I’ve always found clichés to be trite; the oft-quoted words never seem to fully capture the true depth of one’s emotions and feelings but are used so often that the true meaning is lost and misunderstood. And yet, there is no other way to describe my experience at Fuqua than to say that is has definitely been a journey and not a destination (as written by Ralph Waldo Emerson or sung by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, at the risk of “dating” myself).

As a practicing academic physician on track for early promotion, enrolling at Fuqua was seen in my eyes as an avenue to further my potential career in health care administration. I always had the desire to foster my interest in the intersection of health care and business and earning an MBA seemed like the ideal accelerant to that path. Certainly, classes in leadership, ethics and strategy made sense if I wanted to pursue a career as an administrator.

An interesting thing happened during those first several terms though. I found myself really enjoying classes like operations management (who knew you could learn so much from a cookie factory?) and decision models (Monte Carlo simulations, anyone?). These classes and many others seemed to reawaken in me a love of learning that I had not experienced for several years. I felt myself growing again and was exhilarated to feel like I was using a different part of my intellect. Leaning into this growth mindset led me to other opportunities outside the traditional Executive MBA curricula, such as becoming a New Ventures Fellow within Duke’s Office for Translation and Commercialization.

Even outside the classroom, meetings with the Career Management Center and my career coach to “design my life” furthered my personal growth. I learned the difference between engaging work and energizing work and how the two can often be conflated. It forced me to take a hard look at my own career thus far and think about how I wanted that to fit into my life and not the other way around. My initial plan of being a health care administrator soon came into question. Is this something I really wanted to pursue? With what I was learning about myself, did that path make sense anymore? Did I have the courage to try something I had not foreseen?

Forcing myself to ask these types of questions sometimes felt isolating and alone, but I only had to look around the classroom to know that I wasn’t. Many of my own classmates were similarly challenging themselves in refreshing ways. Some were switching companies for new exciting roles, some were switching industries altogether, while others still were starting their own companies. Seeing the courage of my classmates who took on these opportunities with the skills they acquired inspired me to pursue my own career switch.

My interest in management consulting grew organically from the confluence of these self-discoveries. Leveraging my Fuqua and LinkedIn networks, I found that others had made a similar transition and emerged successful on the other side. More importantly, they felt that with every study and project, they were accumulating new skills and growing professionally and personally. With the support of my friends, classmates, and family, I undertook the initial steps on this path and am excited to start on this new journey in the Spring that will allow me to scale and broaden my impact on health care.

I came to Fuqua because I thought it was the penultimate waypoint to a pre-determined destination but what I found was much more valuable. Instead, Fuqua taught me the skills and gave me the confidence to navigate on my own journey, allowing me to choose a new and exciting path filled with growth opportunities I never knew I wanted.