Fall Break: Business Lessons from Paris!

Tepper students enjoyed Fall Break over the past two weeks. Last year – as a first-year student – I spent Fall Break attending the Healthcare Trek. During this week-long experience we visited over 10 East Coast companies to learn about their culture, work, and MBA positions. This year, after Mini 1 finals, our current first year students dispersed across the country to visit companies in healthcare, consulting, tech, finance, etc.

As a second-year student Fall Break is a very different experience. Instead of spending our days in company visits, a group of classmates and I were fortunate to spend last week on the streets of Paris! In addition to learning about the bread and wine of France, we realized that many of the historic sites held strong business school lessons (a realization that was very amusing to our group!).

I am excited to share some of those learnings below:

Do not lose touch

While visiting the Palace of Versailles, we refreshed our history on the French Revolution. Touring Versailles and its gardens was overwhelming. Everywhere we turned there was another example of extreme excess and wealth. With each new track on the audio tour, we heard about large, multi-course meals for the King and Court. These meals were monitored by the press and extensive articles were published on the King’s demeanor and activities – all while much of his country was experiencing famine and starvation. This juxtaposition led his constituency to revolt, ultimately overthrow the monarchy. This made us realize how vital it is for us, as future business leaders, to always keep a pulse on our staff and customers.

Make a conscious effort to get to know all levels of your staff

During our visit to Champagne Mercier, we learned that its founder and namesake believed that a happy and dedicated staff with a strong culture would ensure a more successful product. Thus, he took significant actions to improve the worker experience in the tunnels where his champagne was processed and aged by installing large sculptures and statues. He even went a step further, walking the 30m deep tunnels each Friday to hand out paychecks to his staff. He checked in with them on their experience and demonstrated a vested interest in their lives. This led to increased productivity and allowed Mercier to become one of the leading champagne houses in the region.

You don’t have to do it alone, find some strong partners that you trust

On our way back to Pittsburgh, our flight was significantly delayed. This caused us (a group of type A students) to miss our connection and, in turn, the first day of classes. Instead of panicking and getting frustrated, we worked as a team, delegating tasks that needed to be done. While one of us emailed Tepper about our situation, another confirmed our new flights home while a third found a hotel room and the fourth began renting a car. We trusted that each of us would perform their task well. We believed in each other in a time of uncertainty and stress. In the end, we had a very enjoyable 20-hour layover.

The best learning from my Fall Break was the strength of the Tepper community. When we missed class on Monday, we received messages from our friends in Pittsburgh checking on us. Our classmates were willing to take notes for us and hold spots in project groups. They stepped up to take on responsibilities for clubs and upcoming events. This kindness and support is typical of Tepper’s close-knit community. It is something for which I am endlessly grateful.

Kelly Mercer | MBA 2019

Kelly Mercer | MBA 2019

Redwoods Summer Associate at DaVita
Before Tepper, I spent eight years exploring the bakery and fro-yo scene in Boston while working as Deputy Chief of Staff at the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, a government agency with the mission to improve the quality of and access to health care while reducing the associated costs. At Tepper, I serve as the Vice President of the Graduate Business Association. I am pursing the Business Analytics Track to gain a better understanding of data and analyses. After class, you can generally find me at Millie's grabbing ice cream or working on a group project with friends somewhere on Walnut Street. Noting how much I love my experience, my partner is joining Tepper as a member of the class of 2020!
Kelly Mercer | MBA 2019
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