While spring break took many of my peers to the Great Wall and Taj Mahal, the beginning of my vacation took me down to Deep Ellum.
Finding myself in a sudden interview for a summer internship two Fridays ago, I was in the home stretch of the second of two conversations with SVPs of Marketing. Finishing up a well-practiced answer to “What words would your teammates use to describe you?”, I took a long sip of my root beer, feeling calm. I was just one question away from the Q&A portion of the interview, and having spent the plane trip to Dallas poring over the company’s 10-K, I felt more than prepared to “seal the deal.”
But just as I was getting comfortable — maybe a little too comfortable — my interviewer pulled a Sharpie from his pocket and palmed a sheet of white paper in front of me: “You have five minutes. I want you to draw me your personal brand. Avoid using words.”
No mock interview at the Career Development Offices could have truly prepared me for what I had just been tasked to do–I may be creative but I’m no artist–but with a little grace under pressure and some quick thinking, I came up with a sketchy collage of images a few moments later. This is what I drew:
Center: A bicycle and stick figure doing yoga, representing the interest in health, wellness, and personal care at the heart of all I do.
In the Corners: The MIT Dome, representing my sense of identity and respect for the nerdy, world-changing spirit of the Institute; a cupcake, symbolizing my entrepreneurial exploits in the food space; a television, illustrating my love of entertainment and marketing; stylized X’s, which I called intersections, demonstrating my desire to stand crossroads of art and science, of the creative and the calculated (Being perfectly honest, I initially drew the X’s to be multiplication signs to show off my quantitative side, but, figuring the rest of the interview did enough to support my math abilities, I called them intersections instead).
Right of Center: After about two minutes into sketching, the page still felt incomplete. Seeing an open space, I had an idea of something to do. Sure, my interviewer told me to not use words, but my favorite saying of all time is “Remember the rules: there are no rules,” and suddenly inspired by Rene Magritte’s Treachery of Images (the painting of a pipe, below which the artist writes “this is not a pipe”) I added five words: “This is not a box.”
While part of me wishes I was off sandboarding in the Sahara or pounding back Pisco Sours in Patagonia with classmates over the break, I’m grateful for having stayed in Boston for most of the past two weeks because it gave me time and space to reflect. And especially as other business schools release their round two decisions, I’ve been able to reflect specifically on how I knew Sloan was right for me.
While it’s fun to speculate, I couldn’t tell you what the folks in admissions saw in me between an awkward (but endearing?) video of me singing Elton John and my essays on case writing and gluten-free baking that made them believe, “Erica should be here.” But I’d like to believe it’s because they believed what I believe: that this is a place that embraces all of me, the whole “personal brand” I drew on that page and so much more.
As I explained to my interviewer: I know myself well enough to know that I don’t fit into a box. I don’t think the way other people think. I don’t solve problems or do things the way you’re “supposed to.” That’s the spirit I bring to my work every day, and at MIT Sloan, I’m surrounded in classes by people who do the same.
I belong here because I don’t belong. I fit in here because I don’t fit in. It’s a carefully-curated environment that lets me be completely and contradictorily myself. It’s what makes MIT Sloan feel precisely like home.
I couldn’t be more grateful to be here, and there’s no place else I’d rather be.
And in case you were wondering, I got the offer.
Originally published at mitsloan.mit.edu on March 31, 2015.