The MBA Value Proposition for Women

The MBA Value Proposition for Women

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Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:45:32 PM)
Hello everyone! Thank you all for joining us for this Forte Foundation chat entitled “The MBA Value Proposition for Women.” My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder and president of, and I will also be the chat moderator this evening.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:45:41 PM)
I want to give a special welcome to Sara Nordhoff, Forte’s Director of School Member Relations, and our panelists:

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:45:49 PM)
Erin George, Consultant, BCG, Forté Scholar, MBA 2006 McCombs School of Business 2006

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:45:59 PM)
Rachel Ledford, Associate Product Manager, Target Team Frito-Lay North America, MBA 2005 Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:46:05 PM)
Jodi Rausch, Customer Solutions Product Leader for GE Retail Consumer Finance, MBA 2001Goizueta Business School at Emory University

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:46:12 PM)
Serena Matsunaga, Associate, Huron Consulting Group, MBA 2000 University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:46:18 PM)
Heather Salonga, Intel, MBA 2006 Chicago Graduate School of Business

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:46:23 PM)
Sara, thank you for representing Forte. Can you tell us a little about at Forte and its latest initiatives?

SaraNordhoffForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:47:49 PM)
Sure! We've been very busy this fall with our Forte Forums - a 10-city series of events highlighting the MBA. I hope many of you were able to attend one. Forte's mission is to substantially increase the number of women business leaders by increasing the flow of women into key educational gateways and business networks. And one of the key ways to increase the number of women in business leadership is to introduce them to the MBA. So, thanks to all of the attendees for joining us tonight. I know that our outstanding panelists will provide you with terrific insights about MBA programs and business careers. Oh, and if you haven't already, be sure to check out the Forte website at So Linda, we're ready to start!

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:49:27 PM)
Thanks Sara.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:49:28 PM)
To start the panel portion of this chat, I am going to ask Heather and Erin to post brief bios. I have the bios for the other panelists and will post them now:

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:49:46 PM)
Rachel Ledford graduated cum laude with a degree in American Studies from Smith College. She holds a Master's in Political Science from Ohio State University, as well as an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Prior to business school, Rachel was a retail consultant for Retail Forward focusing on consumer behavior. After getting her MBA in 2005, she joined the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo in Plano, TX. At Frito, Rachel has worked on the Dips Brand Team and is now the Associate Product Manager on the Target Shopper Marketing Team. Rachel lives in Plano with her husband and two cats.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:49:56 PM)
Jodi Rausch is the Customer Solutions Product Leader for GE Retail Consumer Finance, a division of GE Money. She is responsible for managing existing and developing new cross-sell products for existing customers; maintaining and creating new partnerships and relationships for internal and external products. Previously at GE, Jodi spent three years in San Francisco as the General Manager of the Banana Republic private label credit card. During her tenure at Banana Republic, she led the loyalty program integration for the Gap Inc. private label credit cards (Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy) and assisted in the development of the multi-tender loyalty program for Gap Inc.'s new fourth brand, Forth & Towne. Jodi started her career with GE in 2001 when she joined the Marketing Leadership Program, completing rotations in both Gap Inc. Client Marketing and Pricing. Prior to business school, she spent four years working in relationship and loyalty marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group. Jodi has an MBA in

