2005 MBA Forte Foundation Admissions Chat with Elissa Ellis

2005 MBA Forte Foundation Admissions Chat with Elissa Ellis

Please feel free to let us know if you would like to be informed of future chats by sending e-mail to chat@accepted.com. We would also be interested in knowing if you would prefer a different format or different topics.

Chat Transcript:

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:09:37 PM)
First I want to welcome you all to the Forte Foundation Forum: The MBA Value Proposition for Women. I want to give a special welcome to Elissa Ellis, Director of the Forte Forum; Mariska Morse, Marketing Director, and our panelists: Katherine Armstrong, Susan Estes, Chelsea Smith, Thespina (Thes) Spivey, and Jennifer Chao. We appreciate you taking time for your busy schedules to join us.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:10:05 PM)
The format for today: I am going to post the first question to our panel of guests. While they are typing, I'm also going to post some information about their backgrounds.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:10:39 PM)
We have prepared a few questions to ask the panelists during the first half of the talk. If you have a question about the panelists' responses or on the topic of the questions, please ask it. The last half of the chat will be a Q&A. Elissa, Mariska or I will respond to admissions questions. You can direct questions on the value of the MBA to Katherine, Susan, Chelsea, Thes, and/or Jennifer or to all of them. Again, they will only appear in the main window if chosen from the queue.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:10:47 PM)
Panelists, why did you go to business school and looking back, did you achieve your goals in getting your MBA? Was it worth it?

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:11:05 PM)
A little bit about our guests:

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:11:14 PM)
Katherine Johnson Armstrong Writer, Self-Employed London Business School 1994 Duke University

Demographic data: Happily married, two daughters aged 10 and 9 (one born during the MBA - the other conceived). I'm very involved in the PTO at the girls' school, volunteer to teach French to elementary school students, am a girl scout leader, and serve on Town committees. As much as that seems like my hobbies, I also enjoy tennis, water and snow skiing, running, pilates and reading.

Now an aspiring novelist, Katherine Armstrong previously worked for Johnson & Johnson Corporate Communications for ten years. There, she focused on the communications component of leadership development programs, including the Women's Leadership Initiative, managed programs supporting the corporate reputation, and edited a book exploring Johnson & Johnson's recent growth.

Katherine earned her M.B.A. at London Business School, where she won the Mary Barnes Award for the top-ranking female student in the first year. Several years earlier, Katherine received a BA French (Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Duke University, where her honors thesis topic was applied linguistics.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:11:53 PM)
Susan Estes Independent Business & Marketing Strategy Consultant Self-Employed Yale MBA 2000 Stanford University 1993 International Relations / Slavic Languages & Literature

Married with one child (Molly, born April 2004). Hobbies include soccer, travel and gardening.

Prior to launching her own independent consulting practice in 2004, Susan was an Associate with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, helping federal government clients develop and implement e-government strategies and programs. She was previously a Senior Product Manager for The Motley Fool, Inc., an investing and personal finance education company, where she developed and managed online products and services. She was also previously a Fundraising Program Manager with the Avalon Consulting Group, where she developed and managed fundraising campaigns and wrote copy for a variety of non-profit clients such as the National Women's Health Network, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Susan holds an MBA from Yale School of Management and a BA in International Relations and Slavic Languages and Literature from Stanford University.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:12:30 PM)
Chelsea Smith Trader, Equity Investments Allstate Investments, LLC Kellogg MBA 1999 University of Notre Dame 1992

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:12:38 PM)
Demographic data: Married for 4 years, I have a beautiful baby boy, Zachary, 4-months old and two dogs named Paris and Chanel. With the little time I have left I enjoy flower arranging.

Chelsea Smith matriculated at University of Notre Dame for undergrad with a degree in English in 1992. After graduation, she worked in sales and marketing for Philip Morris USA and Coca-Cola Company, respectively. She wanted to complete her professional portfolio with a MBA, and earned one from Northwestern's J.L Kellogg School of Management in 1999. Chelsea finished with an emphasis in finance and organizational behavior which helped lead her to Wall Street. Mrs. Smith interned and worked for Goldman Sachs for 3 years as a sales trader. She currently works for Allstate Investments as an equity trader and continues to love the challenges of working in the stock market! She has been married for 4 years to a fellow Kellogg alum, James Smith and has recently learned how to juggle parenting a baby boy named Zachary (4 months old) with working outside the home. They reside in Chicago.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:13:05 PM)
Thespina (Thes) Spivey Forecasting and Inventory Manager Coca-Cola Company Darden MBA 2001 The Pennsylvania State University, 1994

Demographic data: Married, 1 child-Luke 5 months.

