Corey and Kim Lake, MBA Alumni
MBA power couple Corey and Kim Lake. They earned their MBA in 2012 and have gone on to have careers in the Finance and Marketing areas
Now that both of you are established in your careers, looking back, how did the Seidman MBA program assist you in achieving your career goals?
Corey: Looking back on it, there were a couple of key factors from the MBA program that have led me down a path of success. The first benefit is that having the MBA on your resume immediately establishes credibility with companies in the Midwest who are familiar with Grand Valley State University. Second, more specific to the MBA program, the connections that we created throughout the program have been invaluable to me and have played a role in every company that I have worked at. Something that people don't talk about is establishing a peer group of like-minded, business driven individuals who challenge and push you. I've been fortunate enough to maintain a significant number of relationships from the MBA program and am grateful to have them for professional and personal support.
Kim: The relationships that Seidman had and exposed us to in the local business community became irreplaceable. It truly jump-started our network and many of us have leveraged those networks or each other for advancing our careers throughout the last decade. I think that Seidman also did a great job preparing us for the “softer” skills in your career- business etiquette, resume workshops, and interview attire, complete with a mini-fashion show, to name a few. I was given a lot of opportunities during the course of the MBA program to present to academic and professional audiences. This prepared me to see the value placed on communication within the business world and I truly believe that being articulate and a stellar communicator can immensely help in upward mobility in your career.
Thinking back, what were some of the challenges that either of you encountered while in the MBA program?
Corey: We were part of the first MBA program and to say it was challenging would be an understatement. The biggest challenge that I faced was just the sheer amount of classroom work and balancing it with the part-time fellowship at X-Rite. A number of us found ourselves burning the candle at both ends. We have a standing joke with the cohort that the before and after pictures are laughable (weight loss or gain, graying hair, etc.). From what I know, Grand Valley reflected upon the first cohort and made necessary changes to the program to dial in the vision the college had.
Kim: Time management for sure. We all took quite the “work hard, play hard” mentality- sometimes choosing spending social time together after a long day of class rather than sleep, but that definitely took its toll. I personally also found some of the content simply challenging at the time. A large portion of the curriculum was focused around SAP and ERP development. This was only very lightly touched on in my undergrad courses and something I found did not come naturally to me. I had to spend a lot of time 1/1 with Professor Simha Magal to understand and become proficient in the coursework – which might I say, was incredible that in an MBA program I HAD 1/1 TIME WITH A PROFESSOR. I now know how rare that is compared to MBA programs at other universities.
As you moved along your career path, what opportunities have been presented to you as a Seidman alum?
Corey: I've been fortunate enough to have established good professional and personal relationships that have allowed me various opportunities over the past 10 years. In fact, I recently took a position as Director of Finance at a company called Tech Defenders working for one of the individuals who hired me as an intern 10 years ago for my X-Rite fellowship. The Midwest is saturated with talented individuals who graduated from Grand Valley and are eager to network with fellow alumni.
Kim: Both Corey and I were asked to remain full-time at the companies that we had our MBA Fellowships at- American Seating Company and X-Rite. This transition and the following growth we experienced at those companies were great jumping off points for both our resumes and careers. I have spent the last 7 years at Haworth, moving up through the organization to my current role, Business Group Director. For 5 of those 7 years, I’ve worked for a fellow Grand Valley alum and I’ve also hired a few Grand Valley alumni to work on my team.
Are there any words of wisdom that either of you would like to share with those that are thinking about pursuing their MBA or other Seidman graduate degree?
Corey: My words of wisdom would be to have real world experience before pursuing your MBA. That real-world experience can come through different forms such as: internships, fellowship or through traditional employment means. What I would warn anyone thinking about pursuing their MBA is that there is a timeline that an MBA makes the most sense for you. Once you are well established in your career or have started settling down with your spouse, kids, etc, it becomes particularly difficult to convince yourself to go back to school.
Kim: I truly believe that at this point, an MBA becomes expected at some point in your career. Not necessarily even to just “check the box” that you did it, but I really think that the curriculum you have to go through to graduate with your Masters of Business Administration requires you to learn so much more about broader business strategy, development, and holistic thinking, that it is difficult to gain through “real world experience” only.
Also, I regularly speak about how unique and different my MBA experience was compared to others with such fondness. I think doing research to find what “format” program might be right for you is super important. There are programs with different emphases, virtual vs. in-person, cohorts vs. traditional class sizes, etc. and one may appeal to you or align with your lifestyle better than others. Reflecting back, the small cohort and interesting curriculum fostered a great learning environment for me. I especially still appreciate the one-in-a-lifetime international business experiences the program gave me.
If you could speak to your past “student self”, what would be the one piece of advice that you wish someone would have shared with you?
Corey: Honestly, that's a tough thing for me to answer because so much of my life has been a result of my time spent at Grand Valley and in particular, the MBA program. I met my wife in the program, established many wonderful professional and personal relationships and launched a successful career. If I set that aside, the thing that I would tell my past student self is to have actually done more internships as an undergrad and try get more exposure to "real-life" business. A lot of students struggle with where they want to guide their career if they don't have any exposure to what the actual work and business looks like.
Kim: Put yourself out there a little more. I was so young and I think there were some opportunities that I didn’t take advantage of when looking back, I really should have. Businesses want people who can be both thinkers and doers- Be both. Fail faster. I stumbled for a while trying to truly find what facet of business I was drawn to and where I felt challenged. I wish I had tried more types of roles throughout my undergrad and graduate experience to get me to where I am today even sooner.
*Kim and Corey were a part of the MBA program that was discontinued in 2016. The Professional MBA program was updated in 2018.