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Real Humans of MBA Students: Boston College Carroll MBA Class of 2023

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boston mba class of 2023Janelle Reiher, Boston College Carroll MBA Class of 2023

Age: 29
Hometown: Morehead City, North Carolina
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Cornell University, B.S. in Civil Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Civil Engineering, Project Management – 5 years

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
As I progressed in my career, I learned that I loved leading people and solving problems for organizations, but I knew I needed more formal training for these skills. When my spouse’s job transferred us across country (from Houston to Boston), I knew it was the best opportunity for me to go back to school.

Why did you choose Carroll School of Management? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
The great academic reputation and alumni network definitely were the first things to attract me to BC. And once I took the time to speak to current students and saw how down to earth, intelligent, and genuinely helpful everyone in the BC MBA program was, I knew it was the right fit for me culturally. Academically, the program is very customizable and offers electives in many different tracts. I saw this as a necessity in a program to help me develop into a well-rounded future leader. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
Everyone in the BC MBA program comes from amazingly diverse backgrounds, and I love learning from everyone’s past experiences and unique perspectives. For myself, I think having experience managing teams in an engineering industry and serving on a society board has allowed me to connect much of what we are learning to my past experiences in a unique way. Because I’ve managed people, I’m comfortable working in teams and helping others learn from my strengths (and doing the same from other people). My engineering background has conditioned me to use a similar process on approaching problems – seeing the whole picture and breaking it down into manageable parts – which I do on all of the cases we analyze for classes.  

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I was in a sketch comedy group in college and I loved acting. I do not currently participate in any comedy scenes, but I think that experience was very valuable in developing my confidence. Once you can fearlessly make jokes that you know might not get laughs in front of an audience of college kids, speaking in front of classmates is not so daunting.

Post-MBA career interests:
I plan to work in a finance role so I can touch all functions of a business and understand the whole picture of a company. I am very driven to advance into leadership positions in my future through this function.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
What a great question. The value of taking the time to talk to as many current students as possible from all the schools to which I applied was invaluable. In addition to using my own networks, I reached out to a lot of students that were on admissions websites (as a side note: BC has a great list of MBA ambassadors!). This really helped me get a sense of what the culture in each MBA program is so I could find the best fit for me. This also helped me be very comfortable speaking about each school during my interview process.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
If I could go back in time and take some of the pressure off of myself from the GMAT, I would. I have anxiety, and I put too much pressure on myself during that test during an already stressful time (I was taking it when testing was largely restricted due to Covid). You’re looked at by admissions as a total candidate, so while yes, your test score absolutely matters, it is only one part of your story.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have loved to fast-forward past the hours spent studying for the GMAT. Having been out of school for years, taking the time to relearn how to study for tests was not my favorite and I dedicated many hours to prepping for the test. My family really was my support system through the study time. My siblings were constantly there to check in on me, and my husband understood how important the test was and was there to support me. My dog also provided lots of snuggles as support for me. 

What is your initial impression of the Carroll School of Management students/culture/community?
The MBA community/culture matched the impressions I got through speaking with students while I was applying. Everyone is down to earth, hard-working, and genuinely wants to learn from each other. One of my favorite things about our program is the level of collaboration – we go out of our way to help each other succeed. Because the program is smaller, I’m getting to know my classmates really well, and they are all people that I want to get beers with after school, which I think says a lot since I’m already spending most of my day with them. 

What is one thing you have learned about Carroll School of Management that has surprised you?
I was really surprised by the number of people in my program that are not from traditional business backgrounds. I really thought I would be at a disadvantage having studied and worked in engineering, but a majority of my classmates do not come from business backgrounds. This has really reinforced our willingness to help each other get through classes.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
I had just started focusing my business school search when the world was shutting down due to Covid. As a result, I was not able to attend in-person sample lectures (which I was really looking forward to) and all other events were shifted to virtual platforms. BC Admissions did a great job of hosting virtual events, and they even sent me a recording of a previous lecture so I could get a sense of what the classroom would feel like, which was really important in my decision making process. In addition, as I said earlier, I was prepping for and taking the GMAT. I took the test once in the testing center with very limited capacity and once at home – both experiences were not ideal. BC did a great job at reassuring applicants that they were following the GMAT testing situation and understood the testing environment impacts at that time.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Besides not coming from a traditional business background, I think being able to get back into the studying/testing mode after being in industry for years was nerve-wracking for me. In the BC MBA, we had to do an asynchronous pre-term statistics class over the summer. We also had a week-long in-person strategy class held the week before our full term started. These classes really helped me get back into the school mindset. I will also say that as a career pivoter, I was very nervous that none of my previous experience would help me in my future endeavors. My advisor and classes have really helped me translate the skills I developed in engineering into many business settings.  

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I have loved every minute of getting to know my classmates and I cannot wait to continue to develop those relationships. It has been a long time since I have spent considerable time with non-engineers. In addition, I was just elected as a first-year representative for our Graduate Management Association, so I am so excited to help improve the MBA experience for everyone in my class (and classes to come).

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.