Kat Ward

How My MBA and Master’s in Design Leadership Shaped My Identity

At the beginning of every class throughout the MBA/MA Design Leadership program, my introduction has remained the same.

“Hi, my name is Kat. I’m in the MAMBA program. Before I came to the program I worked as a journalist. I’m interested in using my research skills to work in design strategy.”

In a few months, my introduction will become much shorter.

“Hi, I’m Kat, and I’m a design consultant.”

This program has not only transformed my introduction and career; it has changed the way I see the world. After two years of sifting through piles of sticky notes, running through design sprints, and interviewing users, I have come to believe that the MBA/MA Design Leadership program truly exemplifies what it means to do “business with humanity in mind.” Compassion for people, combined with the strategy to implement innovative ideas, is at the core of everything we do.

One of the most unique things about us “MAMBAs” (as we are known) is our close association with Design For America (DFA). DFA is the place where we put our design chops to the test – directly applying all we’ve learned to real-world problems. Personally, I think DFA is the place where I’ve done my best work. In the last year, we’ve engaged issues encountered by the differently abled, senior citizens, and small business owners, to name a few. The best part is that my work hasn’t stayed within the confines of my education. In December, my team was invited to present our project to the health insurer Humana in Louisville, Kentucky to some of the company’s biggest stakeholders.

What is exciting for me has been seeing the influx of opportunities to celebrate the intersection of business and design. This year our cohort attended two events for the first time: The Business of Design Conference at the Yale School of Management and the Rotman Design Challenge (RDC) at the University of Toronto. At Yale, my teammates and I presented our work with Design for America and saw business leaders like Indra Nooyi, chairman of PepsiCo, discuss the importance of design all in one day. At RDC, I got to cheer for a MAMBA team that made it to the final round of the competition before accepting an award for Most Creative Application. Both experiences allowed me to see that it’s not just us—design is taking off all over the business world.

My time in the MBA/MA Design Leadership program has become a defining part of my identity, solidifying my confidence as a design leader and business person. Throughout our two years together, my cohort has given me the support I needed at every turn, be it a shoulder to cry on or just someone to correct my statistics homework. As I look forward to my career as a consultant, I know that the skills I’ve learned at both Carey and MICA will be what I carry on.