One Thing I Learned at Ross: You’re Probably Undervaluing Your Strengths. Stop Doing That.
By Sara Borowski, MBA '12
Principal Project Manager, Amazon
As a Michigan Ross MBA alum and current Amazon employee, one of my favorite ways to spend my time is returning to campus a few times each year as part of Amazon’s partnership and recruiting efforts with Ross. (Side bonus: ticking off more beers on my Ashley’s punch card!)
We Ross alums have earned our bragging rights in the MBA recruiting world at Amazon—Ross has been our number one source of MBA talent for the past 3+ years! And this last May, I joined a team of Amazonians to help kick off Orientation for incoming members of the Weekend MBA program (class of 2019).
We partnered with the Sanger Leadership Center on the Innovation Jam, an action-based two-day experience where students work together to propose innovative solutions for a real business challenge currently facing a Fortune 500 company.
This was Amazon’s second year in a row partnering with Sanger for the Innovation Jam. This program has been a great way to stay connected with the faculty and staff of Michigan Ross, and refresh my own leadership and innovation skills in a fun and supportive environment. What’s more, the energy and excitement of the incoming MBA students is absolutely infectious.
Watching them through their highs and lows brings me back to my own experience starting my MBA at Ross. I have to say, it’s fun to be on the outside looking in! Observing the students as they work through the discomfort of collaborating with a group of strangers is much easier than being in the their shoes.
Although the leadership development and learning content of the kick-off weekend has continued to evolve over the years, one thing has remained constant—using the Michigan Model of Leadership to understand and communicate about our own leadership styles and core values, and recognize ways to tap into the strengths and diversity of those around us to create a better outcome.
One of the most rewarding aspects of developing in my career is recognizing how my identity as a Collaborative Leader (a Yellow on the Michigan Model) has become stronger over the years, along with my confidence in my empathy and relationship-building skills. I once believed that the strengths of Yellows—collaboration, empathy, building positive relationships, were universal, and because they came so naturally to me, I assumed they came naturally to everyone.
Partly because of this perceived universality, and partly because these skills can be hard to communicate on a resume, I devalued them.
As I’ve developed as a leader in my career, however, I’ve come to realize that my abilities to build positive relationships are what set me apart from my peers and other leaders at Amazon. I like to say that connecting people and ideas is my super power—it’s helped me influence without authority, develop the leaders around me, and gain credibility and a seat at the table in meetings with some of Amazon’s top leaders.
It’s been so rewarding to find my way as a Yellow, and participating in the Michigan Model of leadership exercise each year has been a great reminder of those superpowers. It’s also been fun to try to predict where my fellow Amazonians will land across the four quadrants, and think about how those strengths play out in the work we do.
While all the Amazonians who have participated in the Innovation Jam have enjoyed the experience, it’s been extra special for me and my fellow Ross alums to integrate the work we do at Amazon with the leadership skills we developed at Michigan, and paying it forward to a new crop of Wolverines.
Thanks again to the Sanger team for inviting Amazon to partner on the Innovation Jam this year—looking forward to even more collaboration in the future!
Sara Borowski is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business MBA Class of 2012. She currently works as Principal Project Manager at Amazon.
Innovation Jam is offered yearly in May as part of the Weekend MBA program.