Updated: Feb 9
“Don’t let the crazy internship frenzy prevent you from genuinely looking around and seeing if other career paths speak to you more. Given the number of hours in a day you spend at your job, you better like it.”
February 8, 2020 | BY COLE ZAHARRIS & LEIGH MARSHALL
Mia Hopper is currently pursuing her MBA at Harvard Business School, Class of 2021. Prior to HBS, she spent two years at Morgan Stanley in the Power & Utilities Investment Banking group and two years at New Mountain Capital as a Private Equity Associate. At Duke, Mia majored in Political Science with a certificate in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She was involved with Business Oriented Women and Campus Enterprises. In her free time, Mia loves a nice face mask with a glass of wine and a bowl of popcorn.
Thinking back, what made you interested in joining BOW?
While I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to pursue when I joined BOW, I knew that I craved being part of a large group of women that was professionally oriented which could ultimately help me pick my path. Through its breadth of membership (Freshman to Senior) at Duke, I was drawn to the fact that BOW captures women who both need help figuring out their path and the women who can provide that help. The power of the real-time information sharing that BOW enables between its members is huge (how to best prepare for job interviews, how to navigate certain career paths, etc.). I also looked ahead at some of the women I admired at Duke and saw that a common thread was BOW 😊.
What was your favorite class at Duke? My favorite class at Duke was “The Social History of Art” taught by Professor Mark Antliff my senior year. I loved the small size of the course (only a handful of students, many of whom were graduate students) and the freedom that Professor Antliff gave us to explore topics we were genuinely interested in given the broad mandate of the course. I wrote my final paper on “The Self Representation of Female Artists” in late nineteenth century France – I’m not at all surprised that I found a way to write a paper on trailblazing women.
Why did you decide to go into finance?
I wish I had a better answer for this, but the truth is that I saw a lot of smart and competitive students a few years ahead of me go into finance and that drew me to the field initially. I was attracted to the doors that finance could open long-term and knew that I would get an “education” that Duke wasn’t able to offer me, given the absence of an undergraduate business school on campus. I probably should have put more thought into it but things work themselves out.
What obstacles did you face in your positions as an investment banking analyst and private equity associate?
Before I entered investment banking and private equity, I knew by sheer numbers that I would be one of few women. I think I was almost attracted to that very challenge in a competitive sort of way (“I can handle it”). But, I definitely “felt” my gender much more than I expected to. My gender defined me at times in a way that was both very new to me and immensely frustrating. Many moments over those four years were surreal. While I was fortunate to have countless male peers that both challenged me in a “gender blind” way and supported me, I still felt like something was missing (i.e. women) from my professional development and network. To that end, I joined an organization called Synergist that connects junior women in investing. There are usually only one or two associate women in investing at each shop and this organization gave us a network that empowered us. I met fantastic friends through Synergist that I not only could learn from but could also tap for help when needed – very “BOW” in its nature.
How has it been making the transition from living in the working world to pursuing your MBA?
To be frank, it rocks. I have thoroughly enjoyed not being chained to my email. So much of the work I did the last four years was very independent in its execution (modeling alone at night lol) – it’s very fun to be constantly around new people. I have learned so much in just my first semester from my Section and am incredibly grateful for the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds that we have. Pursuing my MBA has also given me the time to genuinely take a breath and begin exploring my interest in women’s healthcare and fertility – for that I am immensely thankful.
Do you have any idea on what you want to do after you graduate business school? Yes! I am extremely passionate about women’s healthcare and particularly interested in the fertility sector. I am hoping to transition to an operating role at a fertility company post-graduation. I’m particularly interested in companies that are innovating to drive down the cost of care or to improve the quality of care. The sector is at an exciting place right now – numerous start-ups have entered the industry, large amounts of venture and growth capital have poured in, regulatory changes have driven positive tailwinds, etc. To be able to be at the intersection of these elements while simultaneously enabling more choice for women and men regarding family planning would be incredibly rewarding.
Do you have any advice for current BOW members trying to navigate their time at Duke and future career opportunities? There are so many companies out there doing wildly cool things – spend some time exploring the alumni network and grabbing coffee with alumni. Just talk to a ton of people. Find out what they would do if they were in your shoes right now. I think it’s unfortunately easy to fall into the frenzy at Duke of needing to secure a banking or consulting internship early on. These are fantastic options, don’t get me wrong, but don’t let that crazy internship frenzy prevent you from genuinely looking around and seeing if other career paths speak to you more. Given the number of hours in a day you spend at your job, you better like it.