Saturday, November 6, 2010

The MBA Project

Within a few months of earning my Bachelor of Arts in English in 2005, I decided that I would go on to grad school.  I remember quite vividly sitting at the assistant learning coordinator's desk in the Disney College Program Education Office, where I was serving a post-graduate internship that fall, and brainstorming to myself what I could parlay my BA into.  I quite enjoyed my minor concentration, New Media Journalism Communication (say that 10x fast), so something in communications seemed to be the natural choice.  I could explore more of the journalistic side to that, but I didn't feel quite passionate enough about it.  Besides, writing articles usually started out to be fun for me, but quickly turned into a laborious task.  I shifted my thoughts towards general communication, and that quiet afternoon at the desk I started browsing some college search sites.

The more I looked into it, the more excited I became.  I searched this way and that, tapping into programs in human communications, which gave way to speech and language pathology.  What's more is that I didn't limit myself to local schools by area, state, or even country.  I looked at the programs in Ireland, Britain, Canada, and Australia--all English speaking countries who often had reciprocal agreements with each other whereby if you attained your certification in SLP (speech language pathology) in one country, you could practice in another.  By the time I returned home to Pittsburgh in January 2006, I decided to apply for the University of Pittsburgh's SLP program and hope that they would allow me to complete prerequisites as part of the program.  So, I solicited professors for recommendations, gathered transcripts, and wrote an essay on how I wanted to help people communicate, especially after seeing my late Uncle Norman struggle to speak and remember names following a stroke.

I was rejected.

They cited my academic background as the reason, which was resoundingly a liberal arts one that had almost none of the math and science foundations essential to their program.  I was disappointed, naturally, but I don't blame them.  It was a long shot at best.

I didn't dwell on it for long, however.  Within weeks of receiving the rejection letter, an opportunity to move to San Diego, California presented itself.  The dream of going to grad school for SLP gave way to the excitement of living in a new city.  The lingering desire to further myself with graduate study never completely vanished, however, and I did make overtures to going into nursing.  In 2007 I researched programs from Los Angeles to San Diego, began volunteering at a local hospital's maternity wing, and I even took a biology class at a community college to get a leg up on the prerequisites that I needed.

Even though I earned an "A" in the biology class, my interest faded as I realized that perhaps I wasn't really cut out for the rigors of nursing.  It's a difficult job that I highly respect for the skill, knowledge and sheer stamina it takes to be good at it.  Although I am fascinated by medicine and unfazed by the sight of blood and guts, I think the stakes of being either partly or solely responsible for the outcome of a life-or-death situation to be too high for my natural temperament.  What's more is that I found myself bored to tears in the volunteer position, which consisted mostly of clearing up meal trays and changing linens, so I eventually gave that up too.

By the summer of 2008, I was content to go about my business taking dance lessons and pursuing a new job that my good friend Tim was helping me to secure.  We worked together for a year and a half before he was let go by our company, and he quickly took up with the supply chain department at ViaSat, a local satellite telecommunications company.  A few months into it, he was working on transitioning out of his role, and he recommended me as his replacement, given that I had some limited experience in purchasing and work with Excel quite readily.  I got the position and started working there that December.  It was, and still is, the best job I've ever had to date.

For the first year, I worked happily alongside supply chain agents, learning the ins and outs of the business, the operations department, and a bit about the industry at large.  I was given the freedom to make changes that allowed me to perform my job more efficiently and effectively, and I took my role into a new direction--the people who held it usually went on to become buyers--but I was more enamored with crunching numbers and summarizing data.  Over time, I found that the more I learned, the more I wanted to learn.  Not just about how to make a better chart or how to build an Access database, but about how the results of my calculations related to the health of the organization, and how to use that to make intelligent business decisions.

Working at ViaSat has been the flint to my steel, creating a spark that finally lit a fire up under me this spring.  After a long conversation with a close friend who was working on his master's thesis, I realized that I was finally ready.  I knew what it was I wanted to study because I had already been studying it, in one way or another, for the last 5 years: Business.  I've worked for every type of business from small family-owned operations to one of the world's most widely-recognized fortune 500 companies.  I've intereacted with customers, liasoned with other departments, supported high level executives, and carried a little bit of each experience with me until I became a person with a genuine interest.

I realize now that my desire to go into speech language pathology and nursing were expressions of my natural gravitation towards being consulted.  Indeed, when I was a custodial hostess at Walt Disney World's Epcot park, the hands-down favorite part of my job was talking to guests about the best place to get a cup of coffee, to take a break, to entertain their four year old, or to watch the parade.  It was something beyond provinding basic needs, like directions to the nearest bathroom.  It was taking the breadth of my knowlege and experience and using it to tailor a solution for someone in need.  I find myself doing it nearly every day, though mostly for writing reports and providing charts who need to use the information to make decisions.  For this reason, I think I would be suited to a consultancy position post-graduation.

Meet my new best friend.

This has led me to where I am today: a woman in pursuit of a Masters in Business Administration.  I'm in what you would probably call stage one of three: the before.  The during is when you're actually in school, and the after is when you're hopefully making more than enough bank to repay the loans you probably took out to finance the whole gig.  I have been using books as study aides since July, and I will be sitting for the GMAT exam next month, probably just before I go back home for Christmas.  As to what programs I'm looking into, I do have my Top 5 and reasons specific to each.  I will explore that in my next post.

Until next time!