Author: Divina Ceniceros Dominguez (page 1 of 2)

Student Spotlight: Elsa Wright, MBA at Houston Class of 2021

When Texas McCombs MBA at Houston student, Elsa Wright, has a goal, she meets it. While working in the waste management and sustainability industry in Houston, Texas, her goal was senior leadership at her company. Like many professional women, Elsa wondered if she would be able to achieve all her career goals alongside her personal goal of having a family. Below, Elsa shares how she navigated these goals & priorities, overcame her struggle with imposter syndrome, and eventually enrolled in the MBA program. Juggling graduate degree work, motherhood, and marriage in the midst of a pandemic has definitely been a challenge, but Elsa has shown that determination and belief in oneself will ultimately lead you to success.

PHOTO: Elsa's Headshot. She has short brown hair and is wearing a red dress shirt with a black blazer.

Elsa Wright, Texas McCombs MBA ’21

Getting Her MBA

Elsa was eager to gain the foundational knowledge and skills needed to move into a leadership role in her career and knew an MBA from Texas McCombs could get her there. As a minority woman and mother, Elsa faced the realities of the world head-on.

“With recent events in the news, a lot of people have become more aware of the struggles that minorities face every day — struggles that stem into career growth,” she says. “I struggled with the idea that I had to achieve a master’s degree to be on the same playing field as many of my white male counterparts who hadn’t. Intelligence could be equally distributed among our society, but opportunities are not always.”

Elsa says she has struggled with imposter syndrome her entire life and her biggest piece of advice to anyone, especially women and mothers, considering an MBA is: “Just do it!”

“I have personally spent more time considering the idea and deciding to make the leap than I have spent actually getting my MBA,” Elsa says. “I felt that maybe I wasn’t ready, that I should wait for my son to get older, or that an MBA is just too competitive and I might not get in.”

Impostor syndrome— the false belief that others have overestimated your capabilities or that you’re not good enough— disproportionately affects women more than men — especially women of color. One of the direct factors contributing to impostor syndrome is the lack of women in organizational leadership, according to a 2019 Lean In study. The business world, including the realm of business education, has made strides in recent years, but there is still much work to be done toward equity and gender parity.

When narrowing down her prospective MBA schools, Texas McCombs appealed to her because of the prestige, atmosphere, and flexibility it offered.

PHOTO: Elsa standing in front of the University of Texas tower.

Elsa Wright standing in front of the UT tower at sunset.

“As I researched MBA programs, I found that Texas McCombs was the highest ranked in Texas. I attended the info sessions, and instantly felt what I like to call ‘the warm and fuzzy feeling.’ I felt welcomed with open arms, and could feel such a forward-thinking attitude that I could not resist being a part of.”

“The Working Professional program understands and respects that, as a working professional, we’re undergoing a journey,” she says. “The program didn’t require a specialization, but instead teaches you how to speak all languages of business, which allows me to explore where my career may take me instead of fixating on a specific career path.”

The moment she stepped on campus, Elsa knew that Texas McCombs would be her home for the next two years.

“I’ll never forget, it was our very first day of Austin Intensives and Assistant Dean, Joe Stephens, spoke in front of the entire Working Professional class of ’21: He said:

‘For those of you that may suffer from imposter syndrome and feel like you don’t belong here or deserve to be here, I am here to tell you that you do belong, and you do deserve it. We chose you because you have something to offer this program.’

To this day, those words resonate inside me and push me forward to make a difference.”

Pivoting to Online Learning

Elsa says her first year in the MBA at Houston program has been personally and professionally eye-opening. Now, she’s more open to possibility and career challenges, and has the confidence in technical business subjects that she never had before.

“During my MBA experience so far, I have grown both personally and professionally. It has opened my eyes to so many more possibilities in my career and given me a sense of confidence in business topics that I before was illiterate in.”

In her second and final year of the program, Elsa will be continuing her studies in the midst of a global pandemic. She now faces the challenge of online learning, working from home, and childcare.

PHOTO: Elsa, her son and husband.

