Last month, Poets & Quants released their Top MBA’s to watch in the Class of 2015, a talented, diverse and driven group of graduating MBA’s . After reading through the profiles (all were impressive) Anna Rawson‘s (Columbia Business School) stood out because of the genuiness and warmth of the comments that were written by her nominator. Furthermore, her background was incredibly diverse and unique. Previously, Rawson was a Professional Golfer on the LPGA Tour and model, but decided to go to business school to pursue her dream of founding her own business. Anna recently became the spokeswomen for Parsons Extreme Golf, and is currently working on her business called Mara Essentials. In between traveling for both of these commitments, I had the chance to interview Anna and to ask her about her business school experience.
MBASchooled: What was the most important lesson you learned while in business school?
Anna: You’re only as good as your network – In business school so many of our projects were team based – and outside of school in business you have to collaborate and seek help from others to succeed. Being a likable, reliable person that others want to be around and work with is so important. I watched classmates that would flake on meetings, never get back to emails and not do their required work not get full time offers from their summer internships and would not be recommended for jobs from their peers – so its important to be a reliable and likable teammate if you want to build a great network.
MBASchooled: What is something that surprised you during your MBA experience?
Anna: How business school really identifies your strengths and weaknesses. It was clear to me after the first semester that going into banking would be a waste of my real strengths and talents. There were probably 65 people out of 75 that were better at building a model than I was and even if I got to their level would it be using my best skill set? I quickly identified areas that I was stronger than my peers and weaker and it really helped me understand where I should be focusing my efforts. Also I must note that it was incredibly humbling to be surrounded by so many intelligent people!!
MBASchooled: What are the similarities between being an entrepreneur and a professional golfer?
Anna: The biggest similarity is that you are in control of your own destiny. As an entrepreneur you drive the vision of the company and then hire people to help you execute that vision. Golf is similar you decide you want to become a professional golfer then you hire people that will help you achieve that dream. At the end of the day it’s always up to you to drive the company or pro golf career forward. Another similarity is that – in both being an entrepreneur and a pro golfer is that chasing the dream/building the company is much more fun (although extremely hard and high stress) than achieving your goal/exit.
MBASchooled: What business school activity, experience or opportunity was most impactful to you?
Anna: CBS Matters was most impactful to me! It is when one of your cluster mates gives a 30 min presentation on what matters to them in life. Usually people give a brief history about themselves and how they got to business school and what has mattered to them in life and what matters now. It’s incredibly humbling and inspiring when you learn about your peer’s incredible life journeys. To get into a top business school you know people have had to be incredibly successful but it is amazing to learn that many of my peers had overcome severe adversity.
MBASchooled: What’s a change you’ve noticed in yourself compared to when you began your MBA at Columbia?
Anna: I feel more confident because my knowledge about business, people and the world in general has increased – yet i still have a ton to learn!
MBASchooled: What advice would you give to MBA applicants who are hoping to use an MBA to start their own company?
Anna: Don’t get distracted by 90% of your peers that are going to take a banking or consulting job. Take a risk and follow your passion – there is no better time to start than now. Succeed or Fail – your learning experience will be incredibly rewarding – and people will value your efforts if you do decide you want to get a job later.
MBASchooled: In your recent write-up in Poets and Quants, you were described as a “caretaker and nurturer”, and with an ability to “collaborate, share, and inspire.” What motivates you to exude these qualities, especially towards your classmates and peers?
Anna: My mother passed away when I was 5 years old so i never had a caretaker or nurturer, which is not a great feeling! So perhaps i overcompensate – because i don’t want anyone to feel those feelings. I am also a strong believer in Karma and that there is no better feeling than helping others and making others feel good. I also believe it’s super important in business to always try and understand how the other person wins and try and make sure they do – the other side generally understands how they win but business is more fun if you know they win too. I guess I also had this really crazy first job where I got incredible access to the world’s top leaders in business – I learned so much from these people in terms of the person I want to be and their stories of success. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have heard these amazing stories so I try to pass this on to anyone who is open!