Category: Student Blogs

How I Chose My MBA “Village”

The following blog post was written by Gavin Hall, a rising second-year MBA student interning at Cognizant as a summer associate for CDB Digital Strategy. He is an MLT Professional Development Fellow and is president of Simon Consulting Club and managing director of Simon Vision Consultants. This post originally appeared on the MLT Blog.

Gavin_diversity conference“It takes a village to raise a child.” That is a traditional proverb about how one’s community aids in their development and readiness for success. While the sentiment pertains to children, it has proved to hold true throughout my early career. I like to think that the community around me created a nurturing environment that guided me to the place I am now.

Thus, the main criteria I used to assess MBA programs during the application process was the culture of the community and my fit into it. It was important to me not only because you engage with your classmates six to seven days a week for up to 10–12 hours some days, but these individuals will be forever connected to you through the name of the institution on your résumé, for better or worse. I wanted to ensure that I surrounded myself with people I could forge meaningful, lasting, and diverse relationships with in an environment that allowed me to be the best version of myself.

Gavin_habitat for humanity_cropFor this reason, Simon Business School at the University of Rochester was my first choice, and it has been the most rewarding experience I could have imagined. The diversity at Simon is unmatched: the School is among the top 10 US MBAs for diversity and top 15 US MBAs for women. However, numbers are nothing without context. Business school teaches us to become leaders in the management ranks, which will become increasingly diverse, and Simon has cultivated an environment to experience that paradigm shift now.

The majority of the incoming members of the Simon Graduate Business Council are underrepresented minorities or international students (including the president, who originates from Ethiopia), and half are women. In addition, Simon’s Consortium fellows hold numerous leadership positions throughout the school. This is vital because we are in the conversations that matter and ignite change students want to see in faculty, staff, and alumni. Simon is not a place where you are Student No. 9,156; your voice is heard. And for an African American kid from Brooklyn, the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life in graduate school has been invaluable.

The minute I stepped on campus in Rochester, something about the program at Simon felt comfortable, like this is where I should be. This was the village that was going to raise me to the next level.


If you’re an MLT Fellow attending Summer Seminar this weekend, Andrew Brayda, senior associate director of admissions, would love to speak with you! He’ll be offering application tips during the “Demystifying the Application Process” panels tomorrow, and you can also find him at Simon’s table during the fair from 9-10 a.m. on Sunday.

Eight Inspiring Soundbites from the Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference

The following blog post was written by Wallace Gundy, MBA Class of 2020 and Simon Forté Fellow

Every now and then, I need a good old-fashioned dose of girl power! But attending the annual Forté MBA Women’s Leadership Conference with 14 other Simon Forté Fellows was that and a whole lot more. All of the nerves went away, and the anxious inner-monologue of “Can I really do this? Can I really get my MBA?” was drowned out by great conversation, connection making, laughter, and a pretty incredible #FortéPowerUp Spotify playlist. Being surrounded by 700+ women in my shoes, and embarking on this journey together, made for three incredible days and the perfect kickstart to my two years of business school.

Simon ladies #PowerUp!

Simon women #PowerUp!

The facts are the facts. Only five percent of current Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold just over 20% of board seats in the Fortune 1000 companies. There is a gender wage gap of 20 percent, with women earning only 80 cents for every dollar men earn.

But after hearing from so many talented and successful women leaders in business, I am not only optimistic, I am certain that our generation will make a huge difference. We are smart, we are capable, we are empathetic, and we are ready to #PowerUp. Below are just a few of the comments I took away from the conference that I will carry with me over these next two years and beyond.

“Risk taking is a muscle you need to exercise.”
Julie Sweet, Chief Executive Officer – North America, Accenture
The unknown is tough and risks are scary. But they are so worth it. Julie also shared that she has a placard in her office that reads, “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.” Keep dreaming.

“One hand reaching up, one hand reaching back.”
Melissa Arnoldi, President, AT&T Technology & Operations
We are going to need to reach for help from others. But guess what? Women are going to be needing to reach for our help too.