Elsa’s family

“As a mother of a four-year-old, it became extra challenging since I can no longer rely on daycare during working hours. This means studying during lunch time and after work hours. While some people have caught up on Netflix shows while staying home, I’ve been forced to be even more efficient with my time, juggling motherhood, full-time work and my MBA coursework without the traditional resources I was accustomed to leaning on in the past.”

Throughout these difficult times of uncertainty, Elsa says she’s thankful for her partner, who’s also made sacrifices and has been there to support her through her MBA journey.

“Our fellow mom and dad classmates and I owe our better-halves tons of kudos for holding down the house for us to make this MBA happen.”

Elsa is no stranger to challenges and is looking forward to taking her upcoming and final year at Texas McCombs to the next level to meet her goal of accelerating her career.

“I’m amazed with how much I have grown both as a person and as a professional. Today, I’m able to apply so much of what I’ve learned to my daily work to improve my understanding of my current role, and to understand my company on a micro and macro scale.”

“As a full-time professional and mother, I know that the next year will be a challenge for me to juggle, especially with the continued challenges COVID-19 poses. However, I’m also hopeful that the remaining journey, even though difficult, will prepare me for the world and the challenges to come in the future. I’m confident that this experience will be more than worth the time and effort.”

The Road Ahead

Elsa is most fond of and proud of the moments spent bonding with the women in the program because of their unique perspectives and perseverance.

“Women still generally make up a minority in both business and business education, but that minority is strong and relentless. We make sure to get together, make time and lend an ear to each other.”

“It’s important for women to lift each other up. We make an unwavering, lasting impact in each other’s lives.”

Elsa is currently the Major Manufacturing & Industrial Account Manager at Waste Management in Houston, where she has worked for ten years. She started at the company working for customer service and says she’s been blessed to have mentors who have provided her with constructive criticism and advice to expand her professional growth. In the future, she plans to apply all the skills and expertise she’s acquired through her MBA to go further in her career than she’s ever imagined.

Elsa holding a trophy.

Elsa Wright holding the 2019 Big Eagle Circle of Excellence Award at Waste Management.

In 2019, Elsa was awarded the Big Eagle Circle of Excellence at Waste Management—  an elite, company-wide recognition of the 75 top-performing employees out of the 45,000+ company-wide.  After she won, she was asked to make a speech about what led to her success, to which Elsa replied that there is not just one thing that ever leads to success.

“You can’t sum up success with one award, recognition or promotion. Success is infinite and immeasurable; it’s the culmination of hours, days and years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice – emphasize on sacrifice,” she says. “I have been at WM for over ten years, that is over 20,000 hours of work. Success never arrives overnight.”

Elsa’s top tip for success is to not just work hard, but learn.

“I’ve witnessed countless individuals just focus on work, but never make an effort to actually learn. You can always learn something new. I attribute my success to my eagerness to learn and not just understand my role, but the role above mine and the one above that. If I can retain what I learn and teach it to someone else effectively, and possibly dissect the process and create a better one, not only have I become a better asset for my company, but also a better version of myself.”


Visit Texas McCombs MBA to find out more about all our programs, events, and community, or take a peek into student life on Instagram.

Hook ’em!

Women at Texas McCombs

Today, Texas McCombs celebrates Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting some women the right to vote 100 years ago in 1920. The Texas McCombs MBA program is proud to have made strides to increase the number of women in our programs, but in both business and business education, we acknowledge there is still much progress to made toward gender parity.  Meet some of our Texas McCombs women who are already leading the way below.

Headshot of Susan Alvarez

Susan Alvarez, Texas McCombs MBA Class of 2021

Susan Alvarez
Full-Time MBA Class of 2021

“It’s important to understand that not all populations are treated equally, and pivotal to help make a change in the right direction.”

Tell us about yourself. What led you to pursue an MBA?

I am a double Longhorn and did my undergrad at UT. Afterward, I was in the Army ROTC and then was commissioned into the army as a Second Lieutenant. I served eight years as a Logistics Officer and during that time, I did two combat deployments in Afghanistan in 2014  and Iraq in 2017. I am now happily married to my husband, Michael, who served in the Army for nine years and is also getting his MBA at McCombs.

