These Drake Scholars are taking charge of their careers
Emily ’24 dedicated more than a decade to for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and currently works at the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). Kaly Queiroz ’24 has spent her career working in STEM as an engineer with JACOBS. While their journeys have been unique, they share immense pride as Drake Scholars and in being a part of the next generation of leaders who are committed to advancing women in business. The Drake Scholar Fund supports women enrolled in either the Executive MBA Program or the Evening & Weekend MBA Program.
Learn how these women are putting their Kellogg experience to use in real-time at their respective organizations and what it means to be a part of building a community of driven women.
Kellogg: Tell us a little bit about your background, and what motivated you to get an MBA at this point in your career.
Emily (EH): What’s the saying “fortune favors the prepared”? If I’m picking a tagline for my journey to Kellogg, that might be the best fit at this point. I haven’t always been able to see the full journey from the starting line of several of my academic and professional endeavors, but I have always tried to stay anchored in a mindset of continual growth aligned with my personal values.
While attending Western Michigan University for undergraduate studies, I was selected for an internship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Upon graduating with my Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics, I was hired full-time and subsequently served for about 12 years in the FBI holding various positions in information technology management, transnational organized crime programs and finally within the Washington Field Office.
In 2020, an amazing and unexpected opportunity for a career pivot arose, and after much thought and careful consideration, I moved back home to the Chicagoland area and accepted a position with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). NICB is a not-for-profit organization funded primarily by the insurance industry and chartered with preventing and investigating insurance fraud and crime. I currently serve as the senior director of strategic transformation.
Although I had been contemplating an advanced degree for several years, as I made my transition out of the government, an MBA, and the journey it takes to earn one, became a clear tool that I needed in my toolbox going forward. As a mid-career professional looking to continually progress into leadership roles of increasing impact, I don’t want to be caught flat-footed or unprepared when the next opportunity arises. I am confident this experience will mitigate that possibility.
Kaly Queiroz (KQ): In my undergraduate studies, where I majored in civil engineering at Florida Atlantic University, there was a strong technical solutions-oriented approach to learning. The lessons and network I built from that period served me well as I embarked on my career and as I eventually became a licensed professional engineer in Florida and Puerto Rico.
After a few years of experience in the corporate world, I recognized that there was a gap in my skillset when it came to certain facets of the business and that to fill these gaps, I would need to get an MBA. The timing was really the challenge — I wanted to enroll when I had enough experience under my belt to be able to apply lessons learned in my current role and be able to contribute to the program since so much of what makes Kellogg great are the class dynamics.
As I was approaching the 10-year anniversary of my career, most of which was dedicated to supporting and growing the aviation market at JACOBS as an engineer and project manager, the timing felt right to begin the MBA journey. I had a good amount of experience, and the increase in responsibilities and executive exposure gave me the confidence I needed. When I was asked to be part of the board of the Airport Consultants Council, a non-profit in the airport infrastructure space, that gave me the final push to apply. Opportunities were being nudged my way and it made me realize that the time was now — it was sink or swim time!
What appealed to you the most when considering and deciding to enroll in the school’s Executive MBA program?
EH: In addition to the academic rigor of both Northwestern and Kellogg, I was most drawn to the concept of the well-rounded Kellogg Leader: high impact, low ego. Throughout my career in mission-driven and service-oriented organizations, I’ve always tried to maintain a mindset of “let the work speak for itself.” Knowing I would be among colleagues with similar mindsets, who I could share this journey with rather than compete with academically, was extremely appealing.
Additionally, knowing my own learning style and how I best engage interpersonally, the on-campus aspects of the program with a consistent cohort were key factors and have had a huge impact on how much I have already gotten out of the program in the past few months.
KQ: There were three major factors that influenced my decision: 1) The Kellogg brand: the school’s great academic standing (known globally for their MBA ranking as a top program) had a big appeal to me; especially once you tag on a low-ego high impact mentality. 2) The cadence and location of the classes: having an in-person experience was important to me, and the once-a-month frequency of classes was the perfect fit that gave me flexibility with my work schedule. I was not interested in evening programs, or multiple weekends a month frequency. 3) Preview Day: once I attended preview day it just felt right. The class setting, the professor and the attendees were all so focused and engaged in the discussions — it truly inspired me to click the “apply now” button as soon as I left.
Congratulations on becoming a Drake Scholar. What does it mean to be a part of a group of women leaders who are committed to investing in themselves and strengthening communities and workplaces?
EH: In one word: honored — even more so as I have gotten to know all the other incredible women within the Kellogg community. From an early age, my parents taught me the importance of being a good person, working hard and helping others. They created environments that allowed me to find my own voice including sending me to Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School, an all-girls institution on Chicago’s south side, where these lessons were reinforced and amplified inside and outside of the classrooms. I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, but that experience provided me a lot of the basic life skills for a career in industries where women are not in the majority.
