In this series, we have celebrated the truly impressive and diverse students who recently joined Kellogg’s Evening & Weekend Program. For our last post, meet (from left): Stephanie Pareja-Fernandez (Global Supply Manager, Apple) and Lilianna Myers (Senior Product Manager, Sweetgreen)
What are you most proud of in your professional journey? How did it shape who you are as a leader?
Stephanie Pareja-Fernandez: I am most proud that I have continually embraced change throughout my professional journey. On several occasions, I have sought out opportunities to continue growing my career, and this has been an integral part of my development as a leader. While at times my path has not been linear, change has been a constant, and that directly aligns with my core value of lifelong learning.
Lilianna Myers: I am proud of the way that I have been able to incorporate my undergraduate degree in English into my role as a product manager. This position is often highly quantitative and requires that you have a firm grasp of the data behind your decisions. However, I have found a lot of success in being able to write clear briefs that describe my vision. It is rewarding to put pen to paper when creatively thinking through problem sets in order to drive real change for end users. Particularly, when I pair my Kellogg MBA with my undergraduate degree, I feel well-equipped to continue to be a product manager with a deep sense of empathy for those using the products that my teams and I build.
As an incredibly accomplished and very busy professional, why was now the right time to get your MBA? Why was Kellogg the right school?
SPF: For the past several years, my goal has been to get an MBA. When the world took an unexpected turn in 2020, the noise and commotion of my everyday life suddenly paused. After some self-reflection, I realized that not only was I ready to pursue my long-time goal, it was also the right time. I knew Kellogg was the best fit for me because of the school’s emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, and the unique opportunity to participate in the Kellogg Leadership Journey in the Evening& Weekend MBA program.
LM: Ultimately, I chose to start my MBA now because I am looking to develop my quantitative and technical acumen in a formal way. I have learned a ton at work, but wanted to carve out time to grow these skills and become a stronger product manager. Kellogg was the right fit for me, both personally and professionally. I knew I wanted to attend a top-tier, part-time MBA program so that I did not have to put my career on hold. This was particularly important to me as someone in the fast-paced technology industry. Additionally, Kellogg provides pathways in data analytics and technology management that align perfectly with my goal of becoming a leader in the industry.
Lilianna, you recently made a pivot in your career. Can you share what drove you to make this pivot? Any advice for those looking to make a pivot or significant change in their career?
LM: I recently changed companies when I accepted my current role as a Senior Product Manager at Sweetgreen. When I was considering making this pivot, I worried whether it would be smart to start a new job remotely during the pandemic. However, if I have learned anything from this year, it is how to push myself through uncertainty in the name of opportunity. For those considering changing companies, I would suggest making a switch when you feel passionate about the company’s values. Surrounding yourself with great teams of people dedicated to something you believe in will always be a good career move.
In your short time at Kellogg, how has your experience so far impacted your professional and personal growth?
SPF: My experience thus far at Kellogg has been everything I had hoped for and more. I feel fortunate to have such a high-caliber group of peers and cannot wait to meet more of them. The classes that I took during my first quarter gave me simple, powerful frameworks to weave into my work and daily life. I feel better equipped to reason through a multitude of situations, and I look forward to continued growth.
LM: First and foremost, my time at Kellogg has given me an unparalleled academic experience that is arming me with the skills I need to be a more strategic and thoughtful leader. I love being able to see a direct connection between what I learn in class and what is required of me at work. Furthermore, I have embraced the chance to interact with the Kellogg community. I lead two book clubs in order to read outside of class and discuss novels each month and I joined the E&W KTech board to learn from other students who work in technology. It is wonderful to be surrounded by intelligent, kind, gracious classmates who contribute their unique experiences to my professional development and network.
COVID-19 has changed how we learn, engage and grow. What have you learned or gained –that you might not have otherwise – during this time?
SPF: Because of the COVID pandemic, the way we work and interact with others has changed dramatically. Personally, I have learned how to build relationships virtually in addition to maintaining them. In the eventual aftermath of social distancing, I look forward to continuing using the skillset I have developed as a means to connect with others who I may not have had a chance to meet in person.
LM: I have become a better communicator throughout the pandemic. Remote learning and work has made it even more important to provide meaningful updates and document decisions to move projects along. Above all else, the pandemic has reinforced for me how critical it is to be resilient and empathetic.