Ok, first things first, how do you pronounce your name?
Ready? It's: Fed-rah Pooh-ee-day. And if you say "Fedra" really fast, it sounds like "Fedge-rah."
Do you prefer Fedra or Feddy?
It's like the Jennifer/Jenny/Jen scenario. "Fedra" is my formal name - the one reserved for corporate work and receiving discipline from authority figures. "Feddy" and "Fed" are nicknames. Fedra is always the safest bet, but I'll answer to almost anything civil.
Do you have any advice for women contemplating business careers or school?
Go for it! It's a fantastic opportunity that will change your life. Business encompasses so much more than you think. It opens up great opportunity for women - for their families and for their communities. Business knowledge is powerful. Financial acumen is liberating. And you'll use all of it professionally, at work, and personally, on the homefront.
Why did you decide to write The Blushing MBA
In business school, I constantly found myself asking, "Now, why didn't anyone tell me about this?" It was like certain subjects, or emotions, were taboo. But I feel that it's okay to be honest about some of the hardships of business school because that's the way you change things and make improvements. You've got to get it out there. Eventually, I got really excited about the idea of sharing a candid view of the emotional aspects of graduate school. I hope that sharing my experience will make it easier for other students, that's why I'm putting myself out there.
So then you started writing?
I'm a big diary writer, so my thoughts began in that form. It was cathartic to get it all on paper. Next to friendship and laughter, writing was the best b-school medicine for me. The Blushing MBA was one of the most comprehensive visions I've ever had in my life - it was a project I could clearly envision from start to finish, as though it was being handed to me. I completely empathize with authors when they say, "I had a story inside of me just waiting to come out."
Why the pink cover?
It's a figurative love letter to femininity! There's a section of The Blushing MBA titled (sarcastically), Homogeneity Rocks, that highlights some of the pressure to assimilate in business - and another section called, I'm Not Macho!. In fact, at one point, I write, "Victorian Era inhibition would be less oppressive," in joking reference to the stifling business suits. Margaret Heffernan writes a passage that I love in her book, The Naked Truth, about being able to easily spot the new MBAs in a crowd. Really, I just want to be me - I'm very feminine. Perhaps the best description of "Why Pink!?" is by Cynthia Good, the Founding Editor/CEO of Pink magazine, in her inspirational address on the symbolism and opportunity carried by this powerful color: PINK POWER.
You'd like more people to go to business school?
Absolutely. If survival of the human species depends on diversity...well, perhaps the same can be said of b-school? I'd love to see more diversity - gender, work experience, communication style, education, nature, nurture - and I think business schools are really working toward that same goal. This urge for more diversity is a driving force behind The Blushing MBA. As is the fact that girls aren't pursuing business education at the same rate as boys are. Women are represented in lower numbers in business school, and I'd love to see that change. And I'd like for more girls to understand how business can help them in all aspects of life - and how it helps the community. I'd also like to eliminate any existing MBA stereotypes - I'm certainly not the stereotype, and I'm terrible with any pressure to conform to one.
What was the most challenging part of writing The
Reliving the emotions. It brought tears to my eyes at some points. And also striking a balance - I wanted to do the MBA experience justice by realistically exploring the challenging aspects these hardworking students overcome, but I also wanted to present a positive case to empower more women to attend business school. Consequently, that's why The Blushing MBA is ultimately a story of triumph. The other challenge is simply "putting myself out there" by writing a book. It's very scary, this vulnerability from opening my thoughts to the entire world. It's like that scene from Jerry Maguire where he writes a personal manifesto late one night, distributes it, and then scrambles to retrieve it in the morning before anyone can see it. I definitely have those moments!
What was your favorite part of the writing process?
Fulfilling a dream. Learning about the the publishing industry. Turning a challenging experience into something meaningful. Being creative. Helping other women. Connecting with people. The day my first copy arrived, I opened the box shaking with excitement, I was so giddy. The day my first royalty check arrived, I gave 25% to the Global Fund for Women and reinvested the rest into the self-publishing costs. And the day I received my first positive email from a prospective MBA student whose life had been impacted from my book --- that was one of the best days of my life.
The Blushing MBA is loosely based on your experience,
so why did you choose to make it fiction?
I chose to write The Blushing MBA as a novel for a few reasons. One: I feel that the novel format makes it more entertaining - even those outside of the business world can have fun reading it. Two: although I am an open book (haha) with my emotions from graduate school, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or do any injustices by using real people. And lastly, I loved being able to create unique characters and then change the outcome of my life (how often do we get to rewrite our own histories exactly as we'd like them to be? It's so cool!). It's funny when three friends call me separately and say that they recognize themselves as the same, single character. Everyone seems to see herself (or himself) in a character. I love that folks can identify with the universal characters, but it is fiction. Even my good friends in the novel are created from my wild imagination, sprinkled with the lovable idiosyncrasies of my favorite and best friends.
Why did you decided to self-publish?
I'd like to eventually shop it around to a big publishing house. (A traditional publishing route involves finding a literary agent and then securing a publisher.) But I knew from the beginning that I wanted to self-publish it for a few months before looking into a big publisher or agent. I wanted to get it to market quickly, and I knew exactly who I wanted to target and distribute to. So, I self-published through a print-on-demand company owned by Barnes and Noble Booksellers, developed a website, and now work wholeheartedly like an entrepreneur. It gives me a chance to use all my MBA skills - finance, marketing, web, communication, creative design, project management, you name it - and I love exploring the publishing world. Most people know that you don't go into writing or publishing for the money (unless you're a Top 10 author or celebrity!) - but it's incredibly fulfilling and definitely the best job I've ever had!
Is The Blushing MBA based on the colleges you
Only in the sense that school has been a major influence in my life and helped to shape my personality and destiny...and of course, some college or grad school events are truly universal and therefore recognizable in The Blushing MBA. I attended the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore School of Business and Economics for my bachelors, and Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business for my MBA. Both are wonderful institutions that lead me to the path I'm on today. I've experienced small, private institutions and very large, public ones. The combination provided a nice, well-rounded perspective. I've always been impressed with each program's incredible ability to listen to its students and to make improvements. You'll notice in The Blushing MBA that although I personify "The School" into a force that knocks me down, I clearly explain in the end (my "a-ha" moment) that "The School" simply exists to benefit everyone - how I choose to react to it actually depends on me.
So you enjoyed your business school experience?
It was hard! Oh my, it was hard! To describe it as anything less would be an insult to those who have earned an MBA. But I feel comfortable admitting it was difficult because in doing so I think I will make it easier for others. And the opportunities from business school are phenomenal.
What was the hardest part of business school?
The lack of sleep and the time constraints, of course - I was like a walking zombie my first semester. Pressure to conform. Self-doubt. Stressed-out classmates. Then, the major life decisions and changes that follow. The Blushing MBA describes these emotions in great detail.
What was the best part of business school?
Developing strategic skills - that's something that's hard to learn on the job. Gaining major confidence and skills in public speaking and software programs like Excel. Thinking globally. Pride. The major opportunity and the gift of security that comes with a degree. Meeting some of the best friends of my life!
Would you do it all over again?
On a good day, yes. On a bad day, no. When I remember the stress, I think there's no way I could ever do it again. But business school is always evolving into something better. I'd love to compare business school 10 years from now to what it was when I attended. I'd even love to experience the new dynamic resulting from some greater diversity in MBA programs today. That's why I encourage more women to go. In addition, I also look at the opportunities I have now, and I think: how could I not do it all over again? You just never know where business school is going to take you...but that's what makes life so exciting!
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