On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Denitresse Burns

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Lauren Sickles, and before that we got insights from Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve asked Denitresse Burns to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Denitresse is a 2009 graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Currently, she’s a part of John Deere’s Strategic Management Program (a leadership rotational program).  Her rotations have included:

1.       Economics: As a Project Manager, she supported the Chief Economist, looking at global economic and policy trends to understand their impact to their business and customers.

2.       Social Media:  As John Deere’s first Social Media Manager, she launched the social media program at John Deere from the ground up, growing the base to over 500k and designing and implementing the internal processes to support the channels.

3.       Strategic Planning:  As Strategic Ambition Coordinator, she manages the strategic planning efforts for one of the largest global platforms in John Deere’s agricultural division.

Why did you go to business school?
I decided to go to business school for a number of reasons. Some rational… some, well, not so much.  In undergrad, when I finally declared a major in International Finance, I knew I would also pursue my MBA (someday).  In my mind, the two simply went hand in hand.  When a mentor left my firm to attend Stern, I was reminded of item #8 on my “Deni Do List.”  Three years later I found myself doing well in my career but completely uninterested and as a result, uninspired.  At that point, I knew I was ready for a complete career change and that a MBA would give me the latitude to make that transition.

How has business school impacted your career?
Without business school I would not have even been considered for my current role.  More importantly, I wouldn’t have been aware that positions like mine existed.  Business school not only opened doors that were once closed, it also created doors, windows, and holes in fences, seemingly out of the thin air.  In addition to the academics, the “social” education I received in business school was transformational.  Yes, knowing how to effectively model business decisions and having frameworks to add structure to problem solving efforts have been helpful.  However, understanding how to work on global teams, manage up, down and across, and navigate touchy corporate politics have proven to be invaluable.

What do you want business school applicants to know?
Business school is not just about switching careers or accelerating career progression.  This will likely be your LAST opportunity to take two years to learn about yourself, explore new things and take risks in a fairly “safe” environment.  Use this time wisely.  While academics are definitely important, remember that post-MBA, the “hard skills” in the curriculum will effectively expire within 2-5 years.  The soft skills, your network and your ability to deliver value, are the things that will sustain your career, and personal life, for the long term.

How many schools did you apply to and get accepted to?
I applied to 5 schools, was accepted to 5 schools, and received fellowships/scholarships from 2.

What specific advice would you give those prepping for the GMAT now?
My advice to those prepping for the GMAT: PUT IN THE WORK!!!!! Consider the GMAT your first test in dedication and time management.  Things only get more hectic once you actually start business school.  Be deliberate in your studies.  Don’t just do what others are doing, take the time to understand what works and what doesn’t work for you.  Based on that assessment, you can decide if you want to try the test on your own, take a class, hire a tutor, etc. Whichever you choose, when you find yourself stuck, seek help EARLY! Don’t shortcut the GMAT and don’t discount the value of help.

Is there anything about your experience with the GMAT/application process that was unique or surprising
I didn’t take the GMAT as seriously as I should have. I’d never had to study before and wasn’t really a fan of the preparation that goes into really owning the test.  Thankfully, I had a GMAT instructor who was both patient with me and also called me on my mess.  The GMAT is both mentally and physically exhausting.  We tend to overlook the physical side of the equation, but I advise folks to allocate time to work on the physical in addition to traditional ideas of test prep.  Spend time in the gym, doing yoga, meditating, jogging, stretching, etc.  All of this preparation will prove valuable 90 minutes in on test day! I promise!

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