There are many ways in which I hope to contribute to the Duke community, as a student in the MBA program. First of all, I am eager to play a strong role in my first-year Consequential Leadership (C-LEAD) team. While enhancing my collaboration skills, I envision bringing both my experience as an Air Force team leader, leading a squad of soldiers who specialized in advanced tactical communication equipment; and as a product development engineer, a role in which I collaborated with engineers from different countries. I believe that these roles have combined to provide me unique insight that can benefit my teammates.
As my short-term career goal is to become a product manager in the Internet of Things (IoT Tech), I plan to take on a leadership role in the Tech Club, and to become involved in several activities within the auspices of the club.
First, I plan to leverage Duke’s location in the Triangle area to create events focused on the field of IoT, such as “Tech Talks.” Among our guests could be industry experts, such as Kevin Ashton, who not only cofounded the Auto-ID Center at MIT but actually coined the phrase “the Internet of Things.” This will allow my classmates and I to deepen our knowledge of this emergent and fast-growing field that will affect the way we work, connect and live in the future. I plan to leverage my connections at my current employer, which has two branches in Raleigh, to bring experts from the company to talk in the school as well; an opportunity for students to both gain knowledge and meet a potential employer.
Also under the auspices of the tech club, I believe I can help the students who are interested in a career in high tech to gain additional exposure to the field. Towards this end, I plan to organize a tech trek to Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area through “Week-in-Cities,” as well as to arrange company visits to conglomerates such as Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM and Microsoft.
Furthermore, I envision using my experience at my employer, where I interviewed potential hires, to help fellow students applying for positions in the field of technology prepare for their interviews.
One of, if not the, most meaningful volunteer activity I was involved with in my life was volunteering to design a volunteer program at my employer, which was targeted to improve involvement of high school students from weak areas/cities such as the city where I grew up in, in the STEM fields. The idea was to gather a group of motivated engineers who would help these students to improve their English and mathematical skills, as well as to mentor the more dedicated students to enter and compete in regional and national competitions, such as the nation-wide Robotics contest, in which contestants built drones to compete with other teams, and the national Cyber competition, sponsored by the Ministry of Education. The latter was a competition that increased students’ knowledge of coding and – more importantly – taught them the importance of meeting challenges as a group. One of my teams even reached the finals in this event.
At Duke, I plan to apply these skills by organizing programs through the Net Impact, to support local high schools by organizing a group of Fuqua students to teach courses about Technology and entrepreneurship.
From speaking to current students and alumni, I am looking forward to take part in the activities Duke has to offer besides the professional clubs.
One example of this is snowboarding, a hobby I’ve loved for the past few years, as much for the après ski at the end of the day as for the thrill of soaring down mountains at lightning speed. I’ve traveled each winter to Europe for snowboarding, and I’m excited to experience the annual winter ski trips from Duke, and the annual 80s party at the summit.
Furthermore, because I did not attend a sport-dominated school and am not familiar with basketball culture, I eagerly look forward to the traditional “Camp out” event I have heard so much about, seeing Coach K, forming a team with my classmates, renting equipment, and participating in the activities. I am sure we will survive for those 36 hours and get those seasonal passes.
For all of these reasons, I am confident that Duke is the best program to support my future goals while giving me the personal fulfillment to contribute to the society and my classmates by being a part of Team Fuqua.
Business schools look for candidates who not only have something to gain from an MBA program, but also something to contribute. Think about that. What can you contribute to an MBA class? We invite you to explore the different types of contributions you can demonstrate through your application and then to meet two students who have already answered this question. You might also want to take a look at our guide to crafting your best MBA application.
We also know that if you aren't yet sure you see yourself as an MBA candidate, you may not feel ready to even approach the "What can you contribute" question, and that's okay—you’ll soon discover that self-reflection is a big part of the MBA application process.
Demonstrating your work experience, academic potential, and passion to an MBA program
The application review process for the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA, Full-time MBA, and Berkeley MBA for Executives programs is quite holistic, meaning that your whole application is examined to determine the value of your experience and expertise.
