School News

Meet Three Michigan Ross OMBA Students Who Are Groundbreaking Women Leaders in Their Industries

By Bridget Vis

From the Marine Corps to the clean energy and CPG fields, women in the Online MBA Program are pushing their industries forward while honing their leadership abilities at the Ross School of Business.

For Women’s History Month, three Online MBA students answered questions about their accomplishments as women leaders in their industries, barriers they have faced, the leadership skills they have learned in the Michigan Ross Online MBA Program, advice they would give to women looking to go into their industries, and more. 

Alexis Kantaris

Program/Year: OMBA ’23
Title/Company/Industry: Marine Corps Officer, Combat Engineer, USMC
Hometown: Chelsea, AL

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a women leader in your industry?

My greatest accomplishment has been the opportunity to inspire and lead the young men and women of our current and future Marine Corps. It is not gender specific, but I am thankful for having these opportunities because I understand not every career field is as open. I’m able to help young people gain confidence and succeed in life both in and outside the military. It is not a typical profession, but that is what I love about it. More specifically as a woman, I get to widen this path for more female leaders to come after me. Right now, there are only 8% women serving in the Marine Corps (both enlisted and officer side). I hope my efforts will inspire girls and young women to join and serve and see this percentage go up.

Have you faced any barriers as a women leader in your industry?

I have faced several barriers at many different levels, but I look at these barriers as opportunities for growth.

I commissioned into the Marine Corps in 2014; however, all combat arms military occupational specialties were not open to women until 2016. I was assigned the one combat arms MOS that was open to women, but parts of it were closed off, such as certain units and training exercises. When the gender bans lifted, leaders were hesitant to send me to certain training because there was a fear that “no female has done this before.” It was disappointing to miss opportunities because people assessed the possibility of failure as being linked to my gender instead of my capability.

I have also dealt with males not wanting to be led by a female officer or saying unbecoming things such as “the standards were lowered” for me. This can be frustrating, as my gender has nothing to do with my leadership capability. And regarding standards, the combat engineer community has MOS specific physical standards, which are gender neutral. If you cannot pass the test — male or female — you cannot become a combat engineer officer.  

Although I have faced some barriers, the Marine Corps has been making strides to knock these barriers down. It is not going to be automatic, and it will take time, but I am thankful to get to help my organization make those changes and become a stronger team overall.

Alexis Kantaris, OMBA ’23

What skills or knowledge have you learned in the OMBA Program so far that you are able to apply to your job or leadership ability?

I have learned a lot about empathy and how to be a better empathetic leader. Before joining the program, I had a “it’s the job” mentality. Through my leadership residency and Ross Leaders Academy, I have learned that although things may be just “part of the job,” acknowledging accomplishments and people’s strengths can impact the culture of an entire organization. 

Emily Shorin

Program/Year: OMBA ’23

Title/Company/Industry: Associate, Clean Energy Product Development at The AES Corporation

Hometown: Arlington, VA

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a women leader in your industry?

My greatest accomplishment has been to make other women and minorities feel welcome. Even though I am just about five years into the workforce, I take great pride in making space for other folks as well. I've done this through starting an emerging professionals group at my company, showing up for lots of networking events, and speaking up in big group meetings. In doing these activities, I've received recognition from folks at all levels of my company.

Have you faced any barriers as a women leader in your industry?

I often notice I am the only woman in large meetings, although I try to put a positive spin on it. I just tell myself that I'll be more memorable if I'm different than everyone else! I often stick out in other ways, too, like wearing bright colors when everyone else is wearing gray or being the youngest by many years, but I find that I try to view these differences as positives.

Why did you choose to attend the Michigan Ross Online MBA Program?

I have always really enjoyed school, so I took the GRE at the end of undergrad knowing I would go back to grad school at some point in the subsequent five years. A few years into my career, though, I realized that I was already in the field (clean energy) and geography (Washington, DC) that I wanted to be in long term, and I was already building my network through a national group for emerging leaders in clean energy. The Online MBA Program at Ross quickly caught my attention because it would allow me to keep working in an exciting field and in the city where I live, while also learning and gaining credentials at the same time. The reputation of Ross and the balance of synchronous/asynchronous work and residencies sealed the deal for me.

Divya Mohlajee

Program/Year: OMBA ‘23 

Title/Company/Industry: Quaker Target Account Manager / PepsiCo / Food & Beverage
Hometown: Chicago, IL

What has been your greatest accomplishment as a women leader in your industry?

Empowering and mentoring other women has been my greatest accomplishment. PepsiCo offers many opportunities to enable personal development with their employees. I am in a sales rotational program, and I mentor younger females in different stages of the program and give them advice based on previous roles I had in the program. I volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters through PepsiCo and mentor young females in middle school. I am involved in the Network of Executive Women’s PepsiCo chapter, where I have attended events such as “Empowered Women, Empower Women” and “Virtual Mentoring,” where I have access to advice from senior executives at our company. I believe one of the greatest things you can do with your success is share your knowledge and empower others to succeed as well. It helps to work at a company that embodies this and opens doors of opportunities to provide that level of mentorship from people at all levels. 

What skills or knowledge have you learned in the OMBA Program so far that you are able to apply to your job or leadership ability?

After just six months, I have used financial literacy skills from accounting class to manage a joint P&L statement with Target and present financial results monthly. The leadership residency allowed me to play the role of CEO and manage a team of people, which I do not have the capacity to do at work because I am still at a junior level. It helped me define my leadership style and empowered me to lead from the level I am at in my organization and manage a cross-functional task force to launch innovation. I advanced my negotiation skills and completed a simulation in class that built my confidence to succeed in a real negotiation with Target in my full-time role. The classes encourage us to conduct behavioral experiments and interventions at work to enable better working and leadership patterns. The best part of the OMBA program is that it allows me to practice what I learn in class in my job, and I can do it from anywhere I want. As I move around to different cities a lot to work in sales, I can still complete my MBA without interrupting my career trajectory. 

What advice would you give to women looking to get into your industry?

Empowered women empower women! Find mentors in the industry you want to work in, step outside of your comfort zone, and come prepared with questions and what you are looking for out of relationships in your network. Most importantly, be willing to give back and help others when you inevitably succeed. 

Learn more about the Online MBA Program