Elizabeth (Liz) Plooster
“Transforming the tech industry by bringing people and technology together.”
Hometown Minneapolis, MN
Fun Fact About Yourself: It used to be my dream to become a graphic designer, but now I realize that using Photoshop to create posters for school plays was actually the beginning of my digital strategy career; it was when I started used technology to creatively solve problems.
Undergraduate School and Major: Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. Double majored in Spanish and Computer Science.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Best Buy, Digital Strategy Manager
What word best describes the Harvard Business School students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Service-oriented. I am constantly humbled by how others-focused everyone is. For example, when I posted on our HBS Slack channel asking for help with an administrative challenge, within a few hours I had received responses from over 12 other incoming students, all of whom were sharing advice and offering to help me.
What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? Throughout my tenure at Best Buy, I saw first-hand how important it is for leaders to be intentional about making decisions shape a human-first, inclusive culture in order for a transformation to be successful. Building from this example of leadership, I aspire to transform the technology to be more inclusive, and I believe that the case method will help me build the courage and skillset to become a stronger advocate and ally. It is already so evident to me that my peers are very motivated to make a lasting difference in this world, and I look forward to learning from them through the case method.
Aside from your classmates and cases, what was the key part of Harvard Business School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The emphasis that HBS is putting on diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the workplace is particularly energizing and important to me. From my experiences as a woman in tech (who has often found herself as the only female on her team or in a large-group meeting), I firmly believe in the value of a supportive community to help empower others. For this reason, HBS’ recent investments into diversity and inclusion-related leadership and curriculum were a significant aspect of my decision to attend HBS.
Additionally, on a slightly different note, it is highly valuable to me that HBS is currently planning to be at least hybrid this coming year. I appreciate how HBS leadership has balanced keeping students and employees safe during COVID while also protecting, to the best of their ability, the learning experience.
What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Harvard Business School? The opportunity to be involved in HBS’ Student Association excites me. I worked as a leader in my undergrad university’s student association, and I would love to be similarly involved at HBS.
When you think of Harvard Business School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Cross-Cultural. A benefit I see of the larger class size is that I will be get the opportunity to learn from people who represent many different languages, cultures, and backgrounds. When I was applying for MBA programs, I specifically sought out schools that had a community-oriented learning environment that intentionally values people’s diverse perspectives. This combination also enriched my experience double majoring in Computer Science and Spanish and my work in technology strategy at both PwC and Best Buy.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: This last year, I was given the opportunity to serve Best Buy employees and help save lives by designing and piloting the employee COVID testing program that has since been rolled out nationally. Although I was originally tasked with focusing on how technology could keep employees safe, diving deeper led me to build an integrated business/technology strategy for a COVID testing solution. I presented the technology strategy and business case for implementation to Best Buy’s relevant C-Level leaders, successfully achieving their buy-in. A pilot team ramped up within a matter of days. It was deeply rewarding to help protect the lives of store and supply chain employees by equipping Best Buy to more effectively manage the waves of COVID cases.
How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Living in Minneapolis this year (my home is less than 2 miles from where George Floyd was killed) has taught me many lessons. Specific to my career, it has reinforced this: work shouldn’t just be about the bottom line. Rather, it should be focused on putting people first and making sure everyone feels safe and supported. Working remote this year gave me – quite literally – a personal window into the lives of my colleagues (e.g., children running through the background, dogs barking at package delivery, spouses popping in to deliver a water refill), and I recognize how fortunate I am to have worked for an employer who encouraged these personal connections amongst its employees. Finding an employer who emphasizes a culture of inclusivity and support for its employees will continue to be an emphasis for me as I consider potential future employers.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Pursuing an MBA has always been a dream of mine – not only have I wanted to move away for the school adventure, but I am energized by the opportunity to spend two years in community with interesting and purpose-driven colleagues! When I took into consideration different logistical considerations in my life, this year was the right timing for my husband and I to make the move.
As a next step after my MBA, I plan to re-enter the technology industry as a more well-rounded leader and a stronger advocate for inclusion. It is my aspiration to spearhead digital transformations and usher in a cultural transformation for technology organizations, advocating for better diversity, equity, and inclusion within the tech community. During my MBA, I am curious to explore other industries, in addition to retail and consumer goods, where technology is transforming lives (e.g., healthcare).
What other MBA programs did you apply to? UC-Berkeley Haas, Duke Fuqua, UPenn Wharton, and Stanford GSB
What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Harvard Business School’s MBA program? Don’t self-select out of the process! I almost didn’t hit submit on my application because I could only see the reasons why I thought HBS wouldn’t want me. In retrospect, I realize now that the admissions committee is truly looking for reasons to admit. So, what you assume is a sub-par component of your application may in fact be a strength of yours!
DON’T MISS: MEET HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL’S CLASS OF 2023