Student Profile: Kat Kelly-Tran, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Alumni Stories: Kat Kelly-Tran, Carlson School of Management main image

Kat Kelly-Tran is currently studying for her MBA at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

Before embarking on her MBA studies, Kelly-Tran had five years' work experience and held the role of IT Solutions Specialist at Minneapolis Public Schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As she continues moving forward with her MBA studies, Kelly-Tran spoke with TopMBA.com about her reasons for choosing Carlson, and how she thinks her MBA will benefit her career.

What were you doing before starting your MBA?

After my sociology undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College, I was unsure of my long-term career plans. I then worked for Apple, Inc., as a computer repair technician in New York which allowed me to work at the intersection of my two passions: people and technology.

After moving to the Midwest, I knew I wanted a role with more responsibility and began working as a field technician for the Minneapolis Public Schools. I was promoted to a systems administrator role where I performed as a technical liaison between the district’s technology and the staff and students.

What factors led you to your graduate degree?

I wanted to move away from the day-to-day work I was doing and was ready for the next challenge. I knew I wanted to stay in technology and wasn’t sure if an MBA would fit with that plan. But I found an MBA would teach me the skills and theory behind the business of technology; assisting me with career advancement.

Getting my MBA was a way to fast-track my career through education. I knew I could teach myself the technical part, I just needed to inundate myself into the business world.

What factored into your final choice of where to study?

I attribute my choice to attend Carlson to a student I talked to prior to my acceptance. She spoke highly and knowledgeably of what Carlson had to offer and it mirrored much of what I’d learned of the school.

The Carlson students supported and celebrated with each other more than they competed. I appreciated many of the students were there to better themselves and their lives, not just to earn a bigger paycheck. Because the school placed emphasis on the personal success of students, I felt I could shape the program to my needs. I was confident I could thrive at Carlson.

What do you most love about the school/program?

The school values our experience and opinions, whether it’s making changes to new student orientation or impacting policies supporting LGBTQIA+ students.

Two years is a short time to make an impact on an institution, especially when students are primarily concerned with academics and job searches, but regardless, the school gives students a multitude of opportunities to influence the program.

What is your favorite thing about the city/campus?

Minneapolis is a hidden gem. Many of my friends grew up here, went out of state for school or work, and returned with partners, children, and pets in tow. And I can absolutely understand why.

As a Californian who attended school in New England, I’ve fallen in love with Minneapolis. In addition to being surrounded by some of Mother Nature’s finest, the city has a soul that runs deep. This tight-knit community consists of kind, hardworking people. With diverse industries, the city is growing rapidly and there is a place for everyone.

What is your best experience on the program to date?

In our Brand Enterprise, my group of four completed a 14-week consulting project for a Fortune 6 company – this was exactly the type of experience I was hoping for.

The project was unique, and I knew my learning curve would be steep. Through the support of my peers and the staff, I dove in head first and challenged myself to take advantage of the experience.

Throughout the semester we made mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and ended up with a very successful presentation. Having that space to safely fail allowed me to start my internship better prepared and with confidence.

What do you think the biggest myth is about applying to business school?

That people only get an MBA to make more money. There are plenty of MBA candidates who get the degree to achieve that end, but there are plenty of students who see the MBA as the next step in their life.

Whether they’re career changers or career accelerators, many MBA students are pursuing this degree because they know they are capable of more.

What piece of advice do you have for incoming students?

To never lose sight of why you are there. There are so many opportunities, it can be easy to lose track. It’s entirely likely you’ll feel like your life plan will change fifteen times in the first month; you may get caught up in what your peers are doing and find it may or may not suit you. Those lessons are invaluable. You’ll only be able to discover what you want by experiencing things you don’t want.

Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Assistant Editor of TopMBA.com, creating and editing content for an international MBA student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of the business world.  

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