At a pre-MBA conference, I met a handful of my UNC Kenan-Flagler classmates for the first time. One of them in particular changed my life for the better.
The Consortium Orientation Program (OP) is an intensive, five-day conference where hundreds of matriculating MBA candidates from across the U.S. gather to gain career advice from business leaders and interview for summer internships. In June 2019, 25 first-year UNC Kenan-Flagler students met in the hotel conference room and spent the week at OP, getting to know each other’s backstory and motivation for going back to business school.
OP was phenomenally planned and executed, with partners and CEOs as keynote speakers, improv performances on diversity and inclusion, coffee chats with Fortune 500 companies, and downtime to engage with classmates. It was a long week of “being on,” but everything led to the final day where companies extended summer internship interviews to students.
On the final night of OP, there was an anxious tension in the hotel. My classmates and I were in our rooms, frantically researching companies, practicing our interview responses and ironing our best shirts. Everyone was busy, everyone was nervous, everyone wanted to do well and everyone had just met four days earlier.
My classmate Meredith Tozzer (MBA ’21) came by to retrieve her steamer I had borrowed, and while in our room, asked how I was doing and how I felt about the interviews. Whoa, I thought. No one has asked me that all week. I immediately felt invited into a safe space. All week I felt as if everyone was bringing their A game and there wasn’t time to surface feelings of doubt in the business world.
“Be open, Becca,” I thought to myself. “It’s time to be vulnerable.” I recognized this opportunity to share how I was feeling with someone who wanted to listen, so I told her about the tech interview I was blindsided by, and asked why this amazing company would want to interview me. Did they choose my resume by mistake? Will they be surprised to see my lack of experience? How can I learn about their business model in time for the interview?
Meredith (realizing I was a nervous wreck) sat her bag down and took a seat. She sat patiently and listened to every word. She nodded supportively as I poured out my feelings from the week. Not once did was she seem frustrated by my lack of confidence. She provided a space for me to be heard, then logically reasoned my imposter phenomenon away through reminders of my experience, stories of her time as a recruiter, and the female-to-female assurance that she had been there and was currently there, but we were there for good reasons, and we had to do our best for our families, friends and females aspiring to be business leaders.
More importantly than the words she said, Meredith stayed with me for hours that evening instead of prepping for her own interviews. She had eight interviews the next day, but instead, she stayed with me. It was there I realized I was not going to be alone in any endeavor I pursued at UNC Kenan-Flagler. I had a powerful cohort of female and male allies who had my back no matter what, and would create safe spaces in every student group and career concentration. Being inclusive and supportive no matter who you are, what you’re working on, or how long you’ve known each other, is part of the Carolina Way, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Back at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Meredith continues to volunteer her time, ask the tough questions and strive to create inclusive environments across campus. As a devoted mother and wife, Meredith is a role model for me and the experience I want to have throughout my personal and professional career.
Today, when meeting a prospective student, new classmate or new coworker, I remember Meredith and how she listened, was vulnerable, and promoted inclusion. I am so thankful Meredith is pursuing a career in human resources, where she will create inclusive environments wherever she goes in life. I cannot wait to do the same because of her impact on me.
By Becca Jordan (MBA ’21)