Inside Kellogg recently had the opportunity to connect with the co-presidents of Kellogg’s Evening & Weekend Parents Club, Ashley Martin and Will Mak (both E&W 2021), on their experience as parents in the E&W Program and creating the Parents Club. Here’s what they had to say.
Tell us about your leadership journeys to Kellogg.
Will: I studied architectural engineering during undergrad and was always curious about business. After spending most of my career in real estate design, construction and operations, I realized that my passion was more in real estate development and wanted to gain business education that was not covered in my undergraduate education. Ultimately, I wanted to utilize my skills from my work experience and leverage business school to make a pivot into real estate development.
Ashley: I started my career in healthcare and quickly realized I was passionate about this space. I held roles across various functions, from sales to marketing, and wanted to go to business school to build a foundation of business skills. This was reinforced when I became a first-time people manager and realized I wanted to also focus on being an authentic, courageous leader. Looking for ways to continue my business and leadership journey within healthcare were the impetus to applying to Kellogg.
How has parenthood influenced your Kellogg journey?
Will: I began Kellogg with the intent to not start a family until I completed business school. However, after meeting some Evening and Weekend parents that had children while in school, my wife and I reconsidered waiting and ultimately decided that there was never going to be a “good time” to start a family. We ended up welcoming our son last April at the beginning of the pandemic and have been lucky to have support from friends and family throughout our parenthood journey.
Ashley: I had children before enrolling in Kellogg, and as a full-time, working mother, beginning my Kellogg journey was a family decision. With the time commitment to school, it was important to ensure the Kellogg journey was part of our family dynamic. Therefore, I looked for opportunities that will allow me to balance family time, such as taking classes in the evening to reserve weekends for family or looking for classes that are on days that do not interfere with my children’s after-school activities. Kellogg has provided the opportunities to fulfill my personal and professional development, while also being an example for my children.
What were your biggest concerns with parenthood and school?
Will: One of my biggest concerns leading up to parenthood was not understanding what to expect as a first-time father. I did not grow up with extended family near us, so we did not have much exposure to young children and most of my friends at the time were not parents yet. I was fortunate to have attended “Expecting Baby” classes at our hospital and one of our family friends gifted me a great book called “The Birth Partner” to prepare for the journey. Chatting with other parents in the Kellogg E&W Program was also very helpful to gain their insights and perspective that juggling a family while in school could be done.
Ashley: I knew I wanted to pursue my MBA, but I kept waiting for the perfect time to start, concerned that I would miss out on my children’s milestones. My job involved occasional travel and I was already spending time away from them, so I wanted to ensure I could manage the program. I spent time networking and listening to other parents and the admissions team to gather insights on balancing school and family. These conversations gave me the courage to start my Kellogg journey. Kellogg’s E&W Program has provided flexibility to ensure I am there for my children and has also reinforced truly being present when I am with my family.
How do you balance work, family and Kellogg?
Will: Balancing work, family and Kellogg has been challenging, but I am fortunate to have a great support system with my wife and family to help. Managing expectations with work, school and my significant other have been important. Making sure I carve out time for family in the evenings after work has been critical for balancing it all. Also, communicating with your spouse, work colleagues and classmates about your commitments is key.
Ashley: A professor had used the phrase “harmonizing work and life.” This resonated because, in full transparency, there are times I do not have balance across family, work and Kellogg. However, I am passionate about all of them, and I have found having a supportive spouse, continual communication and setting boundaries help make all three possible. Additionally, my employer has also been supportive with school. On the tactical side, I wake up early to workout (it’s important to give yourself time too!) and then begin my workday. After my children are in bed, I’ll use the evenings for schoolwork.
What was the biggest surprise?
Will: One of the biggest surprises since becoming a parent was learning how many other parents were already in the Evening & Weekend Kellogg Program. Even within my cohort, there were at least 10 that were either parents or thinking about starting a family while we were in school. It showed me that the community was already there but waiting to be discovered and elevated.
Ashley: My biggest surprise was how much my children have been interested in the Kellogg journey. They will ask about my classes and what we are learning. They are at an age where we can have conversations about classes, and it makes the time when I’m away at school worth it. The highlight of this was when they attended a study session in Wieboldt and were able to see where I spend my time. I have also been grateful for the support and compassion shown by professors and students towards parents. As an example, I was in a group project where we met weekly, and the call occurred during my son’s soccer game. I brought this up to the group and received overwhelming support to shift the call by an hour. The collaborative culture at Kellogg has been such an integral part of the journey.
What does Parents Club mean to you?
Will: As our child’s due date was approaching, I began asking around the Kellogg community who was a parent to learn about their perspectives and advice on parenthood. The more people I met that were parents at Kellogg, the more I felt that there was an unmet need for a club dedicated to parents in Kellogg’s Evening & Weekend Program. I started a slack channel to discover how large this community was within the Evening & Weekend community and was shocked to see almost 80 people join in only a month. Inspired by the rapid engagement on the Slack channel and the Full-Time student group, Kellogg Kids, we connected with two other students, Ekta Anand and Nikhil Jalgaonkar, to brainstorm how to build a sustainable parent community within Kellogg’s E&W Program.
We ultimately started the Parents Club to provide a community for working parents at Kellogg and to support those looking to join parenthood during their time in business school. Check us out on the Slack channel, #ew_parents, to keep up with the current events.
Ashley: It’s been exciting to be a part of the early development of Kellogg’s E&W Parents Club. We are coming up on our one-year anniversary!
To me, the Parents Club is a network that provides support both within and outside the Kellogg community. Here are two highlights of events that current students can participate in: For community involvement, we partner with the E&W Kellogg Student Association to facilitate a Toys for Tots drive by partnering with a local, minority owned toy store, to donate toys to families in need. And to support our soon-to-be or new parents, join one of our “Expecting Parents Panel” to hear from fellow students on juggling parenthood and Kellogg.