From Rwandan Advertising to Wharton Entrepreneurship: The Unconventional MBA Path

Read more MBA student interviewsThis interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Mary Patton S. Davis, a first-year student at Wharton.

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where are you in business school and what year?

Mary Patton: I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida, which some may argue is not the South, but I beg to differ. Tampa is culturally Southern in many ways, and most of my family is from Alabama – hence the double name. I moved “up north” to Washington, DC to study French and International Relations at Georgetown University and graduated in 2010. I was always convinced I would work in government and security/intelligence, but life had other plans! That’s how I wound up at Wharton, by way of East Africa, to enter the class of 2016 with a focus on Entrepreneurial Management.

Accepted: Looks like you’ve been doing some really interesting work in Rwanda. Can you tell us about some of your recent jobs and projects there?

Mary Patton: My path to business school has been a very unconventional one. After Georgetown I joined political communications firm GMMB, working on media buying for the 2010 midterm elections and account management for political action committees. In the summer of 2011 I traveled to Rwanda to visit my older sister Elizabeth and the organization she founded in 2009: the Akilah Institute for Women, a three-year college specializing in hospitality, information technology, and entrepreneurship for young women from low-income rural communities. I fell in love with the country and the organization, and Elizabeth asked if I would move there to build their communications and marketing strategy. So I did what any responsible, rational person would do: I quit my job, sold my belongings, and moved to Rwanda in January 2012 for an indefinite period of time. It can take a giant leap of faith outside your comfort zone to discover your true passions, but I believe it’s one worth taking!

I built out Akilah’s marketing and communications throughout that spring and summer. At the same time I had begun teaching horseback riding lessons on the weekends and met the owner of the barn, a well-known expat businessman. One weekend he mentioned he was looking for someone to build a digital marketing department and drive new business development at his advertising agency. My response was, “Interesting, but I can’t think of anyone who fits that description.” He laughed and replied, “No, I want YOU to come in and interview!” You never know where your next job offer will come from…

I began working for the ad agency that summer, and stayed with them for over a year and a half. I became Director of Operations, tackling projects from refining internal processes, to landing new clients, to expanding our digital marketing services. Through this job I realized my passion (and aptitude!) for management, business development, and “intrapreneurship”, which led me to apply for an MBA. Managing a team of twenty-five people at the age of twenty-four impacted me greatly both personally and professionally, and was an opportunity for which I’ll always be grateful.

Accepted: What is your post-MBA career plan? Is it related to your work in Rwanda?

Mary Patton: I came into Wharton with several areas of interest, knowing that my post-MBA career plans would involve some, if not all, of them: Africa, technology, entrepreneurship, and fitness. My passion for fitness and entrepreneurship grew out of a company I co-founded while working at the ad agency: Yego Yoga Rwanda, a chain of yoga studios operating in six locations across Kigali with eleven instructors. I’ve furthered this interest here in the US by continuing to teach yoga and developing several business ideas in that area. For now I’m focused in that direction but who knows, maybe I’ll find a way to pursue all four of these interests!

Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up yet for next summer? If so, what will you be doing and what was the internship application process like at Wharton? If not, what steps are you taking now to plan ahead for the summer? How early does internship recruiting start at Wharton?

Mary Patton: There are many recruiting timelines – it all depends on what industry you’re pursuing. Mature recruiting (mostly for finance and consulting) begins as early as mid-October, while start-up recruiting doesn’t intensify until the spring. I’m personally interested in tech and start-ups so my recruiting hasn’t begun yet, although I’ve had informal offers from tech companies in Africa and start-ups on the West Coast. Right now I’m focused on working on my own business idea, so entrepreneurship is my number one summer internship choice!

Accepted: Can you tell us about your involvement in the Wharton Business Plan Competition?

Mary Patton: I believe it’s important to surround yourself with the type of people and situations that support your long-term goals, so I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the entrepreneurial environment of the WBPC. Given my background, my biggest value-add to the planning committee is in a marketing role. As Director of Marketing my mission is to grow awareness of and engagement with the WBPC both within the Penn community and without. I’m excited to see what this year’s competitors have in store for us, and how the WBPC contributes to future Penn-born businesses! To learn more about the competition, visit us at http://bpc.wharton.upenn.edu/.

Accepted: What is your favorite thing about Wharton so far? Is there anything you’d change about the program?

Mary Patton: My favorite thing about Wharton is how holistic the growth experience has been. Wharton is fully committed to developing students not only academically, but also professionally, personally, emotionally, and socially. All at once, Wharton is exciting and terrifying; rewarding and challenging; social and lonely; invigorating and exhausting; intellectual and obnoxious. Without all of those emotions, you wouldn’t be getting the full experience.

