Black Girl Education Series Pt 1: Yewande Salau on Getting her MBA

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Black Girl Education is a new TANTV series featuring the stories of Black female executives and their educational strides!

The first installment of this series features Ms. YEWANDE SALAU. She graduated with her MBA from Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University. She now works as the Presidential Management Associate at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. She was featured on Cornell.Edu as one of the 12 MBAs from the Two-Year Class of 2020 and on Poets & Quants. You can also read about her adventure, Cornell MBA Africa Trek.
Image: Yewande Salau, Presidential Management Associate at Estée Lauder Companies Inc.

I graduated from business school May 2020. It was so exciting to finish this journey despite the trials and tribulations. The experience was totally worth it!

Why I Decided to Pursue an MBA 

Prior to pursing my MBA, I had a career that spanned many sectors. I worked in retail management, beauty entrepreneurship and counseling at an educational non-profit. To advance in my career and increase my potential for earning, I knew I had to pursue a higher degree. But I was stuck between doing a Master’s in Education or an MBA. My friend, Buki, already had an M. ED and was in the process of pursuing an MBA. She urged me to go down the MBA route because I would have access to so many more career paths if I decided to pivot from education. In addition, most of the board members for the non-profit organization I worked for had MBAs and made the big decisions so that further solidified why the MBA was the best choice for me.


The GMAT Process

Studying for the GMAT/GRE was the most tedious part of the application process. If you know that the MBA is for you, do not let this barrier discourage you from achieving your goal.

To prepare I started by taking the Manhattan Prep GMAT class. It had been a while since I had taken math so I postponed my class and went through the Foundations of GMAT math book to be prepared. This preparation before the class allowed me to understand the shortcuts. To supplement the Manhattan Prep classes, I also had a private tutor for both the verbal and quantitative sections of the exam.

I put a lot of time and money into my preparation, but this may not be necessary for everyone.  Many people who went to the top MBA programs did not get the highest scores right away, but they kept practicing until they got a score to apply. So, try your best!  Also, the GMAT/GRE is just one piece of a holistic application process.


Process of Applying for Business School

To help me steer my application process, I was in two MBA prep programs. The first was called the Forté MBA Launch program which was geared towards women and getting them to apply for top MBA programs. We had access to a mentor, discounts to test prep materials, and access to admissions counselors prior to the application process.

The second program I was in was called Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT). MLT is a program designed to support people who are African American, LatinX, and Native American through the MBA application process.  It was intense because there were homework assignments, monthly coaching calls, and three in-person conferences to prepare us for our application process.

The experience allowed me to meet so many people. We bonded, studied, and encouraged each other through the intense MBA application process.


Lessons from being in Business School

Power of YouThere is so much power in being you. When you are in business school, people are trying to figure out what to do next and get ahead without really focusing on what their special talents are. In the noise, be authentic to yourself and on how you want to show up.

Get to Know People– Business school is a unique opportunity to meet smart and driven people from all over the world. It is important to take the time to get to know people because some of your classmates can become business partners, and cherished friends.


Black Girl Education

It is important for Black Women to pursue higher education. According to a 2020 Forbes article, Black women make $0.62 to every one dollar than their white male counterparts earn. To combat the lower salaries, an MBA can help elevate earning potential for Black Women. The median salary of an MBA graduate in the United States is $105,000. Although there will still be hurdles, the MBA can level the playing field.


Do I Feel More Ready for the Workforce?

Through the MBA experience, I feel more ready for the workforce. Group projects, experiential learning, and a summer internship has helped me to learn a lot in a short time. Even though my experience was substantial, I will learn more on the job because industry changes so quickly.

Do I feel More Powerful?

My network makes me feel more powerful. Through the whole MBA experience, I have met people who are doing amazing things and who also want to help me. I also want to give back to them as well. The ivy-league MBA also helps more people listen to what I have to say which is powerful too.


About Student Loans?

Financing an MBA can be daunting. Not working for two years, paying a high tuition, and funding international travel adds up quickly. However, there are options for funding. I was able to fund my education through the Consortium fellowship which is awarded to people who want to promote the advancement of African Americans, LatinX, and Native Americans in the corporate space.

Not all of my friends were Consortium fellows, but they were able to fund their education through loans, sponsorship from their previous companies, and signing bonuses and saved money from their internships.

The higher salary that comes with an MBA can allow people to pay off loans from their education.

What are my New Future Goals and Expectations?

I am looking forward to embracing my full-time role. I am now a Presidential Management Associate focusing in Human Resources at the Estée Lauder Companies. I really am passionate about the beauty industry and developing talent so I look forward to spending time learning and working there.

Outside of work, I am really passionate about Diversity and Inclusion initiatives to get more people with disabilities in the workforce. My younger brother is on the Autism spectrum, and through the years I have become aware of the difficulties people with disabilities face with access to employment.

Also, I just want to have fun and to resume enjoying NewYork City and all of the social activities that comes with living in the city post-Covid-19.


My Ultimate Goal

Ultimately, I want to start a non-profit which provides job training and placement for people with disabilities. Through my experience in Human Resources, I can provide a more targeted skillset to support this community.

Connect with Yewande Salau on Linkedin.
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