The Lauder Institute Alumni Association was founded in 2004 to support the goals and mission of the Lauder Institute. Every three years, New York City hosts esteemed alumni from Shanghai, Dubai, Dakar, and beyond for a special weekend. “Lauder Love” is a sentimental phrase that embodies our commitment to supporting each other, maintaining community and our love for diverse cultures. The Lauder Global Alumni Weekend (LGAW) is a celebration of personal and professional differences – full of inspiration and promise to serve our respective global communities.
Alumni connections carry tremendous value for me at this stage of my career. I am a project manager within financial services, working in a hybrid working model. As I outline my 5-year plan, I recognize the power of community to support me in my endeavors. I know first-hand that it takes a village as you take on new challenges. Lauder faculty and alumni started advising me before I started business school. As a result, Lauder feels like family and has become my go-to community professionally. As a first-generation student, I take pride in building a board of directors through my accessible network to facilitate personal coaching, development, and mentorship.
In October, LGAW welcomed 1000+ global alumni to participate in lunches, receptions, panels, pitch competitions, and the glamorous gala. My newly-minted Lauder alumni status, known as the “Covid Class”, has tremendous perks – you are a fresh face who is likely meeting everyone in person for the first time. Saying you just graduated is a great conversation starter because everyone wants to discuss your program regional concentration and learn about your career interests. When I began my MBA journey as a dual degree candidate, I quickly realized that Lauder alumni genuinely care about supporting your life journey. Throughout the weekend, I witnessed that same energy and loved seeing sparks fly as new bonds formed over shared commonalities. These magical moments often conclude with, “Let me know if there is anything you need!”. This GOLDEN statement should not be taken lightly!! It would behoove you to follow-up on these connections.
Pro Tip 1: Alumni events like LGAW provide an amazing foundation for cultivating a personal board of directors and connecting with leaders that authentically support you. It is imperative for young alumni to attend company events and education-related networking events to connect with like-minded professionals and dialogue about career lessons learned. Seasoned alumni are excited to recount their “glory days” to the younger generations and these personal reflections contain valuable nuggets of advice.
Pro Tip: 2: Immediately add someone on LinkedIn and familiarize yourself with their profile and accolades after an event like LGAW. They are likely checking their LinkedIn more often during or after networking events and this can facilitate casual touch points that make networking more manageable.
FOND CONNECTIONS ON FRIDAY
Friday was the first day of programming for LGAW and it was centered around bonding with old friends and meeting new faces. This was evident during the welcome lunches. Alumni were blindly matched with persons from various class years to facilitate open conversation over lunch across Manhattan restaurants. I sat with a lovely group of seven Lauderites, and we started with introductions and shared travel stories within our region of focus. It was great to learn from first-and-second-year students at the table that Lauder had resumed the summer immersion trips and other regional travel programs. Additional trips now include India and Switzerland, while the annual Culture Quest (which alumni are welcome to join) will be held in Ghana and Ivory Coast! Our shared passion for travel and global immersive experiences is another component of Lauder Love.
The careers represented at our table included a life coach, private capital managers, and global consulting managers. We discussed wellness, sustainability, and clean energy and celebrated one another. Sydel Howell C’99, a mom, former consultant, and mindset coach, is publishing a book in spring 2023. Interestingly, half of the lunch group was experiencing LGAW for the first time, while others said they’d never missed an LGAW. This speaks to the high caliber of connections made, conference programming, and the epic gala! By the end of the lunch, we created a WhatsApp group chat and planned to stay in touch. This is Lauder Love in action.
Following lunch, I attended a fireside conversation discussing social impact. This intimate gathering of 60 persons was held at the home of Kim Conroy, the Lauder Career Advisor. Kim and her lovely partner Phillip provided refreshments and engaging conversation from our lively, incredible alumni speakers. The panelists included Stephanie von Friedeburg C’92, Rosanna Ramos Velita C’92, and Davis Smith C’11. Stephanie is the former COO of the IFC (International Finance Corporation) and is slated to launch a major social impact initiative in the U.S. Rosanna is Chairwoman of Caja de los Andes, a major lender to entrepreneurs/microempresas in the Altiplano of Peru. Davis is the CEO of Cotopaxi, a leading outdoor gear brand, which is also a B Corp.
The panelists contextualized how businesses prioritize societal gains within their profitability structure. Rosanna shared anecdotes of women-owned small businesses that are facilitating environmental change in their communities – in ways that the Peruvian government falls short. For example, Rosanna is funding businesses focused on recycling local materials. Allison Rose, C’22, also attended the fireside chats and we connected after the panel. Davis had made a comment that resonated with Allison. She’d highlighted the expanded levels of engagement for social impact within the business school curriculum and professional opportunities, compared to his business school tenure. Allison double clicked on these comments and highlighted the additional value of these conversations.
“The social impact panel brought together thought leaders in the public and private sectors, plus students who are increasingly passionate about positively impacting the world through business,” Allison told me. “This unique cross-section created an opportunity to learn diverse approaches to achieve common goals”.
Following the panel, I attended the LGAW welcome reception. Cocktail attire, a live band, and buzzing energy filled the room, as glasses of champagne were passed around. Speakers at the reception included Ronald Lauder and Dean Erika James. As I worked the room, I saw my classmates and met some amazing alumni, including members of the inaugural Lauder graduation, C’86! Leland Hardy was the first African American Lauder graduate; he is a former sports agent, speaks six languages, and started the Business Institute for Continuing Education in Professional Sports (B.I.C.E.P.S). This curriculum started at Wharton and has expanded to Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, and is the official business education program for the NFL and NFLPA. Leland and I share a passion for financial inclusion for Black and Brown communities and chatted about our commitment to Africa.
