2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Julia Kim, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Julia Kim

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

Age: 37

“An advocate and loyal friend.”

Hometown: McLean, Virginia

Family Members: My husband, Daniel, and my four-year-old son, Sebastian.

Fun fact about yourself: I used to be a competitive figure skater as a child.

Undergraduate School and Degree: George Mason University, B.A. in Communications, Concentration in Public Relations

Where are you currently working? Chief of Staff to Senator Barbara Favola

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Co-founder and president of KAFO Fund, a political action committee dedicated to electing progressive Korean Americans to all levels of government; former chairperson of the Virginia Asian Advisory Board; Kids Table (children’s ministry) helper at Table Covenant Church.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I served as the co-chair for a national affinity group for one of the 2020 presidential campaigns. The hard work and strategies that my fellow co-chairs and I –  along with volunteers across the country –  employed helped achieve 63% of the Asian American vote across the country for a single candidate. I have served in this capacity in other presidential campaigns, but certainly not during a pandemic when nearly all outreach activities were conducted virtually.

Not only did I have to be strategically innovative in new ways regarding how we kept our volunteers motivated and our outreach meaningful, but I also had to do it during the first few months of the EMBA program. One of the most involved events that I co-produced was a virtual press conference with dozens of elected officials and community leaders from across the country as well as domestic and foreign press in the lead up to my decision analytics final exam.  I literally logged off of the press release and logged directly into Canvas to take my final exam.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During the pandemic, millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of Virginians, couldn’t work for personal health reasons, caring for loved ones, or because they lost their jobs. During the first year of the pandemic, government offices across the state operated under a hiring freeze and our office did not have a constituent services coordinator at a time when our office was flooded with calls, emails, and letters requesting help navigating the unemployment insurance system. Everyone in the office stepped up to the plate and we helped over 350 individual constituents get unemployment relief during very difficult times. I recall weeks in which I would spend days calling dozens of constituents back every day, staying on the phone with them for hours, and coordinating help for them over the course of weeks and months for the most complicated cases. These calls and their cases were often heart-wrenching, but I had a responsibility to help as many people as possible quickly find a way to afford to live. Our office kept a case tracking spreadsheet to ensure we could follow up with those who reached out to us for help. Few ever let us know when their cases had been satisfactorily resolved, but for those who wrote or called back with updates, I know we made a huge impact on their lives when they needed it the most.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is probably the most difficult question to answer because I have so much respect for all of the professors from whom I’ve had the opportunity to learn.  In fact, the typical reaction after the end of a module was, “I wish we had at least a couple more weeks with these professors.” However, there is one person — my mentor, Vijay Velamoor – who I spent countless hours with through our time together in the mentoring program for the EMBA cohort.  While not a professor in the traditional sense, he was very much a teacher to me, providing guidance, influence, and direction, particularly as I explored a career transition and an entrepreneurial idea. Through our mentor-mentee relationship, I have come to better understand my own values, built a framework for all of my professional decisions going forward, and I truly feel like I’ve gained a wise friend.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was fortunate to have been accepted into multiple graduate programs, but having grown up in the D.C.-metro region, there was a prestige to the Georgetown University brand that was a clear draw. I also appreciated the global focus as well as the freedom to have a hand in designing our own program. Unlike other MBA programs that require students to choose tracks, for example entrepreneurial versus consulting tracks, the Georgetown McDonough EMBA program allowed me to explore both, giving me a more well-rounded educational experience.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In a setting where we are surrounded by type-A go-getters, I learned quickly that there are occasions when group harmony is more important than the grade. I think it is sometimes easy to drown out the voices of some in an effort to reach perfection. Learning to be mindful of the quieter voices who have just as valuable insights and contributions to make to the group effort has paid off at work.

As an example, the legislative process can be very confusing and unfamiliar territory to someone who is not a professional in the lawmaking industry like a lobbyist or lawmaker. Oftentimes, advocates are everyday folks who are speaking out or for an issue they feel passionately about. Slowing down to ensure that opportunities are given for simple as well as complex questions, and allowing the space for all voices to be heard has helped tense meetings go smoothly, which ultimately helps us reach better solutions.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? To be frank, juggling work, family, and educational responsibilities was difficult. I learned quickly that advanced preparation through calendaring was vital.

