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Real Humans of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management

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Pamela London, Carlson MBA Class of 2022

Age: 29
Hometown: Shoreline, WA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Whitman College, History (minor in English)
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6 years, first in journalism (1.5 years) and then in transportation technology (4.5 years, working primarily in Marketing)

Why business school? Why now?
I have been considering business school for almost four years and actually applied twice (first in 2018 and then again in 2019). I had been working in B2B marketing for four and a half years and had reached the ceiling of my role at the company I was working at – in addition, I knew I wanted to continue working in Marketing and had also reached the ceiling of what I could teach myself about the function. Knowing how cross-functional a role Marketing typically is only strengthened my realization that in order to do the things I wanted to do, the next step in my career was to get an MBA and really round out my business skillset.

Why Carlson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
In considering business schools, I wanted a small program with a relatively high percentage of women, located in the West, Mountain West, or Midwest, and that was part of a strong professional network. I also wanted a program that was more generalist, rather than specializing in a particular industry, function, etc, because it would give me the most options and also attract a diverse class in terms of experience and career goals. All of these factors carried relatively equal weight and Carlson absolutely ticks all of the boxes. If I were to call out one factor in particular as being most prominent, the fact that Carlson selects a cohort of (on average) 90-100 people was really important because I wanted to be able to get to know as many of my cohort mates as possible (never knowing where a connection down the road will pay off!) and have small enough class sizes to the point where I can get to the professor (and vice versa). The other benefit to a small cohort is the amplified strength of everyone’s voices–I know I will have opportunities to lead discussions and teams and all of my cohort mates will as well, and we’ll all be able to learn from each other.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
I would say my most valuable/differentiating contribution to my class is my Marketing experience, as well as my liberal arts background. I have a number of classmates who want to pivot into Marketing through their MBA but not many who want to accelerate within the function as I do, and on a few occasions already I’ve been able to provide some context/information about Marketing for folks with questions. I also think I bring a unique perspective because of my liberal arts degree, where there was a lot of emphasis placed on problem-solving and critical thinking–that combined with my Marketing experience means I bring a creative lens to solving business problems, and really enjoy doing so.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I love to ski (started downhill skiing when I was three years old!) and so am looking forward to hopefully learning to nordic ski while living in Minnesota.

Post-MBA career interests?
I am accelerating my career in Marketing, and so post-MBA I want to be in a strategic marketing role for a company in the Twin Cities. While I’m fairly industry-agnostic at this point, I know I want to work for a mission-driven company with cultural values with which I closely align–I want to feel and see the impact and value of the work that I’m doing every day. Ultimately (talking 10-15 years down the road), I want to be a c-level executive for a professional (ideally women’s) sports league or franchise–I played sports all the way through college and so would love to combine my personal and professional passions at some point in my career.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I asked for help (especially my second year applying) throughout the application process and absolutely would do this again! A big reason that I wanted to come to business school was to learn and get help because I had reached the ceiling of what I could learn by teaching myself, and as difficult as that was to admit to myself that I couldn’t do this alone it was absolutely necessary to my success.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I absolutely would not take the GMAT three times! I took the exam the first year I applied and then the second year as well and improved my score, but not as much as I thought I could have and so took it a third time two weeks later (the soonest possible time you can) to prove to myself that I could do better. This was not necessary from a cost (time or financial) perspective and I threw out the score as soon as I finished!

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
As an introverted personality, I very much dislike networking (ironically, considering I wanted to go to business school) and so would have skipped anything related to networking. What helped me get through this was first acknowledging that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to build a network that’s unique to me and my career goals–and that wasn’t something that’s just going to be handed to me. Then the second piece was putting myself in positions where I would need to network (practice was the only way I was going to get comfortable), so I signed up for events run by different schools and not only attended but also made sure to talk to multiple people when I was there, both folks from the programs as well as other attendees.

What is your initial impression of Carlson’s students/culture/community?  
Carlson’s students, culture, and community are all unbelievably supportive, in all respects. Every conversation I have with someone connected to Carlson is warm and welcoming and ends with an offer to continue supporting however that person can. This has been my impression from the very beginning and not only has held true but also has strengthened as I’ve started in the program.

One thing you have learned about Carlson that has surprised you?
I’ve been (pleasantly) surprised at how well each of the different elements of the program have been tying together. For example, several of my classes have referenced each other or used the same cases in discussions so there’s a sense of learning building on previous learning that’s really helpful. There is also a theme of leadership and management (aptly so, as my program is at the Carlson School of Management) that runs through everything from academics to clubs to career work, which I appreciate.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I know that I have gaps in my skill set–that’s a big reason why I came to business school because I knew I have areas where I can improve. I’m very competitive, especially with myself, and always want to not only know but really understand everything, ask the most thoughtful questions, etc and so the prospect of coming back to school to address areas where I am not as strong or lack experience–and studying next to classmates who are strong or do have experience in those areas–is intimidating and anxiety-inducing.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
In my first year, I am most excited about getting to know new and different people! Prior to coming to Carlson I had only lived in the state of Washington (and primarily in the Seattle area) and thus was very familiar with the lifestyle, the common personalities, the job market, etc–moving to Minneapolis has been a breath of fresh air and rejuvenation, and I’m excited to continue discovering all there is to discover and get to know people who have all chosen to pursue their MBAs now as well!

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.