Life Update: Business-ing in the Big Apple
It’s been a little bit since my last blog post, because honestly, life has been a ridiculous whirlwind over the past month and a half. To get a few life updates out of the way: I’ve moved to New York City! I live in Brooklyn as of six days ago and am still getting settled in (but our stuff is here now! Yay!) We have an incredible view of Manhattan from our apartment, I’ve been working from my new hybrid guest room / office, and we’re slowly starting to adjust to the significant increase in noise level.
The move was brought on by some other exciting news – as if moving to NYC wasn’t enough – I’ve officially started my MBA! I found out in mid-March that I was accepted to my dream EMBA program at Columbia Business School! The “E” stands for “Executive”, which designates that I’m a) working full time during the program, and b) mid-career. Despite being in my early thirties now, I feel like a character out of Gossip Girl. (Which one? I’ll never tell.)
I’m writing this blog post midway through our first term residence weekend, which is a three-day intensive that starts off the term with Friday, Saturday, and Sunday class sessions for each of our three term courses. This term, I’m taking Financial Accounting, Managerial Statistics, and Leadership and Organizational Change. I took statistics in my Computer Science undergraduate program at Virginia Tech, but the other two topics are largely new to me in my academic career. Leadership and Organizational change does seem to share a lot of overlap with the management development courses I’ve taken informally through Mozilla’s career development program, which just honestly makes me even more excited to be back at Mozilla.
While I managed a team before, at High Fidelity, my scope and responsibilities was much different than what my management role today looks like with the Hubs team. At High Fidelity, the company was ~60 people, and I managed a team of 4. My role was as a Team Lead, and it was entirely within a specific software engineering discipline. Today, I manage a team of close to 20, and manage managers who are cross-functional. I’ve been in this role for just over 3 months, and I can say quite confidently, it’s exactly where I want to be. 
So, why an EMBA?
Truth be told, while I’ve been considering graduate school for years, my approach was very “trust the process/universe”. I wasn’t sure what I wanted the most:
- To broaden my skills and learn how businesses operated
- To specialize in a technological field
- To learn something entirely new
I started to get serious about getting a graduate degree last year. I applied to two different programs, both online: a Masters of Public Policy at OSU, and an MBA at Johns Hopkins. When I was accepted, though, I realized that neither of them spoke to me especially strongly. This year, when I was starting to consider moving to New York, I was also thinking more seriously about how I could grow as the new manager of the Hubs team.
Hubs is growing as a product, and as a manager, what I hope for more than anything is that I’m able to have a positive impact on Mozilla’s business through empowering my team.
I thought that an MBA would help me do that by teaching me “business”. And that is true – at least partially. More than that, though, what I’m learning already at Columbia is that my MBA is going to teach me how to be a better, more empathetic leader.
So far this weekend, I’ve been in 15 hours of classes over Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. I’ve got another six hours (two three-hour classes) tomorrow, before our schedule goes to it’s typical one for the term: three 3-hour classes (mostly) every Saturday.
I’ve learned about calculating the probabilities for various events in Managerial Statistics, bringing me back to stats and combinatorics at Virginia Tech. I’ve learned about income statements, balance sheets, and why assets are always equal to liabilities + shareholder equity. I’ve also already been humbled in my Leadership and Organizational Change class. While proud of my scores that indicate I’m more open to the idea of a “growth mindset” than the average, I found myself over-fixating on results, rather than process. It’s something for me to reflect on -which I’ll be doing quite a bit of, because one of our term assignments for that course is to journal our reflections for at least 20 minutes / class.
While I won’t go into this now (it’s late, I’m tired!), I would be remiss to not mention the fact that I have already met some really cool people with big ambitions and the drive to get there. Columbia really emphasizes peer collaboration, which I’m grateful for. I know I have a lot to learn from everyone.
And I love learning.
 Why am I confident? I’ve done a lot of work exploring my values, interests, and career motivations, and I come up Mozilla every time for the combination of innovation, policy, and open source at the company. There’s no where else quite like it, which is a shame, because I think that the world would be a better place if there were more Mozilla-like companies. I also personally made a decision last year to leave Mozilla, and in my time at AWS, I realized how much I missed it. Being back feels better than I had imagined, and I had set a very high bar.