Business needs you. But what does career advancement really look like for Black and Latinx MBAs? Having a career in business doesn’t only mean making it big on Wall Street—earning an MBA can open career pathways in a diverse array of fields.
Earlier this year, The MBA Tour hosted a panel with the National Black MBA Association, the premier business organization serving Black professionals. The panel of Black and Latinx business school alums discussed what they do on a day-to-day basis, why they like (or dislike) their jobs, and how the MBA helped them achieve career success. In addition, they got into how access to exciting jobs is not the only value of an MBA, and how being part of a network of alumni can provide a wealth of opportunities beyond graduation.
Continue below to watch highlights from the discussion and gain the perspectives of graduates who have successfully walked the path you’re interested in.
The power of the MBA alumni network
“As people of color, we rely on a level of support from one another,” began panel moderator Paula Fontana, Vice President of Strategic Program Initiatives at the National Black MBA Association. “Tell me about your alumni network support. How critical was that network in gaining opportunities—either right after business school or subsequently?”
“They were able to pass the torch along and give us advice…give us the inside scoop so that we could quickly ramp up and figure out how to approach recruiting,” explained Priscilla Esquivel Weninger, a Senior Consultant at Deloitte and alum of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Recruiting for iBanking, for consulting, it’s something that has to be really thought through strategically and carefully and so you really rely on those people to tell you the ‘hidden rules’ of these spaces and what it looks like…”
The people skills you develop at business school
Moderator Paula Fontana asked a question from the listeners: “Do you recommend courses that focus on people skills?”
“I almost didn’t go to Wharton because I had a lot of self-doubt,” began Jessica Pugh, a Central Strategy & Operations Manager at Google and alum of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “So for myself, while I majored in organizational effectiveness classes, it was really about being put in a situation where I had to really recognize my own self-worth and what I bring to the table and I think that has served me so well in my professional career.”
“From my perspective, you don’t need a people-focused class, but I think you need to be fully immersive in your MBA experience to take in all you can learn and to leave with confidence in yourself so that ultimately you can bet on yourself at every junction in your career. ”
Why is it important for people of color to pursue an MBA?
“I would never say ‘everyone should get an MBA,’” said Priscilla Esquivel Weninger of Texas McCombs and Deloitte. “It definitely has to be the right fit for you. I think for a lot of people of color who are trying to advance in their careers in business, or even in social impact, and MBA has incredible ROI compared to other master’s degrees.”
“One thing I would add is that is credibility and perception,” said Jessica Hugh of Google and Wharton. “As a person of color, you’re not always given the luxury of the benefit of the doubt, but I think having an MBA can put you in a certain situation or certain rooms that enable you to have additional credibility, as well as allow you to open the door for others.”
The intersection of business and social justice
“I think this last year has brought about the opportunity to have a lot of conversations,” said Carlos Gonzalez, Division President of Clark Consulting Group and alum of the Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego. “I think those organizations that are business smart and people smart did evolve over the last year, and in my observation some of that evolution was just the willingness and recognition to have more open conversations.”
“For me personally, I grew a lot on the importance of representation. I always sort of was defensive about me being a person of color, because I didn’t want people to see it as a crutch…I neglected the importance that me being of person of color had on others who were looking at me as a potential role model.”
Advice for current Black and Latinx MBA applicants
Lastly, the panel was asked to give final piece of advice to current candidates.