Why a business school dropout is getting her MBA
I have a confession: I dropped out of business school. In undergrad, that is. It was over as soon as I finished my first semester of accounting. I walked out of that class and straight into a communications degree and never looked back. The communications degree has served me well; from the first six years of my career as a political press writer to now leading the state government affairs team at Emory University, I have relied on my communication and writing skills in every aspect of my career.
Yet as I began to grow into my role at Emory, I quickly realized that navigating a 30,000-person organization would require a new set of skills. Developing legislative strategy for a large organization requires contextualizing the nuanced world of politics for a myriad of internal constituencies. Business school has given me the language to articulate the challenges that we face as an organization and the frameworks for how to make the right decisions on a path forward.
In just over a year into my MBA program, I can see a difference in the way I communicate strategies and decisions tailored to the different interests of my organization’s business units. A lightbulb moment was when I learned about emergence in organizational theory, wherein solutions cannot be imposed but instead arise from the circumstances of a complex environment. That is politics. This concept has since helped me better illustrate to our organization’s business leaders how certain political challenges will impact Emory and its community.
Speaking the language of both business and politics allows me to bridge the gap between defensively responding to changing political tides and using those tides to establish a proactive position. Most of my government relations colleagues do not have MBAs. Law degrees are popular but not required. While experience and influence are what count most in my field, I have found an invaluable cross section between business management and political strategy. Effectively translating the impact of ambiguous and fluctuating political forces on our organization in a way that resonates with my internal constituencies can drive better decision making and positioning.
The experience at Goizueta has markedly improved my perception of business school, particularly when seeing how its teachings can be applied for those in nontraditional industries. I’m thankful to Emory’s support and encouragement for its employees to pursue endeavors like an MBA. Above all, I’m grateful that I finally made it through accounting!