Jerome shares his thoughts on how getting involved changed his MBA experience
As I wind down my graduation celebrations and time in Pittsburgh, I’m overcome with emotion thinking about how this journey began. I find myself filled with gratitude reflecting on how the National Black MBA Association and Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh changed my life. Prior to the pandemic, I was flirting with the idea of going back to school, but there were plenty of questions I asked myself from how I could afford this to what I would even want to do with my MBA. Through the guidance of Katz alumni and my mentors, I understood the value of obtaining my MBA and its feasibility from people I knew personally who completed their MBA programs. In Spring 2020 I was the recipient of a full scholarship from the National Black MBA Association and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. Like it was yesterday I remember running around my house full of excitement fantasizing about the leader I knew I would grow to be after graduation. At the time I was familiar with the adage “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, but little did I know I would soon learn the meaning of the rest of the phrase “but they were laying bricks every hour”.
When I arrived in Pittsburgh mid-pandemic we were fully virtual, and this brought a unique challenge to collaboration and networking with new people in a new city. My solution was to get involved on campus as a student leader serving as a member of the Katz Student Executive Board and Vice President of the Business Technology Club. While serving on the Student Executive Board, there was an opportunity for select members to work with KPMG, and the African American Director’s Forum (AADF) to examine African-American representation on the boards of public Fortune 1000 companies. This research with the AADF sparked my interest in board service while gaining an enhanced understanding of the C-Suite. My MBA experience consistently exposed me to levels of business and leadership I previously knew nothing about both in and out of the classroom. These leadership roles allowed me to further strengthen my relationships with classmates, alumni, and Katz Career Management all of whom helped me prepare for the 2020 Virtual National Black MBA Association conference. Following a successful career fair at the conference, I landed a product management internship at Cisco originally slated to begin in the summer of 2021. During my interview process, the team at Cisco felt my background and skill set could be an immediate asset, and presented me with the opportunity to begin my internship in early January of 2021.
In my spring semester at Katz, my education from coursework and case competitions was now being directly supplemented by real-world MBA experience at Cisco. During the Spring and Summer of my internship, I witnessed my case studies from the classroom playing out in my work meetings. Going into the second year of my MBA program I maintained my leadership positions as I continued my Cisco internship further understanding cross-functional work and relationships at an enterprise level. At Cisco, I had the opportunity to experience product ownership from end to end culminating in a presentation to senior leadership. By incorporating independent studies into my curriculum centered around my experiences at Cisco I fully integrated my internship and education experiences as one. The experienced-based education I received taught me what it meant to be a product manager and an MBA.
In the Fall of 2021, I was able to attend the National Black MBA Association conference both in-person in Chicago and virtually where I connected with employees at Intel who invited me for an interview. The opportunity offered felt like a culmination of my journey from an industrial engineer arriving at Katz to an MBA graduate. My technical background, business acumen, problem-solving, leadership, and interpersonal skills felt sharpened and I knew I was ready to be a catalyst for change in a new role and experience a new place. I am excited to announce I accepted Intel’s offer to join their Sales and Marketing Rotational Program in Chandler, Arizona this fall. My journey has been filled with supportive family, friends, classmates, mentors, peers, alumni, and countless others who believed in me and gave me the tools I needed to be successful every hour. My gratitude for everyone who saw potential in me and sacrificed their time to help me is immense, and I know I would not have these opportunities without you all. I look forward to paying it forward to the next generation of MBAs who embark on their own unique journey brick by brick.
See you in the Valley of the Sun 😎