This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with business students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top programs. And now, introducing Mischaela Elkins…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Mischaela: I’m originally from Southern Indiana but have lived in Chicago for the last eight years. I studied Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and Finance at Indiana University. My first two years were spent in a legal studies program, so my undergrad experience was split between Corporate Legal Studies and Jurisprudence and Business studies.
Accepted: Where are you currently attending b-school? What year are you?
Mischaela: I am in my second term in the 15-month IE Business School Global MBA program. As the program is an accelerated and intensive 15 months, I’m still a first year – but so much has been packed into this time.
For those not familiar with IE, it is a European b-school located in Madrid, Spain. Ranked eighth globally, it is known for the tremendous diversity of its student body with an incredible amount of nationalities, cultures, and languages represented.
Accepted: Why did you choose IE? How did you know you were you a good fit?
Mischaela: I chose IE for the international student body and strong emphasis on cultural diversity. I absolutely see myself as a citizen of the world, and I wanted to learn, network, and make friends with people who have the same self impression and vision. I like the challenge and richness that cross-cultural friendships give you. And my classmates haven’t disappointed – they provide me with so much perspective and clarity on international affairs, global business and economy, and collaboration and communication. They are making me a better person – daily.
I knew I was a good fit for this program because I’ve always valued international cooperation and inclusion and have been fascinated by international business. On a more personal level, I have always developed a very international and diverse group of friends. The citizen of the world who is looking to change the world through entrepreneurship/business and private sector/NGO cooperation is the perfect IE candidate. Thankfully, that is just who I am.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about that program? Is there anything you’d change?
Mischaela: My favorite thing about the program is that we never deeply hold our beliefs or opinions – we keep challenging ourselves as individuals and as a collective. Our professors encourage this in us. There is a real attention to the thought that we can constantly collect data, re-assess, reformat, and change…innovate or die but with empathy and respect. This comes across in the learning and academics and in the social aspects of the program.
The only thing I’d change is that I would make the program longer, because I just don’t want to shift out of it! I am excited to graduate, but I love the coursework and meeting with my peers to discuss, debate, and create our deliverables. I will really miss it when I’ve completed the program.
Accepted: You’re a UN Global Goals Ambassador! How did you get involved with their work? How has this service shaped and changed your life and career?
Mischaela: I’ve been very involved with the more grassroots aspects of the United Nations through the work of the United Nations Association and The US National Committee for UN Women as well as UNICEF. I got involved with the UN Global Goals campaign through the United Nations Association and was selected to champion the Millennium Development Goal for Women’s Rights and Equality. This service, this platform and position, has colored everything I do professionally and I see it as a tremendous honor to be selected to be a voice and a figure in this issue in my community. It has made me more aware of my privilege as a woman with educational opportunities and economic freedom, and how my gender becomes less of a hindrance because of my societal status. Women who are less financially stable have much bigger problems. There is some degree of privilege in fighting to shatter the posh white collar glass ceiling and I don’t take even that struggle for granted.
Accepted: You’re the Founder and the current Managing Director of Minivest. What prompted you to start this organization? Can you tell us a little about what Minivest does?
Mischaela: I started Minivest as an expansion of my idea for the I Was Here campaign. I Was Here is a campaign and life commitment I’ve begun to touch the life of one person in every country on Earth in my lifetime. Originally, this idea was just going to be a blog I wrote to discuss each project I invested in – a very personal effort. I very quickly began to see the potential for this to be a viral social campaign, so I pivoted it to be a campaign within a larger organization. I am working on the specifics of another campaign called Trade Zero to leverage a day or even an hour of commissions with Financial Services providers to combat human trafficking with partners like the Polaris organization. I plan to launch many more in the future.
It is my aim to develop innovative ways to siphon off small funding from crowdsourced efforts and bundle them in creative, awe-inspiring campaigns. This is the aim of Minivest, to be a vehicle for these campaigns. The Minivest slogan is “Small capital, big change,” which speaks to the ability for small financing and microphilanthropy to enact real change when enough people get involved. I want to change the dialogue around philanthropy, international development, and planned giving and ensure it’s not just in the domain of billionaires and scions. It’s my life’s mission to leverage FinTech to change the world. What we have is not a scarcity issue – what we have is poorly allocated resources on a global scale.
Accepted: With all that philanthropic work under your belt, what do you plan on doing after graduation?
Mischaela: I plan to continue my career evolution in FinTech and keep leveling up in my understanding of the financial markets, allocation of supply and demand, global economics, and of course designing and building technology solutions that democratize free markets and open exchange for people. I also intend to learn more about impact investing and develop myself as an authority on microfunding, which is a broader term for both microfinance/microcredit and microphilanthropy.
My eventual life passion and long term goal is to work for the United Nations headquarters, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, The Foreign Service, or on assignment abroad on strategies pertaining to leveraging technology to solve complex issues. In my MBA experience and throughout my career thus far, I’ve really developed a skillset for dissecting a problem and understanding the little cogs of inefficiency, lack of transparency, and lack of resourcing that bring about a core problem. Many of the challenges we see as a people are solvable through innovation and a succinct application of technology.
I want to be the one who charts the course and motivates a group of talented people to create solutions that rewrite global norms and truths about poverty, human rights, and more. In my lifetime I’ve already seen social media help people incite political change and fight for their own justice and emancipation and I’ve seen FinTech change how people fund their businesses and grow their livelihoods all over the world. This is just the beginning.
Accepted: Lastly, what are your top three tips for getting the most out of your b-school experience?
1. Expect to learn more from your classmates and their experience than from your professor. It is pretty common among MBAs to be highly driven and competitive, but in your MBA it’s important to orient your way of thinking to the fact that you will learn more if you learn from your peers. Hearing their explanation for a concept or their application of a method or analysis through the unique filter of their occupation, education, and background will make your experience so much richer. Don’t see them as your competitors, see them as your teachers.
2. Be more open minded than usual. My MBA was a really eye opening experience for me in terms of showing me just how much I make judgments, perceptions, or form ideas and opinions with more than a little bias or built-in thinking. Being accepted into a program with a highly diverse student body (approx. 100 different nations represented in a class of 120) has really pushed me to listen three times as much as I talk (the usual saying is listen twice as much as you talk). Admittedly, early in my program I judged certain concepts in business, industries, and approaches with inherited thinking. What’s worse is I often judged some nations, cultures, or people in the same way. My MBA experience has taught me to question my reactions and question my deeply held beliefs and forever keep assessing. Don’t settle your mind on something and put blinders on, question everything and consider everything. Labyrinth thinking (as in just channeling yourself forward in a set path) will get you nowhere, you must think about life and business like teleportation. You can go anywhere, just choose. Don’t railroad track yourself in one direction.
3. Time management should be your “minor.” If business strategy and all it entails is your “major” in your MBA, then time management should be your minor. This time in your life is likely the moment you’ll feel the big shift to being highly accountable for every minute of your schedule. As an executive in training, when you graduate from MBA you’ll likely be on track for the kind of job where time management is absolutely key. Life is about to move at a faster speed and on a higher level, so study and read all you can on good time management strategies before, during, and after your MBA.
Interested in following Mischaela? You can check out her blog Mischaela.com or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. Thank you for Mischaela for sharing your story and advice – we wish you much success!
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