Outside the Booth Box

By Yoni Sarason '16

You might have seen Booth’s new branding campaign, “Inquiry, Insight, Impact”. While some of us came to Booth with a clear post-MBA objective, many of us came here to inquire, gain insight and explore career options where our unique talents have the most impact. Unfortunately, for the latter group, the culture of instantaneous recruiting and the emphasis on consulting and banking challenge this approach.

Yoni Sarason '16

Yoni Sarason '16

Conversations with students with an ‘outside the Booth box’ interest frequently surface this tension. If you have found yourself questioning whether you fit in, or whether Booth is the right place to help you get where you want to go, it is my hope that hearing this story will help.

David London graduated from Booth last year. He was drawn to the flexible curriculum and as someone slightly above the average age, he wanted to pick classes based on his learning objectives. His interest in startups made Chicago’s growing tech scene an attractive place in which to live and learn. He is currently working with a Fortune 200 company as a Product Manager.

Yoni Sarason [YS]: What was your path at Booth?

David London [DL]: I came to business school to get involved in the startup community. I decided early on that the best way to learn was to do it, so I started a business. In going through the experience, I learned that design principles stood at the core of all of the success I saw.

David London ‘14 ‘designed’ a different path at Booth.

David London ‘14 ‘designed’ a different path at Booth.

I knew that in the design world, the MBA or Booth experience wasn't going to cut it. Booth had great entrepreneurship classes, but almost nothing focused on design. I co-chaired the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital group and worked with the Polsky Center to help fill that gap. I connected with a professor at Northwestern’s Segal Design Institute and took classes up there. I became an almost part-time student and looked for work and projects to build this skill set -- to become really good at the business side of design.

[YS]: Was being outside of Booth’s mainstream a challenge?

[DL]: I missed out on parts of the experience, for sure. I felt like I was doing something different, which required more work. It wasn’t easy to hear about signing bonuses. Or that people had their next move figured out well before the February of their second year. I didn't hang out as much, or form groups of friends with those I was recruiting with. But I can say that I feel like it made my experience what it was and I wouldn't change that. I feel like I learned more than I ever expected. I didn't even know design existed before business school!

[YS]: What advice do you have for students feeling pressure or anxiety from making their own path?

[DL]: A professor once said to look at the MBA as a 4-year experience -- 2 years in school and your first 2 years out as the apprenticeship for what you want to ultimately be doing. So that’s where I am -- filling the gaps in my experience to get deeper into design. You came to school to change your career trajectory, so do it. Don't just look at what's easy because of recruiting or salaries. Jobs and opportunities won't come to you, so expect to get out of the building. And have faith -- everyone at Booth tells us how great we are, so do something you think is great.

Yoni is a first year student at Booth who took the less travelled road to an Innovation and Design Consulting Firm for Strategy this upcoming summer.