The decision to pursue an MBA was honestly difficult for me initially. I loved being in the Army and the work I was doing but being a dual-military couple comes at a heavy price. At the time we decided to leave the Army, Michael and I had been married for five years but had actually lived together for only 18 months. We were on opposing deployment schedules and spent the majority of our marriage apart. In 2016, I interviewed for company command, got the next position in my career path, and two weeks later was on a plane to Kuwait for my second deployment. There never seemed to be a “good time” to have a child and at some point, we had to ask ourselves if what we were doing was best for our goals and our family. Pursuing an MBA would provide me the stability and reassurance necessary to grow a family without the fear of work dictating my life’s choices.

Tell us about being a woman in the workplace and in the military. What has your experience been like, and did this influence your decision to choose McCombs?

As a woman in the army or in the workplace in general, there’s always the thought of maintaining a delicate personality balance; the slight fear of coming off too abrasive, or being too nice and getting taken advantage of. My dad told me years ago, “Don’t ever let them see you cry. Excuse yourself and cry in privacy so that they don’t see you as weak.” He served over 20 years in the Army and tried his best to prepare me. I’ve learned that no leadership style is all-encompassing. You can’t expect to treat every soldier the same and receive the same level of output. You have to make quick mental assessments and be willing to adapt to changing situations.

What do you look forward to in regards to women’s equity? Have you seen change or progress being made at McCombs? 

We’ve come so far from where we were and it is incredible to see the progress we’ve made. I am the President of the McCombs Texas Veterans in Business, where women make up ten percent of our student veteran population. My hope is to inspire other female veterans to take on leadership positions and normalize women in higher ranking roles. I am also a member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an organization dedicated to boosting the representation of underrepresented American minorities in the business sector. It’s important to understand that not all populations are treated equally, and pivotal to help make a change in the right direction.

 

Headshot of Jacqueline Newell

Jacqueline Newell, Texas McCombs MBA Class of 2021

Jacqueline Newell
Full-Time MBA Class of 2021

“Women can have a complementary perspective to situations that break up group think or confirmation biases.”

Tell me about yourself and background. What led you to pursue an MBA?

I’m an officer in the U.S. Army with over 18 years of service. I have a background in logistics, but have worked in the Strategic Organizational Design and Development field for the last 10 years and was recently promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. I’m married; my husband retired from the Army in 2016. We have a daughter starting her sophomore year in high school. We were most recently stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany—outside Frankfurt—before coming to Austin for school.

The Army offers a program whereby officers can apply for full-time Master’s degrees fully sponsored by the Army. I saw this as a good time in my career to pursue a Master’s, and I believe having an MBA will not only help me be better at what I do for the Army, but also help me mentor junior officers as they progress in our field.

Tell us about being a woman in the workplace and in the military. What has your experience been like, and did this influence your decision to choose McCombs?

I think being a woman in the military is a great opportunity! Women can have a complementary perspective to situations that break up group think or confirmation biases. This can drive problem solving and innovation. While it may seem intimidating to be in a male-dominated industry, and to offer a different perspective, it is necessary.

I have also found that if I focus on building up the teams I’ve worked on— and sometimes even building teams where none previously existed— the goals were always achieved and the teams have been successful. The collaborative environment of the Texas McCombs MBA was a great fit for this type of leadership style I’ve been developing.

What do you look forward to in regards to women’s equity? Have you seen some change or progress been made at McCombs?

I think it’s challenging to separate and discern correlations and causations when looking at outcomes and women’s equity. What I think is important is the culture and environment that welcomes and promotes women. Texas McCombs has done well to encourage and promote women leaders and give women a voice.

 

Lola Headshot

Lola Sholola, Texas McCombs Class of 2020

Lola Sholola
Full-Time MBA Class of 2020

“I am mostly looking forward to experiencing a complete shift in mindset with respect to how women are perceived, and for women to be considered equal to their male counterparts.”

Tell me about yourself and background. What led you to pursue an MBA, and why McCombs?

I consider myself an “East Coast girl” since I grew up in the D.C. area, though I was born in Lagos, Nigeria. I always had a knack for numbers, so I majored in Actuarial Science at Morgan State University, an HBCU located in Baltimore, MD. Upon graduation, I accepted a role at Liberty Mutual and was relocated to Seattle, WA to join their Analytics Development Program. I stayed at the company for about four years, moved through a variety of roles and gained product management expertise. However, I wanted to explore business more broadly and gain a better understanding on how to lead and run a business unit; hence, my reason for obtaining an MBA degree.

