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Finding Inspiration at the Believers in Business Conference

“I felt like I was inundated with wisdom.” That’s how Xulin Guo ’15 describes the recent Believers in Business Conference.

Ten years ago, MBAs at the Yale School of Management started the Believers in Business Conference, which has now expanded to include business schools across the country. I—along with about 16 other Yale SOM students and alumni—got to spend the weekend of February 20-21 at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City benefiting from the legacy of this conference.

The mission of the conference is to “equip and encourage Christian MBA students and graduates to live out their lives and careers for the glory of God… by providing a forum for honest discussion on opportunities, challenges, and strategies for following Christ in the marketplace in ways that help them grow in their relationship with the Lord and impact others.”

It was wonderful seeing Christians and non-Christians alike participating in the conference and thinking critically about how they can use their MBAs and their careers to have a positive impact on others.  

This year’s Believers in Business Conference was organized by 15 business schools across the U.S., with seven keynote speakers, four industry panels and more than 250 attendees. The theme was “Transformation.” As students, we have often heard that the MBA will transform us into better leaders and business people, but we really wanted to dig deep into thinking about how this phase in our lives can truly help us transform ourselves and others.

“Coming from finance, it was great to see finance speakers talk about combining their beliefs with their work,” a fellow SOM classmate told me. “I didn’t think that was possible before.” These types of reactions seemed to be consistent among the attendees I spoke to. Truly seeing through the example of speakers how we can become agents in transformation for those around us in the workplace was inspiring.

The exact speaker topics covered are too good to not share:

  1. Theology of work/business: How is God transforming us through the MBA process? What does He say about work, business and calling?
    Speaker: Shundrawn Thomas, Executive Vice President, Head of Funds and Managed Accounts, Northern Trust Asset Management
  2. Christ-centered, servant leadership: What is servant leadership and how did Jesus embody it? How should our faith in Christ impact leadership in the business world?
    Speakers: Eff Martin, Founding Partner, Anthos Capital; former General Partner and Managing Director, Goldman Sachs; and Thomas J. Healey, Partner, Healey Development LLC; Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School; retired Partner, Goldman Sachs.
  3. Success, failure, power, and ambition: How does God transform us amid successes, failures, and the pressures of power and ambition?
    Speaker: Mark Whitacre, COO and President of Operations of Cypress Systems, a cancer-focused biotech firm; former Corporate VP of Archer Daniels Midland
  4. Breakout panels (General Management, Entrepreneurship, Sales & Marketing, Finance): What does a transformed businessperson look like across industries and functions? How do we bring His purpose to our workplace every day?
    Various Speakers
  5. Stewardship and generosity: How do we use our personal talents and blessings to transform the people and environment around us for God’s Kingdom?
    Speaker: Diane Paddison, Founder and President, 4word; former Global Executive team for two Fortune 500 and one Fortune 1,000 company
  6. Business as mission: How can we shape businesses to become agents of God’s transformation? What might a business with strong Biblical values look like?
    Speaker: Henry Kaestner, Managing Principal, Sovereign’s Capital; Chairman, Co-Founder and former CEO,

I loved every speaker, but the most moving had to have been Mark and Ginger Whitacre talking about his time involved in a price-fixing scandal that involved him being wired up by the CIA for three years and in jail for nearly ten. [If you want to learn more, Matt Damon stars in a movie based off of this story called The Informant and Mark wrote the book Against All Odds]. The story of his time throughout this situation, his family’s persistence in staying with him through it, and finding his faith while in it left the audience in tears. When it comes to business, there truly is a place for grace and forgiveness.

I can’t wait to attend this conference again next year, an opportunity to reset and reprioritize in the midst of our busy MBA lives!