Indian Student Perspectives: How Business School Can Help You Find the Right Job in the U.S.

photo of Dan McCleary

Guest Blogger: Dan McCleary, Regional Director for India

I have spent the last three years chatting often with potential business school students from India as director of the region for Fuqua. Again and again, I heard candidates say much of the value proposition of an MBA from a U.S. school is the opportunity to acquire  experience interning for marquee firms in the US and eventually land a job. However, the competition for MBA jobs is stiff, especially for career-changers. I spoke with four second-year Indian students about their summer internships, their post-MBA plans, and how the resources at Fuqua helped enable their job search success in the following videos.

Roshni Rathi spent the summer at Boston Consulting Group. Watch the video to hear Roshni speak about how the second year student mentors worked with her to help her secure the BCG internship that turned into a full time job offer.

Kuber Sharma worked in non-profit consulting before coming to Fuqua. Watch the video to hear Kuber speak about his transition to Microsoft, and the strength of technology firm recruitment at Fuqua.

Deepak Dewani worked in commercial real estate before coming to Fuqua. Watch the video to hear Deepak speak about how the Career Management Center, the Week-In-Cities program, and the career clubs helped Deepak transition into an investment banking role at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.

Ankit Mehta worked in aerospace before coming to Fuqua. Watch the video about how the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum helped Ankit transition to a job in consulting.

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The Leadership Cohort Experience: Learning about Leadership Alongside C-Level Management

One of the (many) ways in which Fuqua sets itself apart as an MBA program is the focus on leadership development, evident through its mantra to mold, shape and empower “leaders of consequence.” To support this mission, the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE) was created in 2004, in collaboration with Duke University Athletics and the Kenan Institute for Ethics. There are many ways in which COLE plays an active role in everyday Fuqua life, but one that made a big impact in my last term was the COLE Leadership Cohort Experience (LCE).

LCE is a unique opportunity that runs in Fall 2, Spring 1, and Spring 2, allowing students to interact with C-Level executives and senior managers, as well as fellow students, in a more intimate setting. First-year students who are interested in the program apply during Fall 1, and 125 students are selected to participate in one of the following three terms. I was fortunate to be a member of this last term’s LCE session.

Structure of the Leadership Cohort Experience

Although classes aren’t usually held on Wednesdays, LCE typically meets four Wednesday mornings during the term. During the first session, we were privileged to hear from Joe LeBoeuf and the two second-year students who organized the session. We were also split into small groups of 5, who we would work closely with during the duration of the program.

Before each subsequent meeting, we were sent the bio of the next speaker and were required to read an article that related to the speaker’s topic. Each student came prepared to listen, question, reflect and engage. After a brief introduction, each speaker would present for about 45 minutes, explaining their perspective of leadership and giving examples from their personal and professional life to highlight the points they were making. Since it was a small group, we were allowed and encouraged to ask questions. After the main presentation, we broke out into our small cohort groups and discussed what we learned, the principles that most impacted us, and how our own unique experiences added to the discussion. Each team then had the opportunity to present to the group (which included the speaker) to highlight their main takeaways and learnings. It was inspiring to see the speaker taking notes on what we were saying, proving that even great leaders have opportunities to learn and improve.

Following each meeting, the speakers would typically linger in the classroom to interact with any students that wanted to ask follow-up questions. Also, we were all given access to a message board where we gave our insights and reflections after we had some time to internalize the session.

Speakers and Key Insights

This past term, the three speakers that visited us and the key insights I took away from each session were:

  • Andrea Hyde – President, C. Wonder. Formerly at French Connection (CEO) and Nicole Farhi, Kenneth Cole, The Gap, Old Navy, Estee Lauder, and Calvin Klein.
  1. Be confident in your abilities.
  2. Take responsibility for the team.
  3. Don’t be afraid to hire someone smarter than you. If they eventually deserve your job over you, then they should get it.
  • Mike Zafirovski – Founder & President, The Zaf Group LLC. Formerly at Nortel (President & CEO), Motorola (President and COO), and General Electric
  1. You need values and results. Values without results = a failed company. Results without values = no sustainability.
  2. Always put the company and the team above yourself.
  3. As a leader, be transparent and consistent.
  • Patrick Jordan – Vice-President, Quintiles.
  1. Make sure everyone on the team knows the team’s goals and that they can give the same 30-second pitch. If everyone knows it, everyone will be unified.
  2. Be ‘cool’ in a crisis, but not ‘cold.’ Make sure your team can see you as a human.
  3. It’s better for a leader to know his/her limits than for his/her team to guess at them.

