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Forté Fellow Spotlight: Connie Chai

Connie-ChaiConnie Chai

Duke University, Biology and English, 2010
Duke University Fuqua School of Business, 2016
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Merchandise planning at Target Corporation, pharmacy operations at CVS Health

I was a Biology and English double major in college and had never even interned at a company before I joined Target. After a couple years of working, I knew there was a foundation of basic business knowledge that I wanted to build (accounting, finance, marketing, etc.), and I believed an MBA would help accelerate that process.

I was also looking to make a career switch in terms of function, and I knew that an MBA would allow me the opportunity to explore. When I first started to think about applying to schools, it seemed like a daunting process and a part-time job on top of everything! If there are two takeaways that I can share about the entire experience, they would be:

Start early! I think the biggest challenge balancing the MBA application process and working is time management. Inevitably a project will ramp up at work while you’re trying to write your essays, and it becomes difficult to carve out time to put pen to paper.

By spreading out the workload, I think you reduce a great deal of stress when competing priorities come to a head. The MBA application process is truly a marathon and not a sprint, so you want to set yourself up for success and reduce as much stress as possible!

Talk to people, and this can include alumni, current students, and mentors. I think I spent perhaps as much time talking to people about schools, essays, and the application process as I did writing and editing my essays and putting together the overall applications. Personally it was extremely helpful to talk through ideas I had for essays or strategies for picking recommenders.

I also created a support network by simply talking to many different people. People become invested in the process and would offer words of encouragement when I needed them.

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