Practical tip: Do your best to share certain tasks and responsibilities rather than divvying up specific tasks and having one partner solely focus on those tasks all the time. I read that this creates a greater sense of fairness.

Another practical tip is to not be afraid to integrate work projects into your school projects. I had the opportunity to do this during my Business, Government, and the Global Economy class, which I took at a time when the plight of the Uyghurs in China was receiving increased attention. My group and I decided to make the issue of addressing inputs using forced labor in the solar panel industry the focus of our research. Additionally, having the diversity of experience and backgrounds within our group added to my learning experience in a way that would have likely been missing had I taken on this research alone in my work capacity.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? If you, too, come from a non-quantitative background like I did, really commit to diving deep into learning the material. Go to all of the office hours, take a couple sessions with an online tutor if you have the time and resources, create study groups with your cohort mates, and never give up. And like me, I am sure you will walk away with an appreciation for the people who have helped you, and also yourself for doing your best and walking away with a lot of new knowledge!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? One of my biggest concerns before starting the program was my non-quantitative professional and educational background. While I had a deep interest in learning about the issues that impact businesses and strategies for evaluating, starting, and improving businesses, I was worried about “getting the math.” As a prospective student, I recall sitting through a Zoom meeting with a panel of current students and one panelist expressing that she, too, had similar concerns when starting off but that she was performing well and assured us not to be concerned.

What I can tell you is that she was right, and the old adage that “hard work and perseverance will pull you through” is true. And beyond that, the professors are willing to take office hours to ensure you are understanding the material. Plus, a lot of the work is performed in groups — I found that when you’re surrounded by a group of very smart, talented people, there will always be someone who you can ask for help!

What was your biggest regret in business school?  I think my biggest regret was not developing closer bonds with more of my classmates. Many students in my cohort say that we’re the “COVID class,” meaning that we had a school experience very different from that of students in other cohorts. We missed over a year of in-person social interactions, which reduced our ability to bond early on in the program when those social channels are the most open.

I learned in my Leadership Communications course that even a tiny burst of in-person social interaction at the onset of a program can have a tremendous impact creating lasting bonds with our peers. Unfortunately, the pandemic had other plans for my cohort mates and me, but we plan on trying to make up for it going forward with a small group of students who will serve a two-year commitment to a social committee that plans to do meetups throughout the year. I hope we will follow through on this!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Toby Williams. Toby consistently conducts himself with integrity and asks tough questions to ensure that he and those around him genuinely understand the topic at hand (even if it’s an uncomfortable situation). On more than one occasion, I have seen him stick up for the underdog. Toby truly embodies the saying, “no man left behind.”

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Even though I started the EMBA program during the pandemic, I knew that we wouldn’t be in a state of quarantine forever. As a prospective student, one of the strongest messages I received was that I’d be making lifelong friends and we would be part of a network where we would not only support each other as we reach our professional goals, but we would also have the opportunity to open doors for others. In short, the prioritization of the community aspect of the program and the testimonials from current and former EMBA students put the EMBA program leagues ahead of all of the others.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term goal is to be an entrepreneur and spend my days making an impact on women’s health. I strongly believe that the EMBA program has given me the tools to reach my goal.

What made Julia such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“It’s a pleasure to very strongly recommend Ms. Julia Kim. I have known Julia since she first started her Executive MBA program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in 2020. Similar to her cohort classmates, Julia was one of my students in the Opening Residency and Decision Analytics core courses in the first year of the program.

Julia is an extremely dedicated and an exceptionally keen observer of her surroundings – the sort of intellectual awareness that stands out. She is steadfast, committed, efficient, professionally seasoned and with tremendous capacity for strategic thinking and planning. Her competencies in this regard stem from various characteristics that distinguish Julia as a student and a professional: sharp-mindedness, sheer intellect with a high degree of emotional I.Q., and steadiness.

Her academic performance is equally noteworthy and reflective of independent thinking and delivery when essential, and a team player and an accommodating team member when necessary. From a professional standpoint, she carries herself with tremendous confidence, poise, professionalism, and composure. Yet, she is modest and low key.

In my opinion, Julia’s life path, both professionally and academically, are indicative of her commitment, dedication, and a systematic approach toward managing her objectives and responsibilities. It’s been a pleasure to know Julia and see her accomplishments.”

Bardia Kamrad
Professor of Operations and Information Management
Senior Associate Dean for Executive Degree Programs
Academic Director for the Executive MBA Program


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