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:50:06 PM)
Erin George, consultant, Dallas, joined The Boston Consulting Group in 2005 as a summer intern and again full-time in 2006. Since joining BCG, Erin has worked primarily in the high-tech and telco practice across a variety of functional areas including, strategy, marketing and operations. She earned an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin and a BS in from the University of Southern California. Erin was a Sord Scholar and Forte Foundation Scholar at the University of Texas and is also a member of the Texas Business Hall of Fame. Prior to joining BCG, Erin worked as a consultant for the Monitor Group in Los Angeles. She enjoys traveling the world’s wine regions with her husband, running and cooking.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:50:07 PM)
Serena is an Associate in the Higher Education practice at Huron Consulting Group. Huron provides management consulting services to universities and academic medical centers. Serena’s professional experience includes working with a diverse set of higher education, government agencies and private sector clients on strategic, organizational, technology and financial matters. Prior to joining Huron, she worked at Ernst & Young Corporate Finance. She holds an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:51:16 PM)
Heather Salonga repeatedly insists on leaving places like her native Honolulu and sunny southern California for the sometimes very cold University of Chicago (physics undergraduate, computer science master's, MBA in finance and entrepreneurship). She graduated from there most recently in June and subsequently joined Intel as a senior financial analyst in Santa Clara, California. She previously worked in climate and pollution modeling and satellite simulations.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:51:45 PM)
Well now you are warm again, Heather.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:51:59 PM)
Thanks to all of you for the bios.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:52:00 PM)
Sara and I have prepared a few questions to start the panel discussion, but we will also give you a chance to ask questions in a few minutes. If you have a question about the panelists' responses or on the topic of the questions, please ask it. You can direct questions to an individual panelist, some of them, or to all of them The last half of the chat will be a Q&A.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:52:14 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?

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:54:14 PM)
As a liberal arts undergrad and social science master's, I had absolutely no "business knowledge", even through I worked in Marketing and Consulting before my MBA. Now that I'm in brand management, I use my MBA every day. Someone the other day even asked if I was from Finance, because I was able to walk everyone through the details of my P&L, which, given my lack of prior Finance knowledge, was pretty amazing.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:54:31 PM)
I went to business school because, at my then current job, it was required to move to the next level. In hindsight, I was always planning to go but this was the trigger to make it happen. I wouldn't trade my MBA years for anything - I became part of an amazing network, increased my base salary (upon graduation), and was able to learn - and fail - in a safe environment. It is a phenomenal growing experience that I encourage everyone to consider

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:54:51 PM)
Rachel, do you think you do the work you are doing today without an MBA, or at least substantial training?

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:55:21 PM)
I was attracted to Darden based on the teaching, focus on teams and the community-based culture. It seemed to fit with my personality and learning style. I was looking to make a major career switch. The combination of the program and the career development center made that happen for me.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:56:18 PM)
Definitely not all of it. While I could have learned Finance, Ops, Accounting, etc. "on the job" it would have taken A LOT longer than the two years it took me to get my MBA.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:56:50 PM)
Most folks in consulting end up getting their MBA eventually, so once I decided to go into consulting, I knew that an MBA was in my future. An MBA helps improve a consultant's credibility with clients so I felt it was important for me. In addition, since my undergrad degree is in marketing, I felt like I needed to round out my skills in other areas, especially finance. After being back in the working world, I have already seen how much more my clients respect me just because I have an MBA.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:57:08 PM)
How do you handle the tension/conflict between family and professional demands?

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:57:44 PM)
My background was in computer science and I and my husband were programmers, but and as my husband went from start up to start up, I started thinking about starting my own company. I realized that I could probably write a software program to sell, but I realized that there was so much I didn't know about getting financing, selling my product and making my company grow.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 4:58:29 PM)
Heather, did your MBA give you the tools you need?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:58:44 PM)
Managing work life balance is always a hard one. Right now I am married, but don't have kids and my husband travels every week, so I have the luxury of being able to work really long hours during the week and keeping my weekends free. The key is being able to find some free time for yourself, otherwise you will end up hating your job.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:59:36 PM)
re: Work/life balance, that's definitely a tough one. I know my husband was really ready for me to be done with b-school, since it tends to be a pretty time intensive experience. Now, post-MBA, my time-crunch is almost as bad, but I like to think it's temporary as I work to gain credibility in my organization.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 4:59:56 PM)
Being a single girl, I'm sure I don't experience the demands that others do. But I have found that to be a challenge in and of itself - because I DON'T have a family, I am sometimes expected to have no problems working late, etc. To battle this, I've made other commitments - tennis teams, art classes, family obligations, etc. which make me feel like I have the 'ability' to push back and take time for myself. Sure, there are times when it is necessary to work long hours and occasionally weekends, but for the most part, it is important to keep that balance for myself. No one else is going to look out for it.

