“Amrutha, can you tell us your opinion about Apple’s marketing strategy for the iPhone 11?”
Although I had a lot to say about the case reading, I quickly struggled through a response and then excused myself to the bathroom. Morning sickness had kicked in, and I still had three hours of class ahead of me.
In 2020–2021, I balanced a full time MBA and a pregnancy (not to mention a pandemic). The experience was bizarre and had its challenges, yet fulfilling at the same time. More than anything, it was a crash course in planning, prioritizing, problem solving, patience, and persistence.
Balancing Semesters and Trimesters
In the spring of 2020, as the country and Babson College went into lockdown, my husband and I learned that we would be going into quarantine as a twosome but emerging as a family of three! I had started as a two-year, full time entrepreneurial MBA student in fall 2019, and I had nearly completed the mandatory core courses. My plan was to concentrate in marketing, and I was now gearing toward picking electives for the second year.
I leaned on the support of two experts to help me make a manageable plan: my OB/GYN and my academic coordinator.
From my OB/GYN, I learned that the first and the third trimester were likely to be more exhausting than the second. Based on this, my academic coordinator and I replanned my MBA path. While I endured nausea in private early in my pregnancy, I decided to overload with five subjects during my second trimester, and enroll in just a minimum of two subjects during my third trimester.
I decided to pre-plan as I knew this was the last time my schedule would be relatively predictable; once my baby arrived, she would dictate how I spent every minute of every hour!
Putting Prioritization Tools to the Test
The grand strategy matrix is a concept that was introduced in my Global Strategic Management class. I made one for myself to chart out and prioritize my academic and extracurricular interests, hoping to be strategic about where I spent my time and energy as my pregnancy and MBA progressed.
I was elected vice president of marketing for the Graduate Student Council for two years, and co-chaired the Graduate International Dinner. I also was elected as the communications chair for the Student Leadership Initiative Fund.
A silver lining of the pandemic was that so many events transitioned online. Each week, I’d short-list the events I wanted to attend, kept aside a large chunk of time to prep for classes, and kept working on assignment daily because I knew I could never count on being energetic if I put work off for tomorrow.
Undeniably, given that no two days are the same when you are pregnant, I had to miss out on team-based opportunities that required me to commit to long hours of meetings. One such example was letting go of an exciting design-thinking challenge with a company. Outside of schoolwork, I also had to miss out on weekly social hangouts with my friends!
My contributions to the community were recognized at graduation when I was awarded the Dean’s Leadership Award.
The Business School Baby
Once baby Ahiri was born in March 2021, I had another real-world chance to see what lessons from my MBA carried over to motherhood. There are three that stand out:
- Problem solving and quick decision making: One of my favorite Babson courses was Decisions with Senior Lecturer Dwight Gertz. Life with a newborn makes me think back to that class; I’ve learned the value of being decisive when the baby is wailing, and swiftly coming up with remedial solutions.
- Patience: There’s no substitute for real-life instances in learning this skill, and motherhood truly offers a testing ground to develop and practice patience. For example, take those days when you are rocking the baby to sleep for 30 minutes or more, but the baby refuses to nap. I consider this scenario similar to being patient with stakeholders at the office who aren’t happy with the first, second, or even third draft!
- Persistence: All new parents understand and accept the responsibility that a newborn is completely dependent on them. All-nighters spent feeding, pacing the floor, and decoding non-verbal communication while also recovering taught me endurance. At B-school and at work, this persistence matters a great deal to successfully deal with multiple stakeholders, finish our assigned responsibilities, and manage teams.
For me, pursuing an MBA while deciding to start a family was a fantastic way to upskill myself in all aspects of management. Achieving these two milestones in my life in parallel was a practical test for my endurance and grit.