Broadway Wannabe to Business Imposter

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By Kat Ward, MM '21

On Jan. 26, 2020, I stepped off a cruise ship and finished performing for a 1,000-seat theatre every night. I had traveled through Europe, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand over the last six months, but it was time to go home to Manhattan. 

I moved back and began auditioning for musical theater shows again. The coronavirus took over and my life paused like the rest of the world. I was let go from my survival jobs, I couldn’t afford rent, and auditions stopped. I packed my bags for two weeks to move back in with my parents, but that turned into a month and you know the rest. I felt incredibly privileged to have a place to go but like every 24-year-old living at home, I was miserable. For a woman who was climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa to now rewatching Grey’s Anatomy for the fifth time, I was nervous about my industry and how long it would take to come back. 

I’ve been performing since I was 8 years old (my first role was Daddy Warbucks in Annie and yes, I did wear a bald cap). After two years in public high school, I transferred to a performing arts school where I majored in theater and was accepted to the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program (dream school). After college, I moved to Manhattan, began auditioning, entered lotteries for shows, and worked three jobs to make rent. I booked the cruise gig in 2019 and began to travel the world.

After returning to live with my parents, my mother approached me with a letter she saved from two years ago. When I graduated from U-M in 2018, I received a letter from the Ross School of Business explaining the Master of Management Program. I glanced at it then, but my mother kept it because she was excited about the possibility of one of her children going to Ross. 

Two years later, she handed it back to me and I did research on the program. I was surprised how Ross created a program for students specifically like me — someone with a background not in business, but a strong interest in it. 

I love presenting in front of large audiences, teamwork, and creative problem solving, but I began experiencing the first signs of imposter syndrome. Why would the Ross School of Business accept me? I spent four years of my college career learning how to belt out an E flat while trying to portray emotional vulnerability. 

After talking with Ross admissions, I realized I was not alone. The MM Program’s first term includes classes such as marketing, accounting, business communication, and finance. So even if I felt like a business imposter, Ross gave all students the tools to gradually become comfortable on the same playing field.

I realized that with the pause in the theater industry and the support of Ross, it was time to expand my dreams and career goals.

Fast-forward to the fifth week of classes, and this musical theater woman knows how to read a balance sheet, will explain the 4 P’s of marketing, and can tell you the annuity formula. 

I am unsure where this will take me, but I am sure:

  1. I’m studying beside incredibly smart people; 
  2. These people are pushing me to feel not like an “imposter” while learning a new language of business; 
  3. I am grateful to be studying for my Master of Management degree at Ross. 

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By Kat Ward, MM '21