Reflecting on Bridge to Business
While I no longer am a business major, nor do many of these goals remain true, I spent Summer 2017 as part of the Bridge to Business Cohort. This is my reflection from that course.
Realizing the Future: Bridge to Business Analysis and Reflection
When I first arrived at Agnes Scott College in August 2015, I knew what my future held. I was going to study International Relations, with a double minor in History and French. I was going to get a 170 on the LSAT and receive my dual J.D./M.A. in International Affairs from my dream school– Georgetown.
That dream abruptly ended when I realized how much I hated the methodology of International Relations, how little I wanted to be a lawyer, and maybe most importantly, how much I despised the thought of spending four years in grad school. But I had this dream ever since my ninth grade Honors Government class– what was I supposed to do now?
My advisor gently reminded me that I was working in a social media job, I was the social media or marketing chair for several organizations on campus, and my mother had her MBA in Marketing, my father, the same advanced degree in International Business. Maybe, she suggested, it was time to stop avoiding the obvious, and enroll in a couple business courses.
I immediately knew I made the right decision, even if I did feel like I was selling out. But how could I know for sure a career in business was right for me?
I had been interested in the Women’s Bridge to Business since before my first year at Agnes Scott– I received a pamphlet shortly after a visit to the campus in my junior year of high school. But as a Sophomore at Agnes Scott, I decided that it would be the final test– a confirmation of whether or not I was sure I would study business.
The good news is, I am now positive that I want an MBA. The even better news is that I want to receive that MBA at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business (or Chicago’s Booth School of Business, like my dad). Opportunity is in Atlanta, and that is abundantly apparent after my three weeks in the Bridge to Business program.
It was hard to choose which functional areas I was most attracted to over the course of the program. I think my favorite was Marketing because I feel as if I have a natural affinity for it, but I was also fascinated by Project Management and International Business. I think this may lead to a future in Brand Management, something I have always found interesting and a natural progression within my future career.
Within these modules, I was able to relate to the content and the skills being offered by professors with a wealth of knowledge. I could imagine myself, in their shoes, after years of experience working and learning, teaching to another young Scottie. I believe I enjoyed these areas because they required creative, critical thinking, and I aspire to have a career where I am creatively challenged and learning every day.
However, even though I enjoyed these areas of the program, it was the modules more tailored to our careers and futures that I found most rewarding. The modules spent with Catherine Neiner provoked me to ask questions about my future that I hadn’t considered. She was frank and honest about the future of working as women, and I appreciated that– often times at Agnes Scott, we live in a bubble where we think the future will tailor itself to us, and that is simply not the case, especially in the business world. It was incredibly refreshing to hear a powerful woman say, “you may be called brazen, bossy, or bitchy. Here’s why you should be proud of that.”
Similarly, I found our session with Gail Evans to be, quite frankly, the most rewarding three hours of my academic career. She encouraged me to think of myself, my personal brand, and my future in ways that I had never before. I was taught why ‘hardworking’ is a bad word, and that if I want to promote myself, I need to tailor my language to my own success. Instead of referring to myself as hardworking, driven, and creative, I will now refer to myself as productive, promising, and passionate. Because, as Ms. Evans said, that is how a CEO refers to herself. I have already engrossed myself in the book she gave to me, and I plan to make my mother read it as well.
While I immensely enjoyed my three weeks in the Bridge to Business program, there were some things that I definitely knew weren’t for me. My father is an accountant, but staring at financial statements, fiddling with Excel, and pulling my hair out over ratios and vertical analyses just wasn’t for me. Still, I gave it my best effort, and I was pleasantly surprised at the rewarding feeling I felt when all the numbers equaled 100.
I also was very frustrated with the Strategic Management Simulation, Minnesota Micromotors, which was disappointing, as I found the Strategic Management module fascinating. I always love to focus on the big picture, and I felt I did well in the ‘strategic plan for Agnes Scott’ activity. However, after I got fired three times, I figured that I can still think big picture and focus on the future of an organization– I’ll just leave the customer service, price management, and research & development to the experts.
I think I was fascinated by Strategic Management because it closely relates to Marketing and Brand Management, two things I see in my future. In marketing and brand management, you must think creatively and anticipate what the customer wants to see, and needs to see, in the future. I think Strategic Management combines all those things, and maybe, is the culmination of many different aspects of a business.
Another module I struggled with was negotiating– kind of. It wasn’t as if I didn’t do well in the activities– I did extremely well. I just felt so unconfident– which is very unlike me. I love to speak publicly, argue, and get my way– negotiating comes naturally to me. However, afterward, when thinking about the future and negotiating my future salary– a topic discussed with Dawn Killenberg– I felt worried. What if I’m not worth the price I ask for? What if I’m laughed at? What if my job is taken away from me?
All these questions may seem silly, but I called my mother, and she confessed that she has the same fears. She has negotiated dozens of salaries and raises from dozens of employers over her incredibly long and successful career. And yet, she fears what I fear. Is she worth the money? Is she asking for too much? Too little? What will they think of her?
I wonder if men experience these fears as women do. I wonder if, by-product of more and more women entering the workforce and negotiating for themselves, these fears will slowly become less ingrained in our minds. I hope so because I never want to make any less than a man, especially if he is equally or less qualified than me. But before these past few weeks, I hadn’t even considered, nor confronted, these fears that now seem ever present in my mind.
Maybe that is the real reward of the Bridge to Business program– learning valuable life skills that will help me in my future profession, like being able to confront my fears over negotiation, or balance a budget even though the black and white numbers make my vision swim and my brain hurt. I know I will be successful in marketing, or brand management, or social media, or whatever my specialty may be. But I know I will have to confront what I am less excellent at– that’s life, and that’s business.
The Bridge to Business program taught me that, and those lessons are valuable– more valuable than being assured that yes, I’m good at marketing and more valuable than reassuring me that I want an MBA. I knew those things before I enrolled in this program. But to learn to face your fears and try something new, and at the end of the day, still want to dress in a suit and go to work in an organization, trying to change the world or the marketplace, is something unique. And it is definitely unique to the Bridge to Business program.