Thespina Spivey worked in several supply chain management roles at Nabisco, Inc. before earning her MBA. She began her career at Coca-Cola in a rotational management training program where she led various internal consulting projects in their Foodservice Operations division. Currently, Thespina is the Forecasting and Inventory Manager for the Coca-Cola national dispenser parts distribution center supporting $80MM annual sales. She is also actively involved as a Coca-Cola Change Champion meeting with senior leaders on corporate culture issues. Thespina has lived in Atlanta for 3 years and now spends most of her free time with her husband, Jon, and five month old son, Luke. She holds a B.S. in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University and an MBA from the Darden Business School at UVA.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:13:27 PM)
Jennifer Chao Student, McCombs School of Business, Class of 2005 BS Chemical Engineering, University of Texas, 1997

Prior to coming to McCombs, I was an IT consultant with IBM Business Consulting Services Group (formerly PwC Consulting). As a student, I have been involved with various events and organizations including the 2003 National Net Impact Conference, 2004/2005 Graduate Women in Business Leadership Conference, and Graduate Women in Business (GWIB) organization.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:15:13 PM)
I initially was looking at non-profit management programs and decided an MBA would give me the skills I was seeking -- plus, a broader perspective on business and the private sector. I chose Yale for it's strong non-profit/public sector focus. I halfway expected business school to be like "taking my medicine" and wasn't sure I was going to love it ... but it totally exceeded my expectations. It was such an intellectually challenging experience. But also filled with a lot of fun, friendship and new experiences.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:15:56 PM)
I was working as a product manager for a French eyeglass frame manufacturer and realized I knew a lot about ophthalmic fashion but not business. One day I had to do a competitor analysis and had no idea how to read a balance sheet s\o I realized that my arts undergraduate work (in French) which had gotten me the job wasn't enough to take me further.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:17:13 PM)
In my company before B-school, I was rapidly being promoted to higher positions but didn't have a business education and was worried that I would soon experience the Peter Principle (eventually rising to a level at which you are incompetent). I had always planned to get an MBA but my work schedule never seemed to allow for it. So I decided to go back full time. It also gave me a chance to explore other business career choices and make sure that Supply Chain was the right course to stay on.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:17:32 PM)
Katherine, did your MBA meet your expectations in terms of taking you further?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:18:04 PM)
Absolutely. Right out of school, I worked 2 steps away from the CEO of Johnson & Johnson and I had leadership skills that brought me all kinds of internal and external opportunities, a great international network, and the confidence to work with top executives.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:19:07 PM)
Oh - and I learned how to read balance sheets.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:19:13 PM)
That too!!!

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:19:44 PM)
For all of you, has the degree paid off financially? Was it a worthwhile investment?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:20:31 PM)
Yes, definitely. It put me in a whole different league in terms of the jobs I could apply for and the salary I could command ... that said, I do have student loans. But they're manageable.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:20:48 PM)
Since, the MBA has given me networks, skills and confidence to be a freelance consultant doing interesting work on my own terms, I have been able to create my own career and make a very comfortable living at the same time. Very much worth the investment. I doubled my salary with my first job.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:20:59 PM)
The simple answer is yes, but, in my opinion, it can’t be a simple return on investment calculation. There are too many intangibles, such as education, personal satisfaction, network, etc. But when I did try to do that calculation before I went to B-School, it seemed to make sense, because I assumed that without the MBA I would hit a ceiling in both salary and responsibility that I would be able to surpass because of having more skills, a better resume, and more focused goals.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:21:31 PM)
Katherine, that's pretty impressive.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:22:06 PM)
I suppose, but my job before the MBA wasn't that high paying.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:22:16 PM)
I know a 22-year-old young woman who is trying to decide between two graduate programs: an MPA and an MBA. She feels that both degrees will support her goals of NFP management. I feel that an MBA is a better credential and will provide more rigorous training. She says she doesn't want to finish school at 28 or 30. She wants to be done with it by 25 so that she can start her career and a family. An MPA would allow her to start earlier and finish earlier. What would you tell this young woman or any other woman turned off by the MBA's traditional 3-5 year work experience requirement?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:24:08 PM)
You can still get into a program at a young age, although you may have slightly fewer acceptances. Just apply early. I almost wish I had the chance to wait longer because I would have been more focused on what I wanted out of it.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:24:26 PM)
I feel that the MBA gives general management, leadership and analytical skills that are very transferable. It gives you flexibility in terms of careers, and the credential to manage your own career better, so that you can follow family plans as well. I also think it's important to have significant work experience before an MBA, whether working full time or significant work during undergrad. So it may be useful to work some first. Some schools "require" 5 years work experience, so the student body is older. It depends on whether she is comfortable being with people of a different age than herself. Some people need the closeness of a community about the same age.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:25:09 PM)
I understand the desire to "get it all done" -- but I do think there's value in getting a couple years of experience before going back for an MBA. You have a lot more "real world" context for the issues and topics. And also a lot more to contribute based on personal experience.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:26:12 PM)
She actually has significant work experience as an undergrad and wants to work for one year, possibly two years.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:26:44 PM)
There are probably plenty of programs that would love to have her!

