Two years ago, I took a leap of faith and left my well-paid job in my hometown of Chicago to pursue a higher educational degree. I didn’t know how it was going to work out, nor was I very confident that I would be able to grasp the material. What I couldn’t imagine were all the people in place to make sure that I made the most of this opportunity. And, that’s what I learned early on in my MBA career – networks matter!
My name is Brace Clement and I am a second-year finance student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison Wisconsin School of Business.
Prior to going back for my MBA, I had several different careers and leadership roles in some premiere organizations. I spent the first six years out of high school serving our country in the United States Marine Corp, where I got a chance to see the world and different cultures while building my team-building and leadership skills.
I then completed my bachelor’s degree in Political Studies with a minor in Communications at the University of Illinois at Springfield. This is where I developed a curious passion for public policy and different ideas of how to grow social capital in underserved communities.
I got a chance to work with many leaders within Illinois and worked on some valuable initiatives in the city of Chicago. In 2007, I took an opportunity to further my understanding of electoral politics and work with then US Senator Barack Obama and 29 other young bright minds on his Presidential Exploratory Committee in Washington, D.C.
After the 2008 Presidential election, I came back to Illinois and started working with a young, energetic politician who had just won the State Treasurer’s race. There, I worked as an Administrative Director for the Illinois Technology Development Account, where I was exposed to financial analytics for the first time.
Around this time, my longtime friend and 2010 Consortium Alum Rashid Farrell told me about all he had learned at his first year of classes at Indiana University-Kelley School of Business. He asked me if I had ever thought about going back to get a graduate degree and if I considered learning more about business.
I didn’t think about it much further than that at the time, but a couple years later, I heard about The Consortium coming to visit Chicago and that several member school representatives would speak about their programs and what an MBA had to offer. While listening to what the process would be like, the benefits of an MBA and the value of the Consortium network, I began making bonds with some of the other perspective students and people interested in expanding their career.
I spoke with them and learned their stories and aspirations. That inspired me to really think further about some of the things I wanted to do with my life and how I could accomplish this. It was then that I decided that this was what I had been searching for since leaving the Marine Corp and I decided to apply.
The application process was extremely thorough and took me four months to craft it just the way that I wanted it to portrait me as an applicant. My thoughts were that this was my first opportunity to demonstrate just how honed my business skills already are, and in particular, just how talented I am at marketing the spectacular product that “I am.”
I took it very seriously. I highlighted the areas where I had remarkable strengths and showed my willingness to “work and improve” in the areas I was deficient. I also paid very careful attention to learn about the schools I was applying to and make sure that there was a “natural fit” and I would be able to get the skills I needed from the school upon graduation.
I ended up accepting an offer from the Wisconsin School of Business in their Corporate Finance and Investment Banking program. Immediately, after signing my admission letter they informed me that we would start working on preparing for the Annual Orientation Program in June, where I would not only meet the other members of my Consortium class, but I would also have the opportunity to interview with over 80 of the top corporations in the world.
Wisconsin School of Business not only prepared me for the interviews that I would have over that week, but also worked with me on my resume, my introduction pitch, and just what to expect at the five day conference. I really felt good going into the conference, which allowed me to relax and have a good time.
While at OP, I met the former senior vice president of Global Finance at Starbucks Coffee Company, Louis Jordan (Indiana University – Bloomington, 1980; Eagle Club Member), during one of our conference breaks. We spoke about the conference and what an amazing experience it was. He told me about his experience at OP how far it had come along. I shared with him all the different measures it took me to get there. I thanked him for his time and told him that I was interested in the company and would like to speak with him about possibilities for next summer. He gave me his card and told me to stop by their booth during the career fair portion of the conference.
I stopped by and shared my resume with him and his team. After a thorough interview process, I was informed in late November that I would be extended an offer. I accepted and got the chance to work in the Treasury Department of the largest premium coffee provider in the world. It was an amazing experience.
My MBA experience at Wisconsin School of Business has been life changing. The one thing I would pass on to future applicants and first-year MBA students is to make the most of your time in school. Learn about subjects that you have had an interest in, be sociable, grow your network and utilize all the services your school has to offer. Most of all– enjoy yourself! Life is more than grades and accolades!