Our Stories

Turning Weaknesses Into Strengths

Personal scale made big difference—starting in Math Camp

Marina Klecha
FLEX Rising Leaders People Consultant, Cisco

Vanderbilt MBA 2023

Marina Klecha wanted to enter the HR field. With her undergraduate degrees in Spanish and international relations, she knew she needed to build her quantitative skills, she says, “while also learning to become a better leader and a more strategic thinker.”

She knew she had made the right choice even before classes started at Vanderbilt, when she attended Math Camp as part of her orientation. Lacking a quantitative background, Marina recalls, “I was so intimidated by the potential to be judged by my team as we worked through the quantitative problems at differing paces. I told my group that math wasn’t my strength, but that I was eager to learn and contribute.

“In response, one of my teammates said, ‘It’s okay; we all have our strengths’ and then proceeded to walk me through any problem giving me trouble. This set the stage for me to feel comfortable with the challenges ahead—and confident to speak up when I needed help or had a question. In this way, Vanderbilt’s personal scale has had a huge influence on my career. It allowed me to feel safe asking questions about subjects that would have intimidated me otherwise.”

Fast-forward to Marina’s second year, when her skills had developed so extensively that she was selected as a teaching assistant for the program’s core class in managerial economics. She also assisted in editing the new edition of the course textbook—written by two of her professors, whom she counts as mentors. “Five years ago,” she says, “I never would have guessed this would be my life!” She also honed her leadership skills, just as she had hoped, by serving as the president of the student-run Women’s Business Association.

Also as she had hoped, upon graduating, Marina successfully entered the HR field. “The MBA program helped me grow both personally and professionally,” she says. “The friends I gained and the community I grew to love allowed me to diversify my connections and learn from my peers. The coursework pushed me outside my comfort zone and allowed me to grow my analytical and quantitative skills. The combination of the two—and my affection for the program—motivated me to become a leader in my community.”

Fun Fact: Marina was a Peace Corps volunteer in the country of Georgia.

“The friends I have gained and the community I have grown to love has allowed me to diversify my connections and learn from my peers.”