“Find the thing that even senior people want to come to you for.”
Lori Heinel, Executive Vice President & Deputy Global Chief Investment Officer, State Street Global Advisors
Be an expert in something that is invaluable. Even if it’s small, if it’s the thing only you can do, you will be invaluable, too.

“Be a group of women that will create more firsts than this world knows what to do with.”
Noemie Tilghman, Principal Strategy & Operations, Deloitte
We are ready, Noemie!

Several Simon Forté fellows posed with a banner of Lydia Perez Poole '06S (MBA).

Several Simon Forté Fellows posed with a banner of Lydia Perez Poole, a 2006 Simon MBA graduate.

“Focus on what matters, but keep an open mind. Whenever things get hard, go back and think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Take some chances. You might be surprised by how much you might learn.”
Lydia Perez Poole, Simon MBA ’06, Shopper Insights & Analytics Leader, Procter & Gamble
It’s a big world out there and you never know what opportunities you might encounter. Stay focused but not confined. Otherwise, you could miss out on something great.

“It’s not a career ladder, it’s a career jungle gym.”
Jennifer Bosl, Regional Operations Director, DaVita Kidney Care
If there is one thing I’ve already learned, it’s that careers aren’t linear. That’s part of why I am at Simon! Embrace the non-linear path! You never know where it could lead you.

“Come in every day and earn your chair.”
Kelly Greenauer, Data Quality Manager, M&T Bank
Make every day matter. Give it your all. Leave your job each day better than you found it that morning.

“Exercise your agency. Make your school a place where women can thrive as much as men do. When women around you succeed, celebrate their victories. Cheer loudly for them. Support them.”
Jessica Raasch, 2018 Edie Hunt Inspiration Award Winner
As a recent MBA graduate, Jessica was in our shoes just two years ago. Her words were the perfect conclusion to the conference.

I think I can speak for all of the Simon Forté Fellows when I say we will exercise our agency. We will support and celebrate one another. And we will all make Simon an even better place for women to grow as the next generation of leaders. Together.

 

Seven Major Lessons Learned from Working with Simon Vision Consulting

The following blog post was written by Gilbert Bonsu ’18S (MBA)

My tenure on the leadership team of Simon Vision Consulting at Simon Business School ended in mid-May. The journey between beginning as a project manager and ending as the managing director was transformative and significant. Simon Vision Consulting (Vision) is a professionally managed, student-led organization at Simon that provides pro-bono consulting services to businesses and non-profits in the Greater Rochester area. My two years with Vision have been a great opportunity for me to work closely with over 16 organizations across multiple industries addressing critical business challenges. These firms ranged from solopreneur entities to publicly traded companies.

Below are seven business lessons that I learned and were reaffirmed during my time with Vision:

gilbert1.) It’s all about people.
Tactful people skills are foundational to your success in both personal and professional life. Matured interpersonal skills allow you to maneuver in your workplace with ease. You might be the most technically gifted person in the room, but if people hate working with you they will pass on you, even for a less experienced colleague. On the other hand, when people love working with you and you have the capabilities to deliver success, the sky is the limit. The people skills of our Vision team, from the president to consultants, in addition to our technical prowess, help us generate more business through referrals. When our clients talked about their experience with our teams, one of the first things they mentioned is how they loved working with us. People skills are crucial in life and they come in the forms of personality, empathy, verbal and non-verbal cues, and listening. Which leads to the next point:

2.) Actively listen and embrace learning.
Actively listen: We all have heard the saying “hearing someone and listening to them are two different things.” As a consultant, it is critical to actively listen to others. Don’t start formulating a response while the client is still talking. Not only may you need collateral information to truly understand and appreciate the situation, but also, good ideas take time to form. Listen without interruption and take time to formulate a response. You will learn a lot.

Embrace learning: The importance of learning cannot be overstated. Continuous learning is important in your professional life as it makes you more adaptable to change, builds self-esteem, and improves your skills. To embrace learning includes taking the time to experience even the same things multiple times. The same problems in a different environment present renewed and unique learning opportunities. Welcome these opportunities and the ambiguity that comes with them.

