Jianmei Kochling MBA’21 isn’t one to rest.
She is a mother of two, for starters, and she works at pharmaceutical company Sanofi as a director of analytical science and technology.
She also is board president at the Wellesley Chinese Language School, an institution she helped launch a decade ago because she saw a glaring need for the language and cultural instruction it could provide. She and her co-founders worked night after night into the wee hours to make the school a reality.
Despite all these responsibilities, however, Kochling is driven by a need to push herself even further. She is not content to be still. “I love challenges,” she says. “I am constantly looking for new ideas.”
For that reason, Kochling enrolled at Babson. She always had wanted to earn an MBA, and with her children growing older—one now in college and the other in high school—she thought the time was right. She hopes the degree will be a springboard for more career opportunities.
Earning an MBA also allows her to experience the joyful and fulfilling act of learning, something she values greatly. “Learning is part of me,” Kochling says. “I love to learn new things.”
Babson is a place that believes learning doesn’t end at age 21 with a walk across the stage and a mortarboard toss into the air. For sure, balancing education with adulthood’s many commitments isn’t always easy, but continuing to pursue learning opportunities can be rewarding and, frankly, essential to a vibrant career. With extensive courses and programs available at Babson Executive Education (BEE) and the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, including a fully online MBA degree launching in January, the College believes it can be a lifelong home for those seeking knowledge.
“We can be here when you’re an undergrad, and a grad, and an early-stage professional, and as you advance throughout your entire career,” says Karen Hebert-Maccaro, BEE’s CEO. “We want to partner with you for every stage of your life.”
Learning can’t stop because the world doesn’t stop. Technology is moving forward. Skills grow outdated. “Work is constantly evolving as it becomes more global and digital, and most jobs are slowly being replaced or reimagined through technology,” says Keith Rollag, the Murata Dean of the graduate school. “Staying productive, successful, and employable over time means we need to constantly learn new things.”
Hebert-Maccaro recommends that employees look at learning almost like going to the gym. “For physical survival, you need to pay attention to what you eat and how you exercise,” she says. “For intellectual survival, you need to exercise those mental muscles as well.” And, just like going to the gym, finding the time to learn can be a challenge. “We all have to juggle a lot in our lives,” Hebert-Maccaro says. “The most successful people will figure out how to juggle family, life, and continuous professional reinvention.”
Dr. Jason Simon MBA’20 knows all about that juggling. He’s an orthopedic surgeon at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and sometimes when he’s supposed to be in class, he’s in the operating room.
He’s also the father of two daughters in grade school, and they occasionally pop up on the screen when he’s on a WebEx conference with his Babson classmates. Additionally, Simon is a senior executive at 1854 Cycling Company, a bicycle and apparel brand that provides jobs to formerly incarcerated people. “It’s a big social mission project, and that’s why I make time for it,” he says.
Of course, Simon is used to going to school and being busy. He is a doctor, after all. He experienced the whirlwind that is medical school. “In medicine, school never ends anyway,” he says. “I am fairly certain I haven’t slept since 1997.”
Simon decided to earn his MBA because the business of medicine is shifting. “It’s not really run by physicians but by practice managers who have a business, not a clinical, background,” he says. Finding himself surrounded by people “throwing out business terms,” essentially speaking a language he didn’t understand, Simon decided to apply to Babson. “The reason I’m in medicine is to take care of people,” he says, “but if that’s hampered by the way medicine is changing, you have to change.”
Like Simon, Chavon Cham MBA’18 decided to pursue an MBA to aid her career. When she studied at Babson, she was a New Balance product manager but preparing for a shift. Instead of focusing on product creation, she was aiming for a position that was more strategic, more global, more big picture. “I wanted to manage the business from a strategic point of view,” says Cham, who today is a global product manager for women’s lifestyle footwear at New Balance.
Also like Simon, Cham had to do some juggling to make her education work. During her time at Babson, she not only gave birth to her daughter, but she also planned a wedding. “It was very busy,” she says. Cham’s professors and fellow students were supportive, however, and she learned to manage expectations with class projects. “I couldn’t be the first person on every discussion board every week. There were times I had to flex,” she says. “It was about setting boundaries.”
Cham was enrolled in the Blended Learning MBA program, and she found its mix of online and in-person sessions provided flexibility that worked well for her bustling life. “You picture an MBA to be way more stuffy and conservative,” she says. “That wasn’t the experience for me at all. It was feasible and doable.”
Always a Babson Student
The Blended Learning program may be flexible, but some potential students live too far away to be able to come to campus regularly. Babson is striving to change that. “We want to expand our impact by reaching more students,” says D.R. Widder MBA’99, Babson’s vice president of innovation. “We want to foster entrepreneurship and Babson everywhere, and being online is a prerequisite to being everywhere.”
In January, Babson will begin offering an MBA program fully online. Other online programs will follow. “The main goal of online is to reach those students who can’t reach us,” says Widder. “We want to give people a way to get the world’s best entrepreneurship education wherever they are.”
Increasing access to what Babson offers is a goal at BEE as well. It already provides a robust selection of open enrollment and custom programs for individuals and companies, but Hebert-Maccaro wants to do more. Whether an employee needs to solve a problem in the moment, requires a new skill, or clamors for a complete career transformation, she wants BEE to be the place where they can gain that expertise. To do that, BEE could provide a variety of offerings—a class, of course, but also a podcast, a video, or whatever else is required. “I am bullish when I’m thinking about the potential Babson has,” says Hebert-Maccaro.
The mission is to further empower a life to be spent in learning, a life only beginning when one crosses the stage with a diploma in hand. “We all should be continually learning,” Widder says. “Once a Babson student, you are always a Babson student.”