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Real Humans of Kearney: Caroline Queen, Duke Fuqua MBA ’21, Manager

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In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, former Olympian Caroline Queen shares how her unconventional career path led her to Duke Fuqua for her MBA and on to consulting at Kearney. While the “Team Fuqua” culture forged the foundation of her b-school experience, the skills honed in the program and the interview prep ensured she could take the next step in her career. Learn more about Caroline’s journey below.

Caroline Queen, Duke Fuqua MBA ’21, Manager at Kearney

Age: 32
Hometown: Darnestown, MD
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Davidson College, B.S., Psychology, class of 2014
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Class of 2021
Pre-MBA Work Experience (title, company, years, industry): My most fun fact frames up the start of my career – I’m a 2012 Olympian and was on Team USA as a slalom kayaker from age 15 to 20. Being part of Team USA was an honor and a privilege and something I would not trade for anything. I leveraged my work ethic and discipline for something meaningful and got to see 15+ countries across five continents and their respective people and cultures very early in life. When I decided it was time for something new, I wanted to keep that global relevance and exposure to different people and ideas. I landed at Marriott International and spent five years within The Ritz-Carlton brand, holding various roles both at corporate and on property.
Post-MBA Work Experience (title, company, years, industry): Manager at Kearney, 2.5 years in Consulting. I am aligned to our Leadership, Change, and Organization (People) practice.

Why did you choose to attend business school?
While I loved my time at Marriott, I was struggling to define my career path and facilitate growth at the rate I desired. I also felt I had a few gaps in my core business skillset given my somewhat non-traditional career path.

A leader / mentor (and Fuqua grad) at Marriott encouraged me to consider business school. I visited Fuqua during the annual women’s leadership conference and was sold both on the MBA and on Fuqua.

Why Duke Fuqua? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I felt at home immediately at Fuqua. It was one of those things where it just felt right. The right place for me to reimagine my career, learn some key skills, meet some incredible people, and prepare for the next chapter of life.

The current students I met during my application process demonstrated that “Team Fuqua” is real – there was a palpable, genuine care for each other and a value of mutual success that is uncommon. Not only did Fuquans do right by each other, but they were also thinking about how to do right by the world – bringing to life the combination of IQ, EQ, and DQ (decency quotient). I wanted to be part of it!

Now a few years post-MBA, “Team Fuqua” remains strong and growing for me. My Fuqua friends and I are in touch constantly about everything from college basketball, new and interesting products we’re seeing, pets, books, food, jobs, new homes, and growing relationships and families.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Tactically, the interview preparation was critical, e.g., case interview practice and shaping stories for behavioral interviews.

More broadly, my time at Fuqua allowed me to regroup personally and consider how I could be the best version of myself going forward. I thought about what I valued the most, how I should spend my time to make the best impact, and with whom I needed to surround myself to enable that future state both professionally and personally.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I was a Summer Associate at Kearney! My internship was in summer 2020, an incredibly difficult time for companies adapting to virtual work in the thick of the pandemic. I found that I still felt a great sense of belonging and had a very real project experience despite these challenges. The strong leadership and genuine care I felt from colleagues at Kearney made it an easy choice to return and build out the next chapter of my career at the firm.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I loved my summer and was confident I would be happy working at Kearney full-time. I continue to find that the people are authentic and supportive, there is a balance of challenge and guidance to drive my growth, and an entrepreneurial spirit that encourages all of us to run with our ideas and passions.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?

Think holistically about what is going to enable the life you want to live and make you happy. The MBA presents a unique opportunity to make life-changing moves – ensure that you make it matter! Make choices and do things (or don’t) based on what you really want and not what you think you “should” do. This may mean you need to set aside some dedicated time to be vulnerable with yourself and define what it is you want.

Also, celebrate wins with your classmates and be there for each other when things don’t work out as hoped. There is a huge solidarity element to the recruiting process – this is a big moment for “Team Fuqua.”

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
The recruiting process can feel overwhelming at times. While I think I handled that fairly well (thanks to support from a key mentor in the Fuqua Career Management Center, friends, and family), there were definitely times my attention was clouded by the process versus keeping a sharp focus on outcomes. I got a critical pep talk from one of my best coaches (thanks, Mom) while en route to an interview that reminded me to trust my experience, preparation, and intuition and get my head back in the game.

 –Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Nothing too surprising – let Kearney get to know you and take your behavioral interviews just as seriously as your cases!

Broadly, I would say stay on top of all the resources the companies you are pursuing have to offer and ensure that you are clear on key dates and actions, e.g., resume drops, when interview slots come out. Do not allow your interview preparation to go to waste because you made a logistical error.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Thankfully I received a lot of great coaching during the MBA so no major items here; however, one thing I wish I would have known was to take a break (i.e., with coursework) immediately after the recruiting process. You’ll run hard for about four or five months and you will want to rest. I took a pretty heavy course load during the spring terms of first year, which kept some pressure on that was not needed at that time.

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.