From leadership lessons to career promotions: Follow one MBA student’s Kellogg journey
It’s one thing to understand how a business runs; it’s another thing to understand how to run a business. When Naomi Lopes ’23 started her Evening & Weekend MBA at Kellogg, she set her mind on figuring out the latter.
Leading a team or an organization requires business expertise, excellent communication and purposeful focus. It requires asking profound questions and searching for pragmatic answers. It requires a dedication to guiding people with mindful direction and careful planning. “A Kellogg Leader isn’t just someone who can achieve a goal,” Naomi explained. “She’s someone who knows the why behind it.” She started at Kellogg with the goal of figuring out that why.
Of course, on top of all that, an effective leader needs to know the ins and outs of her business. She needs a strong foundation in the basics, whether that’s finance or technology, and she needs unmistakable skill in her target area, whether that’s global strategy or asset management. While Naomi had a lot of those skills already in her toolkit, she knew she wanted an intensive program that would bolster her foundation.
At Kellogg, Naomi found both sides of the coin: extraordinary leadership cultivation and robust academic instruction. She’s growing as a leader and expanding her knowledge base — and, while she’s flourishing at Kellogg, she’s advancing in her career.
Uncover an inner leader
There are more than 300 class options for students in the Evening & Weekend Program, and each one is taught by experts in their fields. They cover everything from finance to crisis management to network analytics. There isn’t an area of business that you can’t dig into deeply at Kellogg, and Naomi has worked through many of them. Still, some of the most powerful lessons she’s learned at Kellogg have been about leadership.
In one of her favorite courses, “The Moral Leader: Exploring Complexity Through Literature,” taught by Brooke Vuckovic, Naomi grappled with the value questions that come across the desk of a business leader. “It’s not a class you would find in most MBA programs,” she explained — and it brought out conversations that also don’t happen in most MBA programs.
Each week, the group would read a piece of fiction and then discuss the moral themes the characters faced. In class, they’d draw connections from those themes, like greed or self-discovery, to modern business cases — pulling into question the dilemmas of today’s business leaders. “It was a wonderful way to reflect on my own values and consider how I want to act as a leader,” she said.
Lessons that multiply
This value-based leadership instruction was more than worthwhile. It turns out, Naomi had the chance to put those management lessons into practice earlier than she expected.
After layoffs at her company, Naomi shifted into an increased leadership role. “I went from having just a couple of people report to me, and being responsible for their goal to being responsible for an entire team of people. That shift was a lot to deal with,” she said. She had to manage her own work priorities, the priorities of her team and her continuing Kellogg tasks.
She was grateful to have developed those skills from her professors and peers, and they become immediately applicable. In that same season of her life, she was taking a “Leading and Managing Teams” course, and the experience became incredibly timely, she said. She went to her professor to get advice on how to thrive through the change and got tips she could use right away. “It’s so rare to have the chance to learn something really valuable, really actionable, and then go right to your place of work and implement it the next day,” she explained.
With that guidance and her own burgeoning leadership skills, she has been juggling her new work responsibilities and pushing her team to succeed. She’s done so well with these shifts that she’s been promoted three times since she started her MBA.
Thrive with flexibility
One reason she was able to shine both at school and work is the fundamental flexibility at Kellogg. “You can take evening classes. You can take weekend classes. There are pop-up classes. There are half-credit classes,” she explained. “You can choose what your quarter looks like depending on what your schedule is.”
She knew the school had an amazing and well-recognized full-time MBA program, and she found it incredible that she could get the same experience as a part-time student. She is taught by the same professors in the same classes. She can participate in an array of social clubs and activities. She can build the same foundation and the same ladder to her goals that a student in the full-time program would expect — and she can do it in a way that works for her.
“The flexibility is just really easy because you can weigh what’s going on in your personal life and your professional life, then make the decisions that are right for you,” she explained. She did exactly that one summer when her organization was going through some major changes and she needed to focus on her work. She took those months off of school and jumped right back in the next quarter when things settled. That way, she’s able to give her best to both aspects of her life.
A commitment that counts
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Naomi. Achieving something that pushes your life forward in a positive, powerful way rarely is. “Doing an MBA is a huge commitment,” she said. “It’s definitely something that has challenged me emotionally. It’s challenged my time management skills. It’s challenged my ability to balance professional, personal, and now, schoolwork on top of all that, but, for me, it has absolutely been worth it.”
On top of her promotions, she’s gained skills she’s sure she wouldn’t have gained elsewhere. She’s discovered her own leadership abilities, broadened her foundational business knowledge, and built an impressive network. She said, “So much of my success is credited to what I’ve learned as a leader at Kellogg — the different business strategies I’ve learned and the topics I’ve brought to my team as a result.”
“This investment has already paid off,” Naomi said. “And I’m excited to see where I continue to go.”