On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Kibra Yemane

Bell Curves and Kelley School of Business Alum Kibra Yemane

Today we’re continuing our Q&A series with Bell Curves alumni who are currently pursuing or just recently finished their MBAs. Recent posts have included Q&As with Goreleigh Willis and Crystal Forde about their first year MBA experiences. This time around Kibra Yemane shares some of her insights and advice on her MBA experience. Kibra completed her MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

Why did you decide to apply to business school? 

I applied to business school in order to transition to a career in Human Resources. Prior to business school, I worked for a public accounting firm for about six years. While I enjoyed my time, I also realized that I was more passionate about talent management, recruiting, diversity – areas that typically fall under the HR umbrella. When I did some more research, I realized that more and more companies placed an emphasis on the HR function – and were interested in training the next crop of HR leaders through leadership development programs. When I realized one of the requirements for this program was an advanced degree, I knew the MBA was the next logical step for me.

What was most surprising to you about the application process?

It was HARD!!! I thought it would be as simple as writing an few essays, taking a test and then I would get into the school of my dreams. Then reality hit me! You really have to take the time to understand why is it that you want an MBA – and then you have to make sure that this actually makes sense. Comparing my first draft of essays to the final draft actually submitted – its like looking at a completely different applicant! In addition, all business schools are not the same and each school has a special “something” that makes it unique. Once you are able to understand all of that, you have to be honest with yourself and take stock of strengths and weaknesses – if this means taking a few extra courses, hiring a tutor, or reassessing your desire for an MBA, do what you need to do to make it happen.

Is there anything about your experience with the GMAT/application process that was unique or surprising?

I took the GMAT way too many times – and I am fully convinced that last time I took it, the Lord knew that I could not take it again! It actually ended up being my highest score – and the area that gave me the most trouble (of course, the quantitative section), was the area that I scored the highest. In addition, I went through the application process twice. Both were definitely humbling experiences – but the fact that I never gave up let me know that an MBA was something that I really wanted. For some people the path is relatively straight; for others its a little more bumpy. At the end, you end up at the same place!

What specific advice would you give those prepping for the GMAT now?

Take the time to study and be serious. I think for the first 6 months of my GMAT prep, I thought I was being serious, but I really wasn’t. The first step is to take an honest assessment of where you stand as you begin to study. If the most math you have done lately is calculating your waiter’s tip (and you struggle with that), then perhaps you should make sure you have the basics down before tackling the complex problems. Get a tutor for areas where you need some serious help. And also remember that not everyone is meant to get a 700+; while its nice, it definitely won’t guarantee you admission. When I scored the highest, everything in my life involved the GMAT – I did problems on the train during my commute, I got to work 2 hours early to study (and stayed after work for another 2-3 hours), and I also did everything in my power to stay calm. For me, this is what worked – find out what works for you and do that.

What was the most useful resource to you during the application process? 

I would not have been as successful in the application process if it were not for the support from my peers. These were the people who gave me a pep talk when necessary, critiqued my essays, connected me with others in their network, and kept me sane during the entire process. It is easy to fall into a hole and try to figure things out on your own; usually you end up spinning your wheels and get burned out. Do what you can, but also don’t be afraid (or ashamed) to ask for help.

How has business school impacted your career?
It changed everything – I am now in a completely different industry (from financial services to technology) and in a position with more responsibility (and higher visibility). In addition, while I have strengthened my core business skills, I was also given several reminders that sometimes having a mastery of the soft skills is what really closes the deal. At the end of the day, you are leaving school with the same baseline knowledge as your peers within the same field – but being able to listen, lead, gain buy-in from others, and work in teams is what really gets you ahead. I have seen plenty of brilliant people that are just incredibly difficult to work with – and those people will constantly be relegated to the “worker bee” roles.
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