As the first rays of sunshine touch down over Seattle on a Tuesday morning, Marshelle Slayton is already in her groove. Never one to shy away from a busy day, Marshelle has already completed a 10k run, whipped up breakfast for herself and husband Trevor, and is scrolling through emails and checking her daily calendar of meeting invites, eager to see what’s in store. Marshelle is a Foster 2019 MBA alumna and first-year associate with consulting firm McKinsey & Company, and despite the frenetic pace, seems very much in her zone.
While Marshelle has long been dedicated to health, wellness, and squeezing the most out of each day, her entry to the world of consulting is a relatively new development in her career. That is because Marshelle is an MBA career switcher, a common term applied to those who enter a different industry or function upon leaving business school. Before joining the Foster full-time MBA program, Marshelle was a process engineer in manufacturing with a focus on process improvement and LEAN methodology. After several years of success within her role, Marshelle felt as though she had hit a ceiling in a field that is traditionally older and male-dominated.
I reached a point where I did not see much of an opportunity for further upward trajectory. To continue to move up with my previous firm, I would need to move geographically. I was already balancing a long-distance relationship and did not want to place further strain on myself by moving away from my family and friends.
An Engineer’s Approach to Recruiting
True to her engineering roots, Marshelle conducted a cost-benefit analysis to compare the prospect of going back to school vs. continuing to work. She was both applying for new career opportunities and filling out her Foster application. When she got word that she had been admitted to the program with a Forté Fellowship, her mind was made up. Upon entering business school, Marshelle, like many students, was unclear as to what the end of her journey would be.
I knew that I liked operations and wrote in my application essay that my goal for the future was to be a COO, despite not really knowing what that entailed. What I found eye-opening at Foster was the time we took to discover our true motivations with exercises like the crafting of a personal brand statement during JumpStart. Through this exercise, I was able to pinpoint that what I was passionate about was working with people to drive sustainable change for the better. Given this insight, I was better able to focus in on what industries and careers would empower me to do so.
Marshelle knew that consulting was a popular career track for many MBA students and due to her knack for organization and type-A drive, she began preparing for case studies and consulting interviews in earnest during the fall quarter. Here however, she learned a valuable lesson the hard way. Her persistent drive to excel in academics, engage with classmates socially, and navigate the rigor and nuance of consulting cases led to burnout. She was left feeling overdrawn by the time interviews rolled around. After passing through the first round of interviews with McKinsey and BCG, Marshelle was under the weather and mentally exhausted for the final rounds of interviews. The result was a rejection from both firms.
It was a huge blow. For people entering the program, you are passing through a lot of different filters. Most of us had not experienced that many points of failure. Those no’s were some of the first many of us had received in our career. At the same time, most of your classmates are going through the same thing. Everyone gets rejected at some point. This pain and camaraderie bring people together because when you go through something tough you can all draw closer to one another. Misery loves company so you grow tighter through that rejection experience.
The Importance of Self-Care
Marshelle ended up interning at Amazon as a Program Manager over the summer after her first year in the MBA. She enjoyed the chance to reconnect with her roots in operations and relished the experience, receiving a full-time offer to return the following year. However, true to form, Marshelle was determined to give consulting another shot. Armed with lessons learned about the importance of self-care and physical as well as mental well-being, Marshelle’s approach to full-time recruiting took on a new form.
When I entered full-time recruiting, I made sure to take care of myself and get enough rest. You must come in with the best version of you and prioritize your self-care to truly shine brightest.
This new approach appears to have been the correct one, as Marshelle received a full-time offer to join McKinsey as an MBA Associate. When she reflects on the lessons learned at Foster, which empowered her to get to the next level, Marshelle reflects on the small class size at Foster. Leaning on tight support networks and close friends from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives helped shift the lens on her approach. Additionally, Marshelle points to classes like Women at the Top as being particularly inspirational. Women at the Top is a popular course offered at Foster which features female executives and leaders in business. These leaders serve as guest lecturers where they share stories of their personal journeys and insights gained over years of growth.
I took so much away from my education at Foster. Having never learned finance, I found the passion that Professor Thomas Gilbert brings to class engaging and infectious. I gained confidence by leveraging my voice and gaining trust in my ability to be placed in uncomfortable situations. Through Women at the Top, I gained a mentor who I continue to have a relationship with to this day and who I often lean on in uncertain times. Looking back on my time in the program, I see just how much I have grown through the opportunities I took advantage of as a student.
The Road Ahead
As Marshelle looks to the future, she sees a vision which is continuously undergoing change. Prior to getting her MBA, she saw her future as one of middle management within an organization. Post MBA, the number of available of doors has grown significantly.
What I do see myself doing in the future is to be in a role where I can lead. Whether it is a physical or digital product, my background in business, consulting, and engineering empowers me to not only be the one who solves the problem but also the leader who helps other grow.
To do that, I think you need to prove yourself first. But I am now in a position where I can command a room and have earned the right to let my voice be heard or lift the voice or others. I do not quite know what my future holds, but the difference is that there is no cap. I may not be a CEO, because I still consider myself more tactical than visionary. That said, I am confident that I can affect change tactically. At the end of the day, it is where I can be most impactful and can elevate the voice of others.
Since graduation, Marshelle has continued to uphold the pay-it-forward spirit of the Foster MBA program by serving as a point of contact for current and prospective students, as well as coming back to PACCAR Hall to share insights with the Foster MBA Association Consulting Society on what it takes to succeed within the industry. As she glances over her meeting calendar for the day, Marshelle’s face breaks into a wide smile. ‘Ooh, I have a break from 2-3pm today. Should be plenty of time to get a bike ride in before my second shift’.