While in the Navy, trying to find submarines in the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Oman. I’m talking to my sonar team on the radio.

I don’t like teams. I dislike coordination, collaboration, and compilation. It all takes so much work, and I can do just as well by myself … Well, at least that’s what I thought before coming to Fuqua.

After spending four years in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer (responsibilities included: ship driver, leader of Sailors, general problem-solver), I realized that I wanted to go to business school to learn the quantitative skills that, coupled with my leadership experience, would help me succeed in the business world. At the time, I didn’t really think about how teamwork fit into business transactions in the “real world.” While I was applying to business school, I just knew that I had to get into and out of a good program and then get hired — that was the end goal. The idea that working in teams and being in business was synonymous did not cross my mind.

From Flying Solo to Becoming a Team Player

While trying to decide which school to attend, I tried to find a way to differentiate amongst several programs. With Fuqua, the one factor that resonated with me was how much importance is placed on teamwork. I had to be honest with myself (which is a bit of a struggle sometimes), but I knew that there was something special and beneficial about working with a diverse group of talented people. While I was in the Navy, I was in charge of countless teams and divisions, but it was rare that I had to work as a subordinate or peer within the team framework. My leadership skills were mostly derived from direct authority. I knew I was lacking in the critical areas of interpersonal relationships and influence — I didn’t know how to convince people to do something, without having the authority to order them to complete a task. Learning that Fuqua places a heavy emphasis on teamwork, right from day one, and that my success or failure here would largely result from my ability to mesh with my team was a bit intimidating. But I knew that if I wanted to improve my communication skills, there was no better place for me.

student group
With my teammates during Team Challenge Day.

So, Fuqua it was, and once I arrived in Durham, I realized that “Team Fuqua” really wasn’t lip-service or a clever slogan that the Admissions Office throws out to try to differentiate the school from other top-tier programs. I actually still feel a bit corny buying into the hype, but from my small class team to my entire Section 2 group, I can definitively say that you can’t get through a week at Fuqua and not benefit from a teammate or classmate. I’ve only been at school for two months, but I have already lost count of incidents where a peer has assisted me in one way, shape, or form. My favorite example is when someone placed my Duke Card (which is my school ID) on the trunk of my car. I’m a bit of an airhead when it comes to keeping track of trivial things, such as credit cards, driver’s licenses, and apparently, Duke Cards. Luckily, an anonymous classmate found my card and knew to return it to my car. What a lifesaver! Other examples include: sharing Sour Patch Kids in class, tutoring each other for a statistics quiz, and holding mock interview sessions to prepare for internship interviews. The list will continue to grow in the months ahead, I can assure you.

And talk about variety! My small team has more diversity within it than I had within my entire friend group in San Diego. My teammates include a South Korean woman with a 6-month-old son; a student from Monterrey, Mexico; a former Navy contractor from New Jersey; a consultant from LA; and a business analyst from Shanghai, China. Being around all of these incredibly talented individuals makes me realize how big the world really is and how important diversity is for a team. Don’t get me wrong: I studied abroad in Argentina for 6 months during college and have been to 45 countries either with the Navy or with my family. But this is the first time when I’ve had to work with people from different backgrounds on a consistent basis for a prolonged period of time. Instead of the headaches and coordination problems I thought it would lead to, being thrust into such an unknown environment has given me a new appreciation for the sacrifices international students make to come to Durham. Not to mention, the enthusiasm they have for being able to study in America is contagious!

Best Place for Personal Growth

In short, Fuqua was the obvious best fit for me from the beginning of my MBA search. I just had to take the time to think about what skills I needed to develop in order to grow into the kind of well-rounded business woman I want to be. Sometimes it’s painful to step outside of your comfort zone and surround yourself with things that are uncomfortable, but trust me, you’ll be a better person for it. So, for those of you who are considering Fuqua, enjoy the process of applying, and make sure to reflect on all of your preconceived assumptions about yourself and others! And keep track of your Duke Card.