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by Beatriz Buendia, EMBA 2018

This wasn’t supposed to happen…

It was sometime in January 2016 that I began genuinely considering an MBA for the first time. I had been with my organization for more than eight years and felt like my mind was getting stale. The toll of our recent relocation to Miami with no network was ever-growing.

Despite feeling like it might be the time to pursue higher education, I kept hearing that evil, little voice inside reminding me of all the reasons why it wasn’t. It told me that I was never a good student in undergrad given my more social tendencies, that the time away from my husband and two toddlers was a time I would never “get back,” and of course, that I couldn’t fit studies into an already hectic work schedule including weeks spent traveling.

I was coerced by a colleague from work to attend a Women in Leadership event hosted at a local hotel. I sat down and began listening to the first question lobbed at the industry-diverse speakers: “What is preventing women from being more recognized/visible/available leaders in our industries?” As they began to reply, the 300-person filled room suddenly felt like it was a one-on-one fireside chat with just me. “We’re the ones holding ourselves back.” “We’re making excuses of it not being the right time.” “We want to be sure we’ve learned every possible skill necessary before throwing our hat in the ring for a new opportunity.” “We think waiting until the kids are older is easier.” And suddenly, in that room, in front of those women, I realized that I was doing just that: holding myself back from getting an MBA by making excuses for why it wasn’t right, instead of seeing all of the reasons why it WAS right.

My undergraduate years didn’t make me. What made me was those years plus all of the subsequent ones when I learned, then led and grew and repeated the cycle for nearly 20 years. And yes, the kids are young, but what better time to share our school experiences together, comparing Mamae’s classroom to theirs, and sharing homework time, getting to know new school friends. Someday down the road when my two children are faced with a challenge they think is unachievable maybe they’ll say, “If my mom went to school, worked, traveled, kept our house together and is happy in a new city, then I can do this!” If that happens, this journey will have been well worth it. And finally, my dear husband, who had been gently reminding me of how great it is to have these advanced degrees (says the man who has a couple semesters of his doctorate under his belt), was 1,000-percent supportive of all of this. We would face challenges together, like we always have, and pull some Tim Gunn moments, “making it work!”

For once on my life, at the ripe age of 40, I decided that I would politely ignore the evil voice for a little bit and begin the process. This started with the application phase, in which I felt sure that they wouldn’t get past my transcripts. Then the interview process came and the “will they like me?” nerves surfaced. Then, much to my evil voice’s dismay, all of the universities that I applied to accepted me.

On the evening of Sunday, August 28, 2016 my EMBA journey at Kellogg began. Even though my “evil voice” told me it wasn’t supposed to happen, the reality is that it genuinely was​—in exactly the way it unfolded, at the very time that I was ready to accept it while being surrounded by the people who were supportive of me along the way. And it was just the beginning of greatness.