As an undergrad at the University of Notre Dame, Emily LeStrange was a liberal arts student focused on political science and American studies. Unsure what she wanted to do after graduation, she started working in financial services at Vanguard. That's where she met her first mentor, a woman a few years older who had earned an MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan). Emily recalls, "I really appreciated the way that she was authentically herself, but at the same time, was respected and sought after for being a leader in the company. She didn't have to try to be someone she wasn't in that pursuit. She was able to lead in a genuine way that was very inspiring for me as a younger woman." Emily had never intended to have a financial services career, but she came to love the industry. As she looked around her, she noticed something: "The people at my company who were respected the most had made the MBA a stop on their journey." Forté helps women figure out what they need to do to put their best foot forward in the MBA application process. Finding Her Way to the MBA She recognized that an MBA could help to fill some gaps in her educational background. She remembers thinking, "I definitely want to do it because all these people that I admire have pursued the MBA, but where do I start?" Her company, Vanguard, is a Forté partner, which helped her identify her next step. She says, "Forté helps women figure out what they need to do to put their best foot forward in the MBA application process." After considering Forté MBALaunch, a program that provides a structured road map through the MBA application process, Emily registered for MBALaunch On Demand, the self-paced online version. She says, "MBALaunch On Demand could be customized to my own work schedule and my own life schedule. I liked the flexibility that it offered." She also appreciated the way MBALaunch On Demand broke the components of the application into discrete parts and that the GMAT webinars were taught by experts from top test prep services. She says, "Forté has curated the best of the best and given it to you, along with a plan that helps make it really manageable." The program was exactly the push Emily needed to apply to business school — and it gave her a sense of accountability, too. She says, "The best part about this is that you have no excuse anymore, because once you're signed up, all you need to do is get started." MBALaunch On Demand could be customized to my own work schedule and my own life schedule. I liked the flexibility that it offered. Taking Her Career to the Next Level Emily followed in her mentor's footsteps, enrolling at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan). Her involvement with Forté continued when she was named a Forté Fellow. She attended Forté’s 2017 MBA Financial Services FAST Track Conference in New York, where she connected with other incoming MBA women in the finance industry. She says, “The FAST Track Conference was a testament to Forté's ability to convene really smart, talented women with big ambitions for themselves and facilitate these events that allow them to get to know one another in a really beneficial way.” While some people pursue an MBA intending to pivot into a new industry, Emily says, "I was less of a career switcher and more of a career enhancer within the realm of financial services. From an academic perspective, I really leaned into the finance curriculum." The finance classes she took at Sloan helped her simultaneously pursue certification as a Chartered Financial Analyst. As an MBA and CFA charterholder, she hoped to transition into the more investment-focused side of financial services. After graduation, she returned to Vanguard and accomplished that goal. She says, "Now, I'm in a senior investment director role in our portfolio review group. My primary job is to oversee a selection of investment managers who collectively manage a little more than $50 billion in assets for Vanguard investors." She credits her MBA with giving her the technical skills and investment knowhow to succeed in this role, and says, "It also gave me the credential I needed to sit across the table from these investment managers who manage billions of dollars and confidently ask them about their philosophy, their process, and how they're managing the portfolio." Today, Emily encourages her younger colleagues to consider the MBA — and she’s still involved with Forté. In April 2021, she and other MBA alumni discussed the benefits of b-school in a free Forté webinar, now available on demand.