I’m honored to have had the privilege of participating in last term’s Leadership Cohort Experience and would highly recommend it to anyone at all interested in becoming a better leader.

Trevor McKinnon

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A Very International MBA Experience

What do China, Kenya, Tanzania, Chile, and Mexico all have in common? They’ve all been a part of my experience at business school. Fuqua has long billed itself as an international business program, but I wasn’t prepared for how international it really is. To start with, nearly 40% of my class hails from places as far away as Taiwan, Nepal, and Columbia. These students have enriched classroom discussions and have shared their culture and food with me in their homes, at Fuqua’s Around the World Dinners, and during Fuqua Fridays.

Eric - International5Fuqua also does a great job of building international experiences into its curriculum. As a first-year student, I participated in the Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) to China. During Spring Term 2, I studied Chinese culture and business practices in class and then visited Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai after the term concluded. Not only did I see the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, but I also met with leaders at Proctor & Gamble, the National Basketball Association (U.S. basketball is huge in China), and McDonald’s to discuss their experiences of doing business in the region.

And this year, I did an exchange program in at Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago, Chile during Spring Term 1. I took classes in Negotiations and Global Marketing with both locals and Fuqua classmates. I chose Santiago because of the warm climate, renowned wine and opportunity to improve my Spanish. I was also very excited about the prospect of hiking the Inca Trail after the program concluded. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Outside of the globally focused MBA curriculum and extracurricular programs, I have also found that there are plenty of informal opportunities to experience life abroad. Many Fuquans organize small group trips to their home countries during breaks, and this year alone, some of my friends trekked to Morocco, Israel, and Japan over spring break. I didn’t participate in those trips, but I did climb Pico de Orizaba in Mexico with Duke’s BOLD (Building Outdoor Leaders and Doers) club in January, and hiked the Inca Trail in Peru at the start of spring break.

MBA student with giraffeInterning in Africa

The most surprising global experience I’ve had at Fuqua, was my summer internship. Like about 30% of my classmates, I decided to pursue management consulting for my internship. However, instead of working at a client site in the U.S., I had the opportunity to do social impact consulting in Washington, D.C., Kenya and Tanzania with Accenture’s Development Partnerships (ADP) program.

Few programs exist that allow MBA interns to work on international development abroad and ADP has traditionally recruited from only HBS, Wharton and Johnson. I was selected as the first intern from Fuqua thanks to heavy lobbying by Fuqua alumni at Accenture to open the internship to Fuqua students because the school has distinguished itself as a leader in social enterprise. Although I was nervous about my assignment since I wouldn’t find out where I’d be going until a couple of weeks before my internship, I was open to an adventurous summer and wanted to work on something that would have a positive impact on other people.

For half of the summer, I worked at a major international development bank in D.C. on a strategy project to address youth unemployment. My team developed a strategy and identified coalition partners to implement programs that would train and put young people to work in developing countries. I enjoyed the experience a lot, and my work was used in the final report and presentation given to the client in July. After the project concluded, I was assigned to a nutritional strategy project in East Africa. Our client was a U.S. government agency that funded projects addressing malnutrition in East Africa.

Currently, the U.S. and other NGOs fund nearly all of the clinics and supplementary nutritional products given to people who are malnourished in East Africa. In rural villages, where malnutrition is the most pervasive, these clinics and products are a lifeline for people who subsist on grain and whatever else they can scrounge up. But what happens when the money runs out? Our client wanted us to find a solution that would enable people to access these products at a price they could afford for when this happens.

MBA student in KenyaMuch of my work was done in the field and I met with leaders from government, the private sector and NGOs to better understand the problem we were facing. But working in an office where the electricity went out frequently and being restricted to our hotels after dark because of crime made the experience more challenging than I had initially thought.

Despite this, I was treated as an equal member of our team and was able to add value. Having worked with team members at Fuqua who were from many different countries, I felt comfortable navigating through the bureaucracy and other challenges that we faced. Moreover, the training I received at Duke was helping me make a big difference in assessing project barriers and developing a solution. After a month of collecting data and putting together an initial set of files, I packed up my things and prepared to return to Durham for my second year at Fuqua.

