I had the opportunity to interview Emily, an evening MBA student at the South Denver campus.
Please tell me a little about your background:
My undergraduate degree is in Japanese Language and Literature from CU Boulder (2009). From there, I went straight into law school at DU. I practiced law at two Denver law firms. In my first firm, we focused on civil litigation and business transactions. Because the firm was so small, I was able to argue motions in court and examine witnesses as a new attorney. At my second firm, we represented individuals suing their former attorneys in legal malpractice cases. At the end of 2014, I became the first attorney to join Merrick & Company, the largest employee-owned architecture and engineering firm headquartered in Colorado. We’re in the process of building an in-house legal department from the ground up. I’m excited to see what shape our legal “experiment” takes in the next few years!
What made you choose Leeds for your MBA?
I chose Leeds because of the cohort-style program. We get to know our classmates well and Leeds guides us on which classes we need before we can move into electives. I was drawn to the idea of taking electives for two semesters at the end of the program. Location was also a crucial factor for me – there’s no way I can get to Boulder two or three nights a week from the Tech Center, but the South Denver campus location is perfect. I also chose Leeds because the school is well-regarded and is always doing something new and interesting.
Why did you choose the evening MBA program?
I work full-time and wanted to minimize disruptions to my work schedule. I also didn’t want to go to class on the weekends. I like that the Leeds evening MBA program takes two years to complete – this pace seemed right for me and my goals.
So far, what has been the most valuable part of your MBA experience?
As a Japanese major and lawyer, I had no background in most of the core classes (i.e., Accounting, Finance). I felt this gap in my knowledge acutely when I joined Merrick. The most valuable part of this experience has been the ability to apply what I learn at work the next day and become a better employee. For example, I participated in the CSR Trek to Portland earlier this year. I was able to use the insights I gained during the trip to lead Merrick’s Corporate Responsibility Committee in our reboot efforts, including preparing our first annual report.
The friends we make in the program is a close second. I’m lucky I get to spend two or three nights a week with a great group of people!
Working full-time and going to school is obviously very time consuming—how do you manage it? What advice might you have for others considering this path?
Before I started, I sat down and estimated how much time I spent in each month on every activity I did, including work, volunteer activities, hobbies, time with family, etc. I then decided which items I could cut completely for the duration of the program, which ones I could modify, and which ones I was unwilling to change. Because I was able to prioritize activities and prepare myself and my coworkers, friends, and network for the changes I would need to make to be successful in my MBA, the transition back into school was easier than I expected.
I think it’s crucial during the program to keep up at least one “fun” activity outside of school and work. This helps me take my stress down a notch and reminds me there’s life outside of school and work.
What is your favorite activity outside of work and the MBA program?
I play the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument. I play anything from classical Japanese pieces all the way to Disney songs. I love performing with my amateur group, Koto Colorado, and sharing my passion with other people.