Next up in our series of featured MBA bloggers is Julianne, a second-year MBA student at CMU Tepper who blogs about her experience at Sleeping between Spreadsheets. Please enjoy reading about Julianne’s experiences here and on her blog!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself: Where are you from? Where did you study as an undergrad? What did you major in?
Julianne: I'm originally from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. I hold two undergraduate degrees – a Bachelor of Business in Management and Accounting from Queensland University of Technology and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from University of Texas San Antonio. These two degrees gave me the 150 hours I needed for the CPA requirement. Although I was good at accounting, I didn't quite like it, so after graduation I ended up in a job that was as far from traditional accounting as could possibly be while within the accounting designation – Internal Audit.
Accepted: Why did you choose to attend Tepper? What attracted you most about the program?
Julianne: When I was deciding which business schools to attend, I had three criteria: First, the school had to have an analytical basis for the education it provides. My first undergraduate degree at QUT was taught with an emphasis on case study, and I wanted a different learning experience (as an aside, I was wrong – my undergraduate was highly academic in nature; case method teaching is at Tepper for some classes and was a different experience than my undergrad). Additionally, my work experience at the time and my goals were related to how organizations manage and use data – Big Data was just coming into business vocabulary then, and it was an area that I had identified as a prime opportunity.
The second criterion was that it had to have a strong IT presence. IT is so ubiquitous that it didn't make sense to look at business as something outside of technology. Additionally, I've always had a very strong interest in IT (I'm a bit of a geek) and I was hoping for a breadth of experience that encompassed IT issues also.
The third was that I wanted to have a white Christmas, so only schools in the Northeast would really count.
Tepper met all three criteria with ease from the initial selection. When I applied and was invited to interview, I flew up to Pittsburgh to experience the full day with them. I was immediately blown away with how friendly and down-to-earth everyone I met was – from the admissions staff to the student volunteers who took me to class. Coming from a degree that placed importance on academic status, I was also very impressed that a number of Nobel laureates came from the school. But it was really just the people that made me feel very accepted into the community that sold me on the school.
Accepted: Has the program lived up to your expectations? Are there any surprises?
Julianne: The program has been amazing. It's very intense and rigorous, and I love every minute of it. All of my classmates have been great and they're all incredibly smart – it's a very humbling experience to be surrounded by so many intelligent people. Probably the most surprising thing that I've noticed a few people commenting on is how the community is there for you – there's no rivalry or back-stabbing. Even in the cut-throat time of job searching, it was not unknown for applicants for the same job to help each other out with research or interview prep.
Accepted: Do you have any advice to share with first year MBA students? What do you wish you had known when you were first starting b-school?
Julianne: I think the best piece of advice is to keep your mind and eyes open. Although it's a pretty generic sentence, I'm thinking specifically of career plans. When I applied to Tepper, I was very intent on Information Systems. When I went through BaseCamp, the 4-week orientation before the first year starts, I had decided to be a consultant. However, as the school year progressed, I took classes, met people, won competitions, I began to realise that my true passion lay in IT companies, specifically video game companies. I would never have thought that this would be a path I would go down if it wasn't for those experiences, and if I had been hell-bent on doing what "traditional" MBAs do – like finance or consulting – I probably would not have seen these opportunities.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about Tepper, what would it be?
Julianne: The thing I would change would be how it interacts with the other schools on campus. It can be very insular, and a vast number of students stay within the walls of the building. I've made an effort to reach out to other schools and to other people in the CMU community, but it's tougher than expected, since a lot of those schools are also quite insular.
Accepted: If Tepper didn't exist and you were to attend a different b-school, which would it be? Why?
Julianne: Hm. Knowing what I know now about myself, probably MIT or Stanford – and that's because of their strong presence in the videogaming industry.
Accepted: Can you share your experience with the Forte Foundation?
Julianne: I haven't had much to do with them over the last year, but when I was initially accepted into Tepper, Forte helped me out a lot to prepare for the experience. I attended the conference in New York right before starting, and got to know a lot of companies, the recruiting practices, as well as techniques to be successful in the MBA program. Their jobboard was also another source for internships when I was looking. Unfortunately, they don't have any IT companies signed up as sponsors, so my involvement with them has lessened.
Oh, I am also a Forte Fellow.
Accepted: Do you plan on staying in the States once you receive your MBA or heading back to Australia?
Julianne: I'm a permanent resident, so I'll be in the States for a while yet. However, my partner went to Australia for the first time over the break, and he's starting to think that Aus is a great place to live...
Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your MBA journey?
Julianne: When I was originally researching the universities I wanted to attend, one of the key resources I loved to look at were the student blogs that talked about their experiences. I did not find one for Tepper. I decided to write one when I got accepted so that other people can read about my experiences. I made it a goal to post once a week, and while I have faltered a little in certain times, I believe I've done a good job of hitting it. The best part is always meeting people who have read the blog – a couple of first years told me that when they first started last semester, and every once in a while I take a prospective student to class who had also read it (I was very active with the admissions group).
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