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:00:50 PM)
Linda - I think the MBA did give me the tools I will need. I entered my school's business plan competition and a New Venture Strategy class which taught me so much. I also realized that I wanted to work for a bigger company for a few years to learn a little a bit more about how bigger companies worked.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:01:02 PM)
Thanks Heather. And the other panelists too.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:02:00 PM)
What would you tell young women turned off by the MBA's traditional or perceived experience requirement?

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:03:15 PM)
At Chicago GSB things are a little easier, professors teach the same section during the day and usually during the evening or weekend of the same week. If you have a family problem they are very flexible about your going to another later section. Now that I am working, give my husband a lot of warning about potential late nights and try to keep on top of my share of the chores. (In business school he did most of the chores.)

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:03:18 PM)
The 1st semester of the MBA program is designed to get everyone on the same page in terms of their knowledge base. Granted some people will be stronger in certain areas because of their past experience, the rigor of the classes really help to eliminate that gap.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:03:57 PM)
The experience requirement only makes for better MBA's, as well as better classes, peers, group discussions, etc. Doing your MBA right out of under grad is usually not a good idea, as you don't have the context to help you integrate the leanings.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:03:59 PM)
You need to look for the school that is right for you. When I was investigating schools, I found some that were very competitive - others that were amazingly collaborative. There will ALWAYS be a school that fits your needs - it just might take a bit more searching than others. The purpose of getting your MBA is to stretch yourself so you need to be prepared for that. but it is a worthwhile and valuable experience

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:04:24 PM)
When I started business school, I hardly had any traditional business experience. I had limited exposure to Excel. It should not be considered a deterrent.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:05:09 PM)
Also, most schools have lowered or eliminated the full-time experience requirement.  I shouldn't say "most." let's say "more."

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:05:49 PM)
I will add to what Rachel said - it is most beneficial for you to have classmates with a variety of experiences. Just out of undergrad is not the time to get your MBA. Get your feet wet, experience the world - and the working world - before you head back to school. You will definitely appreciate it more.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:05:56 PM)
How has your MBA benefited you off the job?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:06:27 PM)
I actually think that having at least 2-3 yrs work experience is pretty important for getting the most out of b-school. It is hard to see the applications of everything you are learning without having some work experience...just my bias

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:07:05 PM)
I reference it almost every day. Whether it is analytical tools or a better understanding of P&Ls, there is so much that I learned (despite my business background) that differentiates me every day.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:09:18 PM)
Off the job, I'd definitely say I've benefited from the networking , as well as from the diversity of the amazing people with whom I went to b-school. Duke definitely broadened my international awareness/perspective, and I became much more culturally aware/engaged than I ever had been before.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:09:37 PM)
An MBA just helps provide a more balanced perspective on everything in daily life. I agree with Jodi that it helps you be able to be more analytical on daily decisions (e.g. should I lease or buy a car, which mortgage option is best, etc.)

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:10:15 PM)
I think my influencing skills are much better now. I am also much more confident defending my opinions and getting tasks done. I think in general, I am much more aware of my leadership skills and how to use and improve them.

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:10:31 PM)
I agree. I was able to make lasting friendships at business school. At this point in my career, this network has proven to be a great resource for me. It is beneficial to have strong contacts who assist with career opportunities or just provide an understanding ear.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:10:59 PM)
What were some of the elements of it that made you choose your MBA program?

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:11:10 PM)
I agree with Heather re: leadership. B-school is all about developing as a leader (not so much as a functional expert).

