It's not every day that a first-year MBA student gets to present to General Wesley Clark or speak to a crowd at the home of James Carville and Mary Matalin. But that's exactly what Marlon Nichols did. The presentation was one of four that Nichols, MBA '11, and his team made to judging panels at the 2010 IdeaCorps Challenge. As for his talk at the political gurus' home—that one he gave as the winner!
The IdeaCorps program invites student teams from top MBA schools to provide a week's consulting for startup companies to help stimulate New Orleans' recovery. Nichols, president and COO of BR Ventures, co-chaired our effort with Danny Hest, MBA '10. They designed a rigorous process to select a strong, diverse team, raised funds to support their travel expenses, and honed their team's ability to work together. Once in New Orleans, they attacked their project with rigor, creativity, and tenacity.
Nichols' next big "win" was his summer internship at Intel as one of four MBAs selected for the firm's accelerated leadership program. Among his projects was developing a vendor scorecard. After a "wow" presentation to the legal department, it was adopted.
With prior business experience in software and consulting, Nichols arrived at Johnson with strong skills and experience. But he credits us with having a real impact on his success. A fellow in the Roy H. Park Leadership program, he says, "I can't say enough about the leadership training I'm getting here—learning how to influence the direction of a framework and bring folks along to accept and adopt my vision. It's a soft skill, but a real one."
Nichols values the technical skills and theory he has acquired through classes, but he also cherishes the hands-on experiences that are an integral part of his education. "It's not just case studies, but going back and forth with professionals on experiences and challenges and presenting our models. That's priceless."
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