Q & A with Allegra Asplundh MBA Mama of the Month — September 2016
Allegra Asplundh, our September MBA Mama of the Month, recently gave birth to her first child, Winslow. Allegra is a full-time MBA student at UT-Austin McCombs School of Business. You can click here to learn more about her background.
Why did you choose UT-Austin?
I was looking for a complementary experience to my undergraduate education at Yale. McCombs was attractive because it is a small program within a massive, public university. I also wanted to pick a geography with strong job growth and opportunities for me and my husband. Texas fit the bill. Most of all, the people — faculty and students — were so kind, curious and smart.
How has your time at UT-Austin shaped your leadership style and your career trajectory?
I think my leadership style was pretty well-formed before getting my MBA. I didn’t come to school with leadership on my mind. On a fundamental level, I wanted to learn finance: the language, quantitative skills and general intuition. It’s interesting to be in school at a moment when we all feel like we need to be leaders…my first semester I spent a lot of time “following” and absorbing as much as I could from peers and fantastic professors.
McCombs made my career switch from nonprofit management to finance possible through our MBA Investment Fund and curriculum. Our core requirements are rigorous and by spring semester, I was able to load up my schedule with finance electives. That first year was a wild ride with a steep learning curve.
What organizations are you involved with at UT-Austin?
I am a student manager for our MBA Investment Fund. We invest $20M in large-cap US equities and take an investment management curriculum together. I cover consumer stocks for the fund, and this organization takes up the majority of my extracurricular time. I also belong to our Net Impact club on campus. I appreciate that Net Impact keeps me connected to my nonprofit roots and sensibility — a good counterbalance for all my finance classes!
Tell us about your decision to have a baby during b-school. What were the key factors that you considered and how did the university support you during your pregnancy?
Well, it’s a stretch to say that there was a great deal of planning involved! My pregnancy was more of a daunting-turned-joyful surprise for us. I was worried about the timing, especially as a career switcher starting down a new path. I was worried about my summer internship. I was worried about how to tell people at school. I was worried about not being able to spend enough time with my new baby. Can you tell I’m a worrier?
But I was reassured by my husband’s enthusiasm for fatherhood and for “staying home” with our baby. In the end, I embraced business school’s flexibility and its distinct advantages for my pregnancy. For example, I was in my first trimester over the December/January holiday and so could nap when I was feeling dog-tired (and nauseous). Administrators and professors were congratulatory and supportive. I received help in thinking about how to share the news with my summer internship employer and in planning for my second year classes.
Challenges arose when I began to plan for my child’s birth and the reality of needing to take some leave from classes.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about having their first baby DURING business school?
Talk to colleagues who are parents. It will both assuage some of your fears and make you more clear-eyed about the challenges that lie ahead. It also gives you a cool point of connection with classmates whom you might not know well.
But remember: everyone’s story of birth and new parenthood is different, so don’t let anyone psyche you out! And if you do decide to have a baby, worry less and nap more.