May 22, 2013 was a hot, humid day that began with clouds and drizzles and ended with sun, smiles, and celebration as me and the rest of the Rutgers MBA class of 2013 walked across the stage at NJPAC in Newark, NJ to receive our diplomas.
“How do you feel!?” my classmate Julie asked a few of us as we lined up: https://vine.co/v/b90O9Vq5zJY
I remember when I realized that I wanted to earn my MBA. The idea started bubbling up in my head when I realized that, since I was a kid, I had been coming up with business ideas. By the end of my sophomore year of college, I had a folder on my computer that held about 12 ideas – logos, business plan drafts, and (light) research included. After one semi-successful pitch, I learned I that I really, really, liked the idea of starting a business and creating a strategy to market it. The person who I pitched to was a successful CEO of a marketing agency who told me that I was an “idea person.” This both flattered and fueled me to want to really become this professional “idea person” he saw in me. That summer, I bought a book called “The portable MBA in Marketing.”
The idea of earning my MBA was cemented when I was in my senior year of college. I was sitting in the student union working on a PR assignment between classes. My mind strayed to questions that weren’t part of the assignment: How much of a budget does PR get in the real world? How do you measure the ROI of a PR campaign in actual sales, not just in media hits? What if there was an integrated campaign using social media? I realized that as much as I liked PR, I loved the strategy of using it as a tool among a greater business objective even more. I went to class and asked these questions to my PR professor. She looked at me and said, “Hannah, I think you need to be a marketer.” She continued to answer my questions with examples from her experience as a corporate PR professional at a large pharma company. When I left class, I was committed to learning more about business – and I knew that getting my MBA was how I would do that.
“Be a leader that serves. When you care about others, they follow you. Be that kind of leader.” -Kevin Cummings, CEO, Investors Bank, Rutgers Business School MBA Commencement Speaker
When I first got accepted into the program, I was excited, but incredibly nervous. I was about to enter a program part-time having just turned 23 when the average age was 28. The students were much more experienced than I was. Having been a PR major focused on journalism, I hadn’t taken a real exam in years. In college I was tested on the quality of my news stories and if I was fluent in AP style. The thought of taking accounting and finance while sitting in a room full of business professionals was an intimidating one.
And sure, there were classes where between the buzzwords and math, I became overwhelmed. I spent a lot of time re-reading to catch up. These classes challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone, and as a result I learned a great deal. Supply Chain Management taught me the impact of efficiency not only on bottom line, but for the greater good. Accounting taught me to give a lot of credit to all my CPA friends (and also that I will always, always need to hire one). Finance taught me how to map out revenue projections and gave my entrepreneurial projects some real meat.
Then there were those classes that I naturally loved. Equally, I learned a lot in these. Strategy tied all aspects of business together by showing me what drives each part of business and how to align those goals, and how important planning is in both business – and in life. Business Law taught me how much business and law is tied together. Organizational Behavior taught me to be a leader, not a manager. Doing Green Business in Costa Rica taught me about how an entire country is completely aligned and committed to making their businesses carbon-neutral (truly amazing).
These are just some of the classes that inspired, but there were so many more. I always knew I was a curious person, but this program taught me to think analytically. The MBA answered a lot of my questions about business specifically, but at the same time made me realize I will be a lifelong learner.
In the part-time MBA, there were long nights, lots of weekends spent reading long Harvard Business Cases and countless missed happy hours. There were weeknight classes after long days of work, and Saturday classes – even in the summer. But, I wouldn’t trade my experience in the MBA program for the world. It was in the MBA program where I gave my first real pitch in front of investors. It’s where I created 3 full business plans and where I placed in two business plan competitions. It’s where I started my own business. It’s where I made some of my best friends and where I found amazing mentors. I learned so much about the world of business, and I feel completely ready to attack what’s next in my career and my life, learning and growing along the way.