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:26:44 PM)
I think that she, and some other young women are turned off, but the 4-5 years is typical at top b-schools.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:26:45 PM)
Speaking from personal experience, I applied when I was 24 -- but then deferred for two years (they were very flexible) because I was still getting a lot out of my job.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:27:26 PM)
That's a good point, Susan. It also depends if you're learning on the job before the MBA.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:27:49 PM)
How has your MBA benefited you off the job?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:28:34 PM)
I have fantastic friends all over the world. They are intelligent, motivated, and share lots of my goals.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:28:40 PM)
I has increased my confidence in everything I undertake.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:29:07 PM)
Ditto to Katherine's point. Great Friends!!

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:29:37 PM)
Ditto ... my network of friends is greatly expanded -- i.e., I just got a wedding invitation from a classmate who lives in Italy.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:29:43 PM)
I also think that it helped me understand that I can be powerful without fitting into a dictatorial way of being. That power has been incredibly helpful in volunteer positions, in dealing with family - from my parents to my kids.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:29:56 PM)
Especially kids. :-)

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:30:05 PM)
The toughest bosses ever.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:30:22 PM)
And yours aren't even teenagers ... yet.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:30:41 PM)
I hope that my kids will have a different perspective on what women can achieve; different than when I was growing up.

Addi.Regev (Oct 19, 2004 5:31:25 PM)
How do you panelists manage to split your time between the office and your family, especially those who have such your children? How long did you stay at home for maternity leaves?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:32:08 PM)
I had a 12 week maternity leave which I could have increased another 45 days, but it would have been unpaid. I chose a company coming out of school that I knew supports a healthy work/life balance.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:32:45 PM)
I had my first child during the MBA program and took an extra term to finish. I was pregnant with my second when I started at Johnson & Johnson, and only took 5 weeks maternity leave because I had only been there 5 months when she was born. Huge mistake -- work could have waited a few months.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:33:00 PM)
Until last spring I was working for a large firm as a consultant -- and life balance was challenging. When I had my baby in April, I took three months off and then took the plunge into starting my own business -- mainly to get the flexibility I didn't think I would be able to get with my other job.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:33:35 PM)
I have five children. When I started my business, the youngest was 3. Owning my own business allowed me to plan my work --usually-- around their schedule and changing needs. It was a fantastic advantage.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:34:14 PM)
Five ... oh my! That's not to say you can't find balance with the right employer. I just felt like in my case this was the right thing to do. It also was a response to the "entrepreneurial itch" I've always had.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:34:34 PM)
Johnson & Johnson was very family friendly, too, but more importantly, I had a boss who was willing to work with me. I took advantage of flex time and on-site day care. Still, it was hard to think I was doing well at both things. But, I realize now that I was doing enough at work by only doing 40 - 45 hours a week. It's about finding the peace in your own mind. As they got older, I wanted more time with them and for myself, and we were moving, so I became a freelance consultant and then I was fully in control of my balance. It has worked very well.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:34:46 PM)
Yes, Susan, there are lots of corporate jobs that make the balance pretty easy. Plus corporate benefits are great.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:35:10 PM)
What are some other corporations that are family friendly?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:35:14 PM)
Absolutely. That was the hardest thing about leaving ... losing the great benefits!

yin (Oct 19, 2004 5:35:27 PM)
Hello all, when you went to B-School, did your classmates come from different background (ex. major and working experiences)?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:35:49 PM)
I went to school with a concert pianist and a plastic surgeon. There were lots of chemistry majors, but also a Major (as in the Army). It was great to be with so many different kinds of people. Really added texture and diversity.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:36:32 PM)
I can't remember how many countries were represented. I think 17, from Europe, Asia, and South America. We also had all types of work experience backgrounds. We even  had a 40 year old Dentist.

