A 31-year-old startup CFO who dropped out of Harvard Business School halfway through explains how she knew leaving was the right choice
- Andrea Blankmeyer, the 31-year-old chief financial officer for the startup Transfix, attended Harvard Business School for one year before dropping out of the two-year MBA program.
- Business school was a good way to get companies to notice her, she said, but after she earned a summer internship and a job offer, she said she no longer felt the need to finish school.
- Staying in business school isn't always the right choice for everyone if it's not helping you achieve your ultimate goals, she said.
Dropping out of Harvard Business School is a difficult decision to make.
After all, the school is one of the most prestigious and exclusive business schools in the world, accepting just 11% of the more than 10,000 applicants it gets each year.But for Andrea Blankmeyer, leaving Harvard was exactly what she needed to jump-start her career in finance.
Blankmeyer, now the 31-year-old chief financial officer for the startup Transfix, left HBS in 2015 after completing just one year of her two-year MBA program.
That summer, she interned at SoFi, a personal-finance startup that gave Blankmeyer her first taste of finance operations. She had spent the previous four years working as an associate consultant at Bain & Company and as a private equity associate at Hellman & Friedman.
Her experience at SoFi was so rewarding that when summer ended and the startup offered her a full-time job, she chose to stay at the company rather than complete her Harvard MBA.
"I found that the job energized me more than I had ever been energized before, and I was happier every day waking up and eager to go in," Blankmeyer told Business Insider.
"I realized that frankly, I would have more FOMO if I went back to business school."A bonus just for you: Click here to claim 30 days of access to Business Insider PRIME
Not everyone in her family took the news well, at least initially. Blankmeyer's parents have strong attachments to Harvard - they both attended the business school, Blankmeyer said, and they first met when they were placed in the same section.
"When I told my mom what I was doing, she was, I think, shocked that anyone would make that decision," Blankmeyer said.
Blankmeyer spent three years working in SoFi's San Francisco office, working her way up to vice president of finance and corporate development at the company. Last summer, she moved to New York City and was hired as the chief financial officer for Transfix, a logistics startup that connects truck drivers to shipping companies. The company has raised $78.5 million in funding since it was founded in 2013.
Even though she didn't complete her MBA, Blankmeyer said business school benefited her in several ways. For one, it gave her time outside the pressures of a nine-to-five job to consider her professional future. But more importantly, she said, Harvard's name recognition was enough to get her foot in the door with companies that may not have noticed her otherwise.
"Everyone is looking for business-school interns in the summer, and everyone is willing to talk to students in a way they wouldn't be able to talk to someone who's a professional in a not-quite-tangential industry," she said. "So it was easy and fun to do a job search out of business school. People are willing and open to spending time with you."
The important thing, Blankmeyer said, is for people to consider the best decision for themselves, rather than what they think others want from them."Where people often get kind of stuck in education is just, they're more concerned with the résumé stamps than they are with the benefits they're getting out of it," Blankmeyer said.
"So somebody's in a graduate school program, whether it's business school or anything else, and you're just doing it because there's external expectations upon you to finish that. And you know in your heart, it either isn't supporting your ultimate goal, or may actually be detrimental to taking the right opportunity for yourself, or you're more excited about something else."
She continued: "My advice is always to go with your gut on that, to try to release yourself from external expectations."
If she ever changed her mind, Blankmeyer could return to Harvard this year - students who withdraw from the MBA program can petition for readmission within five years - but she said she has no desire to do so.
"It was the most fun year of the last decade of my life, but personally, I really enjoy working, and I'm lucky in that I've found a job where I actually enjoy showing up every day," Blankmeyer said. "That's hard to find."