Part Two: The New Talent in Kellogg’s E&W Program, Winter 2021
In this series, we celebrate the truly impressive and diverse students who recently joined Kellogg’s Evening & Weekend Program. Today, we’re excited to introduce (from left): Janani Krishnan (Senior Analyst, Ferrara Candy Company), Hanna Cosgrove (Director, Technical Sales, AAR) and Devin Tyler (Consultant, Axiom Consulting Partners).
What are you most proud of in your professional journey? How did it shape who you are as a leader?
JANANI: Throughout my academic and professional career, I have been proud of my ability to forge connections with peers and mentors. I believe one of the most important aspects of my career is the lessons I learn from those around me and conversely am able to teach others. Building my leadership style from others that I wish to emulate has enabled me to lead with inclusivity and innovation in mind. The leaders that I respect most have taught me the importance of leading as a peer rather than as a boss or manager, with a focus on problem solving together and creating solutions to issues based on collaborative brainstorming. I now aim to be a leader that encourages diversity of thought from all levels of my teams, in the pursuit of unique and purposeful strategies for solving the issues we face in our ever-changing business world.
HANNA: In my first job out of undergrad, I was hired as an Aircraft Systems Engineer on a program developing a brand new, military-type aircraft. It was truly a dream job. The program went from clean-sheet design to first flight in 22 months – the fastest ever outside of WWII. I was given the opportunity to work on multiple different areas of that airplane: I designed flight control failure modes, ran functional tests in the wheel wells, and even crawled in the engine inlets to check probes. Watching that airplane take off (and land) successfully was one of my proudest moments as a working professional. While the job wasn’t without its challenges, it taught me two very important lessons that continue to shape my role as a leader. First, a team of people, when working efficiently under sound management, can yield incredible results. Our leaders allowed space for creativity in solving problems and were intimately involved in the day-to-day process of the aircraft build – even helping buck rivets when necessary. Second, developing strong relationships with peers, team-mates, and leaders is key, not only to accomplishing the task at hand, but for continued personal and professional growth. My ever-growing network of colleagues and mentors have helped propel me forward in my career by acting as a sounding board for new ideas and providing open, honest feedback when necessary. Many have even become life-long friends and the relationships continue to be fruitful. Most recently, I was asked to serve on the board of a new venture aiming to revolutionize the archaic process of aviation log-books and maintenance records using blockchain technology.
DEVIN: I’m most proud of serving as the leader of my firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) committee. As a firm, we all recognized the importance of this topic and how vital DE&I is to our overall success, so I was excited when the Managing Partners asked me to help lead this effort. Initially, I underestimated the complexity of the task at hand and assumed that I had more to teach than I had to learn. However, leading a strong team that consisted of senior leaders, critical thinkers, and key stakeholders challenged me to make sure that we built a sustainable strategy. After conducting internal workshops, external interviews, assessments of the current state, and numerous discussions and exercises with firm leaders, we were able to recommend a comprehensive DE&I strategy to the firm. This resulted in a plan that would continue to build an organization that encourages, supports and celebrates the backgrounds of all its people. The reason I’m proud of this accomplishment is because it was stands at the intersection of a hand-full of my passions: helping organization and people grow, building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world, and developing leadership skills through solving a challenging and complex problem. At the end of the day, I am most proud to see my firm playing its part in building a better world.
As an incredibly accomplished and very busy professional, why was now the right time to get your MBA? Why was Kellogg the right school?
JANANI: My decision to apply to Kellogg’s E&W Program came earlier than I expected. I had previously viewed getting my MBA as a sacrifice of two years of work experience in order to go back to school full time. However, I learned about the part-time program and wanted to challenge myself to evolve my technical skillset and leadership capabilities. I felt that returning to school for my MBA early in my career would enable me to learn from the experiences and professional journeys of others as I continue to identify my short and long-term goals.
