The MBA Journals, which challenge incoming MBA students to share their business school journey with Bloomberg Businessweek readers, have become a rite of passage of sorts. Many MBA applicants read the journals in hopes of discovering what a typical day will be like on a particular campus, how they’ll ever find an internship or full-time job, and what kind of social life they can expect.
Some of the journal entries are touching, while others are humorous, and still others are practical. Last year, readers became acquainted with four first-year students who attended international MBA programs. By sharing stories of vending machines for medication in China and driving in southern Italy, those writers captivated readers who wanted insight into life abroad, too. They will continue to share their stories in year two.
If the MBA Journal Class of 2012 was all about the international experience, then the Class of 2013 promises to be the voice of nontraditional candidates. All six say they do not see themselves as typical MBA students, and they want to show a different perspective. Some of them even admit to having been non-believers in business school before enrolling. All hope that the journey will bring them personal success—and a better job than the one they had before B-school. For the first time, MBA Journal writers will be a lively presence on Facebook, sharing their thoughts and experiences on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business Schools wall between entries. Without further ado, here are the new MBA Journal writers:
Bio: A journalist, Borenstein was working part time for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution producing photo galleries, writing local stories, and co-blogging about the Peachtree Road Race, a Fourth of July tradition in Atlanta that attracts runners and walkers, before starting business school at Georgia Tech’s College of Management. As an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, Borenstein was one credit shy of earning a business degree, in addition to his media degree.
He says while working for a newspaper he became acutely aware of the lack of business knowledge in journalism—and how it could lead to the industry’s ultimate demise. A desire to move into the business side of media and breathe new life into a business on life support motivated Borenstein to go for his MBA.
Now he finds himself in the middle of a whirlwind after just a few weeks on campus. Working as part of a group has been an eye-opener, says Borenstein. “Coming from a career where you work independently, I had to get used to working in groups,” he says. The small size of the school helps because Borenstein says he has been able to get to know most of his classmates well.
Fun Fact: A University of Georgia graduate, Borenstein says he remains one of the Bulldog faithful despite now attending a rival university.
Bio: Having directed the public relations and marketing department at McShane Companies, a construction and real estate company in Rosemont, Ill., before business school, Brody says she sees herself as an anomaly on campus. This inspired her to become an MBA Journal writer. “There is this perception that there is one type of person earning an MBA—someone from finance or a traditional businessperson—but I want to send the message that all kinds of people can be successful with an MBA,” she says.
After Brody’s first week of classes, she says she is astounded by the amount of information she is already digesting. “By the time we’re done, we’ll have a wonderful grasp on analyzing financial statements, presenting well in front of high-level executives and large groups, and much more,” she says.
Still, she has one worry, which she says she shares with many of her classmates. “We’re concerned about the economy, as most Americans are,” says Brody. “To keep up with the state of the economy and hiring, the school has us staying informed on the markets and the opportunities where we can add the most value.”
Fun Fact: With a passion for travel, Brody hopes to study abroad and find a way to combine her interest in other cultures with her career aspirations. She has traveled to places such as Taiwan and Spain. On a whim, she took a 30-minute ferry ride from Spain to Tangier, Morocco. She thought, “Why not?”
Program: UCLA Anderson School of Management
Bio: As a “jack of all trades” focused on strategy and working with many different departments at Google (GOOG), Davidowitz-Neu yearns for a more clearly defined role, despite admitting to her usual preference for a lack of structure in all she does. A big-city hopper, Davidowitz-Neu grew up in New York, went to school in Boston, moved to San Francisco, and lives in Los Angeles now. “Opportunities to grow professionally and personally and other single people attracted me to big cities,” she says.
Unlike most business school students, Davidowitz-Neu sees the MBA program as her ticket to work-life balance. Wanting a family and a career, she says business school will teach her how to work more efficiently and get paid well enough to afford help with child care. For now, however, she is hoping to leverage the skills she has, pick up some new ones, and share her journey with readers, she says.
Fun Fact: Davidowitz-Neu, who did her share of charity work while at Google, admits that she failed her road test four times before getting her driver’s license.
Bio: Having worked for J.P. Morgan (JPM) in Hong Kong before enrolling in business school, Jian is the lone traditional MBA student among the newest crop of MBA Journal writers. In fact, he says he always planned on earning an MBA. Although he gained a great deal of relevant experience working in finance, he says he wants more. “Maybe one day—way, way in the future—I’ll run my own company,” says Jian.
Still, his interests are not typical for MBAs. “In another life, I might be a writer,” he says. “I want to share what business school is all about.” While others see business school as a stepping-stone to more money and prestige, Jian says he sees it as a journey of self-discovery. Over the course of the next year, he says, he wants to learn about himself and what he might like to do other than finance.
After being at INSEAD for a few weeks, he is shocked to be busier than he was when he was working 90 hours per week in banking. “Going back to school is certainly not a holiday,” Jian says. “It’s been keeping me on my toes.”
Fun Fact: A lover of music, Jian plays the violin and mandolin. His greatest guilty pleasure is karaoke, to which he admits being addicted. Unfortunately, says Jian, in Fontainebleau, France, home of INSEAD, there is a serious lack of karaoke.
Bio: Miller, who worked as an editor at Lifetime Television before enrolling at Wharton, says MBAs do not have to be stuffy or rigid, and she is happy to stretch the definition of what an MBA student is. “No one is more surprised than I am that I’m at Wharton,” she says.
Her goal as an MBA Journal writer is to show the many ways in which a variety of people can make use of the MBA degree. So far, her high expectations of the MBA program have been exceeded, she says. “People are pretty sharp, but they are nice and don’t take themselves too seriously,” says Miller. “You’ll be playing kickball or participating in a cheerleading competition [as part of orientation] and find out that the person next to you started a school in India or something like that.”
Miller kept a journal in her personal life, and will be writing about her cohort for a weekly newsletter and the Wharton blog every two weeks, in addition to her MBA Journal entries. She sees the chance to document her adventures at business school as a golden opportunity. “This is exactly the kind of time in my life that I’d like to remember,” she says. “This is a gift to my future self.”
Fun Fact: An ad Miller created for Dove Body Wash won a national competition. It aired during the Oscars, and 40 million people saw the promo, which featured a woman dancing around the shower and singing into a hairbrush. “That was my first 14 minutes of fame,” says Miller, who appeared on shows such as Good Morning America after winning. “This will be my 15th minute.”
Bio: Shell managed strategic polling and focus group projects for nonprofits, public interest organizations, Democratic political campaigns, major corporations, and the media before enrolling in business school. Now, she says, she would like to use her MBA to make a difference in the world. As it becomes more common for nontraditional candidates to enroll in business school, Shell says she wants MBA Journal readers to reconsider their impressions of the MBA.
During the application process, finding time to breathe and get organized was a necessity, says Shell. Self-reflection is the best strategy, she says, for discovering the school that is the best fit. “Fuqua is definitely where I belong,” she says, adding that she spent lots of time thinking about what she wanted in a business school and researching her options.
After finishing her first two classes as part of Fuqua’s four-week Global Institute in August, then officially beginning the fall term on Labor Day, Shell says time management is her biggest challenge. “Everyone says the MBA program is like drinking from a fire hose, and you never know what it’s really like until your in-box gets full of opportunities, job prospects, social events, etc.,” she says. “I’m not planning on sleeping very much in the next six months.”
Fun Fact: Shell helped launch a choir, in which she sang, in Washington, D.C. She toured with the group, sang at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and even performed onstage for President Obama during the 2009 national Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.