Kristy (Oct 19, 2004 5:37:17 PM)
Can Katherine talk about how the MBA helps with her writing career? What's the link?

linda (Oct 19, 2004 5:37:57 PM)
What do you know now that you wish you knew while filling out business school applications?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:38:26 PM)
Organization. Ability to take on and manage a big project. But mostly, the confidence that I can do something if I set my mind to it. And, the MBA has let me make enough money that I can take 6 months without income to see if I can do this crazy thing.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:38:44 PM)
That you don't want to fit their mold. You just want to represent yourself as plainly and honestly as possible so that you end up at the right school for you. Not to say that you don't want to sound impressive : )

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:39:52 PM)
I think "telling your story" is a good way to look at b-school applications. It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to tell them what you think they want to hear. Make it your own.

bc.umair (Oct 19, 2004 5:40:16 PM)
Do all MBA programs require GMAT and if you have an MBA doesn't that make you overqualified?

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:40:55 PM)
BTW, the most common "big mistake" adcom members tell me about is writing essays that seem to say what you think they want to hear instead of what you want them to know.

Heather (Oct 19, 2004 5:41:13 PM)
Is there anything you did prior to applying for your MBA that you felt helped get you through the door in the application process?

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:41:26 PM)
All MBA programs don't require the GMAT, but most of them do. I'm not sure what you mean by if you have an MBA doesn't that make you overqualified.

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:42:28 PM)
Heather, one recommendation I would give you is to talk with alumi and current students of the school to get a feel for the culture of the particular program to which you are applying.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:42:32 PM)
Visiting the school before writing all the essays is good, because you know more reasons that you are a great match for their program.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:42:46 PM)
Work in other countries. Fluency in another language. Having created jobs at companies that weren't necessarily looking for someone. In that, I had to sell my skills and therefore know my skills. That helped in articulating my contributions to an MBA program.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:43:23 PM)
This is in response to Heather, but also ties in with Linda's application question ... I think one thing that helped me was that I had a strong theme going into my b-school application. I was doing international nonprofit work at the time and was really able to shape my essays around this experience -- along with a creating a vision of how an MBA would help me further this career. Turns out, I didn't stay in the international field. But I do think it made for a more distinctive application. Also, make sure you provide guidance to the folks writing recommendation letters so they can reinforce your interests and desire for an MBA in their letters.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:43:47 PM)
Jennifer, are you enjoying your MBA experience? How do you feel the MBA will benefit you?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:43:59 PM)
I read a book called "Getting into the top MBA schools" it worked for me

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:44:39 PM)
I'm 100% glad I went back for my MBA. One of the best decisions I've made...I'm working on my 2nd year and now trying to decide where I'll be working after graduation. It's definitely opened up a lot more opportunities that I didn't have previously.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:45:15 PM)
It's an excellent book. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0735203199/acceptedcom/103-8323660-0927047 . It's by Richard Montauk, and I don't own stock in his company.

Tammy (Oct 19, 2004 5:45:56 PM)
Jennifer, congrats on your McCombs acceptance and upcoming graduation!! What key components do you believe were the selling points to your letters of recommendations?

celine (Oct 19, 2004 5:46:05 PM)
I have just starting thinking about getting my MBA. I have two issues 1) Finances and 2) Raising my GMAT (math section store) First the first issue, I visited one school this last Friday and I felt disappointed when I realized how expensive it was. . . Did anyone else face a money challenge? I already owe @40K for undergrad. . .

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:46:59 PM)
The important factor with letters of recommendation is getting people who really knew you to write the recommendations...both pros and cons. And of course, make sure they also LIKE you. I didn't get to see the final recommendation letters, but I did make sure ahead of time that the people would be comfortable writing positive recommendation letters for me.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:47:09 PM)
I didn't have any money saved for school. I did it with government loans and need-based scholarships. I didn't even have to apply for the scholarship. Darden advised me of it with my admissions letter.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:47:44 PM)
Celine, the money is definitely daunting. I also am still paying for undergrad as well as grad school. All I can say is that loans are available (and scholarships) and it is do-able.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:48:01 PM)
A lot of schools give money to their female applicants.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 5:48:05 PM)
Tammy, the key to strong letters of recommendation is use of specifics and anecdotes to back up the great things your recommender will say about you.

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:48:05 PM)
Celine, Regarding money...many MBA programs offer scholarships. Each of the Forte member schools identifies 2-5 Forte scholars each year with the average award being $20,000.

Jackie (Oct 19, 2004 5:48:42 PM)
Did any of you hold part-time jobs (pay rent/mortgage/bills, etc)? And if so, what types of jobs did you hold and was it difficult to attend school while working those part-time jobs?

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:48:46 PM)
Don't let the financing put you off...there are many ways to make it happen.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:48:55 PM)
For MBA grads going into the non-profit sector, there also can be loan forgiveness programs.

