Sherrie Johnson, a 2nd year Full-Time MBA Student at SMU Cox School of Business, explains how her entrepreneurial motivations led her to make a career switch from engineering and pursue an MBA. She also shares her advice for prospective students.
Name: Sherrie Johnson
School: MBA, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University
Profession: 2nd year in full-time MBA program at SMU Cox School of Business
Why an MBA?
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? Do you have advice for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
People pursue MBAs for a lot of different reasons. Coming from an engineering undergrad, I knew that I needed to round out my understanding of business in order to be able to be truly effective in any possible future path. I wanted to acquire that understanding in the most efficient ways possible.
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
Based on the advice of mentor, I looked at programs based on two primary factors:
(1) Location (i.e. Can I see myself in this city/region long term?)
(2) Classmates (i.e. Can I see myself being friends with the people in this class?)
What do you think is your program's greatest asset?
There are many things I have loved about my experience at SMU Cox, but the true greatest asset has to be the Network. I have been perpetually amazed at the investment and support from the community, corporations, and alumni. There is simply no better way to come to Dallas than through the MBA program at SMU.
What are some activities you were involved with outside of class? How did you balance your time?
SMU Cox Business Plan Competition (1st place), Tigerlaunch Business Plan Competition, PitchAustin, SMU Cox Dean Search Committee, MBA Non-Profit Consulting Program, Cox Leadership Forum (Business Leadership Center), Cox Christian Fellowship, Entrepreneurship Club, Coach at White Rock Rowing Club.
In terms of balancing time, it is a continuous fight to stay focused. There will be days when you are simply overwhelmed by the volume and variety of opportunities for you to get involved. You don’t have unlimited time. The best you can do is to commit to be involved, and be strategic about where, based on what you are trying to do/what you need to learn.
What has been your favorite classroom experience?
It’s too close to call between two classes:
(1) Master Negotiations - This course was almost entirely simulation based, with live negotiations in every class, giving us the opportunity to apply the concepts introduced in the lectures. It was incredible to see how quickly my patterns of thought and communication changed as I developed through each negotiation.
(2) Customer Loyalty Management - In this course, we partnered with the AAdvantage program at American Airlines. We were given the opportunity to analyze data from 10,000 AAdvantage members. We integrated analytical findings with those from market research to derive insights and recommendations, which we presented to AA Loyalty program leadership at the end of the course.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue an MBA? What inspired you?
I am extremely entrepreneurially inclined. I started considering MBA programs when I realized that success in business requires more than just a good idea, technical expertise, or the willingness to take risks. My ability to understand and integrate business principles will determine how well I can impact the world for good through business. I chose a full-time MBA program because it would be the fastest way to acquire to acquire the knowledge I knew I needed!
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?
I used to think of “networking” as a dirty word, but I quickly realized that it is just developing relationships -- which I love! Now “networking” is a large part of my life. I am constantly in touch with people in the SMU alumni network. Alumni have been tremendously helpful in the following:
(1) Connecting me with companies.
(2) Connecting me with the local community.
3) Supporting me in my pursuit of my own business ideas.
(4) Mentoring me as I have worked through the possible paths post-graduation. I can’t wait to be on the other side of those mentoring/coaching relationships!
Did you do an internship during your MBA? How did that experience influence your education and career?
Yes! I worked as a Product Manager for Salesforce. This experience reopened the tech industry for me as an option after a few years away from practicing as an engineer. It also exposed me to incredibly good management, which I will do my best to imitate throughout my career, no matter the context.
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?
Take a speed reading class before you start. If you don’t have an business/finance background, start learning “the grammar” over the summer. Shut down your laptop and make a habit of being engaged in class.
Bonus Question: What is the best advice you received during your MBA?
- Develop your narrative. Full time MBAs sometimes get a rep for not knowing what they are doing with their lives, so have a narrative, even if that narrative changes. You’ll be able to cycle through options more quickly if you choose one too, because people will know how to help you explore it.
- Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. ”80% of success is showing up.” Be willing to get up and present. Go to lunches, go to happy hours. Network with other programs (EMBA, PMBA, etc). Sign up to do things that you don’t feel like you are ready for!
- Find something to ask people about. If you have a business idea that you would like to develop, go for it. I’ve never in my life been so humbled by the volume and quality of people who are willing to offer advice and invest in me. And when people generous to share their time and insight with you, buy their food/drink. Say thank you.
Are you interested in getting your MBA? Meet with Admissions Directors from SMU Cox and other top Business Schools at our upcoming events! Registration is Free!