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:12:16 PM)
The community and team-based focus combined with the teaching reputation at Darden made the difference. Charlottesville is also a wonderful setting for two years of business school.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:12:44 PM)
Charlottesville is beautiful.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:13:08 PM)
Competitive vs. collaborative. Environment - what % of women? What % of international? What are the teaching philosophies? Where have previous graduates gone? It is important to understand all aspects of the school when making the decision. Every school is multi-dimensional. It is important to find one that suits your needs in a number of areas.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:13:21 PM)
The students at McCombs are very collaborative and not competitive which is the type of environment that I thrive in. I not only learned from professors but from my class mates as well. McCombs also has a strong Finance concentration which is the area that I was most interested in. And, the opportunities for leadership were amazing - the MBA program office supported me in my efforts to found the MBA Healthcare association.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:14:00 PM)
Culture, culture, and culture. It's absolutely true that there's a school out there for everyone, which also means that there are schools out there that aren't for you. I would encourage everyone to visit each and every school you might want to go to to figure it out. Also, I'll give a quick plug for Duke - Durham, NC is also a wonderful place to spend two years.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:14:35 PM)
Thank you.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:14:46 PM)
We are now starting the question and answer section of the chat. Guests, please post your questions.

Jamie (Oct 3, 2006 5:14:58 PM)
What kinds of challenges did the panelists face while considering going back to school (financial, timing, etc)?

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:16:54 PM)
Financial considerations were my major concern. It was intimidating to consider the investment, but it paid off in terms of my ability to switch to a more interesting career.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:17:00 PM)
My only real challenge was where did my husband want to be (since he was quitting his higher-paying job to come with me). Ultimately, Duke won out for us both, but there definitely were a few schools I was interested in that he wasn't too keen on because of their locations.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:17:12 PM)
The biggest challenge I faced was finding a great school in a city that my husband also wanted to move to (and where he was able to find a job). Unfortunately the best school for you is not where you currently live, so it can mean that you need to face difficult decisions. I know some of my other classmates decided to have long distance relationships with their spouses rather then both move which is also a big challenge.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:17:33 PM)
It is a HUGE decision financially... not an easy decision... but more important is timing. It is critical that you are mentally ready... and yes, it is a big commitment to go back full-time. But I have a number of friends who have gone back part-time and loved it. But let's go back to a previous point that a couple of us made - it is most important that you have a few years of experience first.

Joanna V (Oct 3, 2006 5:17:46 PM)
Regarding your professors, what were the qualities possessed by your favorite and your least favorite?

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:18:04 PM)
I wanted to go to school before having children. I thought my priorities would be very different afterwards. I was really pleased to find other classmates who did have children right before and even one during the first couple months of first year. Her team members were very supportive .

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:18:58 PM)
Some qualitites were: engaged in student progress, relating what you learn in the classroom to what is happening in the business world / relating to live case examples. profs who were too theoretical were typically not as strong.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:19:58 PM)
Wow. Good question. My favorite professors understood the difference between theory and reality.... which are VERY different. Other favorites made me challenge myself and my way of thinking... and encouraged me to take chances and maybe fail. Those whom I didn't like just kind of sat there and spoke... without being interactive or making me think for myself

km (Oct 3, 2006 5:20:19 PM)
How does an MBA help prepare someone interested in entering the consulting industry?

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:20:30 PM)
Darden's faculty is incredible. It is hard to determine a favorite. They made an effort to know my name and provide as much access as needed. The community feel makes a difference.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:21:05 PM)
In so many ways. It is amazing the breadth of knowledge you can get with an MBA if you try. Jack of all trades, master of none...

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:21:12 PM)
The best profs are the ones with real world experience (and know what it's really like to have to get things done, not just talk about them). In general, the Duke profs were fantastic.

km (Oct 3, 2006 5:21:27 PM)
What are you views on full-time MBA programs vs. part-time programs?

