About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence alumni. Today we catch up with Emily Muhs ’12, a consultant with Bain & Company in Houston.
Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications
Emily Muhs ’12 has always been focused on goals, whether in her career, in her classes, or in her running shoes.
At Lawrence, she was a government major while excelling as a student athlete in cross country, earning all-conference honors three times.
Her journey after Lawrence has included teaching for three years in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before going to Yale for her MBA. She now works as a consultant for Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, in Houston, and, yes, continues to run. She’s added marathons, including last year’s Boston Marathon, to her growing list of accomplishments since leaving Lawrence.
We chatted with Muhs about the path she’s taken, the lessons learned as a runner, finding her way to a promising business career, and navigating the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On teaching in Abu Dhabi:
It was through Lawrence that l learned about teaching internationally, as several Lawrentians before me had taught abroad and enjoyed it.
I attended an international teaching fair while I was doing my 13th trimester student-teaching, and the offer to go to Abu Dhabi seemed like the best option. Not to mention there were a few Lawrentians in Abu Dhabi teaching there already. So, I decided to take the offer, and the next August I was off to the UAE.
One of the biggest things I took away from my experience was an increased appreciation for different perspectives, particularly as a history teacher. I taught students from all over the world who had learned history up to that point in a variety of countries. So, teaching history at an international school forced me to think and talk with my students about different perspectives and subjectivity in history, and, more generally, in the media.
The second takeaway I would say is it built my tolerance for taking risks. Before moving to Abu Dhabi, I had only really lived in Wisconsin — apart from studying abroad — growing up in Janesville and going to Lawrence. Moving to the Middle East was a culture shock, but taught me the importance of taking thoughtful risks, and that being uncomfortable can produce growth, which I try to keep in mind as I think about where my life and career will take me.
On getting her MBA at Yale
After three years in Abu Dhabi, I knew I wanted to come back to the United States but did not know exactly what I wanted to do. It was a natural time to pursue an advanced degree, and an MBA was the best option. I was looking for a path where I could grow and make an impact, and an MBA was the best choice to do this while setting me up for optionality long-term.
Yale had the additional benefit of being focused on “business and society.” I knew I had a lot to learn about the private sector but wanted to keep the connection to other sectors and gain a perspective on how the private, public, and nonprofit sectors interact and support one another. The MBA program at Yale was a great fit for my goals.
On how her Lawrence experience prepared her for those next steps
Reflecting back, it was the liberal arts skill set I gained at Lawrence that helped me going forward. I built my ability to learn and problem-solve. These two skills were very important as a teacher and continue to be important as a consultant. In both careers, you are required to learn very quickly, be able to tackle whatever problem is thrown at you, and adapt your approach to whatever students and clients need.
On what being a runner has taught her
My experience running has influenced how I think about goals. A big part of reaching your running goals is simply the miles and work you put in, similar to how you have to work toward your goals in many other aspects of life. At the same time, you will have bad races, and I grew to understand how to learn from them — when to see it as an off day versus when it is a sign you need to change something in your training, a mentality I try to take today into my professional life.
But honestly, the biggest thing that has carried over from my experience running at Lawrence is the community. The team was a great group of smart, motivated people who I have been lucky enough to stay connected with since leaving Lawrence.
On launching a business career at Bain & Company
We work in teams to help our clients solve challenges. For me, this has included a variety of different types of projects in technology, energy, retail, and, most recently, pro bono education work.
When I entered business school, I was not focused on a specific career path but knew I was looking for a job where I would grow, learn, and get to do analytical problem-solving while helping others. As I began to explore careers, it became clear consulting was a great fit, and Bain specifically stood out for the opportunities for growth and support. I was lucky enough to intern at Bain and decided to come back full time, where I have been since.
On COVID-19 pandemic and advice for Lawrentians
Like many others, the pandemic has changed the way I work and live, making most of my interactions virtual. As for advice for Lawrence students who are doing distance learning, there are a few things I would focus on.
First, use this extra time to invest in yourself as you are preparing to enter the workforce. Naturally, you are learning new ways to work with others online; keep building these skills and find other ways to continue to grow.
Second, stay connected to your classmates and professors at Lawrence both inside and outside of classroom time. For me at Lawrence, practices and team dinners were so important to my experience, and though those types of activities will not be quite the same, you can still set up virtual dinners or calls to stay connected and support one another.
Lastly, look for ways to support your community during this crisis. Looking online, it is clear that Lawrentians are already doing this through volunteer tutoring, donations, etc. It is a great way to continue the Lawrence culture of support and giving back, even if you are not on campus.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org