The only thing I would change: I wish there was more interaction between the Penn grad schools. I would love to have more opportunities to meet fellow students from the law, med, engineering, and education schools. I think this would enrich the experience for all of us, and keep us from talking about our econ problem sets and statistics projects all day long!

Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips for applicants aiming to go to Wharton?

Mary Patton:

1)  Be unique.

Admissions officers sift through thousands of applications looking for the diamonds in the rough. Imagine them sitting around at the end of the day recalling and discussing hundreds of essays – how will yours be remembered? When I met Wharton’s Director of Admissions at Winter Welcome Weekend, she exclaimed, “Oh, I remember you! You’re the yoga girl from Rwanda who worked in advertising.” How will your application stand out? What interests/projects/talents/experiences make you unique?

2)  Paint a compelling story.

Regardless of whether your career path is streamlined or as unusual as mine, your application should show progress and a desire to grow professionally and personally. Draw a clear thread throughout your jobs and experiences to demonstrate how you’ve arrived at this point where you feel compelled to apply for an MBA. Did you change jobs to follow your newfound passion for that industry? What extracurricular activities support your interests and show your proactive nature to learn more? How have you challenged yourself and stepped outside your comfort zone?

3)  Be clear about your ambitions.

Now that you’ve explained the narrative behind your career path, be clear about what you plan to do post-MBA. Schools want to see direction not only in your actions up to this point, but also in your goals beyond the MBA. Even if you don’t know the exact job you want three years from now, offering examples of what most interests you in a long-term career helps give schools an idea of how you’ll fit into their MBA class. Make sure to also explain WHY – what problem are you most passionate about solving? Which industry are you most intrigued by? What types of jobs most excite you?

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What role does social media play in your life?

Mary Patton: I started blogging while backpacking through SE Asia and India, but since starting school I’ve pivoted from travel to business-related topics. I naturally identify and write about topics I find interesting; luckily other people find them interesting too! I like to highlight topics that are relevant to my peers – global and industry-agnostic, but with a focus on entrepreneurship and technology.

For me personally, my blog keeps the creative side of my brain alive during the quantitative and analytical MBA experience – my biggest problem is finding time to blog as much as I’d like! Our generation is increasingly social and transparent, so I think it’s important to confront that issue head-on by taking control of your personal brand. My blog is a “stretch experience” for me and connects me to interesting people and opportunities – such as this interview with Accepted.com!

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Wharton see:

You can read more about Mary Patton’s journey by checking out her blog, MP is for Mary Patton. Thank you MP for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

 

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Life as an HBS MBA

 Life as an HBS MBA: An Interview with Philip BlackettMeet Philip Blackett, a proud member of the Harvard Business School Class of 2016, the founder of Magnetic Interviewing, and the host of the podcast Life in the MBA.

Listen to the recording of our conversation with Philip. He has a fascinating story!

00:02:35 – Fulfilling an 11 year promise to his mother and grandmother.

00:06:20 – Why HBS?

00:07:23 –  How Philip’s failures in real estate may have helped Philip get accepted to HBS.

00:11:43 – “Whichever school you apply to, make sure you give it your very best so you wont have any room or reason to feel bad about yourself.”

15:10 – The importance of team-work.

17:25 – Becoming a leader. (This is what HBS wants to see!!)

18:34 – What the HBS adcom looks for in your failures.

19:27 – Getting rejected by Harvard Business School. What now?!?!

22:01 – The best parts of life at Harvard Business School.

24:14 – Don’t be intimidated by the size of HBS.

25:23 – The importance of time management and priority management.

29:09 – What Harvard Business School needs to change.

30:15 – The benefits for the case study method.

35:42 – True or false: The competition among HBS students is cut-throat.

39:30 – The feeling of camaraderie among students (and professors.)

41:32 – Case Method – Individually prepare, then share among 5 people, and then share among 90 people.  And after class your perspective will be completely different than it was before.

46:35 – $$$ and social life at HBS.

53:55 – A field project in Mumbai, India.

56:32 – Why start your own podcast?

1:00:41 –  Magnetic Interviewing – The story of Philip’s startup.

1:06:23 – Innovation labs at Harvard Business School.

Listen to the full conversation to learn more!*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.

Relevant Links:

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5 Tips For Aspiring Pre-Med Researchers

The importance of research experience according to one med student.

Gaining research experience will make you a more competitive applicant

Gaining research experience won’t just make you a more competitive medical school applicant—it’ll also help you sharpen your critical thinking skills, and give you training you’ll draw on as a medical school student and physician.

How can you find the right research opportunity for you?

1.  Start early. Ideally, it would be great to have 1-2 years of research experience under your belt before you apply—so the earlier in your undergrad career you identify promising opportunities, the better.

