Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Robbie Walker.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees?
Robbie: I grew up in northern Illinois in an area that my mother’s family homesteaded when they immigrated to America back in the early 1800s. We were a multi-generational household, and my six siblings and I shared many childhood adventures.
For college, I chose to attend Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and studied Political Science. After earning my degree, I joined Real Estate Research Corporation (RERC), a consulting firm which, at the time, specialized in urban economics. I primarily advised governments at all levels (local, state, national) on how to develop and implement projects that would serve as a catalyst for implementing broader objectives. For instance, I led a groundbreaking project for a Chicago suburb that wanted to identify how to equitably assess fees on residential land use developers for the necessary schools, parks, water and sewage use that additional residents would require. I also helped lead a national study to assess the cost-benefit implications of active solar energy usage in residential developments across the United States for the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
While working as a consultant, I found I needed a more structured approach to solve related business and financial issues, so I decided to get an MBA. My choice of an MBA program was predicated on a quite specific and individual calculation. First, since I would continue working full-time, my job tied me to a Chicago area school, which limited my choices. Second, I had already earned one degree at Northwestern and wanted to experience a different academic environment. Result: Chicago Booth was my best option. This is not a decision making process I necessarily recommend to my clients! Nonetheless, after several years of hard work and study, I earned my MBA.
While working at RERC, I met my future husband, a Japanese citizen who also earned his MBA at Chicago Booth and who subsequently moved his career into a different industry. We married, and when his new company asked him to move back to Japan to direct their Tokyo operations, we decided to accept the offer and moved our growing family to Japan. We lived in Tokyo for about 15 years.
During this time, I had to switch my career focus away from consulting, primarily due to language issues but also because I wanted to concentrate on the needs of our young children. I chose to teach English to adults (my clients were primarily career diplomats in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and C-level executives of major Japanese corporations) and freelance writing (for whichever publication that accepted my work!). Eventually, my freelance writing expanded to include editing the work of others, with a focus on business and scientific papers. To this day, I continue to write and edit on a freelance basis. I currently write a regular column for two publications, one in Japan and one in Mexico, and contribute to several blogs and news sources.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school/non-work book?
Robbie: It’s impossible to identify my favorite book in any context! Since I’ve always loved reading, I am fairly well read, so all I can say is that in the past few years, I’ve preferred non-fiction to fiction, tend to focus my reading on history and science, and have a particular love of biographies. I do have several favorite fiction authors and, if they’re alive, will read anything new that they publish, and I will also typically take a chance with a new author, especially women, whose book descriptions intrigue me.
Accepted: Can you walk us through your journey to becoming an admissions consultant for Accepted?
Robbie: My freelance editing work led me to becoming an Admissions Consultant. It started with a friend who handled applications for Japanese applicants to graduate school. She needed help handling her work load during a family crisis and asked if I’d be willing to assist her. Once I said yes, that was it – I was hooked!
I loved how admissions consulting combined my knowledge of graduate programs with my ability to advise individuals regarding their particular needs. Most especially, I loved how I can help clients zero in on telling their story in a way that made them unique. (In my opinion, that is the key to the success of my clients.) When my friend decided to leave the business, I explored my options at other firms and was fortunate to be “accepted by Accepted.com.” In the past 8 years with Accepted.com, I’ve developed my expertise in business, law (including LLM), public policy and PhD programs at universities in North/South America, Europe and Asia, as well as expanding my network among AdCom Directors and fellow consultants throughout the world.
A consultant’s value is measured in part by providing the most informative, comprehensive and detailed information needed by a client. I work hard to offer my clients all the necessary information and insights necessary to their individual needs.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Robbie: My clients! (That’s an easy question!) Each is unique, each makes me optimistic about the future of business, and each teaches me something, however small.
Accepted: Do you miss teaching ESL? How do you think your teaching skills contribute to your work as a consultant?
Robbie: When we returned to the US (we naturally returned to the Chicago area, given my close family ties to the area), I taught ESL to adults as an adjunct Professor at a local college. My students came from everywhere in the world; in one class, 16 countries were represented among my 17 students, including the Republic of the Congo, Chile and Bulgaria, to name only three.
We moved to Baja, Mexico, when our youngest entered college, but I still teach ESL, although my teaching is now limited to children who are part of the Baja Scholarship Foundation (BSF). I’ve always believed strongly in giving back to my community, wherever I live, and this volunteer work is part of “acting on my word.” The children I teach weekly are quite poor but academically gifted; the mission of BSF is to help them become active participants in their community through funding of their education costs, and my English language instruction is provided as part of that mission.
It’s a joy to teach bright, motivated children. And that’s where I see one connection with my clients, who are also bright and motivated, albeit older. I would say that both groups (BSF students and Accepted clients) are among the smartest, most motivated people I’ve ever encountered in my life. It’s a real pleasure to work with them.
One major part of teaching is knowing how to draw people out, to get them to experiment with a new idea or concept or way of expressing themselves, so whether it’s with learning a different language or helping people uncover something in their background that is pertinent to a goal they want to achieve, my teaching experience contributes greatly to my work as a consultant (and vice versa).
Accepted: What are some of your favorite business school memories?
Robbie: My favorite business school memories include the day a professor won the Nobel Prize in Economics, a few life-long friends I met in the process of earning my degree, and my satisfaction at earning decent grades in quant-heavy courses given my decidedly non-quant background. I learned that Chicago Booth is truly oriented to the individual and open to giving a chance to those of us who don’t fit their typical profile.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
Robbie: I’m going to sound like an AdCom interview here, but learning the answers to these questions is, to me, key to helping my clients gain admission.
Number 1: I’m a big believer in goals and demonstrating how an MBA suits a career vision. ‘Why do you really need an MBA’ is almost always my first question for prospective clients.
Number 2: Why this school? All of the top schools know what they can do for you, the question is, what can you do for them? Show your fit.
Number 3: Why you? What makes you unique? Everyone has a story, and how you tell that story matters a lot. This is where I think I, as an admissions consultant, can make the biggest difference.