On July 22 the second installment of CNN’s Black in America special aired. The documentary is very dear to my heart because Management Leadership for Tomorrow, one of the four organizations featured, has done sooooo much for us. Hubby and I were introduced to the organization through my mentor at General Mills, and we applied for the MBA Preparation program in 2005. The application process, at the time, was less stringent than it is today, requiring four essays, and a practice GMAT score. Thankfully, we were admitted and commenced the business school application preparation process in March of 2006.
The MBA Prep program consisted of three seminars, where we visited Michigan State’s Broad School of Management, NYU Stern School of Business and UPenn – Wharton. At each seminar we focused on a different aspect of the application. At the first seminar we spent a great deal of time defining our passions and answering key questions about our future, our goals and our career interests. At the second seminar, we fell in love with NYU thanks to JKap and the rest of the admissions crew. We participated in ‘speed networking,’ very similar to speed dating, but imagine replacing your future mate with a top 20 business school admissions officer instead. I received great feedback that day which I incorporated into my essays. The third seminar in Philly helped us to wrap up the loose ends to our answers about ‘Why is now the right time to pursue an MBA?’
Shortly after we submitted our applications, we found out we were expecting. This was great news because just three months prior we experienced our first (of two) miscarriages. I had endometriosis removed in 2003, so I was glad when we were able to conceive again. At the first seminar I was five months pregnant with Gadget, and then nine months pregnant at the second seminar in July. I was excited to be going through the process with my husband right there, and the MBAP program had introduced us to 200 new aunties and uncles for Gadget.
Just six weeks after Gadget was born the third seminar was held in Philly. This was perfect for us because we lived fifteen minutes away and did not have to travel by plane with an infant and all the items that come with an infant (i.e. stroller, car seat, bottle warmer, diapers, wipes, thousands of changes of clothes, diapers). By then Hubby’s mom had arrived to help us care for the little one. Her arrival and stay was much needed, as I was still studying for the GMAT. Hubby had knocked out a great score on the first go. He was also way more diligent than I was at studying. Earlier that year, from February through May, we took a GMAT Prep course with Akil at Bell Curves in Manhattan. Hubby came home every night after work and studied for hours, while I studied for about thirty minutes and then found some pregnancy related excuse to go to bed early.
Because I was on maternity leave, it became increasingly easy to attend the Prospective Student events at the schools at which we chose to apply. We attended Explore Wharton, the Duke MBA Workshop and Discover Stern. All three were diversity student events. We saw many MLT faces at these events, which helped us to feel comfortable in the new MBA environment. After we clicked submit on our three applications (we applied to NYU through the Consortium), the interviews began. We traveled back to NYU for Perspectives Weekend. It was easy going to Philly for our Wharton interviews, and we had already interviewed at Duke during the MBA workshop. We submitted all the applications the day they were due. Originally, we planned to submit during the first round deadlines, but once your MLTcoach gives you back your essays with so much feedback to incorporate, even making second rounds was aggressive.
MLT was so great for us because it gave us unique, one on one coaching and feedback. My story was very different from hubby’s, so my application weaknesses were also very different than his. My background was engineering within the consumer packaged goods industry (CPG), and he came from information technology within the financial services industry. I needed to answer the questions “Why did I want to be a brand manager? How did I know this was right for me? Was this a good fit?” I was able to answer these questions and present my concise, yet compelling story of why the business school transition was necessary for my professional goals, and yet beneficial for me and my prospective school. In my essays, I vowed to make the business school environment a better place for student-parents. I held true to these words and enriched the student body population as president and webmaster of the NYU Students with Children Club.
Hubby said the early exposure to the admissions officers and recruiters at target firms was critical to his success. Making points of contact so early in the process helped him figure out where he was weak, while identifying the skills that recruiters sought and honing those skills. I loved the program because it created structure around a nebulous process. I had fire under my tush to be ready to dig deep and study for the GMAT. It was tough finding time while I was still working full-time, and it was even tougher when I had a newborn sleeping on my arm.
At the conclusion of the MBAP program we attended boot camp. It was a week long process, and my mother and father were gracious enough to care for Gadget in Minnesota. If you think about the logistics of getting a 10 month old to Minnesota, it meant that my dad flew to New Jersey just to pick him up and carry him back. He said that going through security everyone extended a helping hand because this grandpa was a novice in traveling with an infant.
Being an MLT alumna has been extremely fulfilling for me. This program equipped me with a set of business soft skills that I used throughout my two years at Stern, and since I cannot yet give to the organization financially they way I want to, I give them my time in the form of volunteering. Can you imagine having a step by step how-to guide, a one-on-one coach giving personalized direction, and the power of a 1700+ and growing alumni network at your disposal while you applied to business school?
My favorite aspects of the MBA Preparation program was the emphasis on branding. I knew as a future marketer, that learning about the 4P’s and 3C’s would help me structure a marketing case analysis, but in terms of my personal brand and representing MLT’s brand, that was much more powerful. I actually made time to think about how I am perceived professionally, versus how I see myself and how I want to be received. I had to answer tough questions about what was I really, REALLY passionate about? Did I need an MBA to get there? And if so, was it worth the sacrifice of my time and energy to complete the application process with 200 other people? In some ways MBAP was like being in school again. Monthly coach calls, monthly assignments, practice GMAT exams, essays to write… the list goes on.
Yes, it was absolutely, positively worth it! The relationships with my classmates, other business school peers, school administrators, and corporate recruiters were all initiated through MLT. I even received my full-time job offer through an introduction at an MLT alumni breakfast. I give a full 100% endorsement of the program. It was a wonderful eighteen months, which I will benefit from for probably eighteen years and hopefully longer.
Thank you John, Gwen, Rodney, Martene, Holly and hubby: all of my coaches!