5 EDGE Mentees Share Top Takeaways From Grad School

Are you considering going to graduate school?

"Should I go to grad school?" is one of the top questions that mentees ask our mentors. It's a big decision that's often viewed as a catalytic period of growth for many executives and successful businesswomen and men shaping our global economy.   

We interviewed 5 EDGE mentees who have earned or are earning degrees from 5 of the top graduate schools in the country. 

We asked them, "what's the greatest takeaway you've had from grad school?" and here's what their greatest learnings were. 


Embracing What's Possible and A Broader Worldview

Jimmy Owens District Manager - US Dairy, Elanco Stanford Graduate School of Business, MBA '12

Jimmy Owens

District Manager - US Dairy, Elanco

Stanford Graduate School of Business, MBA '12

I grew up in a "paycheck to paycheck" environment. I felt like obtaining career and financial success was an unrealistic goal reserved for people more well-connected or resourced than me. 

After somehow scrapping and clawing my way into Stanford's MBA program, I realized what a poorly constructed mental framework this was. I walked away with a completely new mindset about how the world worked and what it would take to live a life of meaning and impact as I aspire to do. 

Three key insights for me, while somewhat simplistic, have had a profound impact on me personally:

  1. People are people: Before business school I had this view in my mind that CEOs and high level leaders had some magic bullet or innate ability that allowed them to be successful.  Being fortunate enough to spend time with some extremely accomplished individuals (Phil Knight, Mitt Romney, Carlos Brito, and others) showed me that even those who are wildly successful have their own struggles, challenges, and priorities they are constantly trying to optimize.  There was no magic bullet.
  2. A clear purpose makes all the difference: In my two years at business school, having a clear purpose, or vision for their life, was a common trait in just about every person I met that was able to make a big impact in their community, country, or whatever organization they were a part of.  They all had a very clear purpose for why they were doing what they were doing and the mental toughness and resolve to persevere through whatever adversity stood in their way.  They simply knew where they wanted to go, were motivated by genuine intentions, and would not be stopped until they accomplished their goal.  Good, high-character people can and do make a difference.  
  3. Prioritization is essential:  A good tangible takeaway from my MBA was the ability to prioritize more effectively.  Many MBA programs, mine included, intentionally put more on your plate than you can possibly accomplish.  For a bunch of over-achievers that are used to giving everything 100% and getting the grade to prove it, this was a great challenge.  It taught me how to think critically about my time, the difference between being effective and efficient, and how to deliver the right outcome with the right amount of input.  Finding ways to increase your personal capacity and productivity is key for elevating your impact. 

The Journey Is More Important Than The Destination

Dominique Cobb Marketing Specialist, Whirlpool Corporation Northwestern University - Kellogg School Of Management, MBA Candidate '17  

Dominique Cobb

Marketing Specialist, Whirlpool Corporation

Northwestern University - Kellogg School Of Management, MBA Candidate '17

 

My greatest takeaway from grad school is that the journey is more important than the destination - and it helps if you have really smart, incredible people with you. 

I am in my third quarter as a part-time MBA student at Kellogg School of Management and have had the opportunity to be on several different teams – all of which have been extremely diverse in terms of educational/professional background, age, current geographical location, and nationality. 

Each individual on the team has the same objective but we analyze and conceptualize the potential solutions very differently. Our discussions are intriguing and we are able to arrive at a rich, more thorough, solution than we would have if we were working independently.

It is also rewarding to be on a team, where the outcome is less important than the journey. My classmates are all employed, and while most of us, if not all of us, are Type A personalities – grades are not the focus. We choose our classes based on the knowledge that we expect to gain. This allows us to work with passion and excitement about the topic (yes, even on conference calls that start at 9pm)

My greatest takeaway from grad school is that the journey is more important than the destination - and it helps if you have really smart incredible people with you. 


Developing A Complex & Personalized Skill Set

Tabitha Manross Business Intelligence and Enterprise Planning, Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana '11 Master of Public Administration, Non-Profit Management, Indiana University

Tabitha Manross

Business Intelligence and Enterprise Planning, Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana

'11 Master of Public Administration, Non-Profit Management, Indiana University

My two years of graduate school taught me that you can indeed survive on less than 3 hours of sleep, it is possible to write a 12-page paper in 24 hours, and that my view of the world was quite limited. 

Arguably, I could have learned those things in the professional world.  What I couldn't have learned on the job (or would have been very difficult) is key statistical concepts such as choosing between Chi-squared or a Paired t-test. 

While I continue to hone my data analysis skills through conferences, webinars, and reading -- without two years of graduate school to focus solely on mastering the fundamentals, asking questions of my peers, and learning from experts I would not be able to do my job.

From the knowledge gained during my experience, I am confidently able to make recommendations on the effectiveness of a program, impact of proposed changes and identify outliers in results.

While the grad degree expanded me in many ways, what made the money and two years valuable were the resources I was able to expend learning a complex and specialized skill set. 


Surrounding Yourself With High Acheivers Is the Best Way To Accelerate Progress

Janette Barnard Founder & CEO, The Poultry Exchange Mays Business School - Texas A&M University

Janette Barnard

Founder & CEO, The Poultry Exchange

Mays Business School - Texas A&M University

Business school further reinforced that surrounding yourself with high achievers is the best way to accelerate your own progress. We truly are the sum of the people we are surrounded by.

I went to business school because I wanted a solid foundation in the basic dynamics of business. I went in focusing on learning finance, accounting, etc. which I did get, but truthfully I could have learned that in other ways.

The absolute highlight of business school was the constant high level of play by an exceptional peer group - there’s something about building presentations until 2 am or breaking down a case study on a Saturday morning that builds strong bonds, and those peers have since become a high caliber network that I rely on often as I’m now building a business.  

Business school further reinforced that surrounding yourself with high achievers is the best way to accelerate your own progress. We truly are the sum of the people we are surrounded by.


Influence Combined With Faith Makes A Powerful Recipe For Kingdom Impact

Tyler Teykl '17 MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School

Tyler Teykl

'17 MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School

According to a Business Insider article, the takeaway of coming to Harvard Business School is to become an executive, billionaire, or US president. I don’t prescribe to that mantra, but there is a half-truth in it.

While I still have half of my MBA to complete, it has become apparent that influence combined with faith is one of the most powerful combinations to advance God's Kingdom.

Whether it is our time, money, job, or position, we all have influence. Influence is potent, regardless of the scale or scope of it. The influence can be as narrow as being a father or as expansive as leading a nation. Getting an education helps further our power of influence through knowledge, networking, and career openings. Ultimately, through leveraging our worldly gifts, we can make a profound impact on our community.

Our faith is a competitive advantage in business. We have a moral compass and firm value system that allows us to decisively take actions that maximize value for our family, company, colleagues, customers, community, society, and environment.

We don’t become paralyzed when operating in the gray space, but we have a unique power for God’s purpose (2 Timothy 1:7). I have witnessed this feat firsthand at HBS, and I thank God for the fortunate opportunity to be in school and in a unique position for influence.


Interested In Learning More About EDGE?

EDGE is a global community of established and emerging leaders who are building world-class businesses, leaving legacies for their families to follow, and concerned with making an impact in their communities today and for the future. 

You can meet more mentees and mentors here