By: Chrissy Arsenault, MBA’19
Chrissy Arsenault graduated from the Kelley School of Business Evening MBA Program in May 2019. This write-up was originally featured on her LinkedIn profile.
Ah, the MBA. It still feels surreal to be done.
The last two and a half years were extremely stressful. Trying to juggle classes, work (including career transitions) and my personal life felt very overwhelming, and I can’t say it ever got better over time, either. I would often ask myself what I got myself into. The last thing I wanted to do after a full day’s worth of work was head downtown for class or hop on a conference call with my group.
But, all the stress aside, I loved being able to learn from the faculty and my classmates in the Kelley School of Business Evening MBA Program. My peers were incredibly talented and from all walks of life; I learned from simply being in their presence. I was one of the youngest students in my cohort, so I had the advantage of learning from my peers who had many years of experience or were already in management roles. Today, I’m a much more competent, well-rounded and confident version of myself than when I first started. With the courage and skills the MBA gave me, I was able to transition into marketing from healthcare and even got promoted to work in brand management.
I’ve learned a lot in my MBA program, from financial management to operations and supply chain management. Beyond the “academic stuff,” here are lessons I’ve learned during my experience in the program for anyone still going through the program or thinking about getting their MBA.
1. There’s a lot of reading, and you’ll probably never get around to having 100% of the information. This is perfectly normal. I think many programs are designed so that you never finish reading and digesting everything you’re assigned to, but that’s just my theory. In the business world, there are some parallels. When do you ever have all the perfect information you need to make a decision on any project? Use your best judgment and prioritize your time.
2. Be a good team member. Show up on time. Get your pieces done and do a hell of a good job. Be someone that others can count on. The friends you make in the program will continue to be a valuable part of your network beyond graduation, and these impressions matter.
3. Step outside of your comfort zone. Experiment whenever possible. Try taking different approaches to leadership and take on projects that are outside of what you normally do. You have more flexibility to test and learn than you might be able to get away with at work. This means different things for different people. For instance, some people are terrified of public speaking, so classes are great venues for you to give presentations and receive feedback.
4. Take any and all experiential courses. I liked all my classes, but the hands-on learning courses were my favorites: negotiations, leadership circles, capstone consulting project for marketing, and more. These classes help you apply your skills.
5. Speak up and ask good questions. There are no dumb questions. Challenge your peers and professors if you have a different opinion. Have those crucial conversations and have the courageous authenticity to voice your thoughts.
6. Be present. Go to class and events. I paid for every penny of my MBA while also paying for my mortgage, bills, and cars. Every class I missed was worth hundreds of $$’s to me, so if I missed a class, I felt like I was throwing money down the drain. Even if your employer gives you tuition reimbursement, actually attend class. This isn’t undergrad, you should really only commit to an MBA if you’re interested in learning. Similarly, attend the events your MBA offers. It’s hard to not multitask, but try to minimize that too.
7. If you’re interested in switching careers or want some advice, take people out to coffee or lunch. Kelley calls these “informational interviews”. Learn about what they do, what they like about their jobs, what keeps them up at night, how they got to where they are at today. Ask for other connections they might be able to introduce you to, but don’t ask for a job. Also, return this favor once you’ve made the transition and be open to grabbing coffee to learn more about you. Help others around you succeed and be their sounding board for ideas.
What’s next for me?
I’d like to channel my energy into something productive, though I haven’t figured out exactly what that means for me yet. I’m still fairly new to my current role, so I have lots to learn and enough to keep me busy. I also plan to start reading again (for leisure) and brush up on my French and maybe start learning Spanish one of these days. For now, I’m taking it easy and hoping the weather gets better so that I can enjoy the great outdoors with my pups and husband.
To learn more about Chrissy, check out her Kelley School feature here.