Q. Embarking on an EMBA program is a huge commitment. Can you describe your decision process?
The process was no small task. Trying to objectively weigh schools in the context of potential career opportunity, asses a course load specifically addressing growth areas where I had less formal background in order to develop business acumen, and what types of individuals I would meet were serious factors. I knew I wanted to make the commitment and spent months poring over school websites, MBA forums, and blogs, and speaking to some EMBA alums to carefully build a case for each program I felt was a potential fit. Another important stage in my personal process was assessing faculty research. I needed to better understand how the professors that were going to shape my perspective and impact my career actually viewed the world! What impact have they had? How relevant is their research? How relevant is their class to me and my goals? These were key questions.
Working in institutional asset management, I was certainly encouraged to take a hard look at more traditionally known finance schools to further develop as a practitioner in my industry. I had heard about Yale’s EMBA program and as I researched the program in depth it became clear how well positioned Yale is in this regard. The academic firepower at Yale rivals any program’s, and the opportunity to engage in a dedicated, on-campus format with highly decorated and experienced faculty in my industry was critical to my commitment to the program. A final element impacting my decision in no small way was personal rather than career focused: After visiting the campus, meeting both faculty and students, I understood Yale’s dedication toward a balanced approach in teaching business as a force of good in society. Having grown up in rural Wisconsin, I embrace my roots in conservation and organic agriculture, and felt Yale was an ideal fit for my values as well as career objectives.
Q. When making the decision, did you factor in ROI? And a few months in, has your perspective changed? Is there anything that has surprised you?
Pragmatically factoring in return on investment was a consideration, and should be for every candidate. However, in my view, ROI has many qualitative components as well. Relationships with faculty, building trust in your peers, and developing incredible friendships both inside and outside your industry are hugely rewarding growth components to the EMBA experience and can’t be understated.
What has surprised me after a few months of class has been the depth of the domain expertise in the cohort. We have C-level executives in our class, business owners, military veterans, brilliant physicians, aerospace engineers, lawyers, researchers, and others who can contribute materially to the class discussion and in aggregate create a highly enriched and intellectually stimulating environment. My classmates have transformed my perspective and will continue to do so.
Q. Business schools tout their network as a compelling benefit of an MBA program. How have you used the Yale SOM network?
Potential candidates often think that the sheer size of the alumni pool will mean more networking traction, but this is misleading. Some large schools have tens of thousands of living alumni, where as schools like Yale SOM are smaller but very tight knit. When I was applying to the program and after I was admitted, I reached out to several former students in the financial industry and every one of them has responded. Also, networking events are quite common and very friendly, which has been a nice surprise. In my firm for example, our current director of research is a Yale EMBA alum, and I met her through the program.
Q. Is there anything that you wish you had known before applying to Yale SOM? Or anything you’d have done differently?
If I could have done something differently it would have been to spend far less time comparing myself over and over again to others who I felt might apply and wondering how competitive my application would be. The life path to the EMBA is unique, and it’s your story to tell. The admissions officers literally travel the globe and look into the faces of hundreds of women and men every year. Yale is serious about academics, and it’s up to candidates to prove that commitment when preparing the application—but SOM is equally serious about character. It takes courage to open up, and if I could do it over again I wouldn’t worry about anyone but myself and my own application. Also, initial conversations about the commitment involved in pursuing an EMBA with family, spouse, partner, or employer can be especially difficult, and the fear of rejection is real. Looking back I wish I would have been less afraid of sharing my goals with those close to me out of fear of rejection. The final item on the wish list is to keep in touch with some other individuals you might meet on campus visit days; they might become your close friends sooner than later!