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Real Humans of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class of 2022

Danielle Ma, Kellogg MMM Program Class of 2022

Age: 29 
Hometown: Westborough, MA 
Undergraduate Institution and Major: U.C. Berkeley / Integrative Biology 
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 7 years, advertising and branded content

Why business school? Why now? 
After being client-facing at both an ad agency and a branded content studio, I had gained experience working with senior leaders across every type of company from Fortune 100 to global nonprofits and foundations to early-stage startups. This wide breadth of experience allowed me to effectively identify my passion areas as I cycled through projects. A key through-line was technology—I loved working on tech projects and thinking through digital strategy. I spent increasing amounts of my time daydreaming about user experience and debating the role of big tech in society. I realized then that not only did I want to enter the tech industry, but I also wanted to bring impact as a leader. This was the big dream that led me to business school.

Why Kellogg? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Kellogg’s MMM program (Kellogg’s MBA and MS Design Innovation dual degree in partnership with the McCormick School of Engineering) is the only one of its kind, and it was always my top choice. I believe the future of business relies on human-centered design and bringing both big data and big empathy to the table. Luckily, with the MMM program, I found a whole tribe of people who share this belief.

Another factor I considered was Kellogg’s network and culture, but not just in the traditional sense of power and influence. I considered compatibility—i.e. if I cold-outreached someone in the Kellogg network, what are the odds that I would truly like and connect with this person? How much friendship potential exists there? When the answers were “high” and “a lot,” I knew I was at the right place.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
Having worked with so many different types of companies pre-Kellogg, I’m a pretty seasoned generalist. Coupled with an endless curiosity and an affinity for people, I think I’m able to connect a lot of dots. I enjoy connecting people to each other, to new ideas and perspectives, and to different paths they might not have considered before.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I’m slowly trying to eat my way through Asia—in the past few years, I’ve been to Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines. When traveling picks back up, I’m hoping to continue in China.

Post-MBA career interests? 
I’m pursuing product roles in the tech industry. I’m particularly interested in product inclusion and bringing a DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) lens to the role.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I really took the time to read about each school and understand their unique value, positioning, and personality—don’t skip this step! It will show in your applications and interviews if you do. It’s not like undergrad where you can submit more or less the same thing to everyone. Business school communities are small and intimate, and they’re so much more about fit than people might realize. It sounds silly, but when I sat down to write a Kellogg essay, I tried to get into a Kellogg mindset.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would’ve enlisted my recommenders sooner. I got a bit caught up trying to perfect my narrative and other parts of my application before I reached out. In reality, your recommender just needs to know the nuts and bolts of the process and an overview of your story. If other questions come up, you can always answer them along the way, as long as there’s a baseline level of comfort between you.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have loved to skip any and all video essays (including Kellogg’s)! I can’t help but feel a unique set of nerves when recording a video. Unlike the interview where you can be your whole self, a video captures just a few frames, so I stressed about things like lighting, running over time, and sounding rehearsed. I got through it by remembering that it’s just one data point for the admissions committee; one cut-off video clip won’t make or break you—I am evidence of that.

What is your initial impression of Kellogg’s students/culture/community?
Never in my life have I been around so many multi-dimensionally smart people—and I’m not just talking book smart. These are people who have creativity and curiosity and nuance. It’s a place where ambition and supportiveness coexist in a weird magical harmony.

One thing you have learned about Kellogg that has surprised you? 
I was surprised to learn the great lengths to which the staff and faculty would go in designing and iterating the hybrid experience for students during COVID. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but the effort level is evident. I still remember one of our Deans answered a student’s COVID-related question via Slack well past 2 am. That’s commitment.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Definitely recruiting.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Continuing to build deep friendships—the silver lining of COVID has been how quickly we form a community in tough times.

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2022, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: Northwestern / Kellogg

About the Author

Christina Griffith  

Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.

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