An MBA might offer a sizable return on investment, but for some executives, it may be more worthwhile to stay put at their companies.
That’s what Jamie Cohen, who at 32 is one of the youngest female chief financial officers in the country, eventually realized. Cohen is also the youngest C-suite member of ANGI Homeservices, a company connecting home-care professionals with consumers. Yet at multiple points throughout her career, she questioned whether she should go back to school for an MBA.
She said her mentors (who also happened to be her bosses) advised her to stay. She kept that advice in the back of her head as she figured out her options.
Cohen took the GMAT in 2011. However, she then decided to take the senior analyst of corporate strategy role at the company that would become ANGI Homeservices instead of applying to business school. At the time, she didn’t think she had enough years of experience to apply to business school successfully.
“At various points in time throughout my career, I would revisit and say, ‘I still have this GMAT score, should I go and should I get my MBA?'” Cohen told Business Insider.
When she reached that point, Cohen would employ the data-driven decision-making skills she learned as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University’s mathematical business department. She wanted to make an informed decision based on data.
“I think that’s really what served me well as I learned on the job,” Cohen said.
In this case, the data came from weighing where she would learn more: on the job or at business school. Cohen also had a network of mentors, which included her boss at the time, ANGI Homeservices’ then-CEO Chris Terrill. She had an ongoing conversation with Terrill and her other mentors, and ultimately concluded that there was more for her to learn at work — and a more desirable end if she stuck to the path she was on.
“I think that that has played out well for me,” Cohen said.
Cohen says this approach is what’s helped her quickly climb the corporate ladder. She started as a corporate strategy analyst, progressing to the role of director, senior director, and then vice president of financial planning and analysis. She then led finance as senior vice president and executive vice president, finally arriving at CFO in March. She also attributes her rapid career growth to her willingness to take on challenges and ask for the advice of mentors within the workplace.
“I have a constant appetite for learning and just continually asking questions,” Cohen said. “Throwing myself into the unknown, and being willing to take risks, and take on things that I might not check every single box for. But I have the confidence in myself that I can figure it out, or I can ask people to give insight and input so that we can figure it out together.”