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:21:38 PM)
Sometimes my favorite professors were the most opinionated, they made me think and encouraged students to challenge their opinions. They were often the most funny as well and students were the most engaged during classes.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:22:21 PM)
An MBA provides you with many of the analytical tools required for consulting (e.g. statistical analysis, strategic frameworks, etc.). It also provides you with the ability to do consulting projects for companies throughout the semester and through case competitions (min 1-2 day case simulations similar to a consulting project)

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:23:18 PM)
I'm an advocate of the full-time program if you are interested in a career switch. The summer internship is a great opportunity to test the waters before making a commitment. For example, the travel related to consulting is not for everyone.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:24:01 PM)
Re; full-time vs. part-time, it just depends on what works for you. Personally, I wanted to completely immerse yourself in the experience, although a part-time would have probably left me with less debt. Also agree that the internship is key if you're looking to change careers. If you're sticking to the same industry, though, it's probably not as crucial.

Queenie (Oct 3, 2006 5:24:02 PM)
How did your MBA increase your leadership skills? Class or informally through networking?

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:24:06 PM)
I loved my full-time experience, I think I had more time to make friends and concentrate on school, recruiting, and clubs. I knew a lot of part-time students as well and I think they had a great time, but the experience was a little different for them. Part time is great if you are going to stay with the same company and they are willing to pay.

Guest (Oct 3, 2006 5:24:52 PM)
Rachel: Can you please provide a little insight on your leadership experience before you applied to Duke? Business schools are big on leadership abilities so I would like to know a little about what you wrote on your application.

drcharo (Oct 3, 2006 5:25:08 PM)
Hi, I am an MD with an MPH. My interest and work has been in public health and I just started thinking about getting an MBA at Harvard because of a growing interest in non-profits and would love in the long term to open up one.. But I am a bit hesitant about applying because I can only do it fulltime and for 2yrs and I need to be sure that it is really going to be worth it. Also the cost of the MBA education would result in a huge debt. So I really would appreciate any advice.

K.A.K. (Oct 3, 2006 5:25:27 PM)
Very similar question from KAK: How did the panelists finance their MBAs? How did they pay for tuition, living expenses, etc? Was the ROI sufficient to justify any loans that were incurred?

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:25:49 PM)
Re: leadership skills, I would say 85% clubs/school roles and 15% class. As an MBA, you really are running the school.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:26:06 PM)
I think you get it most in team projects, etc. You find yourself either taking a leadership position or sitting back and taking direction. It is an amazing opportunity to try to lead....

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:26:08 PM)
A full-time MBA allows you to be more involved in the extra-curricular programs that each business school has (e.g. Graduate Business Council, Finance Club, etc.). I held leadership positions in many of these organizations which allowed me to be better able to develop my leadership skills.

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:26:38 PM)
My school has a leadership program with a lot of feedback and role-playing involved. It was a wonderful class and was a low risk/high support environment to learn about dealing with conflict, giving feedback, influencing others, personality types and so much more.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:26:38 PM)
I totally agree with Rachel and Erin. There are SO many opportunities for leadership at school.... that is your training ground

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:28:08 PM)
How to finance your MBA.... It was a challenge. I had saved for years... and was lucky enough to have an education trust to draw on. And I had to give up my obsessive love for shoes. But the ROI has made it worthwhile

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:28:37 PM)
KAK I was fully prepared to take on some debt, but after I was accepted. I received a Forte Scholarship. I think that after business school , the rate of growth of your salary is higher than before and that makes up for that initial investment.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:28:50 PM)
In terms of financing my MBA, 1) I had a # of scholarships which covered about 60% of the cost, 2) great student loans - every MBA student is eligible for Stafford Loans which are about $18,000 per yr. You can get private MBA loans on top of that to cover the remainder of tuition and living expenses (set by each school). The only difference between these and the Stafford Loan is that they have a higher interest rate (~9% vs. 3%)

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:28:58 PM)
Sara, can you tell our guests at little about the Forte Scholars Program?

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:29:02 PM)
As for financing, some consulting firms will pay for the second year. In addition, the lower cost of living in a small college town helped me avoid excessive loans. You will be amazed at how you are able to adjust to a student budget again.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:29:32 PM)
Re: financing, I finance 100% through student loans. While payback isn't fun, it doesn't last forever. Also, for me at least, it wasn't all about ROI, it was also about the opportunity to learn.

