2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Leslie DeMoss, University of Chicago (Booth)

Leslie DeMoss

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

Age: 39

“Every success in my life has been due to a good attitude and hard work.”

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Family Members: Incredibly supportive husband Andy, dynamic 3.5 year-old girl-boy twins, Reese and Landon, and my loveable Australian Labradoodle, Moosie.

Fun fact about yourself: My Booth classmates gave me the nickname “Green Destiny” (reference to the sword in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) for my writing/editing skills in our case write ups. They also gave me the “Super Hero” superlative award for “effortlessly balancing the most challenges” during the program (i.e. young kids, changing jobs, etc.)—a recognition that is as fulfilling as the degree itself.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • University of Michigan– dual Bachelor degrees in Japanese (Asian Studies) and History (20th Century, World).
  • Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies (Tokyo, Japan): Master’s degree in International Relations.

Where are you currently working? JP Morgan, Vice President / Chief of Staff—Commercial Banking, Credit Finance & Business Management.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: In terms of extracurricular activities, golf, yoga, travel and hanging with my family. In terms of professional activities, keeping my Japanese skills sharp and staying engaged with international affairs networks like the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, US-Japan Council and Japan-America Society.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I came to Booth with a very thoughtful and intentional strategy of building my network and strengthening my business acumen to make a substantial career change. I took advantage of every benefit/resource Booth had to offer. Despite a full schedule—demanding class workload, full time job, job hunting/interviewing, being a parent of toddlers— I carved out time to meet with Booth’s executive coaches regularly; network across campuses, alumni classes and different business schools; seek out mentorship opportunities from my Professors and TAs; and attend Booth speaker events to learn about different industries. By doing so, one-year in, I had the confidence and ability to successfully make a career transition—recruited by a classmate—to a new industry (from aerospace & defense consulting to financial services), a new role (consultant to chief of staff) and a new geography (from Washington, DC to Chicago).

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Having studied Japanese (and about Japan) since I was 11 years-old, my most significant career achievement was being recognized as a young professional working to advance US-Asia relations. Most notably, the US-Japan Council chose me as a TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leader. I participated in a trip to Japan where I engaged Government of Japan officials and top Japanese business executives on a range of issues, including Japan’s relations with the U.S. I was also invited on Project 2049’s trip to Taiwan with other US-based Asia influencers to engage senior government officials on economic, policy and security issues. These opportunities deepened my expertise and reinforced my ability to contribute at work in numerous successful consulting campaigns in the region.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was first attracted to Booth based on its stellar reputation and the convenience of having the top EMBA program in the world in my home city of Chicago. What further sold me was Booth’s strong reputation in quant fields—I wanted to challenge myself and address weaknesses. I was not looking for a program that would simply reinforce my current strengths and allow me to stay in my comfort zone. What really sealed the deal was Booth’s international appeal and the opportunity to work with classmates from all over the world, with campuses in London, Hong Kong, and Chicago. After living in Japan and working on international defense projects, I place high value on diversity of people and perspectives, and I was not disappointed with the quality of programs, professors and students at Booth.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In every class, Booth pushed us one step further than we thought was needed. The program has the well-earned reputation for being “rigorous”—for me, this meant being challenged to understand the full picture, the three or more “why’s” past the first initial “why,” and how everything is interconnected. Booth prides itself on teaching students how to think not what to think, and that was something consistent across classes and professors. For work, this means not just getting the job done, but going above-and-beyond—anticipating the next move or understanding the problem on one or two levels deeper than what is initially required.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I was crazy enough to start this program with 2-year-old twins during the unpredictable time of COVID. For many of the parents in the program, the normal demands of balancing work, school, and the rest were hard enough, but then add onto it being a parent and having to deal with an unstable childcare environment—lots of nanny churn, daycares shutting down, schools going virtual, and at least for us, no family in the area to call in as an SOS.

After a full day of work followed by wrangling toddlers for dinner, I’d typically tuck the kids in at the end of the day, jump on group calls to go over homework, go to bed, and get up at 5am to finish my schoolwork or study before work. However, my toddlers always seemed to have a sixth sense for the days I had an exam to cram for or a case due, and they too would wake up at 5 am. Or my nanny would inevitably call in sick, with no viable back up options during the pandemic.

It created some pretty stressful days. But it also created some profound opportunities for compassion and support among classmates and it showed me I was capable of more than I ever thought. There is also no question that I would have not been able to do this program without the full support of my husband, who really stepped up for our family.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Make sure you have a strong support system going in and do everything to protect it. My husband and I discussed the demands the program would put on our family as two full time working parents, but the time commitment still exceeded our expectations. He carried so much of the load in the exhausting work of parenting twin toddlers, solo for long stretches. And in return, I did my best to take the burden off him where possible (studying during nap times, scheduling group calls after bedtime, being selective about school-related social outings, etc.).

What was your biggest regret in business school? Unfortunately, due to COVID, my cohort was not able to take advantage of an international week in Hong Kong and get the in-person interaction with most of our classmates in Asia.

Also, while I tried to take advantage of most of Booth’s robust extracurricular programming (special guest lecturers, etc.), I would have loved more time to take even greater advantage of it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This cohort was the most impressive group of people I have ever worked with—it is impossible to choose one. We had moms with young kids graduating with honors and a handful of new dads showing up for class (and their wives) virtually, baby in tow. We had people starting new businesses and people making major career changes, sometimes across continents. Every single person had their own unique story to tell and journey throughout the program and I admire and respect every one of them.

Most of all, I admire the spirit of the cohort. Everyone was so generous in helping each other out—hopping on extra calls to make sure a struggling student understood a class concept or to help with job interview prep, etc.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? It felt more appropriate at the stage in my career and the significant change I wanted to make. I felt the network might be more mature and the accelerated nature of the program would allow me to achieve my goal more quickly.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to have a challenging, fulfilling career where I am constantly growing and contributing—and never at the expense of my family. I hope to maintain an international component to my work, even if that means just working with a diverse team.

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

“Leslie’s classmates hit the nail on the head with her “Super Hero” superlative award for effortlessly balancing the most challenges during the program. I know this balancing act was far from effortless, but Leslie’s ability to navigate challenges, to handle crises calmly, to seemingly easily separate the forest from the trees – and focus on the forest! – are truly exemplary. I’m not surprised that Leslie has landed in a Chief of Staff role for which she was recommended by a classmate – a classmate who clearly saw these same characteristics.

Leslie’s admissions essay talked about adapting the Japanese idea of kaizen or continuous improvement, and this attitude is pervasive in her life: whether it be navigating childcare, school work, or her professional life, Leslie learns from her experiences.”

Julie Morton
Associate Dean, Executive MBA Program

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