forward to continuing to do so in a formal capacity as a team leader. My second goal is to network as much as I can with Facebookers from different functions. Since this is my first role in tech, I want to be sure to build a broad network and get a good feel for the different roles and functions at the company. Also, it will be my first time living in San Francisco, so networking will be a great way to make friends in my new city.

What made Tess such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“I want to nominate Tess Belton. She is a Kilts Fellow, co-chair of the tech group, co-chair Belgian Business Students group, and a tremendous contributor to the Booth community. This past fall, she was the lead organizer on a major event that involved engagement of nearly 20 alumni who came together to support more than 200 students in their exploration of product management and product marketing management roles in the technology industry. Tess demonstrated fantastic leadership in planning the Kilts-BTG PM/M workshop. This woman was AMAZING. She took on a huge responsibility with this workshop, and I would argue that from the feedback, it was by far the best PM/M workshop we’ve ever seen. She was thoughtful and remarkably detailed oriented every step of the way. She is leading the way for women in tech. She repeatedly impresses staff, faculty, and alumni. She is a poster child for Booth.”

Katie Claussen-Bell
Director and COO, Kilts Center for Marketing



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