My experiences at Fuqua have been beyond anything I could have hoped for and increased my desire to experience all that the world has to offer. Prior to business school, I had only traveled around Western Europe following a study abroad program, and I never saw myself hiking a mountain or working in a developing country. But in one year, Fuqua transformed the way I think and provided me with a new appreciation for international cultures and peoples. If you’re looking for an MBA program that provides ample opportunities for a truly international and transformative experience, I can’t personally think of a program that does it better than Duke.

Eric Nakano

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Preparing for a Career in Corporate Strategy

I can’t believe I am less than two terms, or 12 weeks, away from graduation. Not surprisingly, I find myself reflecting on my time at school and what I have accomplished.

I came to Fuqua with a depth of experience in executing operations at a research and analytics company. As I began the program, one of the abilities I wished to develop at school was the horsepower for thinking strategically and analytically about issues surrounding businesses and their stakeholders. At first, I thought of achieving this through a concentration in Strategy. However, once at school, I realized that there are multiple avenues available at Fuqua to develop well-rounded skills to appreciate and learn strategy.

Concentration & Coursework: Like I mentioned, the path that seemed logical to pursue a career in corporate strategy was to pursue a concentration in Strategy at Fuqua. Earning this concentration requires at least six electives that are a mix of advanced strategy and analytical courses. While at Fuqua, I have taken ten such courses and have learned a great deal through the process.

Fuqua's Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP)

Ankit Khanna posing with FCCP teammates and client.

Practical Training: In addition to the coursework, I also took the opportunity to participate in Fuqua’s Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP). FCCP is a hands-on program that lets student teams (comprising 5-6 people) develop business skills by working on actual problems at real companies. My team’s project was a 12-week study to formulate the growth strategy for an artisan cheese company in Hillsborough, NC. The entire experience was a great platform to apply content learned in class in a meaningful way… and eat some great cheese!

Engaging Faculty: Another great resources that exists at Fuqua is the faculty. My core and elective strategy professors have not just been great professors but have also doubled as great sounding boards when I needed industry insight or career advice. In fact, on a couple of occasions I requested to speak with professors ahead of interviews to gain from their perspective, and they were always more than willing to schedule time to discuss issues and insights at length with me.

Summer Internship with Urban Planet

This is from my internship at Urban Planet. This picture has two other Fuqua students who were interning at Urban Planet with me – Kyungho Kim (third from right) and Irina Kudryashova (centre/sixth from left).

Summer Internship: Summers are a great way to transition into a role or opportunity you want to pursue full-time. It gives you an opportunity to try out an industry, function, and role for a period of 8-12 weeks. While most companies in the U.S. have great corporate strategy roles and internships, a lot of them don’t recruit international students without U.S. work authorization. I was adamant about working in a corporate strategy role and kept looking. As a result, I ended up with an internship at an education technology startup called Urban Planet and helped the company with their funding strategy.

While these resources have been most useful to me, there are several others that have helped me and my classmates. These include hearing from guest speakers in the industry, participating in regional and national case competitions, assisting professors as teaching assistants, and developing cases for classroom discussion with professors, among others.

It remains to be seen how I will actually do in the real world after I graduate, but I do think that I have been able to do some solid groundwork during my time at Fuqua, preparing me for the career of my choice.

Ankit Khanna

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Health Sector Management (HSM) Highlights in Fall 1 and 2

Greetings prospective HSMers! Fall Terms 1 and 2 were a busy and exciting time in the Health Sector Management (HSM) program, with weekly academic seminars, the November healthcare conference, and the December Town Hall meeting. These events kept us busy, engaged, and constantly learning.

Each Wednesday morning during Fall 1 and Fall 2 the entire HSM first-year class attended a seminar led by a different prominent player in the healthcare management field. For example, we heard from Richard Bartlett and Krishna Udayakumar from the Duke-based International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery. They both spoke about SalaUno, a center that provides affordable cataract surgeries in Mexico. In another seminar, Paula Garrett from Eli Lilly spoke about the power of consumer insights and segmentation by using Cialis as a case study. These seminars were a highlight of my week— I had the opportunity to catch up with my HSM classmates and participate in lively conversations about current issues facing the world healthcare market. The speakers and our discussions were very informative.

Student at Fuqua's Healthcare Conference

Students engaged in the November Healthcare Conference.