McCombs sort of fell on my lap, to be honest. I started my MBA application process two years into my job at Liberty Mutual and knew I had to attend as many MBA conferences and recruiting events as possible in the Seattle area. As it turns out, an organization called the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM) hosted a webinar on “Why MBA” and “Why CGSM” and almost half of the CGSM alumni hosts were Texas McCombs alums. After the session, I stayed back to chat with a few of them and fell in love with their personalities. I made up my mind to do more research about the program; from there, things took off. I graduated this past May and I’m currently working at Walmart in a Finance and Strategy role I love.

What has your experience been like as a woman in the workplace and at McCombs?

Broadly speaking, being a woman is tough in the workplace. I like to consider myself a feminist: I wholeheartedly believe in equal opportunity and treatment for all. Unfortunately, that has not always been my experience and there is still a large pay gap between men and women in the world.

At McCombs, I joined GWiB (Graduate Women in Business) because of its mission to lead toward equality. It provides a space for women to develop their skills professionally and personally. It was an opportunity for me to support organizations working to empower women.

What do you look forward to in regards to women’s equity? Have you seen some change or progress been made at McCombs?

I am mostly looking forward to experiencing a complete shift in mindset with respect to how women are perceived and for women to be considered equal to their male counterparts. There is still a pay gap between men and women in the world. Will this perception ever change? I certainly hope so. Presently, it is difficult to find women CEOs, not just in the U.S. but globally. I think we need to see more women having a seat at the table. Have I seen changes at McCombs? Yes, certainly from a recruiting perspective. McCombs is also a member of Forté Foundation, an organization that provides women with higher education and professional development opportunities. Overall, it is a work-in-progress and McCombs is aware of this and consistently working with GWiB to increase male allies and support.

 

Clara's Headshot

Clara Kraft Borges, Texas McCombs MBA Class of 2022

Clara Kraft Borges
Full-Time MBA Class of 2022

You’ll see that a lot of amazing powerful women out there who are willing to talk, help and just uplift one another.”

Tell me about yourself and background. What led you to pursue an MBA, and why McCombs?

I’m a returning Longhorn. After graduating from UT Austin’s Moody School of Communications, I started a career in Digital Marketing. Prior to MBA, I was working as a Marketing Manager at a startup that was founded in my hometown in Brazil. What led me to an MBA was a desire to learn and help others. I saw that with an MBA I could advance my career, and by doing so, help other people who didn’t have the same opportunities as me. I chose McCombs because I know first-hand about the quality of education at UT Austin, as well as its diverse environment.

What has your experience been like as a woman in the workplace, and what are you looking forward to at McCombs? 

In my experience, being a woman in the workplace means having to put in more work and energy to achieve the same results as your male counterparts that are usually the majority at companies. This is the case not only with women but other minorities as well. While this can be frustrating, I’ve also found that women have supported each other, both in the workplace and outside. We’re shifting from a time when women were seen as jealous of one another to a culture where women support and speak up for each other, which makes me very hopeful for the future.

I’m a proud Forté Fellow. The possibility of joining Forté was one of the biggest points that influenced me to choose McCombs. I’m looking forward to being part of a network of amazing women and being able to pay it forward during my lifetime.

What do you look forward to in regards to women’s equity, and what words of advice would you give women considering getting their MBA?

I mainly look forward to seeing an increased awareness of the inequalities that affect women in the workplace. I spent several years of my career without perceiving workplace situations that favored men, or situations where a woman’s opinion wasn’t heard. It’s painful to acknowledge that this happens, but I believe it’s the first step to bridging this inequality. The second step is speaking up. To women considering getting their MBA, I’d advise you to reach out to other women that you admire or would like to meet, and you’ll see that a lot of amazing powerful women out there are willing to talk, help and just uplift one another. Work on creating a network of women that you admire and you’ll go very far!

eQual MBAs #Pride Stories

As Pride Month comes to an end, Texas McCombs would like to highlight how our Engaged Queer & Ally (eQual) MBAs organization has continued to support the McCombs and Austin communities, share resources and organize exclusively in a digital platform to celebrate Pride this year. Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic, McCombs students continue to stay engaged, as world-changing leaders committed to serving our many diverse communities.

