Annette Gore, MBA alumna from SMU Cox School of Business, shares her MBA experience.
Name: Annette Gore
School: MBA, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University
Profession: Corporate Strategy, AT&T, Dallas, Texas
What do you think is your program's greatest asset?
It’s tough for me to pick one, so I’ll outline two! First, the Cox School of Business at SMU has a strong alumni network. My undergraduate institution was a large state school with over 300k alumni, and when I came to SMU I thought it would be hard to find a network that could provide me more connections than a state school could. I quickly learned that Cox’s network, both locally and internationally, is so strong that the quality of the network outweighs the quantity. Cox alumni are eager to assist in job planning and searching and are always open to a conversation with a new student. It speaks very highly of the experience, staff, and quality of students that alumni are so interested in staying involved. Second, Cox’s Global Leadership Program is an asset to the school. Full-time, two year students have a week-long trip included in tuition and additional trips are offered 2x/year. Even though I was a one year MBA student and the traditional week-long trip wasn’t available to me, I was still able to attend two of the additional trips, both of which exposed me to new environments with unique business challenges that enhanced my international business knowledge. Each country I visited and explored was different - Argentina faces a constantly uneven economy, Chile has limited resources, and the UAE is the hub for Middle Eastern activity with 80-90% expat representation. I will certainly be able to apply these learnings while working in an increasing global business environment moving forward.
Why an MBA?
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you?
Prior to getting my MBA, I worked as a consulting manager for a big 4 firm. I was initially hired into consulting for my knowledge set (I had worked previously for a reputable healthcare software vendor) and worked alongside peers who typically entered consulting with an MBA. Despite not having an advanced degree, I was able to demonstrate a strong program and people management skillset that made me successful in my career but I always admired those with MBAs – they had an ability to frame concepts and perspectives in a way that demonstrated advanced knowledge of how the pieces of the business landscape interacted. Once I knew I wanted to make a pivot out of traditional consulting and into the local business market, I decided that an MBA (specifically a one year program) would help me develop my local network and refine my skillset with new concepts that would help advance my career for the long-term.
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
I defined early on in the process what I thought I needed and wanted to gain from an MBA program and focused on that in my research. My goals were to remain in Dallas, expand my local professional network, gain more global business experience, concentrate in strategy coursework, and to complete my MBA in one year. Not only did the Cox School of Business offer an MBA that could meet each of these goals, but also a rigorous course load that would serve to complement the skills I learned in my professional career to prepare me for the next step in my career.
How much are you in touch with the alumni network? Are they helpful in making connections with companies? What did you learn about creating and utilizing networks during your MBA?
One of Cox’s greatest assets is its alumni network. The network is instrumental in making connections to companies, especially in the local (and hot!) DFW job market. As students we were encouraged to reach out to alumni to introduce ourselves, develop relationships, and navigate the interview process. I cold-called several of these alumni and every single one responded and made time for me which was a strong testament to the commitment of the alumni network. To help me manage these new relationships, I made a tracker to remind myself of who I’d met, what we discussed, and when to touch base again to strengthen the relationships. SMU Cox also has an alumni advisory board that pairs each student with an alumnus to provide career advice and job leads, which had a strong impact on my experience at Cox.
Advice for future applicants
What is it like to transition back to school after being out for a few years? What advice can you offer students returning for their MBA?
After being out of school for as long as I had, the transition back to school was definitely not as smooth as I would have hoped. Having to do homework and study for tests was such a change from client service activities, but I quickly realized the same disciplines from the working world apply to school as well. Once I started to treat the MBA experience like a job, I found it easier to structure my day and handle the new normal of balancing school work, activities, and job search. Additionally, I prioritized each day’s activities around my ultimate goals of the experience, which for me were expanding my network in Dallas and getting the job I desired, and this helped me keep focus on what I truly needed when more and more was piled on my plate.
What are some of the dos and don'ts in the MBA preparation process?
Do make a list of your goals for getting your MBA – what do you want to do with an advanced degree? What skills do you already possess and what do you need to get to this next level in your career? Once you’ve defined your direction and what you need to get there, you can start to research which MBA programs are best suited for you. Do talk to other MBAs to better understand the experience and expectations as this will better prepare you for the journey. Do continue to refer to your goal list often during the process and beyond. This will help guide decision-making and priority setting for your MBA experience.
Don’t focus on trying to get into the best school from a rankings perspective, but rather focus on the right school for YOU. This will take you further in the long-run if your school/program is aligned to your needs and not the needs of others. Each school/program offers different features and research is needed to understand what will work best for you. I truly believe that there is a program out there for everyone.
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