The November Duke Healthcare Conference was a day packed with speakers and networking. For me, the most interesting parts of the conference included the closing keynote by Jeff Henderson, the CFO of Cardinal Health, and a session on health insurance exchange implementation featuring panelists, some of whom were HSM alum, from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Deloitte, the State of North Carolina, and Aon Hewitt.

Cardinal Health CFO Jeff Henderson delivering the keynote at Fuqua's Healthcare Conference

Cardinal Health CFO Jeff Henderson delivering the
final keynote

The day concluded with a networking session for first years where we were able to interact with panelists and ask follow-up questions, as well as learn more about internship opportunities at various healthcare firms. I was thrilled to be able to speak with alumni from some of my top-choice firms for my summer internship. I left the healthcare conference grateful for the strong Fuqua HSM alumni network. I valued the opportunity to learn from alumni working in various aspects of the healthcare sector who shared unique insights about their work by serving as conference panelists or while interacting during the networking event.

In December, a group of HSMers gathered on a Friday evening for a “Town Hall” event right before Fuqua Friday to hear from Dr. Brian Caveney, Vice President and Medical Director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. This session was an informal question-and-answer discussion in which Dr. Caveney discussed changes in the health insurance marketplace that resulted from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It was fascinating to hear about these changes from the payer perspective. I had read frequently about payers’ reactions to the ACA in the news, but hearing about these issues firsthand gave me additional context to better understand the situation. I have been able to apply what I learned during this talk in subsequent HSM classwork and even in my internship interviews.

With so many healthcare topics in the news and rapid changes in the industry, it’s beneficial to have healthcare events on campus to keep me in the loop on what’s happening in the real world. I think that the analytical perspective we get from these events—and the HSM program as a whole—provides the tools we need to be future managers and decision-makers in the healthcare field.

Heather Langerman

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A Partner Perspective on Fuqua

Kelsey McKinnon

Guest Blogger: Kelsey McKinnon, Fuqua Families Co-President

The MBA experience is a wild ride. For two short years, students are engulfed in a whirlwind of learning, recruiting, and networking, all in pursuit of their dreams. To ensure success in the end, it is imperative that students begin by choosing the right program for them. This decision would be difficult enough if a student only had him or herself to consider, but add spouses/partners and children to the mix and you’ve got something even more complex. Because the choice of which school to attend impacts the entire family, the prospective student’s partner becomes a large factor in the decision-making process.

I know this from personal experience. I’m the wife of Trevor McKinnon, a first-year MBA student and blogger at Fuqua. We moved to Durham in July from across the country with our (then) 16-month old daughter. We left family and friends behind in pursuit of a stellar education for my husband and endless opportunities for our family. But I can’t say that the decision to attend Duke was simple. My husband was accepted to several MBA programs, and while we were grateful for that, it definitely made things complicated for us. After lots of research, pro/con lists, and deep thinking, we eventually made the decision to attend Fuqua—a decision that I haven’t regretted for even a moment. And now that I’m here, I’d be delighted to break down the main reasons I cast my vote for Duke:

  • Halloween

    Trick-or-Treating with other
    Fuqua families

    There is absolutely no denying that Fuqua is elite. Frankly, I figured that if I was going to make the sacrifices involved with supporting my husband through the rigor of an MBA program, I should be sure we would get as much out of the experience as possible. Fuqua boasts top-rate faculty, connections, and an unparalleled education that prepares students to succeed in the business-world, whatever their goals. It’s wonderful not having to worry if we’ll regret this move 10 years from now. Fuqua is a top-10 program, for goodness sake. And, I mean, it’s Duke. You just can’t go wrong.

  • Fuqua values families. I can’t imagine anything worse than having Trevor attend a program this intense that didn’t take good care of his loved ones. In doing our research, we couldn’t find a school that we felt matched Fuqua in terms of inclusiveness of partners and families. For one thing, Fuqua holds an event each week called “Fuqua Friday.” Basically, every Friday night all students and their families gather together in the Fox Center for a big catered meal. They even have a special room dedicated for the families with small children that includes child-friendly food and fun toys. So even during a particularly busy week, I always know I’ll have a fun Friday night with my husband, daughter, and our friends (and I don’t have to cook! Score!).
  • In addition, Fuqua has two separate groups dedicated to students’ families: The Fuqua Partners Association and Fuqua Families. The Partners do tons of things together including weekly lunches and other activities. They make sure everyone is included with regular emails about upcoming events. And the Fuqua Families host monthly events and semi-annual parties for partners and their children to enjoy. And if that’s not enough, partners are also welcome to participate in many of the student clubs here at Fuqua! Basically I have realized that if I want to be active in this community, there are always things to do.
    Visiting Ganyard Hill Farms, October's Fuqua Family outing

