Danielle Miller is an MBA student of Goizueta Business School at Emory University in the US. She is also managing director of Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy, which places MBA students from Goizueta with organisations to help with marketing issues.
Ms Miller studied at Boston University and then worked at Celerant Consulting, a consulting firm that specialises in operational strategy primarily for Fortune 1000 companies. She started as an associate analyst before being becoming a senior consultant with clients in manufacturing, oil and gas, life sciences and chemicals.
Ms Miller now lives in Atlanta and enjoys cycling, volleyball and snowboarding. She is also a fan of the New York Giants, and works with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on a voluntary basis.
1. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?
During a one-on-one coaching session with my advance leadership development professor, I was told that there are two reasons to “play in the game” [my career]. One was to prove my capability to both myself and others - play to prove. The other reason was to enjoy the learning experiences and challenges the career has to offer - play to play. He advised me not to forget to simply play to play on occasion, especially as I advanced in my career.
2. What academic achievement are you most proud of?
At the conclusion of my first year of business school, I was awarded the Goizueta Partner’s Scholarship for academic achievement, leadership, and contribution to my MBA programme. Given the calibre of my classmates and the selection process, I was very honoured and proud to be the recipient of the scholarship.
3. What inspires you?
People who follow their passions inspire me. In the summer leading up to business school, I was most excited to be in classes with peers who had worked at big shiny companies on either well known deals or major brands. But I quickly realised that there was so much to learn from people who were taking unconventional career routes.
4. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
The miracle of life is not that we finish, but that we have the courage to start. The hardest part about life, especially the older we get, is to change course. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to change but the lessons learned along the way, even if the change is not permanent, is worth the effort.
5. What advice would you give to women in business?
The advice that I would give women in business is not to forget that you are a woman in business. I think too many women think that being a woman in business is a detriment and change their behaviours. I would advise women to embrace their role and the diversity that they bring to their company and peer group. Secondly, I think many women are too defensive about being a woman in business and fail to give male counterparts a chance.
6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
Being in operations consulting since I was 22, I am very accustomed to working in male-dominated environments. I would deal with these environments by simply being myself and allowing my personality to shine through. I would not pretend to like all the things my male colleagues and clients would discuss, but I would make known the things I did share in common with them and encourage dialogue that let them to get to know me and vice versa.
I also recognised that there are times when “guys will be guys” and I never passed judgement or made “stereotyping” comments. I worked to gain their respect as a person by being diligent at my job and dedicated to the success of my projects. In the rare times when I encountered someone who was not respectful, I had a conversation with them personally. I never expected special treatment and found that I was quickly accepted as part of the team first as a consultant and then as a woman.
7. How do you deal with pressure?
I deal with pressure by first prioritising all the activities that require my attention. Then I map out a timeline of how and when I will dedicate myself to each. I also try to put things into perspective and remind myself that there are only a finite number of things within my control.
I work out 3-4 times of week and make my gym time a high priority in my life. I find by working out, I have a clearer mind, more energy and do not get stressed out as easily. Lastly, I make sure that I both ask for help and say no to things when I have too much on my plate.
8. What is the last book you read?
The last book that I read was False Economy by Alan Beattie. Given all that is occurring in the world with market recovery, volatile exchange rates, the price of oil, and shifting comparative advantages, it is a timely read.
9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
If I could do it all over again, the one thing I would do differently is take even more classes in subject areas that I have had little exposure. The MBA is such a safe environment to learn and to gain exposure to different theories and methodologies. I would encourage anyone getting an MBA to really challenge their comfort zone when registering for classes, especially in their second year. When you take classes outside your concentration, you also tend to meet new people and learn from a new set of classmates.
10. What are your future plans?
My immediate future plans are to join Accenture in July 2011 as a consultant in their finance and performance management practice. I hope to be able to service clients in the energy and pharmaceutical industries. I will be getting married next year, and while it is still a number of years away, I do look forward to the joys and challenges of motherhood and ‘harmonising’ my work and life. Longer term, I would like to return to academics in an administrative capacity, possibly in an MBA programme office, career services centre, or admissions office.
Interview by Charlotte Clarke