Equal MBA team photo

eQual MBA students at Texas McCombs

Who are eQual MBAs?

Engaged Queer & Ally (eQual) MBAs, McCombs’ LGBTQ+ affinity group, is dedicated to promoting diversity & inclusion in the @utexasmba program & community at large. Every year, they’re committed to recruiting more LGBTQ+ prospective students, organizing regular events, connecting to alumni, and building relationships with allies and sponsors. Furthermore, through their efforts, eQual MBAs bring forth educational discussions to McCombs about gender and sexuality, advocate for allyship and inclusion, and connect members to the larger Austin LQBTQ+ community. Overall, the group is divided into three different pillars: allyship, alumni, and service.

Aside from being full-time MBA students, everyone involved in the organization has faced additional challenges throughout their eQual MBA journey. Despite being the smallest affinity group at Texas McCombs, they continue to grow. Currently, they hold 14 LGBTQ+ members — a record high for the club – along with many allies as members. 2020-2021 co-presidents Andie Parazo and Matt Mason look forward to continuing to grow membership and offering support and resources to the LGBTQ+ and ally community at McCombs.

The eQual MBAs organization, to me, means having a community that will always be there to support me. The members of eQual are not only the people that I rely on to help organize events for the advancement of queer and all underrepresented people’s rights, but they are also some of my closest friends in the MBA program.

— Matt Mason, eQqual MBAs Co-President, MBA Class of 2021

Allyship, Intersectionality and the Importance of Showing Up

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Student Spotlight: Rafael Flores, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth Class of 2021

Rafael Flores Headshot

Rafael Flores, MBA Candidate, Class of 2021

Rafael Flores was 15 years into his career when he decided it was time to go back to school and pursue his MBA.

After graduating in 2005 from the University of Rochester with a degree in Economics, Rafael began his career in the finance and banking sector with Chase Bank and Northwestern Mutual. Eventually, he found his way to Allstate, where he’s worked for almost ten years.

 

“As I continued to develop in my career through various roles, I regretted not diving further in understanding the finance subject matter and strategy discussions from an executive level,” he says. “I found myself with enough work experience to where my MBA coursework can be directly applied to my job, such as challenging myself to take on broader roles and lead a larger scope of employees.”

Despite having a successful career with Allstate, Rafael kept looking back at his undergraduate experience wishing he could’ve done more as a student. Funding was in the way of a lot of his potential endeavors, and so he made it his mission to get his MBA as soon as he finished paying off his student loans.

This past year, he finally did.

Picture of McCombs sign on Rafael's first day with a caption saying "It's official. Day 1 of getting my MBA started. #mba #mccombs

Why McCombs?

While researching graduate business schools to attend, Rafael met with Dave Jackson, Senior Admissions Officer for the Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth program, and was impressed with both the network and recruitment opportunities at McCombs. He also appreciated the flexibility that the Working Professional program offers its students.

“I [chose] McCombs due to its strong network culture, career development resources and credibility as a top business school in the country,” Rafael says. “When I considered those factors alongside the benefits of being able to take advantage of everything as a working professional without having to leave my job or move away from the Dallas-Forth Worth Area, I realized McCombs was going to be my home.”

From Corporate to Campus

Rafael had to learn to navigate being a non-traditional student by deciding to get his MBA after ten years of working at a corporate level. Rafael learned more about time management and organization but says the biggest lesson that helped him overcome challenges was relying on his peers.

“There has to be a time for family, work, and most importantly yourself (not necessarily in that order at times). I still struggle at times to get everything done; however, my UT friends, study group, classmates are all a part of my extended family now, and we make it work,” he says. “I just keep remembering to adapt to changes and continue to move forward.”

Aside from his schoolwork, Rafael considers his position as McCombs Ambassador Committee (MAC) Chair Member as amazing to his overall MBA journey.