It is humbling to be a Lauderite and belong to this multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational group of lifelong learners. The welcome reception was inspiring and facilitated a warm, open space to engage with like-minded professionals. Feeling both impressed and inspired by the conversations at the reception, I proceeded to the restaurant to dine with my classmates. Each class year organized their respective dinners, which was special since I have not been in the same room with my classmates since graduation. The energy was lively, and the evening concluded with karaoke after dinner!
SOCIALIZING ON SATURDAY
Saturday started bright and early at 8:30 am with a networking breakfast. Imagine an interactive space for alumni and current students discussing internships and upcoming career transitions, or learning about different industries. Breakfast and coffee were served buffet style and several high-top tables were organized by industry to encourage movement. Some groups were having one-on-one conversations, while others were having group conversations. Throughout the day, I reconnected with mentors, professors, and other amazing individuals.
Seeing Marina Jacobson, who sponsors the Jacobson Global Venture that I received in 2021, was a conference highlight. Marina was excited to learn that I worked at Vanguard and was growing my investment acumen. She also encouraged me to continue pursuing entrepreneurship because it’s not a linear path. Marina has warm, nurturing energy and spending time with her reminds me of my magic.
I recently transitioned into the financial services industry, and I asked my mentor, Patrice Backer, C’93, for advice after one of the conference sessions. I met Patrice during my first year of business school, and he operates a successful private equity firm in Dakar, Senegal. I shared that I am struggling to source projects that would bring me closer to Europe and Africa within my general management rotational program. Patrice advised me to consider roles within emerging markets, such as South America and Latin America – similar to his approach when he started his firm.
Patrice outlined the fundamental skills that can be gained by evaluating emerging markets. He advised that I could build credibility through understanding the competitive landscape, financial market challenges, and market landscape assessments. Patrice reminded me that, while the research and execution tactics would vary by region, I would enhance my business acumen through a diverse strategic lens. Patrice also emphasized the virtue of patience and encouraged me to trust the process in my new career. He knows I learn through storytelling, and I am blessed to absorb his professional takeaways and integrate a small piece of his working style into my journey. Every alumnus deserves a mentor like Patrice to guide their trajectory.
The conference concluded with a pitch competition for all Lauderpreneurs (Lauder entrepreneurs)! There were 20 pitches, which received 2 minutes for the business overview and 2 minutes of Q&A. Ventures focused on blockchain, event planning, female solo travel, corporate team building, better sleeping habits, cross-border payments, and on-demand culinary support. The winners would be announced at the gala. LGAW provides excellent brand awareness for budding start-ups to receive feedback on their business model, ideate solutions for their challenges, and be connected within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Networking is critical for lauderpreneurs and following up on introductions can evolve into larger opportunities, future investors, and advocates for the business.
Pro Tip: Find leaders who consistently see the best version of you and push you to play to your strengths. This does not mean that they are not direct, honest, or do not share critical feedback. This means that when you share a vulnerable anecdote, they have your best interests at heart so they contextualize their comments to you because they respect your growth journey. Lauder alumni are incredibly diverse, with global perspectives that inform how they lead with humility. Aligning yourself with seasoned alumni that enhances your character and integrity is an unspoken helping hand towards boosting your professional trajectory.
THE GLAMOROUS GALA
The pinnacle event of the weekend, the gala, was held at Glasshouse Chelsea. This elegant venue sounds exactly like the name – translucent and crystalline. The decor was enchanting with floral, feathers, palm trees, and fabulous lighting. The evening started with cocktail hour followed by buffet style dinner and an incredible DJ. There was a special ode to celebrate Diwali, with musical instruments and traditional music. A lovely violinist made her entrance and enhanced the DJ sounds as she harmonized with the beat. I won a bottle of Pinhook bourbon, and bonded with the company CMO, Bryce Goodwin C’06, over bourbon cocktails. Everyone was impeccably dressed, and it was a memorable evening, as we celebrated each other, a variety of cultures, and recreated the glory days. The winners of the pitch competition were Topl Labs, represented by Medora Brown, C’19 and Erin Murphy, C’21 and Empower Sleep, founded by Sagar Chopra, C’22.
The grass is always greener where you water it, and alumni engagements provide an endless stream of inspiration. After taking Patrice’s advice, I networked internally at Vanguard, and my next project starting in January 2023, is based in Mexico City, Mexico. Further, I have Lauder classmates living in Mexico City and will be surrounded by community to support this new adventure! Reflecting on this unforgettable weekend, I feel gratitude and renewed energy to pursue my goals after reconnecting with mentors and making the acquaintance of other successful, diverse leaders.
LGAW elevated the variety of approaches to integrate your passion and purpose to make a business impact. Embracing the fullness of mentors, champions, and sponsors comprehensively elevates your wisdom and professional stature. Reflecting on your personal board of directors is a competitive advantage, so harness these relationships accordingly. Finally, when networking, always aim to make more deposits than withdrawals. Spend time cultivating relationships before you “need” something. Events like LGAW are for reconnecting, so remember to follow up on connections often so that seeing your mentors in person feels like the relationship never skips a beat!
Azline is a Waterloo, IA native and a National Gates Millennium Scholar. She earned a B.A. in International Studies and French at Spelman College. She has visited 47 countries, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, and interned in Dakar, Senegal and Accra, Ghana. Azline worked for Delta Air Lines for seven years before earning her MBA in Finance from The Wharton School and her M.A. in French African Studies from the Lauder Institute. She currently works at Vanguard in Philadelphia.