Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) has been educating, inspiring, and connecting the next generation of LGBTQ+ business leaders for more than two decades. The nonprofit organization does work all year round, but its main event is the annual ROMBA Conference; the 2018 conference took place from October 6 to 8 in Minneapolis, MN. Below, Taylor Kunkel (MBA’19), co-president of Owen’s Out & Allied club, recaps his experience at the conference.
This was my third year attending the Reaching Out MBA conference, and it was a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends all in one place. Many of us met during the MBA application process over two years ago and are now spread throughout the country at various MBA programs. It is incredibly exciting to hear about the success of friends as they accept positions at the best companies in the world!
With a job offer already in hand, attending this year’s conference was a lot less stressful. As for how I got my job offer, at last year’s ROMBA Conference I had the opportunity to sit down with PwC partner David Jansen for a coffee chat. David led the way at PwC in establishing supportive LGBTQ+ policies and he was great at listening to and empathizing with my personal story. He assuaged my fears of being LGBTQ+ in the consulting industry, and let me know that if I ended up at PwC I would have his full support if I encountered any problems!
David facilitated my application process and made sure I had the chance to interview during PwC’s LGBTQ+ interview day in Chicago. A few months after my interview I received an internship offer in PwC’s Advisory Operations practice in Dallas, TX. After experiencing firsthand how committed PwC’s top management is to diversity and inclusion, I decided to sign my offer and join the firm after a successful summer.
LGBTQ+ students should attend ROMBA to expand their LGBTQ+ MBA network, to learn more about navigating the workplace as a minority, and to find a great career. Recruiting opportunities at ROMBA are plentiful, with both formal and informal methods to land an internship or full-time opportunity. More than eighty of the world’s most prestigious companies show up to attend the big event career expo. In my opinion, the more valuable opportunities arise from coffee chats and interviews that are set up before you even get to the conference.
Students should also see the conference as an opportunity to bring their whole selves to an interview without fear about tiptoeing around their story. As an LGBTQ+ student it is a great opportunity to discuss your unique identity with your recruiters because they can give you firsthand insights into what it is like being LGBTQ+ within their companies.
In addition to general sessions on industry trends in marketing, finance, and consulting, the conference offers numerous breakout sessions that help LGBTQ+ MBAs navigate corporate waters as they enter the workplace. For example, Morgan Stanley offered a session on the Evolution of Being LGBTQ+ in Investment Banking and L.E.K hosted a session on trends in LGBTQ+ healthcare access. As the President of Out & Allied at Owen I attended a session where LGBTQ+ club leaders from various schools got together to discuss the best methods to raise funds, increase involvement, and raise LGBTQ+ awareness in our MBA programs.
George Takei, from Star Trek fame, took the stage to share his experience as a Japanese American and LGBTQ+ American. George was displaced from California and sent to a Japanese internment camp in Louisiana as a child during World War II; he used his experience to discuss the differences and similarities between the discrimination he faced then and what the LGBTQ+ community is facing now. He compelled us to stay vigilant and continue to push for not only LGBTQ+ rights, but the rights of immigrants and minorities. At the end of his speech ROMBA fellows got a moment to meet George and take a picture with him!
This year, Vanderbilt Business had its largest attendance and representation ever at the ROMBA Conference with a cohort of both MBA and Master of Science in Finance (MSF) students. Many of our attendees last year received internship offers through interviews or connections they established at the conference and I am sure that trend will continue this year. Other Vanderbilt students who attended the conference have given me extremely positive feedback on their conference experience. This year one of the MSF students told me this was the best experience he has ever had, and he cannot wait to attend again in the future. I think the high re-attendance rate is a testament to the lasting value of the ROMBA Conference. —Taylor Kunkel