Emerging Scholars: Sophie, Duke Fuqua School of Business

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The Emerging Scholars program helped Sophie feel comfortable and confident at McKinsey – before the craziness of the first semester at Fuqua. If you’re starting business school in the US this fall, apply by May 17 to enjoy the same early support.

I spent most of my undergrad years doing research in microbiology. All my lab mates were applying to medical school or PhD programs. They seemed so excited about the paths in front of them, and I felt quite out of place. I just couldn’t get excited about more days bent over my lab bench changing one variable at a time, waiting for results, plodding along at what felt like such a slow pace.

I started daydreaming of ways to apply my science degree in different areas. I wanted to make a difference in the world – like everyone does.

Enter Teach for America

I saw a flier in the career services center: Teach for America was looking for people with a background in science. It called to me – it was an opportunity to use my degree in a very different way. It would allow me to learn new things again like how to teach and hopefully make a difference in the lives of my students. I ended up teaching biology and chemistry to students in 9th – 12th grade in my home town.

Sophie inline
Sophie inline

When I started with TFA, I had no idea where this path would take me. My first year of teaching was a blur; I could barely think an hour ahead, much less consider my own, longer–term career goals. By the time I made it to year two, I realized I was giving my heart and soul to teaching, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t really have the hard skills to make a scalable difference. I felt ok with what I could do in my classroom, but I wasn’t making a dent in any of the larger challenges my students were facing: hunger, homelessness, abuse, etc.

Readjusting my course

I thought if I went to work for a local company instead, I might be able to gain the skills I needed to remedy some of these bigger, societal challenges. I had a hypothesis that learning basic business skills could set me up to effect change on a larger scale. I realized, perhaps a bit selfishly, that I wanted to give without giving myself completely away so whatever I did would need to be sustainable. I applied for entry–level financial analyst positions at Asurion, which had a relationship with Teach for America.

Meeting McKinsey

I was lucky; I ended up with some great mentors at Asurion, two of whom had worked at McKinsey. They suggested I go to business school, then join the firm. At first, I literally didn’t know any of the words they were using to describe the firm or this opportunity. Little by little, they sold me on the idea, mostly because the learning curve at McKinsey promised to be steep and the resources and opportunities to solve the toughest problems seemed abundant.

I applied to Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and was admitted – step one complete – yeah! Before I started, I heard from Career Services about the Emerging Scholars program. I’m so glad I applied and was chosen as a scholar. Emerging Scholars helped me feel more comfortable with consulting, McKinsey and the whole recruiting process. It gave me time to think about why I wanted to be a consultant and to research McKinsey before the craziness of school began in the fall. My McKinsey Mentors and fellow scholars gave me the confidence to apply for an internship in the fall and the resources and support to feel comfortable and happy through the application and interview process.

Making a difference

I spent the summer between my first and second years at business school in McKinsey’s Atlanta office. I suspected working in the healthcare industry would allow me to effect change in a meaningful way. I spent the summer in that industry and never looked back. I am energized each day to help my clients find ways to better serve patients and communities.

More about Sophie

In business school, I held leadership positions in the Consulting Club, Association of Women and Business, and Net Impact. The most interesting thing I did at Fuqua was a consulting project with the Case i3 program, through which I learned about impact investing.

While I enjoyed those activities, I learned the most from the time spent with my classmates, soaking up the experiences they had and learning about their careers and life aspirations. Many of my best friends were in my section and a few even followed me to McKinsey.

Now, my main hobby is wedding planning. I’m marrying my high school sweetheart in two months. Thankfully, he is doing the bulk of the planning because he loves throwing parties and big events, but there is still a lot for me to do.

Beyond that, I love anything involving UNC basketball, searching online for dogs to adopt, and religiously celebrating waffle Wednesday.

Apply for Emerging Scholars today

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