    Visiting Ganyard Hill Farms, October’s
    Fuqua Family outing

    I’ve loved the social aspect of Fuqua so much that I’ve even decided to take on a co-chair position for the Fuqua Families club for 2014. It’s something that was originally way out of my comfort zone, but I have felt so blessed by the Fuqua Partners and Fuqua Families clubs the past few months, as they have offered me the friendship and support that I so needed during this transition. Therefore, it has become so important to me that I “pay it forward” and make sure that the incoming families are equally taken care of so they can enjoy their experience here as much as I have.

  • As much fun as a big city would be, let’s face it, my toddler has a lot of energy, and I have a lot of clothes. I wasn’t anxious to live in a shoebox. That’s why the cost of living in Durham was oh-so appealing to me. Our apartment doesn’t exactly rival Neuschwanstein castle, but we have plenty of space for our family at an affordable price. And when it comes down to it, the lower we can keep those delightful student loans, the better.
  • To continue my ode-to-Durham, let’s chat about all the fun things there are to do here. Since I’m from California, this moving-all-the-way-to-Durham business was quite daunting. But guess what? It’s great. Truly! I’ve been shocked at the long list of fun activities to keep us busy here. As a mother, I appreciate the beautiful (and numerous) parks, the children’s museums, libraries, kids’ classes, etc. My husband and I have also appreciated all the unique and delicious eateries in the area. Don’t feel overwhelmed though, because the Fuqua Partner’s Association will send you a list of suggestions for everything from restaurants to dry cleaners before you arrive. But in the meantime, here’s a wonderful blog with long lists of things to do (bonus—they’re categorized! Double bonus—many of them have reviews!). In fact, some of my friends here have even started creating their own “Durham Bucket Lists,” of things they want to do before their time here is up. Who knew Durham was so cool? You know you want in on the action!
  • There’s a J. Crew Warehouse about 3 hours from Durham. Girls trip, anyone?
  • Duke Basketball

    Attending a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium

    Team Fuqua. I know I’m not the student, but Team Fuqua became a big selling point for me when choosing a school. I believe there is so much value in this idea. Fuqua doesn’t want their students to be sharks. The environment isn’t meant to be as cut-throat or dog-eat-dog as other programs may be. The students here work hard as a team to succeed together. How refreshing! Call me naïve, but I like to think that Trevor will be able to succeed in the world and still exert kindness and be a team player. I love that he is being prepared to be that kind of a leader—one of consequence and integrity, as opposed to one that only cares about his own success.

  • Fit. I can’t stress this enough. It’s gotta feel right. You can do all your research, make all your lists, and talk it through a million times, but nothing will convince you to come to Fuqua more than the gut feeling that it’s right. That’s why I highly recommend that prospective students (and their partners, if possible) try to visit campus at some point. My husband and I took a trip to Durham while we were in the process of making a decision, and that’s ultimately what decided things for us. From the moment I stepped onto this gorgeous campus I felt like this was our place. Talking with people that day and exploring further only confirmed this feeling, and by the end of our trip we knew where we would be spending the next two years of our lives. We haven’t looked back. If you can’t visit, try chatting with some current students or alumni to get a better feel for the environment here!

Being an MBA partner certainly has its challenges. Aside from all the things going on in our own lives, we’re also supporting our student through an incredibly demanding educational experience. That’s why I believe it is essential to make the right choice about which school to attend. After all our research, Trevor and I found that Fuqua was, without a doubt, the best place for each member of our family to thrive. I have absolutely loved my experience in Durham so far, and I can’t wait to see what doors Fuqua will open for us, and what the future holds. Join me in this crazy adventure!

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Consequential Leadership Teams Embody Fuqua’s Diversity

Did you know that about 40% of Fuqua’s Class of 2015 (440 students) are international? I think this probably makes Fuqua one of the most diverse business schools in the U.S. That my friends, is an accomplishment I’m proud to be a part of. Walking down the Keller Center hallway, beneath the long series of flags that represent the diversity of Fuqua students, one could easily mistake the building for a U.N. office!

mba leadership team

My amazing Consequential Leadership (C-LEAD) team is a melting pot of cultures and expertise.