K.A.K. (Oct 3, 2006 5:29:56 PM)
Have the panelists found that their schools were supportive in career development post-graduation? Are they now able to draw from resources at the Career Development Centers of their school or the alumni network as they pursue career advancement opportunities?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:31:14 PM)
Absolutely. I have certainly taken advantage of the Alumni network and the Alumni career center... and many of my friends have as well.

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:31:25 PM)
McCombs has a job board for alumni and offers workshops for alums on various areas of business. This allows grads to brush up on the latest business topics (e.g. ethics, role of corporate broads, etc.). And, all these programs are taught by the great faculty at McCombs.

SaraNordhoffForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:31:30 PM)
Sure. Forte Scholars are awarded scholarships from Forte member schools ranging in amounts of $10,000 to full tuition/room & board. The member schools choose at least two Scholars per class. Criteria typically includes leadership potential, academic merit, and how you will contribute as a community member on their campus. I strongly encourage everyone to ask the Forte member school to which they are applying about their Forte Scholar policies. Becoming a Forte Scholar brings you into the Forte network where there are lots of great benefits!

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:31:30 PM)
My classmates are supportive with career leads. We also have a career center function for alumni, including job posting. Alumni in general are willing to help with networking.

Bizwoman (Oct 3, 2006 5:31:39 PM)
Panelists: If you could go back, what would you do different as far as your preparation for your MBA? More research on school? Wait a year or two? Study within a new field?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:32:35 PM)
I wouldn't do anything different. I waited 4 yrs post-undergrad which was perfect for me and I loved McCombs and love my job at BCG.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:33:09 PM)
Honestly, I think the only thing I would have done differently would be to have taken my GMAT earlier. I decided in January to go back to school and had a major crunch to study, take the GMAT and apply before many school deadlines. The GMAT is good for a few years, so take it early!

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:33:20 PM)
I strongly suggest to make the most of your experience while in b-school - meet lots of people, get involved and be social. you miss out on a lot if you only focus on classes!

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:34:08 PM)
I would have done more informational interviews to understand the different career options.

Guest (Oct 3, 2006 5:34:42 PM)
Riding off Jamie's can one best approach the topic of grad school to an employer. I ask because I am in the Consulting "industry" and the turnover rate is high once one decides to return to school. I am worried that once I start requesting letters of recommendation project responsibilities will start to decrease.

anna (Oct 3, 2006 5:35:03 PM)
What were the unexpected benefits of obtaining an MBA? Postive aspects that weren't part of the original decision to get an MBA

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:35:04 PM)
While it's not prep, I would have taken a broader array of classes, especially as I think now about maybe opening my own business, which is something I never would have considered before (so you could say I almost needed to finish my MBA to even consider it!). Also, I loved that I just applied to two schools - it made the application process a lot less stressful.

Bizwoman (Oct 3, 2006 5:35:26 PM)
Serena/Jodi: would it be possible to go to b-school full time and work?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:36:38 PM)
Honestly, I don't think I expected to get the network that I did. True, I made some good contacts, but 5 years later, these are still the people I call to bounce ideas off of, to look for explanations, to get a better understanding.

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:36:41 PM)
As for unexpected benefits - I was truly surprised with the great social life at Darden. I expected all work, but we had a great balance.

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:38:04 PM)
For the consulting question, if you are traveling Monday through Friday, it would be extremely difficult to go part-time without a special arrangement. A woman in my firm was able to go to a one year program with company support. I guess it depends on your client demands.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:38:05 PM)
Wow. I can't imagine working full time and going to school full time. School itself becomes a full-time job. If you aren't comfortable giving up your job just yet, I suggest going part time to start and then, if you change your mind, finish your last year full time. It is still a sacrifice, but less of one.

MBAenthusiast (Oct 3, 2006 5:38:06 PM)
Can you elaborate on the kind of individual leadership skills you emphasized on your application? I know business schools are big on previous leadership experience.

