My journey through grad school was far from traditional. After graduating with my undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Missouri, I had a single vow after I graduated: “I will never go back to school again!”

Fast forward eight years in the insurance industry—I completed 12 exams and earned my Associate Underwriting and Charter Property Casualty Underwriting designations and completed my first graduate degree, a Master of Science in Innovation from Northeastern University.

During those years, I was searching, trying to find myself and figure out the true meaning of career happiness. Up to that point, I’d taken a job to have a job, to have money in my pocket, and to continue the drive towards financial freedom. I knew I ’had‘ to get an MBA if I ever wanted to get into senior leadership, but I never suspected the journey would make the word “unconventional” look…conventional.

Dinner with my husband and classmates during our residency in Peru at the start of Term 3 in January 2020

The Pandemic Upends Our World

Entering 2020 I was employed full time in an IT job I thought was OK, not sure where I wanted to go in the company, and still trying to find myself. I was entering my third term at Fuqua in Duke’s Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) class, and serving as a class liaison. It took only two months into the year for the world to turn upside down and for everything I knew to shift dramatically. COVID came like a whirlwind and the first thing it took out was our cohort’s planned trip to India for the start of Term 4.

My dreams for the next 10 months were crumbling and the dominos fell rapidly. The next to go was Patrick, my husband, being furloughed by his company. Then, not three weeks later, I get the call: “You’re being let go.” My husband poured me a glass of red wine and we just sat there together. A few weeks later my husband’s company got bought, he was informed he would need to take a pay cut, which he did to make sure we had health insurance. My husband and I had long talks about whether I should find a temporary job just for the additional income. Patrick said “Don’t worry about the money, we’ll figure it out, we always do. Focus on school…and find something that makes you happy.”

As the year went on it became clear that our cohort wasn’t going to go anywhere for the foreseeable future. All of our international residencies were canceled and we were nervous our time in Durham in October for our final in-person classes would also be impacted.  

Every week I met with my career coach, Mary Grey Jacobson, and talked about strategies for my career search. I sent out my resume, contacted alumni, and tried everything to get my name out there. Months of silence started to gnaw at me and I was getting discouraged. The one positive I could see was the relationships I was creating in my Fuqua journey.

My husband and I then faced another dilemma: when would we start our family? We discussed waiting until my MBA program was over, but being jobless, and with no desirable prospects on the horizon, I decided it was time to at least ‘try,’ and we pulled the trigger. However, we were just met with more heartbreak. Month after month, we were not getting pregnant. I started to wonder if something was wrong. What if we couldn’t have a family? What if that just wasn’t in the cards for us. Then, everything changed again.

Things Begin Falling Into Place

I had been preparing to do on-campus interviews in October, but what I wasn’t planning on was getting an interview outside of the on-campus opportunities. I had been looking for roles at Salesforce for monthsthey were first on my target list. When I applied, I thought it was going to take months for them to get back to me. However, in the blink of an eye I ended up with three job offers from leadership programs—and one from Salesforce. That job was in sales, something I said I would NEVER do, but it turned out to be my dream job at my dream company. I started my first day and a week later we found out we were pregnant! Meanwhile, I completed my last final exam at Fuqua—a bittersweet moment. Then 2021 came and it felt like our lives jumped into 100th gear.

Within the first month of 2021, we decided it was time to sell our condo so we could finally buy a home. During my first trimester, I was able to complete my Salesforce Admin and Salesforce App Builder Certifications. Work was exciting and I was given my new territory. Then suddenly we got an offer on our condo without having bought a new home ourselves. We made the decision to move in with my mother, and finally adopted our second dog—a new puppy.

Closing on our new home

With our lives in storage, a new puppy in the house, and me entering my second trimester, we buckled down and tried to find a home in the middle of the craziest real estate market in years.  After numerous offers and disappointments, we finally got good news on Mother’s Day—our offer was accepted! Soon we were moved in, and at 12:57 a.m. on September 5, 2021, I got to meet my son, Jack Brian Gibler Crane.

During my recovery, our class got the green light that a graduation celebration in Durham was happening for my GEMBA 2020 class. I was thrilled that not only was I able to go and reunite with my classmates, but I was able to share this experience with my son.

Looking back, 2020 was a tough year. It felt like everything was exploding and nothing seemed to be steady. Fast forward to the end of 2021, everything fit into place like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. With the help of Fuqua, I was able to find my dream job, pivot into a role I never would have applied to in the first place, and work at a company I am passionate about. I love being a Fuqua graduate and a Duke alum.

Jack ‘enjoying’ our graduation celebration