Fuqua does a fantastic job of turning this cultural diversity into an effective tool for personal growth and leadership development through C-LEAD (Consequential Leadership) teams. Every Fuqua student is part of a 6 or 7 member C-LEAD team whose composition is designed to be as diverse as possible — ethnically, academically, and professionally.

My own teammates either directly hail from or have strong ties to Taiwan, Mexico, Ireland, Spain, China, and Iran. They bring rich work experiences from healthcare, telecom, consulting, and automobile industries as well as service in the U.S. Army. Add to this my connection to India, an industrial engineering education, and a career in operations consulting and what you get is a melting pot of cultures and expertise!

“How is any of this helpful?” you may ask. Throughout the first terms of the Daytime MBA program, we were put through a grueling phase of academic learning, and I think it would be extremely hard to pull through it on your own. We required the combined effort of a team — a team that is cognitively diverse. This team-based learning enabled me to assimilate into business school more quickly then if I had to work alone. Also, in teams we’re able to better solve the many, real-life business problems infused into our curriculum by our excellent faculty.

The level of diversity on my team (and most teams) invariably created some conflict of opinions, and we pushed each other to get out of our comfort zones. However, we positively resolved those conflicts through connecting outside of class — team lunches/dinners, potlucks, group workouts, and partying! Over the past 7 months, we learned to be more accommodating of each other and more appreciative of our strengths. We’ve helped each other achieve academic and personal goals along the way. These experiences have come to affect how I perceive and demonstrate leadership.

As I pen these words, I can’t fathom how I would have pulled through school thus far, without the unflinching support from my team. Many thanks and kudos to my C-LEAD teammates: Adrian, Alice, Charlie, Enrique, Tao, and Sanaz. You guys are the best!

Raj Rajendran

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6 Random Things About Me

When evaluating business schools to apply to, I was actually first drawn to the Fuqua application because of the 25 Random Things essay. I thought this essay question really differentiated Fuqua from the other schools — here was a school that wanted to get to know the real me, and not the perfectly scripted essay version of me. It was through this essay prompt that I got my first glimpse of how much Fuqua cares about its students. I love how unique and ambiguous the prompt is, as it really gave me the opportunity to show Fuqua what makes me uniquely me and describe how I would fit into the Team Fuqua culture. This essay was one of my favorite things to ever write, and I hope you enjoy writing your version of the essay, too.

Here are 6 of my favorite random things about me:

  1. I wrote my undergraduate college admissions essay about Hello Kitty, and was accepted into every school I applied to. My personal statement was about my imaginary best friend Hello Kitty who shaped me into the person I grew up to be. Now, the billion-dollar kitty phenomenon is my role model — the Sanrio business model is gloriously brilliant.
  2. My life motto is “you can only reach as high as you dream, so dream bigger!”
  3. I’m allergic to coffee. But I’m very addicted to sugar …
  4. I have eaten dessert (usually multiple times) every single day for as long as I can remember. Dessert is my obsession and passion — it’s literally a part of me. After all, you are what you eat!
  5. I told everyone in high school and college that I would be on the Food Network one day. And I was! Fifteen months after college graduation I won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
  6. My favorite restaurant is in Beijing, my favorite dessert is in Seoul, my favorite hotel is in Bangkok, and my favorite city is Taipei. But home is where the heart is, and that’s Los Angeles.
Dorothy Tong

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Fuqua Community Helped Me Redefine Failure & Success

Many times in my life, I have been challenged. Many times, I have made mistakes. Many times, I have experienced failure. Now, reflecting on my time in business school, I realize that many opportunities were placed in front of me so that I could fail, and so that I could learn how to fail effectively …

All of us came to business school as leaders — as previously successful students, high performing employees and/or managers, and as driven individuals with interesting and intense backgrounds. But I noticed an interesting shift happening once I entered Fuqua. I quickly realized that everyone around me is equally motivated, equally smart, and have done things that are mind boggling. All of a sudden, we all moved from being at the top to taking our first statistics quiz and placing two standard deviations below the mean. At the time, it seemed like this grade alone would prevent me from getting a good stats grade, would prevent me from getting good job interviews, and possibly keep me from getting my dream job. In hindsight, I’ve realized that stats class was just another color in the crayon box, and one low grade isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t mean that I’m a complete failure. I’ve continued to grow and find those new colors of crayon that have made me into a stronger person, friend, and leader at Fuqua.

mba students with large check

I used to be terrified of speaking in public. At Fuqua, I overcame the fear and the failures. I began participating in (and won!) case competitions. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this.

