‘I knew there was only one program I wanted to attend.’
Our students are drawn together by their commitment to learn, grow and create a positive impact at work and in their communities. In the second installment of a three-part series, we’re introducing you to some of our Executive MBA (EMBA) students and graduates who each come from very different backgrounds and professions, yet all saw an opportunity to cultivate this sense of purpose at Kellogg.
Meet Yaremi Alicea ’23, who is preparing to graduate from the Miami program this December. Alicea called Puerto Rico home until 2015, when she moved to Indiana to take on a role as a senior director in global marketing at Eli Lilly and Company — an organization she’s been with for more than 20 years. While she describes herself as a focused and ambitious individual, she also has a lighter side to her. A self-proclaimed Broadway enthusiast, music and art have shaped who she is today. She brings this spirit of play into her life at home and at work in an effort to positively impact the world.
As a diversity, equity, and inclusion advocate, she collaborates with Lilly's Organization of Latinos Employee Resource Group and has sat on the executive board. She's also formed part of the Hispanic Women Network, a connection space for Hispanic professional women at Lilly, fostering community and sharing best practices on how to succeed in the marketplace. As a member of the Lilly Marketing recruitment team, she engages in campus recruitment initiatives for the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras and Mayaguez Campus interviewing and selecting top-talent candidates to join the Lilly Marketing Academy Internship while mentoring and coaching the new hires.
Learn more about one of her favorite learning moments at Kellogg, what helped her decide to enroll in the school’s EMBA program and how she was able to apply knowledge from the classroom to the workplace.
Kellogg: Who was your favorite MBA professor and why?
Alicea: Choosing a favorite MBA professor is hard because each has contributed so much to my growth and development. However, two professors have left a lasting impact on me: Professor Alyson Carrel (Negotiation Strategies) and Professor Nicholas Pearce (Beyond Diversity).
Their teaching style and approach to the subject matter was exceptional. Also, their ability to connect with the class and build a supportive community with their teacher assistants was genuinely inspiring. They both demonstrated a deep understanding of the subject and were able to adjust the course to the needs and questions of the audience.
The ability to speak from the heart and share their values and experiences made professors Carrel and Pearce stand out. This created a safe space for open and honest discussions and encouraged us to think deeply about our leadership styles. Both classes left a lasting impact on me with a feeling of empowerment, support and inspiration to continue my leadership journey.
Kellogg: Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?
Alicea: Back in 2014 when I first started researching MBA programs, I was immediately drawn to the Executive MBA program at Kellogg. From the beginning, I was impressed by their approach to learning, the strong network of professionals and the welcoming atmosphere that made me feel right at home.
Fast forward seven years later, when Lilly, my current employer, offered me the opportunity to further develop my potential and sponsor my MBA, I knew there was only one program I wanted to attend. So, without hesitation, I contacted Kellogg and applied to their Executive MBA program.
The EMBA program stands out from the rest due to its unparalleled personal interaction and innovative approach to learning. Their program is designed to incorporate learning from peers through collaboration, international electives, and their extensive global network. It's remarkable how I can receive this level of education from one of the top business schools in the nation, motivating us to lead with purpose and, as their slogan says: “deliver high impact with low ego.”
Kellogg: What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA, and how did you apply it at work?
Alicea: One of the biggest lessons I learned during my EMBA program was the importance of endurance and active listening to succeed in cross-cultural interactions.
Throughout the program, I was put in various scenarios where I had to work with classmates from all around the world — whom I had just met — to deliver a project quickly. Through these interactions, I gained much personal insight including my cultural triggers and things that help me move forward.
I learned the importance of having a cultural translator in environments with a certain level of dissonance. Sometimes trying to understand things on your own doesn't work, and we need someone to help bridge the gap between different cultures. Life often puts us in challenging situations, but at the same time, it provides us with the tools to succeed. I have seen the benefits of having colleagues who act as cultural translators, and I am also more conscious of when I need to take on that role in the classroom and at work.
This lesson has been precious in my professional life. As a leader in a global organization, I need to be able to navigate different cultures and work with people from around the world. The ability to stay calm, listen actively and be willing to work through cultural differences has helped me build stronger relationships with my colleagues and achieve better results for my team. In addition, I have learned that success in cross-cultural interactions requires empathy and a willingness to learn from others.
More in this series: