I love the markets. They are an absolute passion for me because it involves trying to solve this big piece of a puzzle that’s unsolvable. This passion began in my 13 years at J.P. Morgan, where I was a sales trader in equity cash trading. Here, I became the youngest woman to become a managing director, as well as the youngest person in my managing director class. This passion carried me through to Tirian Capital Management, which provided a great conduit to be with my two children and still be immersed in the markets. More recently, I joined Fifth Third Bank as a portfolio manager in their wealth management group.
All of these experiences – and the skills I developed along the way – are what brought me to Kellogg’s EMBA Program. I knew I needed to take the next step in my career. Specifically, I needed to be around people from different areas of the world who are also experts in a range of industries. That way, I could increase my understanding of global approaches and learn from different perspectives. In my Kellogg Miami Campus EMBA cohort, this is exactly the diverse thinking I get to learn from in each class. We have doctors, lawyers, engineers, and CMOs. This exposure has been such a great overlay to my own expertise in finance. It has afforded me a 30,000 foot look at how the market is changing and what I want to do next.
A HIGH BAR OF ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE – EVEN IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
In addition to the delivery of teaching in the classroom, Kellogg professors get to know each of us on a personal level and are always accessible. For a class I was intimidated to go into, such as my Statistical Decision Analysis class with Professor Nancy Qian, the material was broken down in an accessible way where I could easily apply what we learned in the class to my current job. For example, I was trading Apple and, at the time, Apple was making new highs. I wasn’t sure if I should trim my position or hold onto it. Apple had an up 40%-ish move from January to October six other times in history. Five out of six of those times, the stock traded higher in the following months, sometimes as much as 18% higher. Before taking this class, I would not have had the confidence to use this data to make my decision. All of this is to say that the bar was set high before we transitioned to virtual classes.
While the virtual experience has been different, the caliber of engagement and collaboration has been just as high as it was in person. From the start, Kellogg has been willing to try new things, reimagine the learning and co-curricular experience and do so in a collaborative way.
Take my Foundations for Strategy Formation class with Professor Craig Garthwaite, for example. A completely virtual class, it was also the best class I’ve had at Kellogg. It was extremely challenging, but he had a secret sauce of how to keep us on our toes the entire time. During his lectures, Professor Garthwaite was on my screen – dynamic and engaging while showing us how to dissect strategies for companies like Starbucks, Chewy, and Disney. Simultaneously, he was also facilitating an online chat among the students, where we could discuss the topics he was raising. At any moment, we had to be ready to answer his questions, whether we were raising our hands or not. Professor Garthwaite was also a big user of break out rooms, which was a great way to collaborate virtually. I was able to work with people I had never met before. Sometimes, I was even collaborating with students who had experience with the companies we were dissecting, enabling them to add greater insight.
BEING A NEW MOTHER AND GETTING MY EMBA
About three months into joining the EMBA program, I found out I was pregnant. While this news was joyful, it was also scary. I had real doubts about whether I could move forward with my MBA. Because of the response from the faculty, the administration and my cohort, those doubts melted away.
The administration immediately coordinated with professors to see what I could do remotely (this was pre-COVID). From that point on, the professors were more than happy to work with me on every level. After I had my baby, they would give me additional time to take my final or allow me to log in remotely. Now that we’re in a totally virtual classroom setting, I’ve been able to have my baby with me on the Zoom calls. I’ve never felt like I needed to hide anything or that I couldn’t be transparent about my personal life. I’ve even received feedback from my cohort saying how great it is to see me giving a bottle to my baby while answering a really hard finance question. That’s definitely the way it should be and I’m so excited that Kellogg embraces and fosters that type of mindset.
HOW KELLOGG IS PREPARING ME FOR A RAPIDLY-CHANGING WORLD
We are all navigating unprecedented territory, both inside and outside the classroom. From a classroom perspective, we’ve had to really figure out how to navigate it together. By ‘together’, I mean my cohort and Kellogg. Since these changes are taking place in real-time, we’ve had to throw out the playbook and make the experience entirely new and unique to our group. Part of the reason I think virtual is working so well is that the communication is open; the administration has included us in the decision-making process and how to improve the experience. A student innovation task force was created to form a partnership with the administration to innovate and enhance the EMBA program. Practicing this type of collaboration in real time is actually training us to be better collaborators in our own jobs.
From a global perspective, my experience at Kellogg has made me more diverse in my thinking. I’ve been part of group projects where I needed to collaborate with people who see the world completely differently than I do. Despite our differences, we still have to put together work that we’re all going to be proud of and is reflective of us all. These kinds of experiences have changed my mindset to be broader and more open; I’ve worked really hear people and to incorporate their thoughts into something I could authentically get behind. This is an entirely new skillset for me and is going to really help in a world that is becoming increasingly global every day.
Lauren has a deep and broad background in finance, with a passion for the markets. In her 13-year tenure in equity sales and trading at J.P. Morgan, she has covered over 30 mutual funds and hedge fund clients for various equity-related products. She also rose to become the youngest woman to become Managing Director. She is currently a Portfolio Manager in Fifth Third Bank’s wealth management group and a proud member of the Kellogg School of Management’s EMBA Program on the Miami campus.