When Catie Griggs and Fay Wells left Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, they were soon swept into big-name companies in the media and entertainment business. They had every confidence that studying an MBA would take their careers to the next level - even in an unlikely industry for business school grads.
They are both successful female MBAs from the United States. They both work in a world they describe as being in constant flux; media and entertainment is a fast-paced industry with less structure than traditional MBA Jobs.
Soon after gaining an MBA, Catie landed a business development position at Turner Sports - one of the leading sports broadcasters in the US. Two years after graduating from Tuck, Fay was in a senior sales and advertising role at ESPN.
They may have slightly different roles, but they both share a strong opinion: an MBA from Tuck has been crucial in advancing their careers. But they have also been given many more strings to their bows.
Fay may have worked for Disney, Netflix and ESPN, but she developed a passion for sports while running track at high school. "I thought: lets do this for my job, not just fun," she said.
"After Tuck, my passion evolved. Before I was only thinking from a sports perspective, and my role at ESPN meant I needed to think wider in media and entertainment. My world was opened up so much. The industry is so large and is still evolving. It is incredibly interesting."
There are many successful MBA grads in media and entertainment. Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment and Kevin Tsujihara, CEO of Warner Bros, are MBAs from Harvard and Stanford respectively.
Google’s Malik Ducard, who recently launched YouTube’s subscription channels, went to UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Fay aspires to land similar roles one day. After earning an MBA at Tuck in 2006, she worked at the US Tennis Association before working at ESPN for three years - including a stint at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Later she worked at Disney and ESPN Media Networks before spending a year at Netflix, the online television network. Now, she is a strategy consultant, advising digital media organizations and cable networks.
Both Fay and Catie, the latter now a Director at Turner Broadcasting, agree that an MBA allowed them to "make the leap" into senior careers. For Fay, an MBA was "absolutely essential".
"After Tuck I focused on getting a strategy and analytical-focused role, and my skill sets from MBA classes were tremendous in helping me make that jump from manager to director," she continued.
"I wanted to study an MBA to get that strategic and analytical experience."
She got two jobs post-MBA after utilizing the Tuck alumni network - constantly sited by graduates as the most responsive they've ever known.
"At ESPN, a Tuck connection recommended me," Fay said. "The alumni network has been pretty consistent. If there's ever a role I wanted, if there is a Tuck alumni at the company then he or she will definitely spend the time speaking to me about it.
"I found the network to be incredible. It's full of people who actually care."
Catie studied a BA at Dartmouth College before entering the Tuck School of Business and after working as a consultant at IBM, began an MBA to break into the media industry.
"It’s a space that has continued to evolve rapidly and I love the nature of it; its almost a 24/7 business," she said.
Catie considered studying at Wharton and Kellogg, but Tuck's well-rounded curriculum was best suited to her career path.
She got the job at Turner Sports through relations she made at Tuck - "a friend of a friend of an alumnus " - and an MBA has made her stand out in the industry.
"An MBA has really differentiated me from my peers, because I have a diverse background and an understanding of various aspects of business," she said. "Because of that MBA education I was able to break myself out of a business development role and I have evolved into special-projects person.
"I media, I don’t think an MBA is necessarily a requirement for moving up, but without it I wouldn't have had the opportunity or skill-set to make the leap."
Typical roles for MBA grads in entertainment firms are in corporate strategy, finance, marketing and film distribution. Starting salaries are around $100,000 per year. But comparatively, Tuck MBAs can expect to earn more. Last year, Tuck's MBA graduates earned an average of $115,000 across all industries.
About 95 per cent of last year's cohort received job offers within three months of graduation and Tuck is a consistent presence in the global MBA Rankings. But for Catie and Fay, it was the alumni network that set the business school apart from the rest.
"I was on the fence as to whether an MBA would be helpful," Catie admitted. "But I loved the level of engagement the alumni had with the school. It was just outstanding."
Fay considered b-schools with a strong media focus, such as NYU Stern, but a friend recommended Tuck. When she called up alumni to get a feel for the program, she was shocked at the response.
"Every Tuck alumnus that I called took at least thirty minutes to answer all my questions," she said. "They responded to me within twenty-four hours and were tremendously helpful."
For careers in media and entertainment, an MBA isn't necessary. But to make the jump to senior positions, it is immensely helpful.
Catie says the main skills you need to succeed in the industry are flexible thinking and curiosity. "It's also critical to understand the shifting landscape," she said.
"There is also value in an understanding of branding - even if you're in a non-marketing role. It's important to understand how consumers perceive you."
Fay, who has spent seven years in the industry post-MBA, thinks you need passion for the industry and a willingness to work hard. "It's also much less structured than when I worked in consulting," she said.
"The skill-sets you learn on an MBA mean you approach problems and people in a different way. That helps you bring more structure to an industry they may not have much of it."
Earning an MBA can help you break into a media and entertainment career - but it is the connections, alumni network and skill-set that are the most valuable.
Catie and Fay may have entered Tuck with consulting and planning backgrounds, but they have graduated with so much more.
After an MBA in the USA, they are at the top of their game.