A spotlight on our Kelley women: Evening MBA alumnae

In celebration of Women's History Month, the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis is highlighting Kelley women throughout March.

We asked several of our Kelley Evening MBA alumnae a bit about themselves - and what advice they'd give to other women working to succeed in the business world today.

Katie Culp, MBA'04

President, KSM Location Advisors, part of the Katz, Sapper & Miller Network

Kelley Biz Blog: Tell me about why you chose to get an MBA, and how did your Kelley education help you as you moved forward in your career?

Katie: I was working in the public sector when I went back to school in the evenings to pursue my MBA. At the time I was looking to move into the private sector, and I thought a MBA would strengthen my ability to do that. My undergrad degree was through SPEA, and my MBA was an excellent complement to that course of study. I am certain that having a MBA was a factor in my first private sector job offer – I was still pretty young, and the degree added a layer of credibility. Even now that I am NOT so young, I still find clients place a lot of value on the degree.

Kelley Biz Blog: Why do you think an MBA is important? What would you tell others about the importance of an MBA?

Katie: Since my undergrad was in SPEA I was a pretty atypical grad student (at least at the time…I graduated in 2004 and am sure the program and student body composition has evolved since then). I actually had to take an online accounting course to be admitted into the program! Needless to say, I had not been regularly exposed to the typical business coursework that many of the other students had studied in their undergraduate careers. For me, pursuing my MBA enabled me to learn a new “language,” and it really caused a paradigm shift for me in how I tackle difficult business issues. My MBA education armed me with more of a pragmatic rather than philosophical way of thinking through complex matters, and it continues to serve me well to this day.

Kelley Biz Blog: Do you have a Kelley moment? (A moment that stands out in your time with the Kelley School).

Katie: As much as I valued the education, my fave Kelley moment was the day I was DONE! It was so nice to have my evenings and weekends back! And I didn’t even have kids at the time… I really marvel at individuals who juggle a job, school AND a family.

Kelley Biz Blog: What is your advice to other women aspiring to move up and succeed in the business world today?

Katie: Work hard and don’t be afraid to promote yourself. This is a really hard thing to do, but find ways to make sure your colleagues and bosses understand the value you provide. I’m generalizing here, but so often I see women putting in twice as much effort as their male counterparts and expect that work effort/product alone will propel them along in their careers. It will, but only to a point. Still generalizing, but men are much less inclined to worry about self-promotion…and these PR efforts pay off.

Debra Hays, MBA’06

Eli Lilly and Company, Consultant, Center for Innovative Customer Experience

Kelley Biz Blog: How did your Kelley education help you as you move forward in your career?

Debra: The curriculum provided a broad exposure into multiple aspects of business. I felt I had a great foundation to build from and lessons to reflect upon. I haven’t had a role where my Kelley MBA has not applied.

Kelley Biz Blog: What is your advice to other women aspiring to move up and succeed in the business world today?

Debra: 1. Be confident in your skills and experience, and remain committed to developing both. Share your talents freely while deliberately asking questions and learning from others to expand your own understanding. It’s ok to not know it all – the key is knowing where your gaps are and working to fill them.

2. Follow the Golden Rule: Treat other women as you wish to be treated. Champion, support and help to develop other women as you want others to do for you.

Tiffany Shaw, MBA’08

Chief Operating Officer, FORCE Communications

Kelley Biz Blog: Tell me about why you chose to get an MBA, and how did your Kelley education help you as you moved forward in your career?

Tiffany: After joining the workforce, I knew I would need an MBA (the credentials) to ever be considered for the type of role I thought I wanted (brand/product manager). I hadn’t taken the steps toward obtaining that goal because I was not in a financial position to quit working to go back to school full-time. It wasn’t until I spoke with a Kelley faculty member that I realized I could go back to school to get a highly-regarded MBA, while still working. I remember the conversation clearly… she said, “If you don’t do it now, you will find other reasons not to do it in the future.”

My Kelley education has been central to my career success. My undergraduate degree was also in business, but it wasn’t until I had practical business experience that I truly understood how business works. The technical knowledge gained through Kelley, coupled with case-based application allowed me to “practice” in the class room and apply in the real world. In two of the three companies for which I have worked, I have depended on the knowledge I gained through my Kelley MBA to navigate various business decisions. While not my favorite subject, the finance and accounting knowledge I gained while completing my MBA has been most beneficial.

Kelley Biz Blog: Why was an MBA important to you?

Tiffany: An MBA allows you to think like a business leader/owner, even before you are in the position to do so. While the core subjects are similar to those you cover at the undergrad level, how you apply those learnings through cases and projects is much different. The importance of an MBA, I believe, is different for each individual. It is very dependent on the role you are in today and the role you are seeking to achieve in the future. Based on those factors, each individual student likely takes something different away from the experience. When I was at Kelley, we were taught in a way that allowed each of us (a diverse student group) to find appropriate value in the education.

Kelley Biz Blog: Do you have a Kelley moment? (A moment that stands out in your time with the Kelley School).

Tiffany: A few moments stand out during my time at Kelley. One was when my cohort team (small group assigned by zip code to work together on all projects during “core” classes) started to work well together. We always got along really well personally, but I remember when we hit our stride and understood each other’s strengths and what we each brought to the team. By sticking with what we did well, we were extremely efficient--which was necessary at times--but when we took on roles within the team that were outside of our immediate comfort zone(s), we were able to really learn from each other and grow as individuals.

Another Kelley moment is really a compilation of moments that I would classify as non-traditional learning experiences – whether capitalizing on opportunities to network within the Indianapolis landscape or participating in GSCIE (global supply chain immersive experience) – the ability to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting and impact local businesses allowed for a heightened educational experience.

Kelley Biz Blog: What is your advice to other women aspiring to move up and succeed in the business world today?

Tiffany: Don’t wait for the right time, perfect moment or nudge from a peer or mentor to take action toward improving your career.

You are in control of your professional journey.

Make the time to invest in your future—whether through formal education or other valuable activities, such as time with mentors, networking or informational interviews.