During her time at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Melanee Swanson (Kenan-Flagler, ’17) made her impact on campus by serving as President of the Management Consulting Club, coaching students as a Consultant in the Business Communication Center, and successfully landing a Summer Associate and Full-Time consulting offer, all while navigating the expected and unexpected challenges of being an involved student leader in business school. In our interview, Melanee spoke to us about some of the challenges she faced, and how learning to focus on what you can control, and perhaps more importantly, how the relationships with her classmates at UNC helped her learn, grow, and move forward throughout her time in Chapel Hill.
MBASchooled: What is your favorite memory of business school?
Melanee: My favorite memory of business school is not a distinct day or moment, but more of a time period. Through my role as president of the Consulting Club and my work as a Business Communications Center consultant, I spent the majority of my Second Year Mod 2 and Winter Break helping first years prep for the consulting internship interview process. Watching the success of the first years in securing consulting internships made the first two weeks of January my favorite memory of business school. I remember being glued to my phone anxiously waiting to hear from all of the first years, and my husband jokingly stealing my phone just to increase my stress level. I teared up multiple times during those two weeks when I heard how amazingly they had done during interviews, as well as when our Deloitte Case Competition team won Nationals for the first time.
MBASchooled: What will you miss most about your MBA experience?
Melanee: I will miss being able to see some of my favorite people every day. I think everyone probably says that, but I do truly have the best friends. I unfortunately had some health issues come up during my second year, and my friends became like family. I am convinced I wouldn’t have been able to complete my second year as successfully as I did without them. I really hate that we are now going to be all over the country. I know we will stay close and I’ll be lucky to close friends to visit in several awesome cities, but I will miss seeing them every day. I am definitely using my friends’ departure as an excuse to visit cities like Nashville and Seattle, and we are already planning a trip for a reunion next year!
MBASchooled: What are you most proud of from your MBA experience?
Melanee: When I took over the Management Consulting Club I knew that I had huge shoes to fill, as the class before us had set an extremely high bar. I was nervous and scared that we would not be able to live up to those expectations. However, our team faced the challenge head on, and we worked incredibly hard to make sure we didn’t let down our predecessors. I have never seen so many people come together to help our classmates and our first years. During second year re-recruiting, we conducted over 70 firm-specific mock interviews within two weeks, which led to an increase in second year placement, even in a year when full-time recruiting was down. Our second years dedicated even more time during first year recruiting, during which we completed over 150 firm-specific interviews during two weeks. The dedication from every consulting second year helped increase our international consulting placements for first years by 250% and our consulting placements at major firms by over 150%. Knowing that I was part of a team that helped with the success of all my classmates is by far my proudest memory.
MBASchooled: What’s the most important lesson you learned at Kenan-Flagler?
Melanee: The most important lesson that I learned was that you can only focus on what you can control, and that you shouldn’t stress and worry about things you can’t. There are so many aspects about life in business school that you want to control but can’t: closed lists, job offers, airport delays, group projects, health, etc. There are so many things that are pulling you in opposite directions in school that it forces you to focus only on the parts that you can control. If you worried about everything, you would drive yourself insane, and you would no longer enjoy school, work, or life. Now, that being said, let’s see if I can actually follow my own advice as I begin work at Deloitte!
MBASchooled: What part of you has undergone the most transformation while in business school?
Melanee: The opportunities at UNC have allowed me to develop into a much better leader. I took a chance my first year and ran for the role of Consulting Club President, something I would never have done before business school. Although I had managed people in my previous job, I knew I was not a great leader and had a lot of things I needed and wanted to work on while at UNC. Managing my peers and learning how to work with a number of stakeholders with diverging needs pushed me to become a more well-rounded and trusting leader.
MBASchooled: Who is someone who has had a positive influence on you while in business school?
Melanee: The number one person who constantly has a positive influence on me is my husband. He never questioned my desire to go into consulting or my work for the consulting club that required me to be at school practically 24/7 at times. He did everything for me in the background that allowed me to succeed, and every achievement I had in business school was because of him. He kept me sane and helped me realize I should only focus on things I could control, and that I should try not to sweat the small stuff. Hopefully, I can continue to work on that when I start at Deloitte.
At school, there were a number of people that had a positive influence on me, but two people in particular are Alejandra Mac Farland and Lauren Montagne. Alejandra (Kenan-Flagler ‘16) took me under her wing my first year and helped me be successful both in my consulting recruiting process and in my internship. In the process, she became one of my best friends and helped me learn not to stress about things out of my control and to enjoy every moment. Lauren, who was in my class, is the epitome of Kenan-Flagler’s core values, and I am honored to be one of her friends. I honestly don’t know how she works so hard and accomplishes everything that she does. More importantly, she does it with a smile and without anyone even asking. She reminded me about the importance of smiling even if you don’t want to and celebrating every small victory. Both women are strong role models and I am thankful that they will both be in my life moving forward.
MBASchooled: Is there anything that you haven’t gotten to do that you wish you had done?
Melanee: The only thing I wish I had done that I wasn’t able to do while at UNC was to participate in a study abroad program. I was not able to study abroad as an undergrad and it was something I was debating doing while at Kenan-Flagler. I did take part in one of the short-term global experiences — a trip to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa — and those two weeks were among the best of my MBA experience.
MBASchooled: Where do you hope to be in five years?
Melanee: In five years, I hope to be happy, healthy, and still at Deloitte. I know many people think of consulting as a short-term path, but I truly believe I finally found the career I was meant to have with the right firm. I have always been drawn to client service roles and consulting gives me the perfect mix of working for clients while also solving interesting problems. From the beginning of business school, the people at Deloitte felt like family, and I truly hope that I will be there for more than the next five years.