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  • Where Are They Now? Kristen Lisa

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    Good morning, all! For this week's first entry, we sat down with recent MBA graduate and former Student Life blogger, Kristen Lisa. Though she has progressed to greater endeavors, Kristen Lisa made certain to leave her imprint on the Illinois MBA program, boasting success in the classroom and beyond. In addition to her aforementioned involvement, Lisa co-coordinated the Class of 2012s student orientation, thriving in a pivotal role in students acclamation to the program and overall comfort level with Illinois MBA.  Now that the introduction is out of the way, Kristen Lisa, everyone!

    What are your post-graduation plans?

    I just moved to Austin, Texas and am about to start my role in the MBA Global Rotation Program at AMD (Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.). It's a rotation program that lets us have 3 different positions over the course of 2 years. So, we have three, 8-month rotations in different functional roles, and my first will be in Market Intelligence. As data driven as this job may be, I'm actually really excited because technology is starting to play such a central role in consumers' lives. Everything from smartphones to tablets to netbooks; the market opportunities for AMD are robust. Having the ability to gain insights into potential new markets or understand how to re-establish visibility in existing ones is exciting and so important to our business. And, secretly, I love market research...

    How do you feel the Illinois MBA program equipped you for future successes?

    Great question. There are so many ways Illinois prepared me for this new job. Most importantly, I would say the program gave me the extra confidence I needed to take on new responsibility. Having the ability to essentially be the mastermind of your education was really beneficial because it allowed me to zone in on what I really wanted to focus on. As I start my career, I'm especially thankful for the opportunity to have taken specialized classes in marketing, advertising and research - I feel equipped with the knowledge base and the know-how to understand the concepts and apply them to my projects. I think this really speaks to the long-term benefits related to the flexibility and customization pieces of the Illinois MBA curriculum.

    I also feel like I can't answer this question without mentioning the relationships I was able to make during my time at Illinois. And, it's not just the relationships with my classmates, its also the ones with faculty, staff and alumni. Everyone I met and spent time with certainly played an important role in making my experience personally meaningful and professionally prosperous. "Networking" was such a bad word when we first started at Illinois and now that I've graduated, it has a whole new meaning. There is a common misconception that to "network" is to shake every hand and kiss every baby because you never know when you might need a helping hand during the job hunt. However, I think to "network" goes well beyond the job hunt. I like to think that a lot of the success I've had with the Illinois MBA program comes from a balanced combination of a personal and professional network. It all came together for me when I realized that you can't treat your network as a means to the end... it has to be an end. Relationships that are mutually beneficial and meaningful are the ones that will make the biggest impact, career or not. Jobs come and go, but relationships that are built on an authentic interest in others will last forever.

    In your opinion, what was the greatest takeaway from the Illinois MBA program?

    My greatest takeaway - hm, another great question. I think as I mentioned above don't treat your career and the people you encounter as means to an end - treat everything as a beginning. The MBA is a means - its a tool that is going to help to get the next step. And once you have it, your career and your network should be the beginning (for now!). If you are always looking for something else, you will never be content with where you are. Don't get me wrong - ambition and motivation are what drive the growth we all are looking for, but don't confuse these with contention. When you get your first job out of school, dig in and become invaluable to your organization. Never treat it as one small step to something bigger or better...managers and colleagues will sense that you are already thinking about your next move and that is a difficult place to be. Be happy that you have an opportunity to learn and contribute and people will respond in a really positive way. The same goes for our networks - don't shake a hand with someone because you think they are a good name to toss around, shake their hand because you value their ideas, opinions and career...because you are genuinely interested in their mentorship. I always remind myself that nothing is ever the end, its always a beginning - an opportunity for growth.

    What advice would you give future Illinois MBA students, as well as we, second years?

    Say YES! to everything- seriously. I complained SO much at one point because I could not say no, to anyone or anything. Looking back, I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to impact so many various parts of my experience. I was involved in everything from new MBA orientation to planning club events, writing the blog, editing web pages, helping with recruitment, participating in volunteer projects and working with alumni. If you limit yourself to the four walls of the classroom, you will miss out on so much that the Illinois MBA has to offer. Go study abroad, attend Diwali, celebrate Chinese New Year, participate in the video recruitment sessions; say YES! And seek out the opportunities. We all sacrifice a lot to take two years out of our lives so while you have the time, do as much as you can. AND, take some classes outside the College of Business. A fresh perspective and new ideas was such a welcome change for me. I enjoyed meeting new people and gaining a fresh perspective on some of the business courses that we become so familiar with.

    **A side note for the new second years - keep in touch with us! We are a valuable resource for you because we JUST worked through many of the obstacles you are about to encounter - so, not only can we empathize, but we will have survival tips and tricks. Plus, so many of us were successful with the job search, and now we have a whole new set of connections.... Wink.

    Name the top three factors that shaped your Illinois MBA experience?


    1. Designing my own course work schedule because I could really focus on my concentration and get the depth I wanted to start a new career.

    2. The people - everyone from the faculty to the students. The people at Illinois are truly passionate about what they do and it shows. Learn from everyone - there are so many experiences and backgrounds that will enrich your time here... Take advantage!!

    3. Girls Night...seriously. After a long week of schoolwork and paper writing, having a night of delicious food and gossip was the perfect way to relax and recuperate.Maybe girls nights are not for everyone, but you have to take some time for yourself, otherwise you will start to feel overwhelmed by the work and forget why you came back to school.