2.  Find an area that interests you. For example, if you’re more interested in Psychology or Anthropology than you are in Chemistry, look into the possibility of assisting a professor in one of those fields.

3.  Make contact with professors to see if they need research assistants/laboratory volunteers. If your university has a research office or a central list of undergraduate research opportunities, check there first. If the system is less formal, do some research into professors’ current work (through department websites, professors’ CVs, etc). Then make contact via email and ask if you can speak to them about the possibility of volunteering in their lab. Let them know what background you have in the field (especially any prior research experience).  If they don’t need research assistants at the moment, don’t be discouraged- talk to someone else.

4.Think about doing a thesis. Depending on where you’re studying (and what field), this might allow you to design your own experiment.

5.  Consider summer research opportunities. AAMC provides a good listing here.

Rebecca BlusteinBy Dr. Rebecca BlusteinAccepted.com consultant since 2008, former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of the ebook, Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Dr. Blustein, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, assists our clients applying to medical school, residency, graduate school and Ph.D. programs. She is happy to assist you with your applications.

Download your free special report: Navigate the Med School Maze!

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How Important is Research for a Pre-Med
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7 Must-Do’s After You Get Your Med School Interview Invite

Learn how to use medical school rankings to choose the best med school for YOU.

Exercise has been proven to increase mental acuity—this will help you stay sharp and focused on your goal!

Congratulations! You have been identified as one of the most promising applicants for medical school this application cycle. Follow these seven steps to ensure that you will ace your interview and receive an acceptance:

• Celebrate!

While you may be nervous about embarking on the next step in your journey, don’t forget to celebrate each small victory along the way.  Take some time to fully acknowledge all of the people and effort that have contributed to your success.  Share the good news and express your gratitude!  

•  Stay Active

To ensure that you will be in the most positive frame of mind, work out at least three times a week. Staying physically active will allow you to burn off all that nervous energy and help you to regain your focus while increasing your endorphins.  The closer it gets to the interview, work out more frequently but not to the point of injury.  Exercise has been proven to increase mental acuity—this will help you stay sharp and focused on your goal!

•  Review your AMCAS application

The most important thing you can do to prepare for an interview is to review your AMCAS application every day leading up to the interview as well as the secondary essays you submitted to the school. Reminding yourself of all of your experiences will make it easier for you to answer specific questions about them and to provide an overall timeline of what you have done to prepare for medical school.

•  Update your CV/Resume

Arriving at your interview with copies of your updated CV/Resume and reviewing it on the way will help you appear organized and focused.  If it’s a traditional interview, it may guide the direction of your conversation.  Use it as an opportunity to update the interviewer on what you have been doing since you submitted your application.

•  Research the School

Take some time to read the school’s website.  If you have friends or family attending the school, contact them to ask questions about what they do and don’t like about studying there.  You should prepare at least three questions for your interviewer(s) that demonstrate your knowledge of their curriculum, special programs and volunteer opportunities in the community.

•  Prepare with Mock Interviews

Whether it’s a traditional interview or a MMI (mini multiple interviews), mock interviews are the best way to prepare yourself for the actual interview day.   Running through all possible questions and scenarios can help you formulate the strategies that will earn you the most points!  Take the time to practice. Mocks will not only ease your mind but give you an edge!

•  Test Drive your Interview Outfit

While that suit or outfit may look fabulous on the hanger, you won’t know until you try it on whether the buttons are loose or if it would benefit from a visit to the tailor.  Wear the outfit you’re planning on using for the interview for a few hours and see it is comfortable and professional enough for the interview.  You don’t want to have any wardrobe malfunctions when you’re traveling and unable to find a replacement.  It wouldn’t hurt to bring a couple of back-up outfits, just in case.

Having helped students successfully prepare for medical school interviews for almost a decade, I hope that the tips that I have shared will lead to a wonderful experience and that you will be offered an acceptance.  Most importantly, be yourself.  And answer the questions honestly and thoughtfully.  Good luck!

Multiple Mini Interview Webinar

Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted.com advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.

Related Resources:

The Ultimate Guide To Medical School Interview Success
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Common Myths About Medical School Interviews

Is Columbia Business School Calling Your Name?

Learn how to get Columbia’s attention by following the tips in Get Accepted to Columbia Business School, an on-demand webinar that we just posted to our site for anytime viewing. The webinar aired live last month and was a huge success, so if you missed it or if you attended and would like to review, then you’ll want to tune in to the online recording for not-to-be-missed advice on how to snag that Columbia acceptance.

Free on-demand webinar: Get Accepted to Columbia Business School!

Don’t you want to make sure you’re approaching Columbia’s application properly? View Get Accepted to Columbia Business School for free now!

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