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Panther Paths: From International Business to Design Innovation

If you asked any of my brothers to describe me, I’d be shocked if "opinionated" was not one of their first words. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself completely incapable of choosing whether to go to Georgetown or Notre Dame for college. Shaken by my uncharacteristic indecision, I boiled the ocean: I talked to teachers, reviewed rankings, read every college book I could get my hands on, but nothing seemed to push me off the fence. This was a really important choice - what if I made a mistake? 13 years later, I have some simple advice for my younger self: you’ll never have all the information. However, if you commit fully to a good decision, you’ll get much farther than waiting around for the perfect option.

Forced into action by the upcoming deposit deadline, I committed to Georgetown and set my sights on the next big decision: choosing a major. This time, I tried to take a different approach. I had a hunch that International Business would be a good fit. After all, I was the outgoing head of the Model UN team and I wanted to move into the business world. Impatient as always, I enrolled in “Introduction to International Business” as soon as I found space for an elective within my schedule. The honeymoon didn’t last long. Instead of exploring the intersection between business and international relations, the class focused heavily on tariffs and trade agreements. This was not something I wanted to study for three more years; my hypothesis had been disproven. In need of a new major, I hatched another plan: sign up for a bunch more business electives and, if nothing clicked after a month, apply to study international relations instead. It only took me a few assignments in my marketing class to realize I was back on the right track.

The next time you need to make a big decision, don’t obsess about going in the perfect direction

Ever since, this pattern of hypothesizing, testing, and reassessing has become a routine when navigating big decisions. While looking for my first full-time job, I focused on becoming a marketing consultant to continue solving the problems I had found so interesting. During that search, I stumbled across a role as a business analyst at Capital One. Although credit cards felt like a pretty big departure from my initial search, it helped me realize how much I wanted to be involved in designing and building products. I ended up staying at Capital One for six years, taking on new projects and positions whenever I wanted to explore a new theory about my career. However, that testing also helped me see when I needed to take an even bigger leap: going back to school to get an MBA and a Master’s in Design Innovation at Northwestern. It was an incredible experience, but one I never would have imagined for myself while playing foosball in the junior/senior lounge. So the next time you need to make a big decision, don’t obsess about going in the perfect direction — trust your gut, commit to a path, and see if you can find a better compass along the way.