“I get by with a little help from my friends” is a famous Beatles lyric, but it could also be the motto of two Forté Fellows, Sasha Pines and Emily Kramer. Since being introduced by a mutual friend after learning they would both be attending Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business (GSB), Sasha and Emily have become fast friends and key support for each other as they face the demands of business school. Although they grew up on opposite coasts – Sasha in San Diego and Emily in New York City – they have many similarities. Both worked in the business world after getting their undergraduate degrees, both have been influenced by unique family histories, both were attracted to Stanford’s startup ecosystem, and both have entrepreneurial ambitions post-MBA. Most importantly, they have solidified a friendship that will carry them well beyond their years at Stanford. The Seeds of Female Empowerment. Sasha comes from a tight-knit Persian-Jewish family that lived within a 10-mile radius of one another in San Diego. Before fleeing Iran during the country’s 1979 Revolution, the women in Sasha’s family led heavily circumscribed lives. “My great-grandmother was married at age nine, my grandmother at age 16," Sasha explains. Sasha’s mother was able to free herself of these limitations in America and, although she was not encouraged to pursue a higher education, she took a different approach with Sasha and her sister. “I am not speaking for all Persian women,” Sasha says, “but a lot of the messaging for women is to get married and have kids. My mom broke the cycle by encouraging our education, independence and career.” Emily was also influenced by a female relative – in her case, a grandmother who survived the Holocaust. After the war, her grandmother moved to New York and started a new life. “Despite being stripped of her humanity” while in Auschwitz, Emily says, she instilled in Emily’s father, which he passed down to her, the value of binding people together through their shared humanity. Emily attributes her interest in social progress and her drive to see more diversity in business, especially for women, to the perspective that her grandmother passed down. “It’s all the same fight,” she explains. “Progress must happen for everyone,” regardless of the inequity, if we are to be truly equitable. Sasha was so empowered by her mother’s advice that she co-founded a community for women in their early careers, Aspire to Her. While an undergraduate at Vanderbilt, Sasha says, “I was anxious about my first job. I had lots of big dreams and ambitions, but I didn’t know how I would accomplish them.” Although Sasha had role models, she wanted to understand the secret sauce that set them up for success. Through the Aspire to Her platform, Sasha interviews women leaders about the first decade of their careers then spotlights their stories and creates networking opportunities for young women to develop relationships with these role models. Both Emily and Sasha embrace their position as Forté Fellows and appreciate that Forté has provided them with a like-minded community of women and practical opportunities to enhance their educational and career paths. “I’ve had a bit of a crush on Forté for years now,” Sasha reveals. Emily values the consistent and reliable support that Forté offers. I know I can come to her with anything because she’s my biggest supporter, and she knows I’m here to cheer her on as well. Support System is Essential to GSB Experience. Their shared values of gender equity, empowerment, and freedom created a common ground for Emily and Sasha that has supported them while navigating the demands of the GSB. Both cite prioritization as their greatest challenge. With a plethora of activities to choose from, Emily says that can be both wonderful and challenging, and “really forces you to reflect on what matters most to you and how you are going to prioritize that in the limited time you have on campus.” Although Sasha is a self-described “big-time extrovert,” she still says, “I finish each day with my social battery completely drained.” Having someone who is going through this with me who I know will not simply have my back no matter what, but will also be honest with me throughout it all, has been invaluable beyond measure. Their friendship and wider support system helps alleviate the stress. Sasha says, “It is nice to know you have a friend whose door you can knock on unannounced and is always there for you to talk about what’s on your mind.” She also credited Emily’s enthusiasm in helping to push her to pursue her passions. “I know I can come to her with anything because she’s my biggest supporter, and she knows I’m here to cheer her on as well,” Sasha explains. Emily agrees that her relationships are contributing to a positive GSB experience. “The people I have met…have supported me through every challenging moment at Stanford so far and will be invaluable in helping me succeed in the MBA program.” She particularly appreciates Sasha’s authenticity and ability to tell her like it is. “We both place tremendous value on honesty and feedback,” she says, and “having someone who is going through this with me who I know will not simply have my back no matter what, but will also be honest with me throughout it all, has been invaluable beyond measure.” Business School is Opportunity for Exploration. Both Emily and Sasha largely chose to get their MBAs at Stanford GSB for its robust startup culture and social innovation expertise. Even though they have five more quarters at the GSB, Sasha and Emily have ideas about what they’d like to do next. Sasha started her career in strategy consulting at Bain and then got an itch to work for a startup with a social mission so she pivoted to a mental health startup, Grow Therapy. While Sasha acknowledges, “I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do post-GSB,” she knows that whatever she does will include empowering women. She is interested in the juncture of women’s healthcare and technology – an area called femtech – and says she would like to start a company that gives women more control over their healthcare. “Women’s healthcare is historically overlooked, under-researched, and under-funded. There’s a ton of whitespace, and it’s exciting to think about all the ways technology can have a scalable impact!” she says. Prior to Stanford, Emily worked at Goldman Sachs, first in investment banking then in private equity. As she looks ahead, her current professional interests build on her previous work experience. During her stint in private equity, Emily became fascinated with hydrogen energy investing. “I am passionate about early stage investing, and hydrogen is a nascent industry,” she explains. Like Sasha, she is open-minded to learning what else is out there so her “goal for now is to continue exploring.” Regardless of where their future paths lead, one thing seems certain. Emily and Sasha have forged a friendship that will not only get them through the rigors of Stanford’s MBA program, but it will also serve as an essential foundation for their professional and personal lives for years to come.