My Tuck Essay that Worked! – Part 2

Leadership is not about being the boss.  It is about inspiring others to follow your direction.  If you have direct supervisory experience, great!  If not, think of situations where you influenced others without a position of authority. This can be an even more powerful example for a MBA applicant.

2.  Tell us about your most meaningful leadership experience and what role you played. What did you learn about your own individual strengths and weaknesses through this experience?

It was midnight in Japan. My team was in the process of completing the improbable, reconfiguring our Western European accounting system, a task that had previously taken 6 years. However, we had advantages: I had assembled an all-star team, had built momentum in Eastern Europe, and had been given motivation. Our Chief Accounting Officer asked for this project to be finished in six weeks, which came as a surprise. I was scheduled to be in Kobe, Japan to train engineers and accountants on the processes I had designed over the last year. During the day, I trained my Japanese colleagues, and at night, I returned to the hotel to lead my team in the US and Europe.

When I joined the company, Eli Lilly & Co. had 44 affiliate countries disconnected from its central accounting system, Systems Applications Products (SAP). My task was to partner with each country’s leadership, implement SAP, and supervise the data migration of 35,000 Fixed Asset records. This position, especially my time in Japan, required me to perform at a mature level early in my career. I was the youngest member of a 200 person team and, moreover, the least-tenured process leader.

In this position, I learned how to lead subordinates and peers. This helped me discover a strength: caring for others. After a colleague realized that she had more work than time to complete the work, we met one-on-one. She quickly steered the conversation to what she needed to do and how long each task would take. I read in between her words and realized that she believed, if unsuccessful, her job would be in jeopardy. After having a discussion about what was truly expected of her, we developed a careful prioritization plan to complete the critical tasks and to ensure her success. I once viewed caring for others as a personality trait. After witnessing what people can achieve when they know you care about them, I now view it as my greatest strength.

I asked an experienced team member to help identify my weaknesses. He told me in some tough situations, like a mistake I made on a tax entry for the United Kingdom, my stress had affected my ability to lead. We agreed that if someone else had made the same mistake, I would have sprung into action, solving the issue and minimizing the damage. He could not understand why I would react differently to my own mistake. His honesty made me better.

Awareness of my strengths and weaknesses helped me lead my team from that hotel room in Kobe. Instead of allowing stress to slow me down, I organized the team before leaving for Japan, placed the European financial manager in charge during my absence, and scheduled daily virtual meetings to solve issues. The success of this project, completing the improbable in only six weeks, has served as an example for me of what I can accomplish as a leader by leveraging my strengths and mitigating my weaknesses.

My Tuck Essay That Worked! – Part 1

Fit is very important at Tuck and their first question gets right to that…

1.  Why is an MBA a critical next step toward your short- and long-term career goals? Why is Tuck the best MBA fit for you and your goals and why are you the best fit for Tuck?

How do I want to be remembered when I die? I answer this every few years with an exercise many would consider morbid, but I find constructive: writing my obituary. Although some things change each time, the theme has never wavered. I want a life of lasting impact.

I want to impact the world by making products that improve people’s lives. I will prepare myself for this at Tuck. I will leverage Tuck’s healthcare program and coursework, such as “Structure, Organization, and Economics of the Healthcare Industry.” Utilizing the Healthcare and Entrepreneurship Initiatives, I hope to combine innovation and improving lives into my First Year Project, ideally working with a healthcare startup. To further prepare myself and impact the world, I will join the Tuck Global Consultancy. In this trip, I hope to get a closer look at healthcare on the ground floor, as a previous team did in the Rwanda Health Ministry.

My passion for Tuck goes beyond my professional ambitions. The most important person in my life, my wife Jessica, has not stopped talking about Tuck since we visited together last April. She and I dream about our daughter, Loralei, making friends with other Tiny Tuckies. Jessica laughs when I talk about becoming a “Tripod.” There is no school that better aligns with our values of family, love for the outdoors, and community. We plan to add to this community, sharing our Mid-Western hospitality at Loralei’s birthday parties, leading kayaking and hiking trips around the Upper Valley, and organizing play-dates with other Tiny Tuckies. I look forward to the “transformational experience” my colleague and Tuck alumnus, John Doe, has told me about. His experience changed his life, just as I am sure Tuck will change my life.

Just as Tuck is a good fit for me both professionally and personally, I am a good fit for Tuck both in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I will bring my international knowledge and six years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. I will be a vocal member of T’17, challenging my classmates and listening when they contest my assumptions. Outside the classroom, I will seek a leadership position in the Healthcare Club. My life experience and maturity as a husband and a father will bring diversity to the class.

