This summer, future MBA candidates convened in seven cities across the U.S. for Forte’s first in-person MBA Forums since 2019. Hear from two women who joined us in New York and Los Angeles about their experiences exploring the MBA and connecting with top b-schools. Emily Yang As a child, Emily Yang divided her time between Beijing, China, and Manhattan, N.Y. Her father, who received his MBA degree from Peking University in Beijing, inspired Emily to pursue an advanced degree. A senior at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., she is a math major with a double minor in art history and computer science. She has her sights set on business school at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) and plans to apply to its deferred admissions program for undergrads. “I know I would love to attend a b-school that puts emphasis on entrepreneurship with a heavy focus on the quantitative side of things (given my love for math), so a place like MIT Sloan would hopefully be a great fit for me. I will definitely be working hard to achieve that goal,” she says. Emily attended the Forté MBA Forum on Aug. 17, 2022 at Goldman Sachs headquarters in person, a welcome departure from virtual events of the past. With more than 50 business schools represented at the event, Emily relished the opportunity to meet face-to-face, one-on-one with admissions reps. This event completely changed my mentality, and I feel more motivated and empowered than ever. “It was also great to see other women excelling in their current industries already but always striving for more. Feeling the sense of empowerment in one big conference room is overwhelming in the best way possible,” she recalls. The MBA Forum wasn’t her first encounter with Forté. Emily became acquainted with the organization two years ago at Forté’s virtual College Fast Track to Finance Conference. After the conference, she had special access to Forté’s platform, where she saw a posting for a diversity event at Jefferies LLC. She attended the event, passed through multiple rounds of interviews, and secured an internship as a summer analyst in New York. Empowered and Connected For Emily, Forté’s MBA Forum represented more than a chance to network. As a math major at a liberal arts school, she explains the business school application process can feel isolating. "Not many of my college friends have finance or business school in mind for after graduation," she explains, adding that she sometimes feels "lost or alone in the process, without a group of peers who share a similar background. However, this event completely changed my mentality, and I feel more motivated and empowered than ever.” She recommends the event to "any young woman out there who comes from a nontraditional background but also aspires to break social norms, challenge gender inequality, and facilitate positive change in this world by joining the financial services industry. When she reflects on her time at the MBA Forum, the positive, friendly atmosphere and the access to resources really stand out to Emily. “Everyone … has been extremely friendly and helpful. It [MBA Forum] benefited me a lot through the amount of information I was presented with — different b-school options, a variety of future career paths after b-school, and of course invaluable relationships that are meant to last a lifetime,” she says. Memorable Moments One of the most valuable aspects of the MBA Forum was getting to meet with admissions reps, MBA alumni, and other b-school students. Emily recalls meeting a recent MBA alumna named Anna from Vanderbilt University (Owen Graduate School of Management), who shared with Emily her first-person perspective as an MBA student, including the incredible experiences, projects, and events she was able to be a part of. In addition, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) admission representatives, Rachel Ferreira and Diane Jordan, advised Emily to be authentic in her business school application, highlighting what makes her unique. She also had a memorable conversation with another potential MBA applicant named Melissa, who shared that despite working full time at her current job, she made sure to squeeze in at least an hour of GMAT study time before work. Emily is currently preparing to take the GRE. Then she’ll start looking at deferred admissions programs that fit her interest and projected career path. Overall, Emily rates her MBA Forum experience as “extremely positive.” She recommends the event to “any young woman out there who comes from a nontraditional background but also aspires to break social norms, challenge gender inequality, and facilitate positive change in this world by joining the financial services industry.” Natalie Friel Natalie Friel, an international studies major, graduated from University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2016. Her interest in retail and fashion led her to TJX Companies, Inc., which operates T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s stores. She started in the Merchandising Development Program right out of school and moved to Boston to work at the company headquarters. After three years she was promoted into merchandise buying and transferred to her native California, landing in the Los Angeles buying office. She left in 2021 to work for Burlington Stores. I see a lot of positives that have come with a hybrid environment, but there is something to being in person. I personally loved being able to connect with everyone face to face and feed off peoples’ energies. She’s pursuing an MBA degree because she wants to pivot into brand management. She plans to start business school in fall 2023 and is in the middle of the application process. “Buying is a very dynamic and external-facing job. I work with both numbers and product, negotiating the best deals for my customer, but I find I am very much in the passenger seat and a supporter of brands. With an MBA I will transition to a leader of brands and a change innovator, disrupting the retail industry and consumer experience,” she explains. When she learned Forté was hosting an MBA Forum at UCLA (practically in her backyard), she registered and attended on Aug. 23, 2022. She’d never attended a Forté event before. “I was intrigued by Forté’s ‘for women by women’ approach when I came across the event in my email.” This year’s Forum was in person, a departure from virtual events of the past two years. “I see a lot of positives that have come with a hybrid environment, but there is something to being in person. I personally loved being able to connect with everyone face to face and feed off peoples’ energies. It was great to see other women that I have connected with during other tours. It is that serendipitous run-in that is harder to recreate virtually,” she says. Reenergized and Focused I was completely reenergized to continue on my MBA journey. Natalie approached the MBA Forum with a “what can’t you learn from a [school] website” strategy. She spent her time at the event making genuine connections with admissions representatives, MBA alumni, and current students from the prospective schools on her list. “Once that connection was made, I followed up with a personal email and have kept in touch with them, asking to connect me to other students, set up campus visit days, etc.,” she says. Overall, Natalie describes her Forum experience as “fabulous.” After the event, she felt motivated to contact one of the moderators to say how much she enjoyed her time. “I was completely reenergized to continue on my MBA journey.” In Good Company Navigating an MBA can be overwhelming. Natalie says the MBA Forum made her feel as though she’s not alone on the journey. She encourages other women who are in her shoes to attend a Forté MBA Forum. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself,” she advises. “You are interesting and have something to say, and don’t think that everyone has it figured out or knows what to say. Ask anyone and I bet nine times out of 10 they will say, ‘We are all just making it up as we go.’ Embrace it.” As she maps out her academic future, Natalie is working to get through testing so she can submit her business school applications. “I am very close, just need to keep my foot on the gas. I am keeping in touch with admissions and talking to anyone I can find who has attended the schools I am targeting.” Thank You Sponsors Thank you to our business school and corporate sponsors — especially Goldman Sachs and Hines — for making our return to live events a success. Start Your MBA Journey With Forté If you’re considering business school, explore your options at a virtual or in-person Forté MBA Forum. We're holding more virtual events in the spring. If you're getting ready to submit your application, build your best one with Forté MBALaunch. Applications are open for our 2023 cohort. Get started today!