Heather (Oct 19, 2004 5:49:21 PM)
Do you feel that graduating from a state school could potentially limit a candidate from getting into a top MBA program?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:49:30 PM)
Jackie, I've known people who've done it, but not many. It depends a little on the program I think

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:49:42 PM)
I wouldn't recommend working part time. School is a full-time job...and you don't want to miss out on other opportunities like networking and full-time job search opportunities

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:49:52 PM)
I did do some consulting work during my second year, and with the summer work between years, it was enough to pay 1/2 of my second year. But during the first year of a full-time program I think it would be incredibly hard. The one person I know who had a job quit after 3 weeks the first year.

tayloreat (Oct 19, 2004 5:50:00 PM)
By being a women, what were some of the obstacles, if any, that you have to overcome?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:50:13 PM)
I had several part-time jobs through my program ... research assistant for our dean's book project, career center advisor for first-year students, teaching assistant, etc. The hours were flexible and not so overwhelming. The extra cash helped. I only did the part-time work during my second year. First year is pretty hectic.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:50:13 PM)
Heather, definitely not! It's really all about your work experience, accomplishments and references.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:51:54 PM)
Tayloreat: Unlike social settings, sometimes in b-school, as a woman, it is hard to get a word in the conversation. And it helps if you can play golf. (I hate to say it but it is true) Although in my career, not playing golf hasn't hurt me a bit.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:52:21 PM)
When I did my MBA 10 years ago the class was only 15% women at the time. That number is way up now - over 40% at many schools. I had few problems then (one teammate called me "girly") but I think that wouldn't happen now that men have worked or studied with women before the MBA. The playing field is in many ways a lot more even.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:53:05 PM)
Hmm, obstacles. I think the main one for me was thinking about how this would fit in with other aspects of my life...i.e, if I go back to school, try to establish a career afterwards, how do I fit in having a family...

sal (Oct 19, 2004 5:53:05 PM)
Did anyone go back to school in order to change tracks in business or do something different than what you had been doing previously before going back to school? How much emphasis should I place on this reason when applying to schools?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:53:26 PM)
Taylor, just learning to be more aggressive in speaking out and having the same kind of confidence as male classmates, is something that I had to overcome.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:53:39 PM)
I think after the MBA, having the credential of the degree really helps establish your credibility immediately as you pursue your career. Some places, women absolutely have to have more credentials than men. Other places, it's not that apparent.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:54:42 PM)
I'm going to do something pretty different. I was an IT consultant pre-MBA and at this point, I will probably go into a marketing role after graduation. Ultimately, I'd love to start my own business (not sure what that will be yet!)

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:54:46 PM)
Sal, I think about half of my class was there to change tracks.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:54:49 PM)
I think changing careers is a big reason why lots of people get MBAs and I think that it's a story that makes a lot of authentic sense in applications. Be warned: you might change in a direction you never thought you'd take ...

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:55:11 PM)
Sal, I hadn't planned on changing tracks but ended up doing so. I think if you know going into b-school that your goal is to switch, that is a great part of the story you should tell in your application. It shows that you have a vision and are being proactive about taking initiative and reaching your goal.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:55:15 PM)
I went in to get skills to run my own small business, and ended up at corporate headquarters of a huge company.

linda (Oct 19, 2004 5:55:45 PM)
I believe someone here said they went to an MBA school for their nonprofit program....to all panelists, does your school provide a supportive environment for the "nontraditional" MBA student? (ie. helping them to look for internships/jobs, funding, etc.)

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:55:48 PM)
Changing careers also helps you justify the investment.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:57:38 PM)
You should look into an organization called Net Impact. It's a non-profit organization that focuses on using the power of business to positively impact social and environmental concerns. It has helped MBA students find jobs in the non-profit sector...last year, UT held the national conference. The URL is http://www.net-impact.org .

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:57:48 PM)
Linda, I think you can pursue nontraditional jobs at any school by the kinds of projects you select to do and the courses you take. It's harder when you look for a job: you'll have to find them; these employers won't necessarily come recruiting. But go for it! The nonprofit, government and educational sectors need people with MBA skills.

Nandini (Oct 19, 2004 5:58:14 PM)
While pursuing an MBA, did you have a focus area such as Finance, Accounting, Entrepreneurship etc. If yes, how did you choose it?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:58:19 PM)
There were quite a few of us "non-traditionals" in my program so there was a pretty strong community. The school itself was also pretty supportive -- although there were still some frustrations with the emphasis paid to more traditional consulting and Investment-banking job tracks by the career center.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:58:20 PM)
Net Impact is great: I worked with them through Business for Social Responsibility. A great group.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:59:09 PM)
Our concentration was very loose, and had a lot to do with the second year project we selected and course work we took.

yin (Oct 19, 2004 5:59:09 PM)
Does one's undergraduate major matter where he/she applies for B-school?

