2016 Best EMBAs: Sarah McEneaney, University of Chicago (Booth)

Sarah McEneaney Booth

Sarah McEneaney

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“One of the Booth admissions officers told me early on, ‘However great you think you are at time management, you’ll get better. WAY better. Trust me.’ He was right! It was a skill I thought I had, but now I am level 11. Being disciplined and getting everything done on time — often just under the wire — from assignments to boarding planes; that should be on my transcript!”

Age: 36

Location: Boston, MA

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.Sc., accounting, University of College, Cork. Chartered Accountant, CPA

Where are you currently working? Partner in PwC’s Financial Services practice focused on asset and wealth management and FinTech.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: I am fortunate to have great outlets for my skills and interests beyond my work, and aligned with the causes most important to me: entrepreneurship, education, and gender equity. I serve as a judge and mentor for MassChallenge, a Boston-based start-up accelerator program, in addition to advising some growing companies and seats on the board of an education-focused nonprofit and also on the Women’s Network Advisory Board for the Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I have a pretty good draft of my first book that I wrote most of while on the plane back and forth to Chicago. Because who needs free time, right?

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have a huge passion for the start-up arena and have been lucky to marry my interest in emerging technology with my work in helping to launch and grow PwC’s FinTech practice, which we have been rapidly scaling up over the last year. Also, I was very proud to be admitted to the PwC partnership, which happened when I was about halfway through my MBA.

Who is your favorite professor? It’s hard to pick just one but Amit Seru gets my vote — and that of much of my cohort, pretty unanimously. We recognized Amit with a faculty award during our graduation ceremonies for all he has done to educate us, not just academically but in what he has done to stretch our thinking and to keep us connected as a group. He is a star.

Favorite MBA Courses? So many favorites! Ultimately, anything with a ton of math wins me over, but the strategy-focused courses were ones I enjoyed just as much. Ron Burt’s Social Networks class was incredible. I also really enjoyed JP Dubé’s Pricing course and Organizations & Incentives, which was taught by Mike Gibbs.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? From the first interactions I had with Booth —the program office, the students, alumni, professors — I knew it was my top choice. The quality of conversation in the classroom and the connectivity of the global network are second to none. My first impressions have been validated and exceeded 1,000 times over. It’s a truly global school with top-class faculty and students across all three campuses.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The people I met and everything I learned — including about myself — from getting to know these great people. I certainly learned as much from my classmates as I did from my professors. And we had so much fun along the way.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Other than how to maximize Starwood and United points and travel booking strategies? Tremendous perspective. Working with groups whose experiences are very different from those my colleagues and I tend to share was invaluable. Although I have lived and worked all over the world, I have grown so much in this regard. My problem-solving approach is very different now than it was just two years ago. I have been “Chicago-ized”!

What was the most surprising thing about business school? Although I have always been a total nerd, my number-one motivation for going to business school was the network. Pretty early into the experience, I realized that I was getting so much more out of the academic element of the MBA than I had anticipated (don’t get me wrong, the social and networking side remained right up there too!).

What is your best advice for juggling work, family, and education? It’s a huge variable to add into the life of someone who typically already has a lot (too much?) going on. Cut yourself some slack on days, weeks or even months when not all dimensions of your life are getting the attention you’d like. People will have your back.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I first visited the Booth campus and my “inner nerd” started showing again.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Less in debt, but full of regret.

What are your long-term professional goals? I wish this is where I could say something about changing the world and drones and self-driving cars! In all seriousness, my long-term goals are similar to those I have in the more near term: to tackle big and difficult problems and to make a real impact.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My oncologists. They helped me kick cancer in the butt a few years ago. That experience was a really positive one for me — it showed me how much potential and capacity I had to go after my goals.

Fun fact about yourself: I broke my arm playing golf. Don’t ask

Favorite book: Anything nonfiction. I’m currently recommending Rookie Smarts by Liz Wiseman to anyone who will listen

Favorite movie: Serendipity

Favorite musical performer: Can I pick 100 of them?! Right now, I have been listening a lot to The Echo Friendly and Ella Henderson

Favorite television show: “Silicon Valley” is tough to beat. After graduation, I have been rediscovering TV, and have been enjoying “Broad City”

Favorite vacation spot: Ireland at Christmas. I grew up in a small town on the west coast of Ireland and love going back for the holidays every year.

Hobbies? Writing, traveling, tweeting terrible puns, photography, trying to keep up with the start-up scene


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