Graduate Business School: Invest in Yourself and Your Dreams
To many people, my life before going back to school probably looked ideal. I was living in Israel and working as a manager at Microsoft. So, why did I leave my corporate position with one of the largest companies in the world? Because it was time to take a gamble on myself. I didn’t want to wake up one morning and wonder why I took the predictable path. I wanted to wake up in the morning and know that I believed in, and was worth investing in, myself.
Taking the Leap
Before I enrolled at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) in California, I had worked hard my entire life to excel—to be the best student, to get into the best unit in the military, to earn a degree that would set me up for a long and successful career. That made it easy to think, "This is what I'm supposed to do." I created a bubble of comfort, but eventually, I found myself wanting to break free. The only way I could do that was by taking a leap into a world that was uncomfortable and unknown.
I believe that, in the end, you make your own path in life, so pursue something that you truly want to be doing, and not something you feel like you should be doing.
The Stanford Path
After deciding to pursue this new path in life, I decided to apply to the MSx program at Stanford GSB because I've always known that it’s the place I wanted to be. It's a great business school in the heart of Silicon Valley, and the environment inspires entrepreneurship and innovation. The MSx program is a full-time, one-year master’s program in business for mid-career, experienced professionals. The MSx program curriculum is flexible and allows students to choose from a variety of areas in business. I decided to focus on entrepreneurship management, leadership, and interpersonal communication. The courses were rigorous, but they gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to pursue and launch my venture.
I’ve learned that no matter where you go to school, attending classes is vital to your experience, but make time to network as well. Your classmates and professors are a vault of knowledge, so don’t lose out on the opportunity to make intentional connections.
Some of the most valuable connections I made were with my classmates and with professors, where I was given the opportunity to meet and hear stories of successful founders. The founders were guests in lectures, where I had the opportunity to listen to them speak, hear their stories and ask questions. Many of them were veterans at building and scaling companies in the tech world. It's incredibly powerful to have the ability to go to an instructor or a guest lecturer and discuss issues they had overcome in their careers. They gave me so much impactful advice and they’re still open to providing advice post-graduation.
Building a Growth Mindset
My mindset is built on my background as an immigrant. My parents gave up everything so I could have the best opportunities in life. Because of that, I wanted to be the best at everything. Their sacrifice drove my work effort, persistence, and self-discipline. After I began graduate school, I naturally transitioned to a growth mindset, from thinking that there is a clear path to success and understanding that there are multiple paths for people to find fulfillment and make an impact. The diversity of the staff, faculty, and students at Stanford GSB and in my program helped with this shift.
Everyone was willing to share their successes, failures, and the challenges they've faced in building businesses. During these conversations, I began to realize that setbacks were an opportunity to reinvent, a vital lesson when it comes to growth. I expected graduate school to teach me how to become an entrepreneur, but the lasting effects it's had on my mindset has been a surprise that I’m grateful for.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
Success never comes without challenges, and I certainly had my difficulties. Just after I began the MSx program, the world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, when I graduated from the program, I was nine months pregnant with my daughter. I could have seen these circumstances as obstacles. Instead, I saw them as opportunities. My experience at Stanford GSB wasn’t just about expanding my knowledge; it was also about developing myself as a leader.
One of the things I learned was not to be afraid to ask questions. I didn’t know much about financial modeling or accounting, but Stanford GSB fostered an environment where it was okay to be vulnerable and curious.
How I viewed failure also changed during my time at the business school. We heard several founder stories about failure, but none of the speakers let failure stop them from pursuing their dreams. They didn't see a failure as a failure because they learned from it, and as a result, they grew even more. I learned that I had to be resilient because resiliency would lead me down the path to success.
Finding My Success
Stanford GSB changed me as a person and pushed me in a direction I could have never imagined. After completing the program, I can proudly say that I started my own business called Gable. Gable focuses on providing solutions in the remote workspace for organizations. Because I had previously managed remote teams, I was very aware of the issues within remote work even before the pandemic. Now that the majority of the world has been forced to embrace remote work, Gable is more relevant than ever. Every business decision I now make is impacted by the lessons I learned in the MSx program. During fundraising meetings, I have the confidence to passionately discuss why people should believe in Gable, and I would not have that without my education from Stanford GSB.
Chasing the Dream
If I had never taken the leap and followed my dreams to Stanford GSB, then I wouldn't be where I am today. I could have walked away from my dreams when the pandemic started, or after becoming pregnant, or when life and work became challenging, but I didn't. I removed the doubts from my mind, found the strength I knew I had, and have now created a new path that my daughter can follow in the future.
It's important to remember not to doubt yourself, even when things seemingly get in the way. Follow your passion, and you will always be successful.
Liza Mash Levin is the CEO and co-founder of Gable. Prior to founding Gable she served in multiple engineering and product management roles in Microsoft, and was an award winning captain who served in the Israeli Intelligence Unit. She holds a double degree in engineering and computer science from Tel Aviv University and an MS from Stanford.