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:59:12 PM)
I had friends who found internships with organizations such as United Way this summer through the Net Impact organization.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 5:59:18 PM)
I got a general management MBA. I don't think one's BA or BS matters. It all goes back to the diverse backgrounds.

cw2222 (Oct 19, 2004 5:59:59 PM)
sal, I went back to change career tracks -- from non-profit to business but am finding it more challenging than I thought. Naively, I thought a MBA would be the silver bullet.

tayloreat (Oct 19, 2004 6:00:08 PM)
Thanks for that advice. It's funny my grandfather used to teach me golf when I was little.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:00:28 PM)
Nandini, I was a strategy person but really more by default than intention. I focused more on taking classes I was interested in with the best professors and wasn't so concerned about my concentration.

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:00:55 PM)
Yin, business schools look at your undergraduate major, but only in the context of your overall application. At B-schools they want the class to have a broad representation from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds. The break down is usually 30% business, 30% engineering, and 30% liberal arts and sciences.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:01:03 PM)
Nandini: I worked mostly on business ethics and organizational development because I liked writing and reading (odd, I know). Strategy was also great because it brought together all the disciplines.

LMo (Oct 19, 2004 6:01:34 PM)
I am 35, have been a freelance consultant for about 8 years, and I'm in my first term of an MBA program at a small school. It's nowhere close to being among the top MBA programs but it's accredited and inexpensive, and since I am merely trying to learn rather than impress, I don't care that it's not the best school. However, how much more bang for my buck might I get at a better school? Is a degree from a mediocre school with a good GPA significantly better than nothing at all?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:01:40 PM)
Agree with Thespina -- I don't think what you majored in as an undergrad matters all that much. I was Slavic languages ...

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:01:41 PM)
Nandini, I started out marketing, but I've also been taking entrepreneurial classes as well. Once you start taking classes, you start to realize which areas you're interested in... I agree with Susan about taking the best professors.

irene (Oct 19, 2004 6:01:50 PM)
Hi Jennifer - I am an IT consultant as well as an Asian American woman. What do you think are some of the "stereotypes" that an applicant like me have to overcome in my application?

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:02:21 PM)
LMo, it's important that you pick the school that best suits your needs. It's a very personal decision.

yin (Oct 19, 2004 6:02:41 PM)
B-school really emphasizes on past work experience...knowing this, should one work in smaller corporations that would offer more opportunities to get promotion rather than going into larger corporations with less room to advance?

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:03:04 PM)
The difference between schools can come in a variety of different forms...the quality of your faculty, your classmates, your campus resources, your opportunities after b-school, etc.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:03:07 PM)
LMo, I think it partly depends on what your personal goals are. There are some career paths that place a higher emphasis on the degree and the school -- e.g., management consulting, investment banking. With other career paths, it might not matter as much.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:03:20 PM)
Hi Irene, I actually think being IT and Asian American is a great advantage...it shows diversity as well as good technical/analytical experiences...makes for being a great MBA applicant.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:03:55 PM)
LMo, if you are truly there to learn and you are independently motivated, then it sounds like a great move for you. One of the best reasons to go to a top ten school is networking.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:04:03 PM)
Lmo: Find great projects with companies or organizations you like. Know that you have the skills and confidence, and don't let the small school hold you back. Once you're in a company, the MBA can become more of a generic rather than from someplace in particular. I think it's great that you've taken this step already. (Projects can be more important than grades.)

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:04:11 PM)
You learn from your classmates as well as your professors. If you go to a top b-school, you may find backgrounds and experiences with a broader range and depth. You may find faculty who are doing more cutting edge research and consulting...this will transfer into their classroom presentations. The basic concepts and skills of an MBA are the same at most programs. The difference is in the experience, the students, the alumni network, the perception of companies, etc.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:05:49 PM)
Yin, there is no right formula. Do something you love and make your mark.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:06:00 PM)
Yin, I think the best strategy is to find the job that is going to challenge and teach you the most. Whether it's in a small or large company shouldn't matter so much.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:06:20 PM)
Yin, you can develop skills and self-awareness in either environment. A b-school is more interested in those, I think, than the title you attained.