Debbie (Oct 3, 2006 5:38:38 PM)
Did any of you go into the nonprofit industry or know anyone who did? If so, how did it help you (or your classmate)?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:38:43 PM)
Agreed on the social life aspect. I didn't realize how many great friends I would make. There is a group of about 20 women from my class who live in Dallas and we have monthly brunches which is great as I adjust to living in a new city.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:39:05 PM)
I would focus on leading teams. It is those relationships that, in my opinion, are the most difficult. People that you don't have direct "authority" over... people you have to influence instead of direct.

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:40:39 PM)
MBAenthusiast - I wrote about influencing people above me and my peers. Selling ideas and plans to them. I think I also wrote about leadership in my volunteer activities.

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:40:55 PM)
Also look for leadership in community roles (like your alumnae group or a civic organization). Don't feel like it has to be all about work per se.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:41:20 PM)
Hmmm. I know of a couple classmates who went to non-profits, but I haven't really kept in touch with them. I think it helps in the respect that you have more knowledge re; how to get blood from a rock, but like in all jobs, an MBA is beneficial for basic business understanding

Bizwoman (Oct 3, 2006 5:41:38 PM)
Erin: Would you recommend getting an MBA in consulting to someone with little consulting experience?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:41:55 PM)
I wrote about key aspects of my leadership style (e.g. empathy, etc.). It helps not only to talk about situations in which you were a leader but also about the qualities that make you a strong and effective leader.

Schmerica (Oct 3, 2006 5:41:56 PM) long did it take you to pay back the loans approximately?

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:42:53 PM)
I'm nowhere near done yet :). It's 10 years on private loans and 30 on government loans. I'm hoping to have everything paid off by 10, though.

Joanna V (Oct 3, 2006 5:42:58 PM)
As a follow up to km's question, what are your thoughts on distance learning programs for those that have had leadership experience and are more interested in learning more about business?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:43:19 PM)
I'm not sure any school really offers an MBA in consulting; you would typically have a concentration in strategy or management (each school calls it something different). I would also recommend taking a lot of finance and stats classes b/c you will do a lot of quantitative analysis in your first year.

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:43:20 PM)
Okay... I'm not Erin, but I have to respond. :) The VAST majority of my friends/classmates who became consultants were not consultants beforehand. The beauty of an MBA is that you have an amazing opportunity to change industries/professions

drcharo (Oct 3, 2006 5:44:14 PM)
How easy is it to get job offers in your area of interest at the end of the MBA program especially if you are changing careers?

anna (Oct 3, 2006 5:44:44 PM)
Similar question.: For those who changed careers after getting an MBA, how did having an MBA affect this process? Would you have been able to do it without the MBA degree?

ErinGeorgeForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:44:48 PM)
Agree with Jodi that most of my friends who went into to consulting were not consultants before...I am in the minority

HeatherSalongaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:44:57 PM)
Joanna V - The program could be great, the question I would ask is how much you can learn from others in a specific program

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:45:33 PM)
Anna, again, this is where you need to really investigate the school you are applying to. Some really attract CPG companies, others attract consulting companies or investment banking companies. If you have the SLIGHTEST idea of what you would like to do, think about that when you are applying

RachelLedfordForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:45:54 PM)
Recruiting and the access to recruiters is a lot of what you're paying for. That said, if you're prepared, there are usually enough jobs to make switching not terribly difficult.

K.A.K. (Oct 3, 2006 5:47:09 PM)
Some of the business school grads I have spoke with said their average prep. time per class was 20 hours per week including group sessions. Based on your experiences, would you find that to be an accurate assessment of the workload to expect?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:47:32 PM)
Only 20 hours? Did they go full time?!?!