3.) Welcome ambiguity.
Ambiguity can be stressful and tiring. When we are faced with uncertainty, we can sometimes feel paralyzed. In these situations it is important to recognize that ambiguity is a path to knowledge. We can expand our horizon when we don’t back down from uncertainty. The unknown comprises many lessons waiting to be learned. Instead of meeting it with fear, recognize that you will come through it transformed. Following that unknown may result in outcomes that were beyond your frame of thinking and planning.

4.) Simplify.
Reality does not happen in a vacuum. There are many actions and reactions occurring simultaneously. Everything in this world is complex; thus, simplicity is sometimes thought of as unrealistic or naïve. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t neglect the power of simplicity. When faced with complex issues, try and strip it apart to simplify it. Then, only when it is completely understood, bring it all together with the nuanced pieces. At times when you simplify a problem and apply due diligence, you are able to understand the core value of the problem and plan accordingly. Indeed, things are not always black or white, but you need a starting palette to create a rainbow.

5.) You don’t need to be the expert.
Clients expect a know-it-all, but no one is truly the expert. It is okay to admit you don’t have all the answers. In fact, everyone has their expertise, and knowing whom to call on is just as valuable as knowing what to do. You may even be the subject matter expert and still not know the answer at the moment. We sometimes miss the process of discovery when we feel pressured to have all the answers right off the bat. Worst case, we end up giving the wrong answer or make up something completely useless.

6.) Be prepared and be ready.
Simply, poor preparation promotes poor performance. Whether it is a short meeting or a formal presentation, be prepared and ready to go. Train like it’s game time. Being unprepared is not only disrespectful to your teammates and clients, but also disrespectful to yourself.

7.) Not all clients know what they want.
Sometimes the clients just don’t know what they want. It can be frustrating, especially when the client thinks (s)he knows the answer but can’t readily articulate the problem. However, this is okay. You’re there to help. Here’s some advice when you find yourself in that situation:

  • Try and figure out how the client operates
  • Make them feel comfortable (don’t be intimidating or condescending), and build a rapport and a genuine working relationship
  • Engineer your questions appropriately
  • Guide them towards what they need, not what they want (they will be grateful later)

These seven business lessons are from my unique experience with Simon Vision and I wanted to share them with you; however, the lessons don’t end here. Above all, it is important to remain curious and passionate. Approach every situation as a showcase for your strengths and a test of your resolve.

My Experience with the Day 1 Program

The following blog post was written by Becky Xie ’18 MS in Business Analytics

One of the reasons why I chose Simon was because of the comprehensive career development program that the School curates for its students. Upon my official enrollment at Simon, I was introduced to the Day 1 Career Readiness Program, which includes a list of becky.xietasks that are specially designed to prepare students for the upcoming career fair season and for the job search in general. In particular, I found the résumé building and target list sections to be incredibly helpful in my job search. Here’s why:

As we entered fall term, we had already started a series of personal and career development classes. In these classes, we learned the best ways to refine our target list based on our preferred industries and functional areas, as well as how reach out to alumni to build our professional network. Had I not completed my target list and perfected my résumé during the Day 1 Program, I wouldn’t have been able to immediately apply what we learned in the class and start reaching out to alumni and companies that were on my target list.

Completing the Day 1 Program is extremely crucial for all MS students: those who are enrolled in the 17-month internship track as well as those in the 10-month track. For the students who enrolled in the internship track, the program hiring for internship positions at larger companies is the most intense in the winter term. For example, the target companies that were on my list wrapped up hiring in January.

In order to keep up with the earlier recruiting cycle, I started meeting with our career advisors early in the winter term to fully prepare myself for when the recruiting season began. As for the students who are on the 10-month track, completing the Day 1 Program is equally important because it, combined with consistent networking efforts, will hopefully land you your dream job.

Because of Day 1 and help I received from the staff at Simon’s Career Management Center, I was able to land my internship at PayPal in early January. I recommend all incoming students start the Day 1 Program early and take it seriously if you want your hard work in business school to come to fruition faster!