Addi.Regev (Oct 19, 2004 6:06:31 PM)
Was your school's environment friendly and comfortable for single people? I'm planning to leave everyone I know and care about behind (in Israel) and I would like to know I'd fit in the school social environment well (oh, and I'm 30 years old, which is quite older than most of the students).

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:07:00 PM)
I was 30 and single in my program and I loved it.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:07:17 PM)
It's IDEAL for single people! Most people are in the same situation and open to making new friends. I think in some ways being married was almost a disadvantage at times...miss out on a lot of fun social/networking opportunities.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:07:23 PM)
I was 28 and single in my program .. .also loved it.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:07:28 PM)
Addi.Regev: Absolutely. Most people at my school were single and alone in a new town (London) and had a great time. It was us married people who were on the fringe. And there were many, many people 30 and over. Age wouldn't be an issue at many schools.

sal (Oct 19, 2004 6:07:50 PM)
I am coming from a large consulting firm, having been on the road for the last 7 years; is it okay to mention this as being a reason for going back to school - to make a change away from this lifestyle? Are schools sensitive to this?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:07:54 PM)
Addi, it helps if you are in an intense program where people have all moved to be there. Rather than a commuter type school.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:08:57 PM)
Sal, that shouldn't be a problem at all. It's like Katherine said earlier, it's shows self-awareness

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:09:06 PM)
Sal, I would just be careful not to make it sound like b-school is an "escape" from that lifestyle. Instead focus positively on where you would like the MBA program to lead you.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:09:19 PM)
Sal: If you want to come off the road but still want to learn and grow, then I think it's an important part of being authentic in your application to say that. You probably also want to immerse yourself in the environment, and I think that is very attractive to schools. I agree with Susan. Not an escape, a new opportunity for growth

Nandini (Oct 19, 2004 6:09:55 PM)
Does having or not having an MBA concentration affect your job placement after B-school?

Addi.Regev (Oct 19, 2004 6:10:19 PM)
You did, Thespina? I heard Darden is no place for single women...

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:10:45 PM)
Having a concentration can have an effect on your job placement, depending on the career path you've chosen and the companies to which you are applying.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:11:09 PM)
Nandini, it probably depends on the industry you're going into. For example, if you're going into banking you'll probably want to have a finance concentration. In other sectors it doesn't matter as much.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:11:13 PM)
Nandini: I've seen that marketing positions at larger consumer products companies are indeed looking for a marketing concentration, and I think some finance roles want the concentration, too. But most of the time, I think the MBA can stand on its own.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:11:23 PM)
Addi -- Depends on how much you want to date. Although several people in my class married each other. I met my husband in the alumni chapter, 3 months after graduation.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:11:39 PM)
Nandini - I would say it depends. If you want to go into investment-banking, you'll want to be a finance concentration to get as much knowledge of that area as possible (same for being a marketing concentration if you're definitely going into a marketing role afterwards); but there's also so many other types of business positions where they want a good well-rounded person...

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:11:58 PM)
Addi.regev: 20 couples in my year alone married.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:12:55 PM)
Wow...I haven't heard of many lasting relationships in my class yet...

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:13:19 PM)
Jennifer: they are there. Just hiding behind Decision Sciences books.

celine (Oct 19, 2004 6:13:23 PM)
Any opinions regarding part-time versus full-time?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:13:59 PM)
Celine: If you can afford full time, and if you want to change careers, definitely go full time. You get the full experience, the networks, the time to explore and think ...that being said, I know many people (including my husband) who have thrived in part-time programs and liked feeling like studying was an extension of their work day.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:14:30 PM)
Celine, there are pros and cons to both. I opted for the full-time program because I wanted the more intense experience and the chance to really focus on being a student for a couple of years.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:14:40 PM)
I agree with Katharine on full time programs. Part time can often be paid for by your company, too.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:14:44 PM)
I agree with Katherine.

linda (Oct 19, 2004 6:15:10 PM)
I read some sample essays in the Montauk book and a lot of them tend to "list" their credentials/job experiences which to me, is pretty boring but got them accepted. How do schools feel about going away from this format into something different and more creative, such as a story format?

irene (Oct 19, 2004 6:15:47 PM)
Hi Panelist: What were your female classmates age range (take the mid 80%)? Were they mostly single, married, or married with children?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:15:54 PM)
Thespina: great point. Especially if you're getting the MBA as a requirement to get a promotion.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:16:27 PM)
Some companies will also pay for a full-time program or at least provide a leave of absence if you're interested in going back...

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:16:34 PM)
Irene, in my class they were mostly single, probably 25-27, not many kids at all.

sdgirl (Oct 19, 2004 6:16:37 PM)
I apologize if redundant, but I would like to know what experiences each of you had with regard to competition or even back-stabbing amongst the genders or even within genders at your respective school?