I want a business school that will prepare me for my short-term and long-term goals. After Tuck, I will return to Eli Lilly & Co. to pursue leadership positions, which require broad management skills and strategic thought. Long term, I aspire to start my own healthcare company and continue to help my community through philanthropy and activism, as the Lilly family has in Indianapolis. I will give back to Tuck also, mentoring the next generation of Tuck students. This will be symmetrical; I hope to leverage my classmates as advisors, business partners, and clients to meet my long-term goals. When I die, I want my obituary to read how my Tuck experience empowered me to run and launch businesses that created jobs, shared wealth, and made products that impacted people’s lives.

Stay Tuned for Essay 2!

Know Yourself, Know Columbia Business School

It has been only three months since I graduated from Columbia Business School (CBS), but already I am homesick for the beautiful Upper West Side campus, days filled with executive guest lecturers, and nightly club events. For those in the midst of the application process, or those just considering a future MBA, I envy your position only in that you still have two great years ahead of you. Knowing the application process is a stressful time, I urge you to seek out as much advice as possible. Below is guidance I have given to other CBS hopefuls in the past (all of whom were accepted), built on my own experience, tips from classmates, and insight from alumni I consulted when applying to Columbia.

Know Your Story

If you have ever spoken to an admissions consultant (like HBS Accept), they will stress the importance of having a strong story that clearly ties together your background and career goals, and explains how Columbia can make that connection for you. For some applicants, this may come easily, but I spent hours poring over job descriptions, LinkedIn profiles, and interviews with people who held positions I thought I wanted one day. Doing this helped me to understand what certain career paths looked like, and what it would take to attain that dream job. Though at first it seemed overly prescriptive, having a specific goal in mind for both a five year and ten year plan made it all the easier to explain how I was going to get there.

One main benefit from this exercise is the ease at which you will be able to write your essays for Columbia. The first two questions ask about career goals, and they have respective limits of 50 characters and 500 words. To both stand out and paint a clear picture in 50 characters requires a firm understanding of one’s own future. These questions will come up in conversation during school visits and interviews, and the more defined the answer, the better prepared and knowledgeable you will appear. Additionally, though business school is a place to find yourself professionally, those two years fly by quickly; hit the ground running with a clear idea of where you want to go and what you need to get out of school.

Know the School

While it may seem obvious, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to understand Columbia to the point that you feel as if you are already a student walking through campus. When I was applying, there were spots in the application to list which admissions events you had attended, names of faculty or staff you had met with, and current students or alumni you knew, not to mention if you were related to a CBS alumni. Business school is about networking, and the admissions team wants to see that you as an applicant have made the effort to learn as much as possible about Columbia and met people who understand the CBS experience well. Doing this will also shed light on which specific clubs, classes, and initiatives you should get involved with to further your career goals, should you be accepted. Many clubs have a Vice President of Prospective Students or Membership, and they are there to help answer questions about what the club provides in professional resources, and the leadership positions offered in the organization.

The city of New York is an integral part of the Columbia experience, and should be a reason why you are applying. Having completed my undergraduate in a college town, and then worked for four years in Chicago, I don’t believe I fully understood the benefits of attending business school in New York until I was here. C-suite executives are in class on a weekly basis, as a visit simply requires hopping in a cab outside their downtown office. Most students interested in a career in retail, venture capital, private equity, or at startups, have a part time internship during the school year. The abundance of networking and career-building events in the city is never ending. Simply put, Columbia thinks being in New York is amazing and believes you should share that enthusiasm to both get the most out of your two years, and to be an integral member of the CBS community.

Applying for business school can be stressful, but the professional and personal experience is well worth it. When in doubt, ask for help and seek out resources like HBS Accept that can provide opinions from those who have already beat a successful path. Best of luck!

Kendall Miller

Kendall Miller (CBS MBA 2017)

Kendall Miller (CBS MBA 2017)

Columbia MBA working at the intersection of strategic, creative, and operational roles and solutions. She is an avid traveler, design world enthusiast, and devoted NYC transplant. As a consultant for Fortune 100 companies, startups, and NGOs, she worked in strategy development, performance improvement, and business model design. Her interests lie in understanding where customer experience design and digital innovations can help companies grow and adapt.  Kendall has recently returned to Deloitte Consulting where she is a Senior Strategy Consultant.