“Dylan, you gotta read this book. It’s so inspiring.”
Maureen Riley, our Associate Director for FEMBA Admissions was the first person to tell me about Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi. This was a couple years ago and Susan Dearing, the Executive Director of the UCLA Anderson ProMBA Career Management Center, had suggested the book to Maureen. Keith spoken here at UCLA Anderson and Susan tells me how he broke new ground in teaching networking by focusing on generosity and the power of relationships, seeking what you can provide for another and appreciating the unique ‘currency’ we each have, but often overlook.
Fast-forward to the 2014 application season, when we read the FEMBA application of Blair Nichols ’17. Blair is Chief of Staff for Ferrazzi Greenlight, Keith Ferrazzi’s company. When Blair’s application was approved by the Faculty Committee, I was glad because I knew Blair could bring some networking expertise to the student body.
Blair gave me permission to share this blog post he published on LinkedIn today. In Blair’s own words:
My father told me his biggest regret was that he didn’t keep up with his network throughout his career. If he had he may have had an easier time finding a job as a recently displaced C-level executive nearing retirement. Instead he took his severance and bought a small business that no small amount of effort on his part could make profitable. I took his words to heart when I began college and launched my career in publishing by securing internships at my professors’ recommendation and then attending the Columbia Publishing Course where recent college grads could spring-board both their careers and networks.
When it came time to determine what graduate program would be help me best advance my career along with my interests and passions, it didn’t take me long to figure out that an MBA would serve me much better than an MFA. While the fantasy of being a writer will never fully subside, a program that encourages limited group discussion and focus on one’s own craft sounds about as exciting to me as joining a monastery. Business school with its intentional design for networking, and alumni that remain connected for years to come, was much more enticing. People and relationships are what have informed each step of my career, so why not choose a program that supports that?
Of course, networking is not the only reason I chose an MBA. As a Literature major with minors in Communication and Gender Studies, I didn’t come to corporate life armed with the hard skills many Engineering, Econ, or Accounting students had. After several years of letting others worry about “the numbers” and allowing my soft skills to carry me into management, I realized I wanted to possess the same knowledge that business leaders have. I wanted the added confidence, credential, and opportunities that accompany an MBA as well.
When I told my parents about my plan they both assumed I’d be going part-time. At 40, with 4 kids still at home, my father completed his MBA on weekends. My mother finished an MA and continued graduate work at night throughout most of my childhood. At the time I hadn’t really considered FEMBA. But after being recruited for a job in LA that moved me from NY, I knew I wasn’t ready to take a break from my career. After taking the helm as Chief of Staff to Keith Ferrazzi, a man whose books and IP speak directly to the ideology I was raised with about generosity being the cornerstone of success, I knew I was in the right place to grow professionally while also continuing my education.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be among the highly accomplished group of individuals already admitted to the class of 2017. We chose FEMBA because our relationships are vital to us. Not just with our managers, colleagues, or others we consider to be part of our “professional network,” but to our families, our friends, and those we’ve yet to meet who will someday count on our support. The foundation we’ve already begun in the early years of our careers will be nourished by our professors, our projects, and most of all by each other. And these are the relationships we’ll need to continue to nurture for years to come so that someday, “not keeping up with each other” won’t be something we tell our children we regret.
Thanks for this blog submission Blair. And thanks for the new edition of Never Eat Alone; I have a plane trip tomorrow and I’m taking it with me.
We’re happy having you in the Class of 2017. We look forward to your generosity. I love the signature on your email:
Business is Human | Relationships Power Growth