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:16:37 PM)
I think I was about average at age 28. Most were single.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:17:23 PM)
Irene: I would say 75% were under 30 and single, and 25% were either over 30 or married. Our year (120 students) produced 15 babies. 5 of those were by female students in the program. One was mine. :)

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:17:29 PM)
sdgirl...there was no backstabbing in my class but Darden is known for being a really friendly supportive community.

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:17:30 PM)
sdgirl, I didn't experience anything like that at all. At least with my program, it was more about bonding than competition.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:17:57 PM)
sdgirl, I haven't had any issues with back-stabbing/extreme competition. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how collaborative the environment has been (UT).

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:18:02 PM)
I think most women are more mature than that at that age.

celine (Oct 19, 2004 6:18:08 PM)
As a wannabee career changer, I am curious as to whether or not an MBA really prepares you for a new role. For example, if you are a marketing concentration, and go into a marketing management position, can you hit the ground running on day one (or soon after:) at your new job?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:18:24 PM)
Celine, the key is your summer internship. That is what really gets you great experience and the confidence too.

sdgirl (Oct 19, 2004 6:18:41 PM)
That's great to hear!

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:18:42 PM)
Linda, when it comes to essays it's always a good idea to have an alum or a work colleague who applied b-school read your essays before submitting them. The most important thing to remember is to be yourself. If you are a good writer and telling a story comes easily to you, then this format will work. If not, then I wouldn't try to be creative. Also, be sure to answer the question. Don't go into story format just to be funny or creative...and then forget to tell the school why you want the MBA.

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:18:44 PM)
sdgirl: I agree with Susan. Bonding, not backstabbing. And healthy competition. One male teammate and I really pushed each other, and we both did very well.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:19:11 PM)
I agree. I did feel like that I could apply what I learned in my first year of marketing classes to my summer internship (I was in a brand management role).

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:19:18 PM)
Yes, healthy competition!

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:20:15 PM)
Celine: here's the importance of project work. You have to get out of the classroom during the program and do projects to apply your learning. Then you talk about those at job interviews. Then they think you'll be able to contribute from day one. But I think any employer understands there's on the job learning.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:20:40 PM)
Our advice is to show the essays to someone who knows you well and someone who writes well. Ask the former if the essays reflect YOU, if they recognize you in the essays. Ask the latter if they are well -written.

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:20:56 PM)
Good advice.

tayloreat (Oct 19, 2004 6:21:18 PM)
How did anyone survive in b-school without working?

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:21:34 PM)
What do you mean? Without incoming cash?

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:21:41 PM)
tayloreat: You mean financially? Or mentally?

tayloreat (Oct 19, 2004 6:22:02 PM)

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:22:04 PM)
tayloreat - a combination of scholarship, loans, and my summer internship salary and some savings...

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:22:30 PM)
Ditto to Jennifer, except on the savings. Having a roommate again helps with the expenses.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:22:57 PM)
Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Elissa, Mariska, Katherine, Susan, Chelsea, Thes, and Jennifer.

ThespinaSpiveyForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:07 PM)
Thanks, Linda!

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:08 PM)
We look forward to seeing you at future chats, and here is a list of the upcoming scheduled chats:

KatherineArmstrongForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:10 PM)
tayloreat: Think of the investment needed as more than tuition. Add up other costs such as rent, too. That's how much you'll need to beg or borrow or take from savings. And you can earn a boatload at a summer internship.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:11 PM)
I definitely miss having a regular income, but I haven't felt like I've been suffering/sacrificing too much either...

SusanEstesForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:19 PM)
Thanks, everyone!

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:32 PM)
CMU: Oct. 27 Michigan: Nov. 1 Chicago: Nov. 4 USC: Nov. 8

tayloreat (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:43 PM)
Thanks so much for all advice!!

ElissaEllisForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:45 PM)
Thanks, Linda for hosting this event with the Forte Foundation! www.fortefoundation.org

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:47 PM)
Please check the Web site (www.accepted.com/chat/schedule.aspx#mba ) for details and exact time, because we are varying our chat times this year to facilitate attendance from applicants in different time zones.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:23:52 PM)
You're most welcome.

JenniferChaoForte (Oct 19, 2004 6:24:08 PM)
Thanks for participating!

Tammy (Oct 19, 2004 6:24:11 PM)
We all appreciate your time and wisdom!!

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:24:21 PM)
Thank you all for coming and asking great questions.

Linda Abraham (Oct 19, 2004 6:25:15 PM)
Good luck on your applications!

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