At TransparentCareer, we love featuring our fellow MBAs and the businesses that they’ve started. This week we’re interviewing our friend Diamond, who started her own MBA community, Thrive, for women pursuing careers in business and tech.
Are you an MBA with your own business? Know someone that is? We’d love to hear about it! Reach out.
Hi Diamond! Thanks for taking the time to meet with us today! Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I am an incoming first-year MBA student at Harvard Business School. Before business school, I worked in integrated marketing at NerdWallet, a fintech start-up in San Francisco, that helps people make more-informed financial decisions. At NerdWallet, I also co-launched the company’s Diversity and Inclusion program. I am a proud 2013 graduate of Baylor University, where I earned my BBA with honors. I am also a former college track athlete; during my years at Baylor I was a two time All-American and earned a gold medal for Team USA at the Pan American Junior Championships. Outside of school / work, I love lifting weights, HIIT workouts, writing, reading and eating. Although I recently decided to test out the vegetarian life, so I must say eating is a tad (just a tad) less enjoyable.
What made you want to get an MBA?
I’ve been in a pretty niche role for the majority of my career thus far – marketing in the financial services industry, first at a large financial services company company and later at a personal finance startup. I am someone who needs a lot of variety in my day-to-day to feel engaged at work, and I got to a point where I was not getting that in a functional marketing role. So I started reflecting and journaling about what I wanted out of my life. I did this on two levels – at a more granular level to identify what I liked and did not like about my current role, as well as at a bigger “if I could do anything what would I do?” level.
I discovered that my favorite projects within my marketing role dealt with answering big picture questions like “what is the best traffic acquisition strategy for a certain product” or “who is our highest value target consumer group for a certain product?” All of these projects required a mix of research, number crunching and making recommendations, which I loved. This insight led me to explore consulting.
As far as the “big question” I’ve always been curious and I’ve always kept a journal of things I notice and ideas. In the back of my head, I’ve always considered entrepreneurship and my reflection time solidified that I love using my curiosity about the world to identify problems and solve them.
Given these interests (consulting and entrepreneurship), an MBA made perfect sense. Making the jump without one is not impossible from where I am now but an MBA just makes it much more of a straight line. Additionally, I am big on personal development. I’ve always loved learning. I also love reading, exploring and forcing myself our out of my comfort zone. I see the MBA as an experience where I am giving myself this time to do all of that.
What are your plans post MBA?
My long-term goal is to leverage social entrepreneurship as a tool to explore my interests in personal finance or health / beauty for minority communities while also creating socioeconomic opportunity for low-income Americans, particularly people of color. Short-term, I want to round out my general business acumen in a more wide-ranging role, so I see myself returning to the tech industry in a product role or spending time in consulting.
Could you tell us a bit about Thrive? What led you to start it; have you always wanted to start a business or website?
Thrive is a community for women pursuing MBAs and careers in business and tech. We want Thrive to be the place women can go for the connections and resources they need to get through business school and to the careers that they want.
Our mission is also centered around elevating the voices and experiences of women of color. Why? One piece of it is facilitating accessibility for a historically under-represented group in the business and tech world. Many women of color do not see people who look like them represented in tech or at the highest levels of business. They’re also not as likely to have a family member or network of peers who can demystify the complex road to an MBA and business or tech career. The result of these two forces is that women of color often just opt out of these paths. We’re building Thrive to highlight the voices and experiences of black women and all those who support the vision in the hopes of changing that.
On a personal note, this work is so important to me because this is something I would have wanted two years ago when I started down this path. Many of my colleagues and mentors in the Bay Area have family members with MBAs or who work in tech, or a well-connected network of people from their previous careers in jobs like consulting or investment banking.
I don’t have that. A few years ago, I did not even know what consulting as a career was. I am just this girl from Texas who comes from a family of educators and blue-collar workers. I had little exposure growing up to business careers, tech careers or higher education.
I definitely did not know how rigorous the application process to apply to business school would be. Programs like Management Leadership for Tomorrow were invaluable in getting me the exposure I needed to understand what was possible for me. It literally gave me the larger context within which I could dream. I hope Thrive can be that for other women of color, because if I did not have it, I wouldn’t be on the path to realizing even half of my potential.
Regarding whether I’ve always wanted to start a business or website: I have always had the entrepreneurial itch. However, Thrive came from a place of truly believing in the multiplicative power of accelerating the careers of other women of color.
It looks like you have a great team put together. Tell us about them.
I am so lucky to be building on Thrive with Poni and Nancy! Poni Bepo will be attending HBS with me this fall. She graduated from Stanford with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and was most recently at EARN, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that builds technology products to help low-income individuals save more money and develop better financial habits. Nancy is switching coasts with Poni and me (we are currently in the Bay Area until we move to Boston) to earn her MBA at Stanford. She’s a strategy and operations consultant at Deloitte. All three of us have been blown away by the positive response we’ve already received.
What is your ultimate goal for Thrive?
We want to be the place women go when they are considering an MBA as path to a career within the business + tech realm. We really want to become synonymous with women MBAs. We truly believe in the value of this degree to fix the representation problem of women of color in tech and in business leadership.
To do this, we have more things in the works on top of our website. We believe the most important piece of this journey is community. We had each other when applying to business school, and we’d like to facilitate that for other women. We’re working on building out exactly what the Thrive community will look like, but it will be a protected space for women to share tips, resources, connections, opportunities and just generally learn on each other.
Any tips for aspiring MBAs or current students? Or anybody that wants to start a site or business like you?
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
While Thrive is focused on business school and building a career, sharing information on how to make your whole life work while chasing your dreams is just as important to us. Life starts to get crazy when you apply for business school, and even crazier once you start school and graduate. If you gain your dream job in this quest but lose yourself and what matters to you, it’s all for naught. Thrive will definitely cover dealing with relationships, staying connected to family, staying healthy in the midst of the craziness, perspectives on current events and all of the other things that make us real people.
Thanks for your time Diamond! And congratulations on Thrive.
You can join Diamond and her community, Thrive, here.
Do you also have an interest in consulting? Check out our article on consulting firms you might not know about (but should).
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