“My own admission process is what inspired me to get involved. I had a lot of questions and uncertainties about starting my MBA. The admissions process didn’t just walk me through how to showcase my personality and academic ability; it also introduced me to the structure and culture of McCombs, which I fell in love with.”

Group of people posing with Hook Em sign

Rafael and fellow MBA students at a McCombs event

Since the MBA schoolwork relies heavily on collaboration, Rafael says he is balancing out his work and student organization responsibilities a lot smoother. As MAC Chair, Rafael has maintained strong connections with his classmates and  UT friends.

“The experience I hope to gain is already becoming a reality. I wanted to make sure the future incoming candidates experience the culture of McCombs and fall in love with the program. Personally, I wanted to get involved in as many networking opportunities amongst the McCombs family.”

Look for a Boss, Not a Job

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Women’s Weekend 2019 Recap

This November, Texas McCombs welcomed 55 future MBAs to our annual Women’s Weekend.  This event  was designed for anyone committed to the empowerment of women in business. The weekend brought attendees together to meet current MBA students, alumni, McCombs faculty & staff, and to see first-hand all that Texas McCombs and Austin has to offer.

Welcome to Austin

One of the many reasons why students choose McCombs is for the vibrant business community in Austin. To that end, the weekend kicked off with a welcome reception on Friday evening, sponsored by Austin-based company Bumble Bizz, and hosted at The Riveter, a co-working space designed by women, for everyone, in the heart of downtown Austin. During the welcome reception, attendees had the opportunity to meet current students and members of Graduate Women in Business (GWiB), an MBA student organization dedicated to the personal and professional development of women.

“A woman in business, to me, looks like the women that are in my program. They are poised. They are confident. And I admire how genuine they are and how many programs and activities they are involved in, and I try to match their energy as well”

 Caroline Okocha, MBA ’20

GWiB hosts events throughout the year that focus on advocacy, difficult conversations in the workplace, gender identity, and how to be an ally. Every week, GWiB posts a new #WCW (“Woman Crush Wednesday”) post to highlight members within the community.

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Every week, we feature a woman from our community. Our #wcw this week is first year Presney Blackman! #whymccombs Hometown: Cincinnati, OH Past Work Experience: Key Account Manager for Dow Chemical Company Future Career Goals: I’d like to begin my career in Tech Marketing and eventually go into entrepreneurship McCombs Organizations and Leadership Positions: McCombs Ambassador Committee, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, MBA Tech Club, GWiB, Marketing Fellows What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you would like to share with GWIB members? Run your race. It’s easy, especially in business school, to look to what others are doing as an indication of what we should be doing. However, the gifts you have been given are different from the gifts of others. Be true to who you are and don’t live to meet the expectations of others. Do you have any book or podcast recommendations? Loving Revisionist History by Malcom Gladwell & The Real Life Podcast with Jefferson Bethke and his wife Alyssa. Who is YOUR #wcw and why? Serena Williams is my #wcw. She is a fighter! I am in awe of her strength, femininity, vulnerability and her love for her husband and child and dedication to her craft. She’s inspired this next generation of young black American tennis players and it is a privilege to be able to witness. She’s the #GOAT!

A post shared by GWiB at McCombs (@gwibmccombs) on

Current MBA student, Jessica Reese-White, says that attending Women’s Weekend when she was applying in 2018 gave her insight into the culture and strengthened her decision to attend McCombs.

“A lot of programs tell you they have a very welcoming culture for women, but you want to actually see that in practice. McCombs prioritizes diverse classes and having strong representation. It’s still mostly men in the world of business and I think it’s important for me as a queer woman of color to be here and show women that they have a space here in the program, and that there are other people like them here.” 

— Jessica Reese-White, MBA ‘21

After the reception, attendees were invited to Upstairs at Caroline, a popular Austin nightspot, for a casual night out with current MBA students.

Getting to Know Texas McCombs

Day two kicked off bright and early with a welcome introduction by Assistant Dean Tina Mabley, rocking matching “Lady Boss” shirts with her daughter.   

Assistant Dean Tina Mabley and her daughter in matching "Lady Boss" shirts.

Assistant Dean Tina Mabley and her daughter show off their “Lady Boss” shirts at Women’s Weekend.

