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Three Learnings from My First Month at MIT Sloan

MBA

Leadership

Putting Sloan Values into Practice

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If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably Googled the question “Why MIT Sloan?” a few times before, during, and even after the MBA application process. Your search results (all 13.2M of them) probably included references to Sloan’s rigorous and rewarding coursework, robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, and deep focuses in the areas of technology, business analytics, and operations. These, without a doubt, make Sloan one of the world’s premier learning institutions. However, these results fail to capture what initially drew me to MIT and what I believe have been the defining characteristics of my Sloan experience – the people, our community, and our shared Sloan Values.

Before I even knew that I wanted to go to business school, I had my first meaningful interaction with a Sloanie early in my professional career. As a new junior member of my company’s Corporate Strategy team, I was assigned Kaitlyn Caughlin (MBA 2012) as a “buddy” – someone to help show me the ropes and get me up-to-speed on what I needed to know about the team to be successful. Having had “buddies” like Kaitlyn in the past, I assumed our relationship would be pretty transactional; she would probably show me where the printer was, and maybe even stop by my desk to make sure I was getting settled in ok.

But Kaitlyn quickly shattered any misconceptions I had. From the very beginning, Kaitlyn was kind and supportive, very quickly becoming a close friend on the team. The more I interacted with her, the more I was in awe of her natural leadership style and strategic thinking skillset. She became the person on the team I aspired to be most like, for three key reasons:

  • She was collaborative and respecting of varied viewpoints: More so than other leaders I worked with, Kaitlyn was particularly talented in collaborating with her project’s stakeholders from across the company’s business lines. She demonstrated a knack for soliciting input from all stakeholders, and when conflicting opinions would arise (often with individuals who were more senior), she diplomatically resolved the disagreement.
  • She demonstrated passion for big, complex challenges: There was no challenge too big for Kaitlyn to passionately explore. As a Senior Analyst, Kaitlyn was tasked with tackling one of the company’s most pressing strategic questions in an overseas market. At the same time, she saw a compelling opportunity to develop corporate training resources to help employees think more strategically. In both instances, Kaitlyn was motivated to have broad impact in our company beyond simply herself.
  • She was personally committed to my professional development: More than anything, I was so impressed by how Kaitlyn took personal interest in my own success on the team. She was one of the first people in my career to give me thoughtful, actionable professional feedback with the goal of helping me achieve high performance in my new role. Many of her lessons – about speaking up when invited to sit at Senior-level tables, and about the power of asking good questions in strategy discussions – are things I still try to put in practice today.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Kaitlyn was putting into practice the characteristics that I believe make the Sloan community so special. Collaboration, a deep commitment to supporting others, striving for impact – these are the values our Sloan community cherishes. You can feel it the minute you step foot on campus as a first-year student; from experiencing the collaborative nature of the Core semester, to watching your friends build start-ups that tackle the world’s most pressing problems, you can’t help but feel supported and humbled by the awesomeness of the Sloan community.

When I received the admissions call welcoming me to the Sloan community, Kaitlyn was the first person I called (sorry, Mom & Dad!). She demonstrated for me early on what it meant to be a Sloanie, and because of her, I knew Sloan was the place I wanted to get my MBA. It’s my hope that after I graduate in June, I’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate these Sloan Values to others – and hopefully inspire a future set of graduates to come to Sloan too.

Emily LeStrange, MBA '19