Q & A With Expecting MBA Mama From NYU Stern

Photo Courtesy Lenore Champagne Beirne

As millennial career women think about the ideal time to have a baby, MBA Mama is hearing more stories about graduate students opting to get pregnant during business school. The latest expecting student to be featured on MBA Mama is Lenore Champagne Beirne, a leadership coach and a VC investor. She loves partnering with startup founders to bring big ideas to life. Lenore is a graduate of Accomplishment Coaching. Check out her coaching practice, Bright Coaching, and the fund where she works, 645 Ventures for more info. She will graduate from NYU Stern’s full-time MBA program in May 2016.

Can you tell us about your background and how you’ve managed a job at a VC firm during b-school?

The key has been that I have known my goal from the outset of the MBA program.

I have always worked with early-stage organizations, but in several different contexts. In college, I spent two years at an ed-tech startup. Then I served as Assistant Director for a small nonprofit, and continued to work as a consultant to other startups and nonprofits. More recently, I spent two years working on a project to fund small businesses and social enterprises in Haiti. I knew going in to business school that my focus would be deepening the quantitative skills and experience to invest at the early stage, and that clarity helped me make connections a few months into starting my program. I met the General Partners of the fund where I work in November, built a relationship, spent my summer there, and was offered a role.

One twist is that I’ve also been building a coaching practice. I love working one-on-one with founders, and going beyond the numbers to understand what it is about their leadership and mindset that makes a company successful. This is a part of my role at 645 Ventures, and also something I do in private practice.

Why did you choose NYU? What activities are you involved in on campus?

I chose NYU for several reasons, but the main motivations were the school culture and the location. It was important for me to be in an environment that was supportive of non-traditional MBA paths, and to have access to the industries that interest me — namely startups and coaching.

How has your time at NYU shaped your leadership style and your career trajectory?

Stern has a collaborative culture, and it has been great to see the creativity, business results, and relationships that can grow in that environment. One professor in particular has made a major impact on my leadership style — Dr. Dolly Chugh, in our Management department. Professor Chugh models leadership. She also encourages us to think big in terms of the jobs we take after Stern, and provides concrete tools to help us achieve that.

What did you do during your summer internship?

I was awarded Stern’s Summer Startup Fellowship, which is an opportunity for student entrepreneurs to work on their own projects during summer. I chose to craft a project that allowed me to build my coaching practice and test the applications of coaching in the context of a venture capital fund.

Why did you decide that it was the right time to start your family? Were you afraid of being pregnant during b-school?

My husband and I got married a few months before I started Stern, and we knew that we didn’t want to wait too long to have kids. I wanted to wait until after graduation to have a baby, but I didn’t mind being pregnant during school. In some ways I think it’s ideal — business school for me is already a time of transition, and I have a relatively flexible schedule. Coming out of school, I felt confident that I could give both my family and my career the attention they needed. It was the right time for Paul and me.

How have your classmates reacted to you being pregnant?

They’ve been hugely supportive. A group of friends are planning a shower. I realized, especially when I learned that I would have a daughter, how amazing it is that she’ll have so many talented and inspiring people as “aunts and uncles.”

Do you have any advice for women thinking about getting pregnant during b-school?

Get advice and be open-minded, but also trust yourself. Think about what makes sense for you. Get the support you need.

What is your maternity leave plan?

I work a lot, but a lot of my schedule is determined by me. I’ll work at home more in the weeks leading up to birth, and then I’ll take a few months off from working with coaching client and from the fund. I will likely work from home a few days each week after being on leave, just to make the transition a bit easier.

Tell us more about the Kickstarter you’re launching — how can the MBA Mama community support?

Yes, the Little Bright Notebook! The Kickstarter project is actually perfect for MBA moms. We are in MBA programs because we are working on something big.

We have a big vision for our futures — for our children, our families, the industries we work in. The product on Kickstarter is a workbook to support people with big ideas in articulating the idea, devising a plan, and executing. It’s born out of all that I’ve learned as a coach, and I partnered with an amazing woman in my MBA program to create it.

You can support by getting a notebook, sharing the Kickstarter with everyone you know, and helping to create buzz on social media and in the press. I love talking about this, so if your subscribers are interested in learning more, please connect them with me.