For those of you that are not aware, the MBA application process is grueling mentally and emotionally. Not only did I have to re-learn math (and am terrified of all the math that I will be learning shortly), I had to truly reflect on my life, what I care about, and what I hope to do with it.
After my process was done, I would jokingly tell my friends and family that if I were to die tomorrow, all they had to do was go into my MBA folder and they would have my entire life story for my eulogy in one place. Although I plan on getting a lot more done before my time comes, this is a pretty good view of who I was prior to beginning this program.
As you may know, I consult with students applying to programs and help them craft their stories because most times it is simply difficult to take a step back, look at yourself and tell your story through a lens that truly captures the essence of your being and your purpose.
This personal statement was a labor of love, and took many months for me to get to a place where I felt confident enough to send in. My story made sense to me, but was very difficult to piece together. Thanks to my my mom and my closest mentor Mallom Liggon, I finally got my story to a place that is me on paper. And luckily, it got me to my next chapter.
As I start my first week of classes, I hope you enjoy and get a better understanding of who I am, what I believe in, and what I hope to do with this beautiful life that I’ve been given.
I hear knocking. The little butterflies in my stomach start to fly, they can’t seem to contain themselves. This happens every time.
I quickly cover my pots, run to the door and see your smiling face. It’s dinner time, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting your arrival.
Everytime we get together you know what to expect – random discussions, amazing homemade creole food, and usually a lot of laughs.
Tonight is no different.
“They” say that people have three great loves in their lifetime. I’m not quite sure who “they” are, but I figured I’ll start our conversation tonight with mine.
Part One: The Smile
It’s 6:30 AM, I should be exhausted, but I’m alert and intently listening to Dr.K prep and rally his assistants for their patients of the day. Encouraging them to treat each one kindly, inquire about their lives, and make them feel at home. Every conversation was intentional and important. I wasn’t the only middle schooler who was regularly excited to see my orthodontist. He had built a community that extended outside of his practice’s walls.
I fell in love with dentistry. Or at least I had thought so.
I chased my dream of becoming an orthodontist for most of my life. It took me to the highest peaks and deepest valleys. I followed this love blindly – despite my closest friends and mentors advice. I learned what it felt like to struggle, and failed for the first time. I went half away across the world to Tanzania and experienced what it felt like to actually change someone’s life, with something as simple as a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Looking back – I didn’t fall in love with dentistry, I fell in love with the enterprise of making people smile and the impact of meaningful conversations. I had to accept that sometimes our next love is sitting right in front of our eyes.
Part 2: The Game
It’s opening night – my worst fear had come true. I felt a cold droplet on my head, and looked to the heavens as the sky opened up to let its torrential cold rain down. This was the first time our stadium had been sold out since I was a student. Scanning the immense crowd from the field, I awaited the mass exodus. Looking into the players faces I saw fear and excitement dancing across their eyes. No Vandy fan would ever sit through a football game, especially if it was raining. We weren’t good enough for that type of commitment. Yet, to my complete surprise, people didn’t walk out during the national anthem and excitedly waited for kickoff. I smiled and walked up to my seat in the student section thinking, “Wow, we finally made it.” We didn’t win that game, but at least people were there to see us lose.
It was then that I realized that I had fallen in love with sports. The Business of Sports.
We all wait around for game day so we can ride our favorite roller-coaster called fandom. Like many of the 168 million sports fans in the United States, I didn’t have a conceptual understanding of the amount of assets it took to watch my favorite game on the TV or my phone – nor did I care. I began to understand and appreciate the inner-workings of this world when I convinced Coach James Franklin to let me start his tour guide program for Vandy Football. He didn’t just change recruits lives – he changed mine.
Building a program from the ground up was an incredibly daunting task. Every detail mattered.
Learning how to have meaningful conversations to build a community amongst coaches, families, recruits, fans and students alike was difficult when you had no facilities, no wins and just a dream for what the program would one day look like. I had to believe in the potential greatness of our team so I could convince others to follow.I took pieces of Coach Franklin’s transformative leadership skills with me into every position that I held from that point forward.
As a black woman who wasn’t a student athlete, it was challenging to find a place where I could thrive within the sports industry. But, I figured if I could sell a dream, then I could sell sports media. Which brought me to Turner Sports.
I had seen the team side, and now I was deep diving into the media side – the side that keeps our favorite teams alive. Being an assistant was my frenemy, a necessary evil. Kind of like watching commercials. I had to find ways to exercise my skill sets that weren’t necessary in my day to day job. The more I learned about the inner-workings of this industry, the more solutions I crafted. Dr.K taught me that everyone has something worth sharing, so I invested time in building relationships beyond the business norms from the CEO to our mailmen. I built a community of peers and mentors that helped me lead teams that brought our millennial visions to the table, mutually sharing insights and understandings about our most profitable and critical audience that is crucial to the health of our business.
However, nothing great lasts forever. In the past four years within the media industry, I’ve experienced continuous disruption that has required us to challenge our own thinking, processes and approaches. And that’s what gets me excited. These are the conversations that have compelled me to continue my education and professional development in the area of business.
The communities within the sports ecosystem is what makes sports phenomena and the media that surrounds it real. My love for the game may be different than most, but it has ignited a desire to build a platform that gives power to communities that give meaning to our lives.
Part 3: The Idea
I’m scrolling through my instagram. Reloading and scrolling, reloading and scrolling. I’m looking to see how many people liked my newest post. I’m hoping that I have new messages. Did I get more likes than my last post? I’m doing this more than I would like to admit. I do it all the time.
I made the conscious decision to delete my social media platforms for two years. I’m inherently very social, but I needed a break. I was addicted. During that time, I worked on strengthening the friendships that were important to me. I had found happiness in this new state, and a renewed sense of freedom. But, my social media-less diet wasn’t sustainable. I was too disconnected from a tool that has become an integral part of our society.
Upon returning to these platforms I realized that my greatest love is my relationships, and that there must be a way to grow and protect them.
Sankofa is a Ghanian word that means “go back and fetch it”, but the literal translation is,“it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” As a history major, I find solace in being able to learn from the past to guide our present and future. Right now, we’re in a position to direct history by building a tool that will put our personal relationships back at the forefront of our lives. My love for this idea is one that I intend to pursue wholeheartedly, as we all need help in finding, saving and growing relationships that are at risk of being left behind.
I hear knocking. The butterflies in my stomach start to fly, they can’t ever seem to contain themselves. It’s been 3 years since graduating from Booth, and it still happens every time.
Some things have changed, while others have not. The conversations are even richer, the food is still delicious, but there’s plenty of new faces at the table.
As we sit back and reflect on how we’ve evolved since school, it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. I realized that these once seemingly disparate loves of my life were actually interwoven and created the path for what laid ahead:
My love for the smile flourished with the building of multiple oral health clinics around the globe
My platform was proven to increase happiness and has changed the conversation on mental health
And, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with my Booth classmates who are like-minded and whose dreams are as big as mine
Looking back, building communities through meaningful conversations that have positive consequences has always been the essence of my being. Dr.K taught me the power of communication, Coach Franklin taught me how to transform a community, and I found my guiding forces on how to leave a major impact on this world at Chicago Booth.
and that my friends is my story.