HANNA: With an undergraduate education in physics and aerospace engineering, I always knew I would need formal business education to move from the technical side into management. I initially planned to complete my MBA in a full-time program overseas, however, an ever-growing affinity for my work and company here in Chicago — not to mention a global pandemic — shifted my outlook on leaving the work force for 15+ months. With a halt in work travel, I decided it was finally time to focus on furthering my education and get my MBA. I was drawn to Kellogg because of their well-rounded approach to business education; developing leaders who not only have intellectual horsepower, but who choose courage over comfort, practice humility and strive to kindle the potential they see in others. I also admire their commitment to fostering community among students, staff and alumni through collaborative classrooms, persistent outreach and dozens of clubs and campus groups.
DEVIN: Earning my MBA has always been a priority for me, even when I was a kid. The reason I chose to do it now was because this pandemic has taught me that there is no greater time than the present. Watching the world halt and seeing so many lives forever impacted by COVID-19 made realize that you can’t take for granted all of the great opportunities that you have right in front of you. There was nothing holding me back from beginning my journey but my own fears. While I acknowledged that it wouldn’t be easy, I knew that now would be the best time for me to pursue this long-standing goal of mine. This became increasingly more obvious when I would constantly hear my friends talk about their experiences at Kellogg. They highlighted the school’s culture as their number one reason for joining: an inclusive culture that challenges you to become the best version of yourself. This made the decision to pursue my MBA at Kellogg pretty easy.
If you’ve made a recent pivot in your career, can you share what drove you to make this pivot? Any advice for those looking to make a pivot or significant change in their career?
JANANI: I pivoted careers shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, switching from strategy consulting to CPG. I was interested in shifting from providing high-level strategic recommendations to getting involved with specific analyses and subsequent implementations. In addition to owning the life-cycle of corporate projects, I was excited to work cross-functionally with those of different backgrounds than mine, within an organization whose mission I was passionate about.
HANNA: I haven’t made a recent pivot in my career, but I have in the past. I encourage anyone considering a significant shift to, first and foremost, lean into the discomfort. No one knows all the answers when they start something new, but growth and change don’t happen without a catalyst. Leverage your network of mentors for support and surround yourself with industry experts and seasoned professionals who can answer questions and act as advocates for you in your new role.
In your short time at Kellogg, how has your experience so far impacted your professional and/or personal growth?
JANANI: Throughout my first quarter at Kellogg, I have been impressed by the real-world learnings that my peers and professors bring to the classroom. While I was initially apprehensive about taking an eight-hour Sunday course on crisis management, the relevant simulations and group discussions helped me envision how I might use these learnings in my current and future roles. Overall, I have been happily surprised with how tangible the content of these courses feel to me now, as someone with a few years of work experience, in comparison to how these classes may have felt had I taken them as an undergraduate.
HANNA: In just the first, five weeks of classes, I have already seen positive impacts in both my personal and professional growth. Because Evening and Weekend students are working concurrently, much of what we are learning in the classroom is immediately applicable in our day-to-day work. These contemporaneous examples provide a rich context for classroom discussion and ground the course concepts in reality. From lectures on machine learning and neural networks to a Settlers of Catan tournament, there is an endless amount of knowledge to consume and activities to pursue at Kellogg — especially in today’s virtual world. The community has been incredibly welcoming, and I look forward to future learning opportunities both virtually and in person.
DEVIN: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far. I think that coming in everyone knew that this would be a tricky virtual first quarter, so you saw a lot of students and professors trying their best to make the most out of it. Everyone’s eager to meet each other, so, after class, professors are hosting happy hours to get to know one another. You’ll see funny messages sent to the class during lectures or young kids or pets make an appearance and capture everyone’s attention. Study groups are easy to create and collaborate with each other in because they’re all virtual and accommodating. The experience is enjoyable because everyone’s making a concerted effort to make the most out of our time together.
COVID-19 has changed how we learn, engage and grow. What have you learned or gained – that you might not have otherwise – during this time?
JANANI: This has been a challenging year for many of us. However, I have been fortunate that it has also afforded me opportunities to grow through approaching my life, work and educational goals more intentionally than I may have in a “normal” world. I have learned to utilize newfound work flexibility to focus on what is important to me: connecting with family, establishing health/wellness routines that enhance my productivity, strategizing on what I want to achieve throughout my career and how that might evolve over time and evaluating how returning to school enables me to better understand these goals.
