“A Connector, Creator, and Cheese-lover – Bringing people together to geek out about solving problems.”
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a nacho enthusiast. (@NoNachoLeftBehind) I rate nachos around the world and have yet to find the perfect dish. However, any restaurant that offers nachos with pickled vegetables gets major brownie points!
Undergraduate School and Major: Miami University of Ohio; Supply Chain Management and Operations Major; Marketing Minor.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Starbucks – Strategy Manager, New Formats
Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Kellogg’s well-established and immersive 1-year program was a key reason why I chose this business school, and it has already exceeded my expectations. With a business undergraduate degree and desire to stay in the same industry (Retail/CPG), I was looking for an accelerated option that would not only make sense from a timeline and financial perspective, but also from an experiential one. I wanted to be fully immersed in a highly collaborative environment with the option to take on leadership positions in clubs and the ability to choose classes that were specific to my career goals – Kellogg checked all the boxes.
What course, club or activity excites you the most at Northwestern Kellogg? I recently finished a weeklong trip to Charleston, South Carolina with Kellogg classmates across all programs (1Y, 2Y, MMM, JDMDA, MDMBA, and MBAi) and absolutely loved it! This trip, called KWEST (Kellogg Worldwide Exploration Student Trips) is planned by second-year students for first-years and is one of the most popular travel opportunities at Kellogg. Even though KWEST needed to be domestic due to the pandemic, it was one of the most memorable experiences I have had in my life. My fiancé would agree!
This trip occurs at the beginning of every year and is designed to deepen relationships and immerse students into Kellogg’s culture. One of my favorite parts is that everyone is asked not to disclose anything about their background (school, job, relationship status, etc.) until the end of week. Though challenging, this allowed me to have deep conversations with my classmates and learn how to connect with others beyond the typical career or hometown starter topics. It also was a turning point for my fiancé after moving across the country for this program — he felt welcomed into the Kellogg community with open arms and could not stop talking about how interesting and open everyone was.
What word best describes the Kellogg MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Passionate. It is such a unique experience to be surrounded by 1000+ energized students boldly going after their dreams. I have met individuals that have started their own healthcare company, aspire to transform the energy industry, plan to rethink financial services for women, and everything in between. Alumni and current students are not afraid to voice their aspirational vision for themselves and go after it! It is extremely motivating and has pushed me to think even bigger about my personal and professional goals.
What makes Chicago such a great place to earn an MBA? It is hard to think of an industry or job function that Chicago does not offer considerable opportunities for. Because of this, Kellogg can partner with companies across all functions for interesting internships, informationals on campus, and in-class experiential programs. For example, this quarter I am taking a class, called Growth Strategy Practicum, where students partner with growth-stage companies in Chicago and faculty to assess real challenges that entrepreneurs face as they grow and begin to scale.
Kellogg is known for a team-driven culture. What quality do you bring as a teammate and why is it so important to success? The two qualities that I bring as a teammate is the desire to form real relationships and the flexibility/ willingness to play any role. Before jumping into an assignment, I take the time to learn about the backgrounds of my teammates and determine what each member is looking to get out of the class. This allows the team to better structure the work and ensures that we leverage the unique strengths that everyone brings to the table. Starting with empathy is crucial to success as it is absolutely necessary in building trust and in effectively influencing key stakeholders. The ability to flex your communication style based on knowing what the audience wants is a key trait that I see in many strong leaders.
Second, I am willing to step in and fill the gaps where needed. If my team needs a leader or project manager, I am willing to jump in and take on that responsibility. However, as is often the case in top business programs, there are projects with clear leaders but with less interest in other functions, such as analytics or marketing. Though I may prefer one role over the other, I am ready to tackle a different task in order to make our team successful. This is critical for the success of any team as you will not always get the perfect role that fits your skills and the same is true for your teammates. Putting in 100% will ensure there are no gaps and that the workload is balanced.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The largest accomplishment of my career has been leading a professional employee network at Starbucks and expanding it from 50 to 2,500+ members nationally in three years.
During my first two months at Starbucks, I was disappointed by the lack of formalized programs to connect employees and support leadership development. After discussing this frustration with peers, I learned that a network had recently launched to tackle these problems but struggled with low visibility and leadership buy-in. Leaning into my experience with the other young professional organizations, I joined the Strategy division, where I built an insights team to sharpen the network’s positioning through a rebranding campaign. Soon after, I was selected to lead the network as President.
Several years later, Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks, awarded our leadership team with the “Spirit of Starbucks” award, which recognizes employees that make exceptional contributions to their community. We did this by spearheading key innovation projects, taking membership feedback seriously, and developing inspirational and creative programming. This group taught me the power that bringing together passionate and diverse perspectives can have in driving meaningful change within a large organization.
How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? The pandemic forced me to slow down and focus on what truly matters. When life is relatively normal, it can be easy to shift into autopilot and get lost in the day-to-day. Sharing such a terrible experience with millions around the world reminded me how precious life is but also how resilient humans can be. I have become more intentional in all aspects of my life by reflecting at the end of each week and by simply asking how others how they are feeling. I feel more adaptable, more grounded and more grateful than ever.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I was interested in pursuing an MBA for many years before actually submitting my application. However, it never seemed like the right time. The shift from an individual contributor to people manager was the driving force for me. I enjoyed leading a team within the strategy and innovation space, but wanted to gain additional tools to maximize my impact as a leader. I was never formally trained in strategy and was excited to gain skills that would not only add value to my career but also allow me to better support my team.
Post-MBA, my plan is to join a global retailer or CPG company as a brand manager, within food innovation. This role will allow me to gain insights from experts that I can someday bring into a smaller business that is not constrained by a mature operating model. There is a clear gap in the healthy, sustainable, AND convenient food space, and I plan to close it.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kellogg was the only program where I applied. After researching several top one-year programs (INSEAD, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and others), it was clear that Kellogg was the right place for me. In addition to being one of the first one-year MBA programs in the country, Kellogg’s pay-it-forward culture (which was noticeable in all my informationals), diverse clubs (Food and Agribusiness and anything else you can think of), and experiential courses working side-by-side faculty and local companies sealed the deal! I would not recommend putting all your eggs in one basket, but I am thrilled that the risk paid off.
What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA program? Kellogg focuses a lot on fit and wants authentic individuals. Take the time to really understand what makes you ‘you’! I know that sounds cheesy but appreciating your quirks, different background, personal challenges, and interesting hobbies will make you stand out. I spent two weeks just brainstorming, self-reflecting, and asking close friends about past experiences and relationships. Figuring out what you truly stand for and what little moments have defined who you are today will bring your essays to life.
DON’T MISS: MEET NORTHWESTERN KELLOGG’S MBA CLASS OF 2023