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Two Past Edie Hunt Award Winners Still Lead the Way for Women

When Chantel Adams and Jacqui Cuffe McNamara got MBAs in 2014, jobs were not the only thing on their minds. They had also just capped off two years of dedication to advancing women’s representation in business, for which they were both awarded the prestigious Edie Hunt Inspiration Award. Seven years later, they have taken different career paths, but both are still inspiring women to become leaders – while being leaders themselves.

Here they share what it meant to win the award, their post-MBA career journey, why they continue to support women, and their visions for the future.

Chantel Adams: CPG marketing, find what you’ll be remembered for, and surviving economic disasters

  • Undergraduate school and degree: Simmons University, B.S., Finance
  • Graduate business school: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School, MBA
  • Current home: San Jose, CA

What was the primary reason you won the Edie Hunt Award?
As a woman, I was in the minority on campus, and it was important for me to see other women who were in business. I worked with Kenan-Flagler’s CMO to increase women’s representation – through depictions on the website and printed materials – so that women prospects could see themselves in the population at the school.

How did receiving the Edie Hunt Award impact you personally and professionally?
After going to an all-women’s college and winning the award, I felt responsible for paving the way for other women. Having women leaders to look up to gives me the confidence to move ahead, and I want to be that person for others. I have attended multiple Forté events as speaker and coach. Helping women apply and get into business school will forever be a priority for me, at least until we are at 50% enrollment.

Describe your career trajectory since you obtained your MBA.
I currently work at Align Technology, Inc. – the makers of Invisalign® aligners – as a senior manager on the consumer marketing team. I have had three post-MBA roles prior to Align: at Ocean Spray Cranberries, I focused on innovation; at Kraft Heinz, I oversaw paid media and brand management for the portfolio of a meals brand; and at Nestlé, I worked in seasonal confections and Butterfinger innovation.

Did you always know you wanted to do consumer packaged goods (CPG)?
I thought I wanted to do non-profit management after business school. CPG was a curiosity to me. Nestlé offered a learning environment and autonomy, and I use that classical marketing training in my current role in tech.

What tips do you have for young women MBAs who are entering the workforce today?
No matter what room you are in – whether it’s your first day or your 1000th – you are there for a reason. Don’t be afraid to bring your unique perspective.

What advice do you have a for a 1st or 2nd year MBA on how to make an impact as a leader on campus?
People will remember you most for the thing you are most passionate about because that is what you will excel in. Find whatever it is that you don’t mind spending an extra 2-3 hours per night doing.

What are you most proud of professionally so far?
I came out of undergrad during the Great Recession. In thinking about my MBA, I knew that I didn’t want to continue in finance. I wanted to be able to come up with a brand or business strategy that could sustain another economic disaster. At Align, I’ve been able to use those skills during 2020 as many other businesses have had to figure out how to survive. We had a great third quarter, and professionally I’ve come full circle. No matter what is happening economically, there needs to be solid brand strategy to sustain the business.

Where would you like to be 10 years down the road?
My goal is to be a CMO of a growing and strong consumer brand. Coming out of business school, I probably preferred to be a CEO, but I have become very curious about media consumption and consumer behavior.

Jacqui Cuffe McNamara: Sales, the power of a network, and avoiding shiny objects

  • Undergraduate school and degree: University of California – Santa Barbara, B.S., Business Economics
  • Graduate business school: Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, MBA
  • Current home: Seattle, WA

What was the primary reason you won the Edie Hunt Award?
I learned through my job in the career center that interest and acceptance of women at our university was declining. When I became the president of Kelley Women, I asked for help from the team to unite and help bring more awareness to our program. Over the following months, we ran an active campaign and the outcome was great: we were able to increase the women’s representation at the university. Kelley is an MBA program I’m very proud of, and it meant a great deal that others knew, too!

How did receiving the Edie Hunt Award impact you personally and professionally?
Personally, I was lucky to have had lunch with Edie Hunt, who has given me some great career advice. I’ve also met other women leaders who support Forté’s mission through this award.

Professionally, it’s a point of pride on my resume because Forté is helping women enter spaces where we are struggling to get the numbers up.

The award helped me recognize that helping others be better is something I should continue throughout my career, and it was a catalyst for creating an MBA program in my job at Microsoft.

Please describe your career trajectory since you obtained your MBA.
After my MBA, I became an account executive at Microsoft in enterprise sales, where I helped customers with digital transformation for three years. It was my post-MBA dream job.

After that, I was chief of staff to the vice president of the New York region for enterprise sales then I had an opportunity to work under our general manager of business applications and turn around a piece of our business in a market worth $1 billion. I had to wear many hats – it was challenging but very rewarding.

In my current role, I lead US Marketing and Operations for Power Platform, which are tools that empower everyone to build and automate applications. It’s a very fun role and has made a lot of impact for our customers and even our internal teams at Microsoft. It’s basically a start-up within Microsoft so I apply what I was trained to do, as an MBA with a concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship.

Please share your advice for a 1st or 2nd year MBA on how to make an impact as a leader on campus.
Take advantage of as many networking events as possible. During the pandemic, many were hit hard and quickly, and the people in my Kelley network have been leaning on each other heavily. Develop relationships even with the people you don’t think you have as much in common with. There was someone at Kelley I didn’t feel particularly aligned to, and now that is the first person I go to for career advice.

What advice do you have for young women MBAs who are entering the workforce today?
Build an extensive network so you can help each other as you grow and make career decisions. At Microsoft, a peer and I built a program to help new MBA hires with training and onboarding. Over three years, we onboarded 40 MBAs and created a support network. As we grow in our careers, our peers in this network have helped with coaching, mentoring, and finding jobs.

What are you most proud of professionally so far?
I’ve used creativity and innovation to develop best practices that have been shared across multiple countries – one training was used more than 50,000 times. Also getting more Kelley grads to Microsoft and see them succeed has been rewarding!

Do you have any business lessons to share?
Before you take on a new role, do your homework and ask a lot of questions about it and who you will work with. Don’t fall for the shiny object. Work for a leader who knows your career development plan and is committed to helping you reach your goals.

Where would you like to be 5-10 years down the road?
As I’ve taken on various roles in marketing, operations and sales to understand different parts of the organization, I’ve learned that my true passion is seeing the impact to our customers. I would like to be a sales leader and continue to coach others in careers that will lead to their passions.

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