Until now, I never realized how well Fuqua was preparing me to face disappointments that may come my way. I never thought that failure, repeated failure, would be a part of my MBA journey. I expected to come into business school and excel. I had high expectations for myself — I was used to being a perfectionist. Of course, I knew there’d be some things to learn, and I wanted to learn, but overall, I expected to successfully overcome every challenge. But so far, my MBA experiences haven’t been that easy, and I haven’t been as glowingly “successful” as I thought I would be. I experienced failures, or at least, what seemed like failures at the time — like not acing my first stats quiz. And it was tough — it was really tough to accept failure, especially since I had become so used to accomplishing my goals. There were times when I questioned myself and my abilities, and I wondered whether I could make it through the Daytime MBA program.

A New Definition of “Success”

Now, over half way through the MBA program, I am realizing that all of my experiences, and especially the failures, have led me to believe that nothing is impossible. The failures provided me with invaluable opportunities to test my strength, to learn, and to grow. The failures also broadened my idea of “success” to mean something different than it used to. For example, success is no longer about acing every quiz, instead, it is about really learning, understanding, and applying the concepts taught in class. Success is helping my fellow classmates through their troubles. Success is growing my values into an ethical leader.

I know this “learn from your failure” attitude may sound like a self-help book, but I really believe it, and I learned the hard way. Along my journey, I also learned that I was not alone. At first, you think that you’re alone, but you’re not.

mba case competition team

Acting tough with my very first case competition team — my teammates were essential in helping me to find my voice.

Maybe you’ve already been in my shoes, or in a similar situation — thinking back to my undergraduate days, in my organic chemistry course, I had been asked to create aspirin. At about the halfway point of the experiment, I waited for the chemical reaction to progress — for the synthesis to occur — but quickly realized that I had not allowed my vial to sit in the ice bath for long enough and my reaction foamed over. I started the experiment again and created aspirin crystals, and when checking for impurities I found that my aspirin had a lot of salicylic acid left in it. Failing at this experiment multiple times revealed the mistakes that I had been making, and allowed me another opportunity to do the experiment again — each time more successfully and efficiently. In time, I created aspirin that got me a 98% grade, and I felt it was pure enough to swallow, to help with the migraine I had created for myself in the process.

I have faced experiences like this at Fuqua as well. I’ve even had experiences that led me to overcome my biggest fear since childhood, and I can proudly say that I made this great accomplishment. Last year, my management communications professor, Mark Brown, transformed my presentation skills and taught me how to effectively express my thoughts. I truly feared public speaking and wouldn’t speak up in groups larger than 5 people. Mark gave me tools to help me overcome my fear, and I began using crutches like index cards, and writing down speeches to practice a 100 times. My Integrative Leadership Experience team also helped me to grow from a quiet girl who did not participate in team discussions, into a girl who was able to speak proudly and confidently about my knowledge of the healthcare industry in front of a crowd of judges and spectators for a case competition (read about some of my case competition experiences). I also became a girl who could voice opposition when I saw something going wrong in public, and a girl who is now able to lead and mentor first-year students who are facing some of their biggest fears and challenges. Whether in class or at a friend’s wedding, I can effectively give an impromptu speech or even stand up in front of a large audience during a case competition and answer difficult questions (although I may be sweating up a storm). I was able to overcome my inability to speak up, and though there were very uncomfortable moments and some failures along the way, I ultimately succeeded and was transformed, with help from the Fuqua community. And more than just my classmates and professors, it is the global environment of Fuqua that inspires me to move on and force my growth.

machu picchu

A moment of reflection and solitude at Machu Picchu in Peru — feeling how far I’ve come.

Transformation Follows Failure

As I am now travelling the world (visiting London, India, Bahrain, and then studying abroad in South America), I have realized what it’s like to be in a country with a language that’s foreign to me. And I realized how many international students feel when they come to Fuqua and Durham — they may know the words in the English dictionary, but may not understand idioms and slang. But they continue to learn English. It’s their curiosity and dedication to understand the English language that shows me that nothing is impossible. When in South America, I plan on getting lost on the roads, mistranslating Spanish words, and having moments in which I’m terrified — in short, I’ll make mistakes, and there will be failures. I think this will lead to stronger memories and a greater sense of accomplishment. It will lead me to better understand myself — how I deal with conflict, how I act under pressure, and how I am able to overcome any difficulties that I may face. It will better prepare me for the consulting world, where I will face conflict with my clients, my superiors, and my teammates. It will allow me to thicken my skin and to believe in myself. Failure is all about the effort you put in — the more effort that is put into overcoming a mistake, the more likely that it will result in greater success.