Current MBA students Claire Austin, Presney Blackman, Sophie Roane, and Vicky Wu, presented an overview of the program, followed by an insightful “Career Exploration” talk by Assistant Dean of Graduate Career Management, Janet Huang, that highlighted why McCombs Career Services ranks as one of the best in the country

Janet shared what she believes is the best way to find a balance in a successful career: Ikigai, a Japanese concept that means, “reason for being.”

Janet during her presentation

Janet Huang talks about career resources at Discover McCombs: Women’s Weekend.

Finding strong avenues for career building and advancement is a common challenge for women in business. MBA ’20, Catherine Laclede, said that while the gender distribution highly depends on your industry, top 20 business schools, including McCombs, are taking steps towards gender parity.

“I’m pursuing marketing which tends to be more women-dominated, so I don’t feel the difference as much; but for women who are considering consulting or investment banking, that difference can be more pronounced and noticeable. Having organizations and an event like this where you see other women who really want to do the same things really validates what you want to pursue.” 

— Catherine Laclede, MBA ‘20

Before lunch, attendees heard from a “Beyond the MBA” alumni panel. These women shared success stories about how Texas McCombs helped them grow professionally and personally. The attendees then broke out into mock classes with professors Marissa Epstein and Julia Coronado for a first-hand experience inside the classroom. 

A picture of The Beyond the MBA Alumni Panel at Discover McCombs: Women's Weekend by a banner that says "advancing the world together."

The “Beyond the MBA” Alumni Panel at Discover McCombs: Women’s Weekend.

At noon, everyone got a taste of Austin Tex-Mex from local favorite, Fresa’s, during a networking lunch with current MBA students. During the lunch, MBAs offered more personalized, candid insights and valuable tips for applying to McCombs. 

After lunching and learning, MBA+ Communication Coach, Amira Pollock, led a workshop on leadership presence where she talked about the secret to improv, the importance of non-verbal communication, and outlined the difference between confidence and courage.

“Confidence is how you present yourself, courage is the energy to do it. Next time you’re nervous, tell yourself that it’s okay. You’re going to do this anyway.”

– Amira Pollock, MBA Communication Coach

Real Talk: Women in Business

Before the close of the weekend, current students led a panel where they shared their experiences as women in the business world and gave insight into what being a student at McCombs is really like day-to-day.

“All the Fellows programs have female presidents — that just really speaks to the caliber of women we have at McCombs.” 

Maria-Paula Muñoz Carley, MBA ‘20.

“I believe the biggest struggle women face in business is the lack of representation at the higher level. A big way to overcome that is by getting more women into business.. And that’s why I’m here at the McCombs getting my MBA – I want to be at the top and I want to help other women succeed down the line” 

— Kathie Xiao, MBA ‘20

“You’re definitely going to need an environment where you feel supported and like it’s okay to fail and grow. Knowing that McCombs had a strong group of women that were so invested in each other’s success was really inspiring to me, and really made me feel confident about the decision I was going to make.”

Catherine Laclede, MBA ‘20

women at mccombs

Current Texas McCombs MBA students

Women’s Weekend came to an end with student hosts Kathie Xiao and Caroline Okocha’s talk: #WhyMcCombs: A Story in “Mememojis.” 🤘😁 Kathie kicked off the panel by sharing some challenges she’s faced.

“I’ve gained so much confidence in my business school experience because I’ve put myself in situations where I’m going to be uncomfortable a lot. But, you don’t grow unless you become uncomfortable and push yourself to the edge.”

— Kathie Xiao, MBA ‘20

Alongside her, Caroline shared that getting an MBA is, “a way for women to break the glass ceiling.” Both of them ended the event by sharing the following advice for prospective students:

  1. Don’t panic. Focus on your goals; you don’t have to have it all figured out.
  2. Celebrate your own accomplishments, but also those of all the amazing people around you. We’re all competitive people, but we all want to help each other. This is your community. 
  3. Have fun and make the most of these two years. Find your people, find your place.

“McCombs is a place where you can fight stereotypes. There’s genuine care in the program. We want to be there for you.”

 Caroline Okocha, MBA ’20


If you have any questions, please reach out to MBA Admissions. For more information on our community and programs, check out our websiteHook ’em!

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