CMU Tepper MBA Interview with Josh (33-Year-Old; Theater Undergrad; No Experience in Finance/Accounting)

Josh Howatt

“I was the odd shaped piece, the creative piece.”

Here’s a talk with Josh Howatt who was recently accepted an offer to join the CMU Tepper class of 2015. Josh blogs at Taking on Tepper. Thank you Josh for sharing your story with us…and congrats on your acceptance!

This 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. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.

Accepted: First, can you tell us a bit about yourself: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What other degrees do you hold?

Josh: Well…I was born and raised in Orange County, California. I attended the University of California – Irvine, and originally entered with the intention of graduating Pre-Med. However, after a few semesters, I realized that my heart really wasn’t in the medical field. So I went were my heart called, which at that time was Theater and Music (I had been playing piano since I was 4 years old). After graduation, I moved to New York City in pursuit of a myriad of creative enterprises: I created a freelance graphic design business, became a published writer, and the typical New York casualty of singer-songwriter. After 5 or so years of admittedly floundering, I decided it was time to do something with my career and began to consider going back to school and getting my MBA. At first I assumed this was a lost cause, being that I was such an untraditional candidate; but as it turns out, many of the skills I had gleaned throughout my college years and beyond were surprisingly applicable to a corporate environment.

Accepted: How many b-schools did you apply to? Did you apply to safety schools as well?

Josh: Let’s see…I applied to 6 schools in total, which to me seemed like a nice safe number, but from what I’ve learned is on the higher side. I applied to 2 safety schools: Boston University and Boston College. Both, I felt, had strong programs and promising post-graduate placement in CPG Marketing.

Accepted: Why did you decide on Tepper? What made you the perfect fit for that program?

Josh: I finally decided on Tepper after visiting the campus in November. It was definitely a difficult decision, as I had received very enticing scholarships from both BU and BC, and I could see myself living in Boston. However, when it came down to it, I had to ask myself: which school had the greatest ROI; had the tools I lacked; had a strong reputation in Marketing (my concentration), as well as Finance, Technology, and Accounting; had a challenging environment; and – most importantly – had an overall feel of community. Since my first touch point with Tepper – corresponding with a 2nd year student via email since April – I have felt nothing but love from this community. Every single person I interact with seems to be completely dedicated to helping each other. I think this stems from Tepper being such a small school. Everybody knows everybody, and the faculty and students truly want to see you become the best you can be. And so I felt I fit in perfectly there, BECAUSE I was that missing piece. I was the odd shaped piece, the creative piece. People were so enthusiastic when they found out my background: “You were an actor? You know Photoshop? We could have totally used you on our last Branding case study.” And so I feel that I bring a totally untapped resource to the student body, and can’t wait to see what alternative skillset I can bring to the table.

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to in starting b-school in the fall? What are you least looking forward to?

Josh: Funny enough, I’m looking forward to the quant-heavy classes. I know this is my weakest area and the place where I will really need to work the hardest if I want to go into recruiting season with confidence. I feel fairly secure in my soft skills, and want to develop into a well-rounded full package.
I’m actually least looking forward to the Business Acting classes. And I know you’re saying, “Hey, wait a second…” But as a Theater major, I know the pressure is going to be on to, well, perform, and after being out of the “acting scene” for almost 8 years, I’m certain to be somewhat rusty. Not that we’ll be tackling Chekhov or anything, but…I joke.

Accepted: I see that a lot of your work history is at the W Hotel in Times Square. Do you plan on staying in the hotel industry? Or do you have other plans for once you receive your MBA?

Josh: I unequivocally do not plan to return to the hotel industry after graduation. After working in hotels for as long as I have, I realize that it’s really not where my heart is. While it is an interesting field, I would much rather be working within a realm that touches most consumers on a day to day basis (whether that manifest in CPG or Tech) in Brand Development, Strategy, and Advertising. I feel that this is a field where I can influence not only consumer behavior, but also how we market to (and in some ways alter the perceptions of) certain marginalized groups, eg: women, LGBT, etc. Although, I have been toying around with the idea of Consulting, as well. I’m just not sure if (being 33) I have the stamina to hack the hours and travel schedule that Consulting requires. Still, knowing myself, I’m sure that my trajectory will undoubtedly shift at some point during my time at Tepper.

Accepted: What was the most challenging step for you in the MBA admissions process? How did you approach it and overcome it?

Josh: First would have to be: the quant portion of the GMAT. And at a close second: struggling to rebrand myself as someone who is able to survive and thrive in not only business school, but beyond. So far I have yet to meet another Theater undergrad when engaging other MBA candidates; however, Tepper assures me that they are out there. In fact, they included a student profile in their most recent pamphlet, highlighting the testimonial of one such student.

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? Has the process revealed anything new about yourself?

Josh: Ultimately, I decided to blog about my experience in applying and attending an MBA program, because I know that when I first start looking into the possibility of going back to school I became extremely discouraged. I thought for sure there is no way any school is going to accept a 33-year-old, Theater undergrad, with absolutely zero experience in Finance and Accounting. Turns out that not only was I wrong, but I was accepted into one of the top 20 programs in the Nation. That changed my entire perception of what it means to be an MBA candidate and to be part of a student body that prizes diversity and sees utility in all backgrounds. So maybe somewhere down the line, a painter, an archeologist, a swim coach – whoever – will read about my struggles, and say, “Hey, if this guy can do it, so can I.”

For one-on-one guidance on the Tepper application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for Tepper, see CMU Tepper 2013 MBA Application Questions and Tips.

Do you want to be featured in Accepted.com’s blog, Accepted Admissions Blog? If you want to share your MBA/EMBA journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at mbabloggers@accepted.com.










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  • msm ackhana

    A student should give the answer like this. awesome interview. Good luck