Recently we had the chance to reconnect with our friend, Stacy Blackman of Stacy Blackman Consulting. Back when MBAchic first started, Stacy and her team kindly syndicated our blog posts to their audience as part of Stacy Blackman’s B-School Buzz each week. We had the chance to talk about how the game of business school admissions has changed since we first started blogging, her lessons learned from almost twenty years of helping people get into business school, and what inspires her today. Check out our discussion and let us know what you’d like us to discuss in the future!
MBAchic and Stacy Blackman
MBAchic: What did you study in undergrad, and why did you decide to go to business school?
Stacy Blackman: I studied business in undergrad – I was in the Wharton School‘s undergraduate program at Penn. There I learned a lot of the mechanics of business: statistics, accounting, finance, which was all very helpful. After graduation I went into Private Equity. But I was always interested in a more operational role, and a more creative role. I envisioned myself working in marketing and then eventually launching my own company. I went back to business school because I wanted to pivot from finance to this different type of path and I felt I needed a deeper dive into things like market research, channel management and organizational behavior. I wanted to round out my knowledge and develop into more of a leader.
MBAchic: Looking back at business school, what are some of the lasting lessons or takeaways from your time at Kellogg?
SB: The biggest takeaway is the people. Long after I forgot lessons from my lectures, I have maintained amazing relationships with my classmates. These are fun social relationships, but also connections for business. The Kellogg experience never stops working for me and adding to my life. I ended up taking a very different route than I expected when I started business school. I had imagined I would work as a brand manager in a large consumer packaged goods company immediately after graduation. Instead, I launched a dot-com with two of my good friends from b-school, which we quickly sold during the dot com explosion. This experience taught me a lot about pushing boundaries, asking questions, taking risks, and not always doing the obvious. Business school helped me to expand the realm of what was possible for me and dream much bigger.
MBA Admissions Consulting
MBAchic: How did you start your consultancy, helping people get into the business schools of their dreams? What made you decide to pursue this?
SB: After earning degrees from Wharton and Kellogg, and taking on alumni admissions roles, I felt that I knew a few things about MBA admissions. I was also a very good writer and I understood marketing, which I applied to helping people market themselves. I really felt that I could help people navigate the black box of MBA admissions but did not know if anyone wanted help. I sent out an email blast to a small group and months later received my first client. He ended up doing very well and it snowballed from there.
MBAchic: Have there been any clients who have inspired you or made you think differently? Who has left an impression on you over the years?
SB: I have had such incredible and very inspiring clients through the years. Most inspiring to me are the individuals who persevere and make things happen with no excuses. I had a client early on who was a member of a gang in Los Angeles when he was younger. His parents were drug dealers, in and out of prison and truly neglected him. No one in his family had ever graduated high school. He had to make a very big and difficult decision to step out of his current situation and pursue a different path. It was fascinating and inspiring. I also worked with a client who became a paraplegic in a diving accident. Hearing his stories of grief, acceptance and action were very enlightening. I also have many clients who have more common challenges but what inspires me and impresses admissions, is how they navigate their issues.
The Future of Business School
MBAchic: What would be your advice to someone considering business school, to help figure out if it’s really the right move?
SB: One piece of advice is to make sure that b-school is a good match for your career goals. There are many goals that just are not really supported by a b-school experience, so be realistic about being able to achieve what you want with the two-year investment. You also want to make sure that the timing is right. You may still have some maturing to do before you make the leap to b-school, but you also don’t want to wait too long and be bored in your current role. The timing is important.
MBAchic: Looking at business school application numbers, what do you think business schools need to do to get more women applying to their programs?
SB: I think they are doing the right things: recognizing that there is an issue, recruiting women specifically, making family friendly programs and making b-school a comfortable friendly environment for women. However, it’s also a societal shift, with women wanting to work and taking on certain careers, and not just on the business schools to make it all happen. The numbers are improving and that’s exciting.
MBAchic: We see more flexible options from schools: part-time MBAs, online MBAs, specialized degrees… what are your thoughts, and do you think employers truly understand the value derived from these not-so-standard programs?
SB: I think it’s fantastic that there are so many types of programs – there are options for everyone. You need to understand what you want going in and balance all of your criteria with the laundry list of options available. Some companies do recognize the value of alternatives to the full time MBA, some don’t. Many of the formats are new so there is a bit of a learning curve.
Staying inspired in your career
MBAchic: What are your favorite newspapers, blogs, magazines and podcasts that you listen to regularly to stay on top of b-school and industry news?
SB: My personal network fuels my knowledge of all things MBA. I have great relationships with Deans and top admissions folks so I am able to stay educated and share with my team. In terms of business, I personally love stories from fellow entrepreneurs, so enjoy podcasts such as Second Life and How I Built This. I also like to read The Hustle emails. Our new newsletter, The Blacklight is a new resource for gathering news, tips and best practices for life and career and I love the articles that my writers are producing.
MBAchic: Who inspires you, from world or beyond, in your career and life?
SB: I’m so inspired by many of the female entrepreneurs who have created incredible brands while also juggling beautiful personal lives and have stayed happy and energized. After I sold my first company I worked with Jessica Herrin, who founded and runs Stella + Dot. She is totally self-made and does so much, it’s dizzying. Definitely an inspiration.
Thank you so much to Stacy Blackman for sharing some of her insights! You can learn more about Stacy and the work her team does to help people get into business school on their website. Also, be sure to check out their new newsletter, The Blacklight, for news, tips and best practices for your life and career.
Would you consider working with an MBA admissions consultant to help you get into business school? Have you worked with someone already? Would love to hear about your experiences!