My name is Stephanie - call me Steph. I am blessed with a loving, loyal family. I
recently got married in Napa, California. I received my MBA from The University
of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2009 and now work in Merchandising at
Tiffany & Co. in New York. My loves include traveling, biking, a long game of
poker, limbo, red wine, and, of course, my amazing husband.
You’ve followed your family’s vision of your education and career to the T. High
grades, top university, and a respectable first job in Finance. At the ripe age of
23 you are about to please your family even more by pursuing your MBA.
But you’re intimidated. The two years of work experience you’ve gained pales in
comparison to that of your classmates, in some cases six years or more. Their
lengthy accomplishments – prestigious jobs on Wall Street, dual-graduate
degrees, etc. – make you question your place in the program. Don’t shy away.
Take this opportunity to listen to their various perspectives and collaborate with
them. At the same time, don’t discount the knowledge and insights you can offer.
They will be respected.
You start attending career fairs, receive additional invites to recruiting events,
and eventually internship interview requests. This traction helps you gain
confidence in your potential. Moreover, you befriend an amazing group of
girlfriends who you bond with over a love for all-you-can-eat sushi and nights out
dancing to Hip Hop. Age gap is no longer an insecurity.
Business school allows career flexibility – an extension of your previous career
path or a career change. While you aren’t particularly interested in Finance, you
continue down that route because you view it as a prestigious field. In hindsight,
don’t be close-minded. Reevaluate your preconceived notions of other industries
and explore those paths. This will prove instrumental.
During your second year of school you receive a call from your mom in Maryland
that your father had a heart attack the prior week but was thankfully recovering.
You are stunned as to why you are hearing this news a week after the fact. Mom
explains that they didn’t want to interrupt your studying for midterms. She will
selflessly say, “don’t worry.”
While you are relieved your father’s condition is improving, you are filled with
confusion and guilt. Although you don’t agree your parents should have kept the
news from you, you understand their good intentions. They love you so much
and want to protect you. Now you are even more motivated to fulfill their vision
of your success. You will land an internship in Sales & Trading at an Investment
Bank and become an Economist at a brokerage firm after graduating. You think
you are satisfied with your career progression. Two years later this firm files for
bankruptcy and you are out of a job. Worries quickly arise. How will you find a
new job? What will your family and friends think of you? How will you continue
to pay New York rent?
Your boyfriend at the time (now husband!) will be one of your strongest
supporters. He will challenge you to think deeply about your overall career
trajectory. Do you really see yourself in this field 20 years from now? At first you
resist the idea of change. You had progressed nicely and pursuing a new career
could mean starting from ground zero. However, you eventually become honest
with yourself and recognize Finance is not your passion. You have always loved
retail products and are curious about companies and their opportunities. You
make a pivotal decision to break away from your parents’ vision and be open to
In contemplating switching to the Retail industry you spend hours researching
companies but online research just isn’t enough. You crawl out of hibernation
and actively seek and meet people who work in retail - your business school
network, friends, and friends of friends. They will provide invaluable insights and
tips. Be grateful and always pay it forward.
Just as you were first intimidated when starting business school at a young age,
you are again concerned about how you stack up against seasoned Retail
professionals. This time you are able to learn from your business school
experience and recognize your capabilities and how you can leverage them in a
It will take several months before you receive a job offer. You don’t realize it at
the time but the hardest part of this process is not necessarily finding this new
job, but telling your parents you are going to diverge from the supposedly neat
path you were on. Now it’s your time to trust your instincts, take risks, and tell
your parents, “don’t worry.”
Steph and I recently met a few years ago through my college friend, Erik (she married his older brother). She's super sharp, a go-getter, but also has the sweetest disposition. We've bonded over many glasses (ok, bottles) of red wine and spontaneous limbo sessions within our group of married folk (including Pili) and we can't ever seem to check off all the places we want to dine at together - perhaps one day we'll share our list with everyone.