Throughout my time in the FBI and now with NICB, I have had amazing mentors and role models who supported my growth. Those types of resources and relationships have been invaluable to me, and I try to pass along the lessons I have been given to those coming up with and after me whenever I can.
My experience within Kellogg has already reaffirmed my belief that success for any single female in business can become a pathway for those wishing to do similar. Being a small part of the phenomenal group of women at Kellogg makes me excited for the positive impact we are all going to have, and are already having, creating more pathways in our workplaces and communities.
KQ: Thank you! There was disbelief for a good five days. After my soul returned to my body, and it sank in that I was selected as a Drake Scholar, there was a mix of gratitude and responsibility. Gratitude because becoming a Drake Scholar affirmed to me the life-changing opportunity to learn from accomplished women from across different sectors. The women in my cohort are intelligent, humble and successful I often look around the room and am filled with gratitude. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true!
The responsibility piece is especially important to me because I see it as part of my role as a Drake Scholar to represent and grow the number of women that enroll in the program. Being Latina and in the STEM field throughout my professional career where I was often one of the few in the room has driven me to be an advocate to grow the number of women in STEM. MBA programs face similar diversity challenges — since typical enrollment percentages for women hover around 25 percent, and I’m honored to take on that responsibility to share my story and hopefully nudge more women to apply.
Both of you are going through the EMBA program in your respective cities (Chicagoland area and Miami). How do you feel the school’s location suits your lifestyle needs and professional ambitions?
Kaly on the Miami campus: Miami sits in the fastest growing state in the country as of 2022 — there's an energy to the place, and it’s buzzing with people moving from all around the world. There are multiple companies landing HQs here, and post-pandemic growth has skyrocketed. The Kellogg campus in Miami encapsulates and reflects all of this — our cohort is incredibly diverse (flying in from South and Central America, the Caribbean, India and more). I live about an hour from the Kellogg Miami campus, and I have an easier commute than most, but I’m originally from Brazil. I was born there and moved to the United States when I was nine years old. The Miami vibe is a warm energy like coming home. Both from a lifestyle and professional ambition perspective, it’s a lovely place to be and learn.
Emily on the Evanston campus: I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, and after approximately 12 years of living in Washington, D.C., I was thrilled to be able to move back home near my family in 2020. As I thought about what I wanted next in my career, I knew I had a strong preference to stay in the Chicago area, so anchoring myself in a local professional network while also maintaining a global perspective was a huge draw for me.
Also, even though it’s a relatively short drive away, staying in the Allen Center on class weekends allows me to step into my “EMBA-bubble” and really focus on the class content and being there with all my colleagues in Cohort 134. It also doesn’t hurt to wake up to views of a Lake Michigan sunrise — no matter the weather.
After all is said and done, how do you plan to leverage your MBA?
EH: I’m already leveraging it! My coworkers may be sick of me by now, but what’s truly wonderful about the program is that I’m able to take what I am learning back to NICB almost immediately, discuss it with others, and then take some of the lessons even further by implementing them. Having the opportunity to complete this program while also working has been a game-changer for me based on my learning style. Just a little over three months in, I know I have only scratched the surface of the value the EMBA program is adding to my career, and I’m looking forward to the journey it will continue to take me on toward becoming the strongest leader I can be.
KQ: The lessons I’ve learned over the past four months have been so impactful — I’ve already put learnings to good use not only from a professional sense with my team but also in my personal life as well. Get ready because it’s an experience that will change you holistically and repeatedly, after every class! Because of this constant progress, I believe the Kaly that will graduate a year and half from now will have a different mindset than the one I have now. I’m sure she’ll think of even wiser ways to leverage this MBA!
Anything else you’d like to share?
EH: If you’re on the fence about taking the leap into Kellogg, do it. I’ve found the best moments of growth in my career have come from the times I pushed myself (…or was pushed) out of my comfort zone. This program is challenging, but transformational and full of opportunity.
KQ: Are you a learner? If so, then stop second-guessing because your people are in an MBA program. If you’re the type of person who sees themselves as a forever learner an EMBA program is the right fit for you. Everyone in the cohort is juggling full-time jobs, families and school, and in spite (or maybe because) of all of this they are super excited to be in class, challenging pre-conceived notions, being humbled by the vastness of knowledge your teammates have and are always pushing to ask for the missing data. We’re here to make each other better, and it’s such a privilege and priceless opportunity to do that in an environment where low ego — high impact leads the way.
Read next: Understanding & navigating trade-offs during your EMBA