By: Yonatan Ohana, Class of 2019
Last week, a group of over 45 LGBTQ Boothies - student and alumni - packed their bags and travelled to Minneapolis for the annual Reaching Out MBA conference (ROMBA). ROMBA brings together over 1,800 MBA students from almost every b-school in the U.S (and some international b-schools as well) offering professional and leadership training and connects LGBTQ MBA talent with top US and international firms.
For those of you who were not there, ROMBA is a 3-day (heavy) mix of professional and social engagements. The first 2 days are mostly dedicated for recruiting - coffee chats, interviews, corporate receptions and happy hours. Alongside that, the conference hosts sessions on various topics ranging from LGBTQ focused (promoting a more diverse work environment), recruiting advice and to the future of smart cities. The evenings, though, are quite different, when 1,800 LGBTQ young professional - students, alumni and firm reps alike - storm the (quite limited) minneapolis LGBTQ scene (although I was pleasantly surprise! Who knew Minneapolis is somewhat happening). The third day offers a much more relaxed atmosphere as the coffee chats are dying away. The brave souls who entered a case competition started the day at 8 AM, but most participants (AKA my old self) are rather exhausted from the business-during-the-day-party-during-the-night and are brunching while waiting for the closing dinner and party in the evening.
Even as a second year attendee, ROMBA remains one of the most important, strong, and impressive experiences at Booth. The extent to which this conference connects Booth students cannot be exaggerated. The friends you make through the recruiting season? This is exactly the same. Only imagine a full recruiting season that is jammed into two days. ROMBA also brings 1Y and 2Y together, accelerating the build of the tight knit LGBTQ community at Booth and is a manifestation of our pay-it-forward culture. An all LGBTQ confrence is not an easy navigation! Starting over the summer and on a certain Saturday morning during orientation, our very own OUTreach professional co-chair, Kelly de Klerk, and pay-it-forward-loving second-years mentored the incoming 2020 OUTreach members, providing them with resume reviews, best practice advice and guidance for the conference.
My favorite event during the weekend is the Booth alumni reception which brings together current students and alumni who came to ROMBA as firm reps, committed to inspire Booth LGBTQ talent and to reconnect with OUTreach. Seeing OUTreach alumni, from almost every industry, continue to show care even after so many years out of school is heartwarming and a testimony for the strength of the Alumni community.
Perhaps most impressive, is the absolute incredible presence of every single big MBA-hiring corporate in the US and their commitment to hire LGBTQ talent (less so for international LGBTQ talent, but that’s for another article and hey, ROMBA is also the best place to find a green-card-husband if recruiting goes not as planned). That commitment is truly inspiring and it is not to be taken for granted. It is the result of years of work, including in behalf of Reaching Out, the non-profit which is behind the conference, and of LGBTQ and ally professionals and should serve as a reminder for us - whether as allies or LGBTQ - to continue and advance the LGBTQ community.
I still don’t know where I’ll be next year, But I sure hope to continue to be able to take a part of this incredible event and growing community. See you next year!