Catherine Bell, EMBA'06

December 01, 2016

Why did you choose Smith for your MBA?

I chose Smith for my EMBA because of Smith's philosophy around teams. Smith was the only University in which you stay in the same team throughout the program. I thought this concept was more “real world” than going case-by-case and frequently changing teams for every project.  The brand name and reputation of the school also influenced my decision.

What are your favourite memories of your time as a student?

Definitely the people. I’m still in touch with my teammates and professors. The night I sold my company, my former teammates came over and celebrated. It’s all about the people.

How has your MBA tool kit influenced your book, The Awakened Company?

My EMBA had a huge impact on The Awakened Company. The book merges business research, practical know-how and wisdom traditions. Business research supports bringing humanity back into organizations and Smith definitely teaches that. The check-ins and check-outs and the self-awareness piece that Professor Elspeth Murray focused on had an influence on the book.  

I think that in the future every business will be a social enterprise. The businesses that are organized around solving the world’s biggest problems will be the most successful.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Being a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, building a company, writing a book and doing it all at the same time. The dance between all of them is what is most interesting.

What impresses you most during an interview?

People with self-awareness. People are great at listing their strengths but not as good at listing their weaknesses. It’s been shown that the more self-aware we are, the better we perform. As a base, we need self-aware leaders.  In an interview, I ask for three reasons why they should be hired and three reasons why they shouldn’t be hired. When they don’t have a response to the latter, it’s inauthentic.  We all need to be more self-aware.

Have you ever not hired someone based on a weakness they identified in an interview?

Not based on that alone, no. I have a list of “work-on’s” that is four pages long. If people aren’t aware what they should work on, that’s a problem. People not knowing their weaknesses has caused me not to hire them.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs?

The majority of our workplace is disengaged and people rate the worst time of their day as the time spent with their bosses. 75% of businesses fail within the first 9 years. Entrepreneurs need a new way of doing things - a way that’s more holistic and where we are solving problems. Everyone in the organization should know why the organization exists, the company’s clarity around its values, the vision, how they contribute to that vision, and where it’s going.

Where there are problems, there are opportunities for business.  Smith grads that understand this are going to be successful. I’ve seen it time and time again. 

Program: MBA Programs