Balancing Coursework, Career Goals, and Parenthood: How One MBA Student Made it Work
Sometimes, despite our goals and intentions, life throws us a curveball. MBA alumni Lisa Pedraza Smith understands this well. She and her husband had talked about having kids, but she figured it would happen later in their marriage — not while she was already juggling a full-time job and MBA coursework.
"Life had different plans for us," she explains. "My son, Carter, was born at the height of Covid in June 2020, and my daughter, Scarlett, was born in June 2022." Smith is a graduate of Virginia Tech's Evening MBA program. She joined the program in the Fall of 2018.
"Juggling pregnancy twice, frequently feeling ill, having limited mobility at times, and working intensely on building a career — all during a pandemic — was not a walk in the park," Smith said. "But during times of self-doubt, I had to keep my eye on the prize: earning my MBA."
TIME MANAGEMENT AND SUPPORT ARE KEYS TO SUCCESS
In addition to balancing parenthood and MBA coursework, Smith works full-time as a Manager with Deloitte. So, how does she find time for it all?
"I think you have to do what works best for you in terms of time management," she said. "Personally, I live by my Google Calendar and my Microsoft To Do list for my personal life and my Outlook calendar for work. By using these tools, I fit my coursework into my schedule."
She also said her supportive husband plays a major role in making things work. "When I block off time to do homework, he knows and is prepared to watch the kids at that time."
AN MBA PROGRAM TAILORED FOR BUSY PROFESSIONALS
Smith noted that her family, colleagues, and MBA program professors have played a role in helping her manage her responsibilities while maintaining a work/life balance.
"The MBA program is very flexible and accommodating for working professionals," she said. "Every professor I have had has made it clear that they understand that we all have jobs/careers…They know the MBA program is important to us but that we also have other things going on."
In addition to the program's flexibility, Smith said she appreciates the diversity of professional backgrounds represented by her classmates. She remembers collaborating with a project manager, an engineer, and a software salesman when working on one group project for a class.
"To hear their perspective from their jobs really opened my eyes to the way things are approached in a variety of industries,” she said.
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR FUTURE MBA STUDENTS
When asked about advice for working parents who might want to earn an MBA but are hesitant to apply due to the time commitment required by the program, Smith recommended speaking to family about strategies for fitting classes and homework into your existing schedule.
"All of life's choices include a trade-off, and this is no different," she said. "At the end of the day, while it won't be easy, you are setting an example for your children with everything you do — so strive to be the best version of yourself!"
Learn more about the Evening MBA