HANNA: COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for self-reflection in a world where “busy” is a status symbol. This time has provided space to deepen friendships, pursue new (or old, forgotten) hobbies, spend extended time with loved ones, and recalibrate work-life balance. My time previously spent commuting has been repurposed for new projects and the virtual workplace has allowed me to enjoy extended time at home with my family — something that would never have been possible without COVID. This time, however, has not been without its challenges. Both personally and professionally, it has been a season of practicing and refining emotional resilience. I have also been acutely reminded of the vast range of human experience and deep divides that exist in our communities and in the world as a whole. I strive to listen more than I speak, approach difficult conversations with curiosity, and be generous in my assumption that we are all doing the best we can.
DEVIN: Deciding to pursue an MBA during a pandemic was no easy decision. I acknowledged that, at least for some time, this experience would not be the traditional path you would normally expect. However, it’s for this reason that I decided to apply. I believe that challenging yourself during a time with so much uncertainty will result in building greater resiliency. This experience is teaching me how to come out of my comfort zone and force myself to learn, grow, and thrive in new territory. Whether it’s figuring out creative ways to safely meet classmates or pushing myself to stay motivated and engaged in a virtual setting, I believe that this experience is going to help strengthen my ability to overcome adverse and uncommon situations. Plus your Kellogg classmates and professors are all in the same boat, so you feel supported as we all take this journey together.
What is your #1 application advice for students looking to apply to Kellogg?
JANANI: While exploring what type of business school program, pace, and style would help me succeed in my educational and professional aspirations, I found it helpful to connect with Kellogg alumni and current students to better understand the culture of the E&W Program. Although there is plenty of information posted online, I found it motivating to actually connect with potential future peers and hear their advice on what to consider in making this life decision. Speaking with members of the Kellogg community helped the school come to life for me (despite most of these conversations being virtual), and I felt a connection with Kellogg’s diversity, energetic atmosphere and collaborative culture from the first info session I attended.
HANNA: Start your essays early! Even if you don’t plan to submit your application until the due date, you will appreciate the extra time to revise and tweak your application essays. These are a big component of the application and you want to make sure you put your best foot forward.
DEVIN: It’s no secret that applying for an MBA can be a daunting experience. Many times there’s this perceived pressure that we have to demonstrate that we’re the perfect candidate, free of flaws or missteps. But I think it’s important for applicants to remember that sharing your authentic self is one of the most critical component to your candidacy. My advice would be to craft a compelling story about your journey to become. Share your aspirations and what drives you. Highlight your greatest hits and be comfortable sharing your toughest challenges. Kellogg is interested in determining whether there will be synergy between you and the school, so use your application to walk them through why you want them to be apart of your personal journey to become.
Why did you choose your particular pace/programs?
JANANI: I chose the Accelerated option within the Evening Program so I could build off of my undergraduate business school learnings. As someone with less than three years of work experience, I also am part of the Emerging Leaders Program, which has been a great additional support system and cohort within our larger cohort.
HANNA: I was initially enrolled in the Weekend Program, but due to the indefinite halt in work travel, I transferred to the Evening Program prior to the start of classes. Thankfully, Kellogg programs are extremely flexible so should my work commitments change in the future, I can adjust my course schedule. Previous classroom experience in two courses also allowed me to qualify for the accelerated track.
DEVIN: The Evening and Weekend Program was the best fit for me because it allows me to immediately apply what I’m learning in the classroom to the real-world work that I do in my career. As a management consultant, my job is to help organizations solve complex problems. To do this effectively, you have to learn and apply both critical and creative thinking skills. In Kellogg, you’re surrounded by professors and classmates who represent diverse professional backgrounds and they are often willing to share their perspectives, experiences and insights. When you add the depth of study and rigor of each class, this becomes a wealth bank for innovative thinking, identifying best practices, and sharpening analytical skills. In this program, I’m able to learn and master a new concept one day and be prepared on the next day to utilize it in the work that I do.