I am realizing that business school is about more than just learning statistical analysis. Business school should take you out of your comfort zone in order to make you stretch and grow. It may be uncomfortable at times, but most transformational journeys are. Business school prepares you for the rigors and realities of the working world, where you will face the same industry challenges day to day, encounter bureaucracy at its height, and of course, make some decision that causes a project to be unsuccessful. But through all this, there is one thing that does not change. It is the people that you surround yourself with, the mentors that you follow, and the leader you aspire to be. Although we may fail at times, it is important to remember that failure is a natural part of life — no one is perfect. Through failure, keep your head held up high and be courageous to take a risk and accept the fall if it comes.

Life’s path is made up of slabs — with each crack comes failure, with each slab comes a new experience … and when the path is finally built, it will lead to a home of great leadership, honest work, and genius business ideas.

Nisha Asher

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Fuqua has the Ingredients for a Transformational Journey

Two years ago I was a sitting at my desk, working for one of the leading investment banks in Chile. I had recently been appointed to Senior Associate, and I was enjoying a comfortable position. At that time, my career path was all clear to me. Go to business school, then come back to the bank, and continue my career as a senior executive. But none of those plans have become a reality. The culprit? Fuqua! I have lived through a transformational experience during the last one and a half years at Duke …

fly fishing

Fly fishing in Pisgah National Park (near Asheville) during fall break.

The People

It all started when I attended multiple info sessions about the top business schools in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business was the only one that captured my attention. It was primarily because of the people. I was really impressed by how close and committed the alumni were, and how much they interacted with prospective students. Even more, it was the only info session I attended that included alumni partners, illustrating how important the community/family are at Duke (a critical issue since I was coming with my wife). After attending some of Fuqua’s other Daytime MBA admissions events including coffee chats and interviews, I felt very connected with people at Fuqua including alumni and the admissions team. The same feeling came over me once I arrived at Fuqua. The student body is just fabulous! I had never before been in a place with such a collaborative environment. Everyone is available to advise you about courses, internships, clubs, sports, or any other topic you can imagine. Interacting in such a diverse school definitely helps you to open your eyes and discover new interests.

mba student with kids

Having fun with some kids during a community service project in Mozambique during my summer internship there.

Also, Fuqua has a high proportion of international students (roughly 40%) from diverse backgrounds. If I had to name the three most important assets of Fuqua, it would be: 1. Its people, 2. Its people, 3. Its people. The admissions department clearly does a great job of selecting the best possible and most diverse student body.

The Location

Another important reason I selected Fuqua was location. This is something you may not consider when choosing schools to apply to, but it’s essential considering that you’ll spend two years of your life at business school. In my opinion, Duke is in a “paradise of the outdoors.” Imagine any sport or outdoor activity you may want to learn or practice, and you can probably do it in North Carolina, and most importantly, almost year-long because of the mild climate. In my case, I have gone fly fishing multiple times (it’s a great passion of mine!) in Asheville and the surrounding area. The weather in Durham is just perfect, and almost every weekend, I play golf with friends. The weather is also a huge asset for those who have a family since kids can enjoy the outdoors all year long (no kidding).

The Possibilities

Finally, Fuqua is a place where all doors are open. It just depends on you to open them. Although I worked in investment banking, I’ve always been attracted by social service. Given my background, would you believe me if I tell you I interned for a foundation in Maputo, Mozambique? Just look at the picture! This was made possible by Fuqua’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), a leading center in the industry that promotes initiatives such as impact investing. Read more about my summer internship. In addition, during my first year at Fuqua, I applied for a Master of Public Policy (MPP), something that I wouldn’t have considered two years ago. My experience in Africa and the testimony of some classmates encouraged me to apply. Guess what? I was accepted! Now I’m a dual degree MBA/MPP student.

Please believe me when I talk about a transformational experience at Fuqua. Here you will explore your deepest self, and pull out all those passions that have been waiting for years to come to the surface. Being a Fuqua student allows you to take action on your passions, and to even discover new ones.

Joaquin Brahm

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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