Graduating from Chicago Booth is no small feat. Graduating from Chicago Booth while raising two young daughters is heroic. TBE had the chance to catch up with recent graduates Jaqueline Sanches and Divya Peddi to hear more about their experience at Booth while raising their two daughters.
The families came to cheer the ladies on during graduation and the photo captures it all:
What was your background prior to Booth and why did you come to Booth?
Jaqueline: Prior to Booth I worked in FP&A in Brazil for 6 years in CPG and Financial Services industries, then took a break from work and went off to Asia, lived in Japan and China for 3 years (total) as a full-time mom / expat partner, while I had my babies.
Divya: Before Booth, I worked in Data Analytics and Business Intelligence in Virginia. I then took a short break to take care of my then 6 month old (the younger one) and also focus on my MBA applications. I moved to Booth to build my business fundamentals and also transition into a more strategy focused role.
What will you be doing post graduation?
J: I will join the Leadership Development Program at Experian. It is a 2-year rotation, fully-remote, program that will allow me to know the company in different lenses and have lots of exposure. I am also expecting my third daughter in October.
D: I will join Amazon as a Sr.Vendor Manager (part of the Retail leadership program) in Seattle.
Can you tell us about your family and your daughters?
J: My husband has worked in the food industry for 10+ years now, and as it’s considered an essential business, he never stopped going to the office. “If the plant is working, the office is working” (hello Musk!) – this made my virtual year at Booth even more challenging. My daughters were 3 and 1.5 when I started, and 5 and 3 when I finished, and had never spoken English before Chicago.
D: I lived in Virginia with my husband and two kids. All four of us moved to Chicago right before Booth. My husband is a software architect. My daughters are Aaradhya and Akshara and they are currently 4 and 3 years old respectively.
Tell us about your friendship, how did you meet?
J: Interestingly we didn’t meet at all in the first year. We were probably trying to survive virtual business school, recruiting and kids madness to do much else. Our official meet cute with the family was a POLO (Parents of Little Ones Club) Halloween trick or treat in MPP (the apartment building where 500+ Boothies live). From then, Divya and I would always chat about our daily challenges and share experiences (and frustrations) about being a working mom.
D: Jaqueline is right. We never got to meet each other during the first year. At the end of the first year, she was kind enough to ship a picnic blanket from Mothers at Booth Club to me because I was not able to pick it up. That was our first very formal encounter. We’ve really gotten to know each other in our second year and just connected on various levels because we are going through very similar circumstances.
How did you navigate being a mother of two while at Booth?
J: In terms of study, when you balance too many plates, one or two gets dropped. Divya will probably share this, but our best study hours (our quiet time) was at night, after the kids went to sleep. If they got sick or had trouble sleeping, we would battle the next day with purple eyes. If one had to go to the hospital and you had an assignment due that day… let’s say those weren’t the best grades.
D: To be honest, it was very difficult. As a mother, you are always expected to be there for your family. But, you also have your career you want to focus on. It’s been a tight rope to walk on. Like Jaqueline mentioned, the best hours to get anything done was either when the kids were at their pre-school or after they went to sleep. So, I’d end up either working/studying until 3 am or waking up at 3 am to get things done. Most of my networking happened when I was at Harper Center or at very few events. There were many events/parties I had to cancel attending in the last minute because either one of the kids got sick or because they were cranky etc. Toughest was the recruiting period in the first year. It was right after we joined Booth, my kids were too young and everyone was at home at that point. It was really difficult for me to concentrate and be prepared for interviews.
What resources or communities did you leverage at Booth to support your family?
J: It truly takes a village! In the beginning I thought I could leave the oldest at daycare and the youngest at home. This plan lasted one week. In the pandemic, however, daycares were hectic, and any sign of exposure would mean 2 weeks of quarantine without any nannies or help from outside. I had moments alone: 4 weeks in December of 2020 I had them all day during Finals week, recruiting – lot’s of noisy/embarrassing coffee chats and winter break. I also had moments of help: Boothies and their Partners offering to help watch the girls for 2 hours while I had case interviews; at no-school day I had Booth Partners stay with them so I could attend classes, when my dad was here and available he would cover for me so I could have an extra hour or two to study.
D: The Booth community has been very understanding of these situations. Although most of the help came from my husband and mom, I appreciated the love and empathy I got within the Booth community. I always knew that if I really needed help, I could count on the community. A very notable help was when a first year Booth mom offered to take care of my daughters for 4-5 hours on a Saturday so we could attend the graduation awards ceremony at Harper.
Any words of advice to parents who are aspiring Boothies?
J: Be kind to yourselves and don’t be shy to ask for help – this is a unique experience and it (really) goes by fast.
D: In addition to what Jaqueline said, my advice would be to ask for help and lean on your family. It can get tough but it is not undoable. There is a very rich sense of satisfaction once you are done with it. There also have been moments when both my roles as a mother and a MBA candidate helped each other out. So, as you apply and prepare to come to Booth, I would strongly advise you to have a strong support system you can lean on and don’t forget to enjoy this ride with your kids. After all, you are setting a great example for them to follow their dreams.