How an MBA helped with a career pivot from education to consulting
When looking back on his MBA experience, gratitude washes over Nathan Alan Marks '22 MBA as he recounts the supportive community he found at Kellogg. The faculty’s innovative approach to business education and their real-world application of business intelligence as well as his peers’ guidance helped Marks step into leadership and successfully pivot industries. Read more about how his journey at Kellogg and how it provided him with the right environment to make the transition.
How has Kellogg helped you grow as a person and a leader?
When I arrived at Kellogg, I had nearly a decade of work experience in the social impact sector. My first was as a corps member at Teach for America and then as an early hire at education nonprofits and edtech companies working to increase equity in education in the United States and Latin America. While I was highly motivated to contribute to the mission of these organizations, I also felt my ability to drive change at scale was limited. Since arriving at Kellogg, I’ve been able to develop hard skills, an analytical toolkit and business acumen helping me become more adept at moving between sectors from private, nonprofit and government.
I also know that the Kellogg culture, which emphasizes holistic thinking and collaborative problem solving, will serve me well as I chart a long-term career path that leads to cross-sector work to help drive positive change in the world. As I reflect on my Kellogg journey, I know I’ve built on my strengths while also developing new skills that will allow me to broaden and deepen my impact as a leader.
What was the most beneficial thing you learned and/or experience you had while at Kellogg?
Professor Brooke Vukovic teaches a phenomenal course called “Moral Complexity in Leadership: An Exploration through Literature.” By no means is this course a conventional business school class–it involves weekly readings of fiction ranging from short stories to full-length novels and co-facilitating discussion on them in small groups followed by a plenary session where we explore the link between the themes raised in the week’s story and real-life examples from leadership situations in the business world.
While a class on literature might strike some as “fluffy” for business school, I found this course tremendously useful. Literature has the power to “connect, correct and expand” us. It reminded me of the responsibility business leaders have to consider the effect of their actions on all different stakeholders, the risks and the blind spots that regularly come with increasing power and influence in an organization.
It also helped me re-ground in my purpose as a leader. Finally, and most importantly, it reminded me of the importance of making space for reflection and discussion with others about “messy” issues and the growth, learning and connection that can accompany this kind of open, honest, and vulnerable discussion.
I’m eager to continue building communities like the one I experienced in Professor Vukovic’s class in my future both personally and professionally. Communities where people aren’t afraid to engage in difficult conversations about complex issues and people consider perspectives that may not initially be apparent while acting with moral integrity.
I also learned about the importance of making space for literature and art, and about the real positive impact that can have not only as a source of entertainment but also as a way to connect with and learn from others and their lived experiences.
What will you miss most about being a Kellogg MBA student?
Kellogg gave me the privilege of being part of a welcoming, empathetic and collaborative business school community. And while Kellogg students are down to earth and approachable, I was able to lean in to building communities even more intentionally during my two years. I co-led Pride@Kellogg, the LGBTQ+ affinity group, and also co-led Hear My Story, a student-run storytelling initiative that brings together hundreds of students a week to hear their peers tell personal stories, monologue-style, on different themes throughout the year. I’ll miss the experience of being a part of a learning community that also makes space for and prioritizes investing in deep relationships with peers, and the (seemingly) unlimited time to explore interests — academic, professional, and social.
What was your favorite class you took and why?
When I arrived at Kellogg, I was committed to taking classes that would develop the quantitative business skills I thought I was lacking as a student with a less-traditional background. But while I learned a lot from many of the finance and economics courses I took, some of my favorite classes were those that combined serious analytical rigor with real-world applications that could generate positive impact in the world.
Aside from Professor Vukovic’s class, two others that stand out to me are Professor David Besanko’s Public Economics for Business Leaders: Federal Policy, and Professor Meghan Busse’s Economics of Energy Markets and the Environment. Both were masterfully taught by professors who deeply care about their craft as teachers. Their educational dedication led to rich discussions with classmates about real-world issues where I got to witness my peers bringing the richness of their pre-Kellogg work experience into the classrooms. I walked away from both with a rigorous analytical framework that will help me navigate the intersection of business and policy in my future career as well as tools for economic analysis and strategic thinking that will help me stand apart as a leader.
What makes the Kellogg community so special and different?
Kellogg is a place where people really look out for and support each other. During my first year, I was constantly impressed by the willingness of my peers to give freely of their time to share experiences and help me navigate the recruiting process.
For example, a group of second-year students who had a background in education (like my own) formed an Interview Prep Group (IPG) for first-years who were recruiting for jobs in consulting. This community of 10 or so students met weekly throughout the fall and into winter quarter and was thoughtfully designed to complement the support I was already getting from the Kellogg Consulting Club’s prep for consulting recruiting. These mentors were instrumental in helping me tell a compelling story about my professional path, and the unique (and valuable!) skills I was bringing from the world of education to the world of consulting. I am grateful for them for helping me receive an offer from a top firm.
In my second year, I was eager to pay it forward to folks who were in the same position I had been in a year earlier and co-led a similar community for people pivoting from education to consulting. It was amazing to be a part of a community where people give so freely of their time and energy, and this collaborative, generous spirit is definitely something that makes Kellogg stand out compared to its peer schools.
What’s one piece of advice you have for incoming Kellogg students?
Build the community you want to be a part of. When I arrived at Kellogg, I found the most friendly and approachable fold. But put 600+ of us in a place where everyone is trying to max out on experiences and social connections, relationships can seem fleeting and superficial if you don’t put effort and intentionality into them. The leadership positions I took on had to do with deepening relationships with communities I wanted to be a part of and of creating communities where people could have conversations and interactions that mattered.
I’m proud of the relationships I’ve developed as a result, and of the ways in which these communities have contributed to making Kellogg culture a unique place where people can show up as their full selves.