MBAenthusiast (Oct 3, 2006 5:48:26 PM)
What did the panelists focus on when asking for references for their applications? What are some of the differences between good versus bad references?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:48:27 PM)
Personally, I think that a full-time program requires more than 20 hours a week. Consider B-School a full-time job. Expect 40 hours a week minimum

K.A.K. (Oct 3, 2006 5:49:06 PM)
To clarify, those I spoke to said it was 20 hours per class not per week.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:49:20 PM)
20 hours per class per week?

MBAenthusiast (Oct 3, 2006 5:49:48 PM)
What did the panelists focus on when asking for references for their applications? What are some of the differences between good versus bad references?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:49:53 PM)
Ah. I wouldn't expect 20 hours of classes per week but 40 hours a week of classes, group meetings, homework, etc. probably a bit more

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:50:36 PM)
Hmmm. Good references are those that know your good and your bad. That have worked with you for a few years at least. I don't think I asked anyone who I didn't think would be TOTALLY honest about my strengths and weaknesses. No one expects perfection when either entering or existing MBA

K.A.K. (Oct 3, 2006 5:51:31 PM)
Yes. So 2 classes meant 40 hours per week, 4 classes added up to 80 hours per week. Seems like a lot of time!

Guest (Oct 3, 2006 5:51:37 PM)
Can anyone comment on the international/global exposure they received in their program or schools?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:51:49 PM)
Ohhh. I wouldn't say that 4 classes are 80 hours

Bizwoman (Oct 3, 2006 5:52:29 PM)
Panelists: Thank you for your responses. Another quick question: In your opinions, how long should I study for the GMAT before taking them for the first time? I know this score is not the only item taken into the equation by the admissions office, but with the schools I have been looking into, a high score seems like a must!

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:53:18 PM)
I took 5 classes each semester and I think that classes, homework., group meetings and extra-curricular activities MAYBE made up 80-100 hours a week. But some of that is optional -- participating in case competitiions, etc. Again, it all depends on your school.

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:54:12 PM)
I spent about 3 months preparing for the GMAT - of course, I took the last paper test (that's how old I am). Things might have changed.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:54:18 PM)
Any last-minute questions?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:54:22 PM)
"high" scores are important, yes, but so are a number of other factors. The beauty of the GMAT is, despite $$, you can take it again. Your previous experience doesn't have the same leniency.

Schmerica (Oct 3, 2006 5:54:42 PM)
Would you recommend taking a Kaplan type classes to prepare for the GMAT?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:54:44 PM)
I would agree with Serena - spend a couple months prepping

Claudia (Oct 3, 2006 5:55:28 PM)
Any comments on part-time programs?

Queenie (Oct 3, 2006 5:55:35 PM)
I've heard some companies ask for GMAT scores. Have any of you heard or experienced the same?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:55:37 PM)
I did - but I was last-minute cramming. Buy the books, refresh your high school English/math and you will likely be fine. If math is NOT your forte, consider taking a class

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:56:10 PM)
No pun intended, right Jodi?

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:56:15 PM)
I've only heard of consulting companies asking for GMAT and GPA. Very unlikely that other companies will ask

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:56:17 PM)

SerenaMatsunagaForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:56:48 PM)
My company does not ask for GMAT

JodiRauschForte (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:00 PM)
Neither does GE

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:09 PM)
Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Sara of the Forte Foundation and to our panelists today, Erin, Rachel, Jodi, Serena, and Heather.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:16 PM)
We look forward to seeing you at future chats, and here is a list of the upcoming scheduled chats:

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:22 PM)
First of all is hosting one more Forte chat this week. On Oct. 5 at 5:00 PM PT/8:00 PM ET we will host the MBA Value Proposition for Women of Color.

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:28 PM)
In addition, has hosted and will continue to host chats for individual schools and other MBA organizations:

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:33 PM)
LBS Oct. 10

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:41 PM)
Chicago Oct. 16 Haas Oct. 18 Consortium 2 Oct. 25 USC Oct. 24

Linda Abraham (Oct 3, 2006 5:57:50 PM)
Please check the Web site ( ) for details and exact time.

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