"We look at every aspect of someone's candidacy to evaluate program contributions and make that final decision," says Eileen Jacob, senior assistant director of admissions of MBA Programs for Working Professionals. "This includes looking at applicants' job responsibilities, investments they’ve made in their team and department, impacts they've made at their companies, formal and informal leadership experience, and opportunities they've taken advantage of with professional organizations or events and clubs at work. We also look at contributions outside of work, including community involvement, active membership or leadership in organizations, and interest in various hobbies or causes.”
Tip: Look at other areas of your life in which you're already making a contribution, and think about how what you bring could translate to business school.
“When considering academic potential, we examine undergraduate and any graduate transcripts and overall academic progress in chosen areas of study. We also notice when applicants take an active role in making themselves as competitive as possible. For example, some Berkeley MBA applicants show initiative by bolstering their quantitative abilities with math courses like the UC Berkeley Extension Math for Management course.”
“Aside from professional and academic experience, we want to see students who have drive and who are getting their MBA because they have passion for their career plans and for creating new opportunities for the future. If you're showing those areas of excitement early on, you will get us more interested in learning how you can contribute to the Berkeley MBA community."
One applicant's approach: underscoring design thinking experience
Shivam Goyal, senior product manager at Adobe Systems and a second year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, evaluated his potential contributions by examining his past, and he recommends that other applicants do the same.
"It is important not to discount the uniqueness of your own journey," says Shivam. "Admissions committees care less about big achievements or awards and more about personal anecdotes that will help them assess you as human being. When you dig deep and think about what triggered the events in your life to get you where you are today, it helps you understand and demonstrate who you are.”
Tip: Focus less on big achievements and awards and more on personal anecdotes that let admissions committees get to know you as a human being.
“Self-reflection helped me think about what I am bringing to the program, why that makes me unique, and what past events shaped my work and education experiences. For example, I started off as a design thinker. When I saw problems in the area where I was growing up, such as people not having universal access to information because of the digital divide between rural and urban populations and the lack of technology penetration in all strata of the society, it instilled a sense of humility and keenness to solve difficult social problems and made me think about the benefits of a design education."
"I started off as a user experience designer and was really close to the customer in terms of building the product. I started thinking about how I could contribute more by influencing product strategy at its inception and moved into a product management role. In that role, I realized the need for gaining business acumen to compliment my design and technology background. That's what led me to an MBA program.”
“The design experience I acquired in undergraduate school and at work was unique to me and I thought it might be something valuable that I could bring to the program. I knew I could talk about customer empathy and solving real-world cases for a particular user problem to get the right outcome when introducing a product into the market. When I started writing my essays, I pushed myself to think and write about those experiences so that I could really tell a story about me as a person."
Sharing thoughts on how you'd add value both inside and outside the classroom
Sera Lee, bank examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco and a first year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, did a lot of research prior to applying to the program and realized that her work experience was one of her most valuable assets.
"Looking at the statistics, I knew that fewer Evening & Weekend MBA students were on the banking side," says Sera. "When considering what I could contribute to the program, I thought about how I could provide the value of my work experience in classes like ethics, finance, or macroeconomics. I figured I could be the voice of the banking industry and share some of the experiences that I have gone through in my work. And by being around people in different industries, I have been able to learn what's going on in their worlds.”
Tip: Check out the class profile to see if you bring experience that is under-represented
“I also have a passion for community volunteering. In my admissions essay, I wrote about the possibility of creating a program or student club committed to volunteering as an example of how I could contribute to the program outside of class."
Sera recommends that applicants do a lot of research in order to figure out which MBA program is the best fit for their contributions, but she also encourages them to be open to exploring.
"I sometimes tell my friends that they should get an MBA, and they tell me they don't see themselves as a 'business person' or a 'leader type.' I'm sure all of us have thought that at one time during the pre-application or application process. It's important to be open to exploration and change. Don't let the voice inside your head prevent you from taking that step forward. If you're open to learning, being adventurous, and meeting new people, you're ready to contribute to an MBA class."