Why did you decide to get your MBA?
Senior Vice President
Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, Inc.
Darden MBA for Executives
Class of 2010
About a year ago I competed for the CEO position at my organization, which I had been filling in an interim capacity. I was not chosen for the position, and my lack of an advanced degree was cited as a main reason. After a bit of reflection (and sulking), I realized that I had reached a stage in my career where I was mentally and professionally ready for leadership roles and that my education and my resume needed to reflect that.
I work for a local government but my day-to-day life is spent working with business owners, large and small. I briefly considered pursuing a Masters in Public Administration, but quickly realized that an MBA will tie together my professional and educational experiences, while providing for the brightest possible future and opportunities.
How did you choose Darden’s MBA for Executives program?
Once I made the decision to dedicate my time, energy and money to pursuing an MBA, I knew that I wanted to apply only to the best programs. I spoke with ‘traditional’ Darden alums and researched the school and professors. I compared Darden to other well-known programs on the East Coast and quickly determined that it was the best fit for me. Spending four years at UVA for undergrad also helped; Charlottesville is a beautiful city and the University is a great place to study, learn and make great friends.
What has been your favorite part of the Darden experience?
The program is filled with people- faculty, staff and students- that really complete the experience. Quality programs are built on quality people, and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by such smart, diverse, funny and accomplished individuals. This experience is so unique, and I am confident that our class will remain connected personally and professionally for years.
How has the MBA for Execs program changed the way you think about your professional path?
When I wrote my application essays I had a relatively detailed career path in mind that included remaining in the public sector and eventually working for a real estate firm. By the end of my first week at Darden, I was completely open to the possibility that I may find a different path to follow.
The diversity of courses, cases, peers and experiences I have already been exposed to in just my first six months very quickly opened my eyes to the opportunity to change direction. While I do not have any immediate intentions to change course, I am absolutely open to the possibility in the future.
Can you describe how you apply what you’ve learn in the program back in the workplace?
Because we are working and studying full time, it is difficult to separate the two, so applying my learning in real time is a given. Early in our first Term we learned how to create and use decision trees to analyze possible outcomes of a project, a completely new concept for me. Weeks later I sat in a staff meeting and drew a tree to illustrate the possibilities of our website redesign.
While that is a very tangible example of a real world application, there are many others that are harder to describe. The ability to understand financial and accounting concepts, or recognize a blind spot in your own ability to receive and process constructive criticism are equally important, though may seem less concrete
How do your MBA for Executives classmates shape your Darden experience?
The Darden program is really based on learning not only from our professors and the case materials, but from our peers and the various experiences they bring to the classroom. The Learning Team dynamic (Team TBD!!) provides another opportunity to learn and augment what we read and study.
Working on a small team we practice all of the things that successful leaders do on a day-to-day basis; sharing responsibilities, managing relationships, learning from others. It’s just another piece of the puzzle. Given the size of the cohort, I also think there is a great sense of camaraderie. Along with our MBA, we will all take away great friendships after completing this program together.
How does Darden's faculty impact your MBA for Executives experience?
The faculty and staff are a critical part of the Darden experience. On top of being the best in their fields, the professors are engaging and genuine. I have had the opportunity to serve as a class representative, and have seen firsthand how responsive they are to feedback
Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article about the under-representation of women in Executive MBA programs. What’s it like being one of the few women in Darden's program?
It’s something that I noticed my first week at Darden, looking around the room, but haven’t really thought about since. The women in the program are an amazing group, ranging in age, nationality, and professional and personal backgrounds. Without sounding like a teen movie, there is definitely a sisterhood; and I can’t explain how inspiring it is to watch the mothers in the class as they juggle work, school and family. The guys aren’t bad, either- and together we form a very cohesive and supportive class.
What advice would you offer someone evaluating MBA for Executives programs?
I would strongly suggest visiting Darden and sitting in on a class and meeting some of the current students. I went to UVA undergrad and then had a good friend attend ‘traditional’ Darden a few years ago. For those two reasons, I skipped an on-Grounds visit. I can only imagine how much more convinced I would have been had I been able to experience an average day-in-the-life. What better way to figure out if the program is right for you, then to visit and see for yourself?
What advice do you have for a prospective Darden MBA for Executives student?
Prepare yourself for an intense experience, from your first day on grounds. I would also make sure your family, friends and your employer recognize what kind of commitment you are about to make.
How do you balance work / study /life as you pursue your Executive MBA at Darden?
It is absolutely one of the most challenging things I have done in my life- but with challenge should come GREAT reward. By definition, we are all successful professionals who work hard and are well respected in our fields so it is difficult to not give 110%. Though I didn’t think it was possible, I have discovered an additional 90% buried away somewhere and try to give school and work each 100%.
When I chose the MBA for Executives program, I made a life decision, so there are obvious sacrifices; my reality TV schedule is significantly diminished! But, it’s all about prioritization and time management, and fortunately the program provides a lot of support if those aren’t your strongest skills. Reality TV will always exist- once I graduate, I can apply for The Apprentice-Season 25.