September 2021 MBA Mama of the Month
Josephine Halverson is a mother, wife, and dog mom residing in Northwest Arkansas. She is experienced in operations, strategy, and product management. Currently, she is a product strategist at Walmart and enjoys thinking about the future of the customer experience. In her spare time, you can catch Josephine hiking with her young family or working on DIY home renovation projects.
Josephine spent most of her teenage,college, and early career years working in retail stores like Macys, Ulta, Target and Whole Foods. She knew it was the right time to pursue her MBA in 2015 because although she loved leading, she was no longer intellectually stimulated by her work after over a decade in a similar setting. She took a year-long break from her career to travel and - upon returning - felt empowered to invest in herself and a new educational experience. She applied to business school with the desire to expand her business acumen, gain exposure to new career possibilities, and to build a network.
Josephine chose Kenan-Flagler because the community modeled the core values she strives to live up to: integrity, community, teamwork, excellence, and leadership. She knew she could thrive in an environment where people held these values close.
While at Kenan-Flagler, Josephine held leadership roles in the Venture Capital Investment Competition, Venture Capital Club, Alliance of Minority Business Students, and Carolina Women in Business. She tested different leadership approaches in class settings, group work, and immersions. What she learned is that people like and respect authentic Josephine - she's smart with a heart - and it’s the style that works best for her. So far, it’s attracted meaningful career relationships, interesting projects, and career opportunities that she is proud of. Having the opportunity to work on her personal development in an environment like Kenan Flagler’s Leadership Immersion program set her up for success in her first role post-MBA.
Josephine currently works as a product strategist at Walmart where she has been for four years. She has held roles in strategy and product management. Many of the projects she works on are downright fascinating because of Walmart’s reach and scale but she is most proud of her work in Cultural, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She has presented to small business owners aspiring to be Walmart vendors at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, spoken to diverse student groups about careers in tech at the Consortium Graduate Student in Management Conference, and led recruiting efforts at Kenan-Flagler. She has also had the opportunity to consult on the topics of accessibility and CDEI in her role in product strategy at Walmart.
Josephine is a new mom of an adorable pandemic baby! Her daughter is enrolled in a daycare located very close to her home. The facility has generous hours and a flexible arrangement. Josephine rotates responsibilities for drop-off and pick-up with her husband.
When asked about her biggest challenge as an MBA mom, Josephine said:
"I returned from maternity leave six weeks ago. My husband and I cared for our baby while working until a spot became available in daycare. Then my family became sick for weeks after sending my baby to daycare for the first time. I felt guilty that my child became ill and disappointed that I could not keep up with home responsibilities as I used to. I was self conscious of how I would be perceived at work as I juggled childcare with my workload. The stress impacted my milk supply.
I had an image of myself returning to my career as a working mom and she had a new handbag not eyebags! I knew I was placing unrealistic expectations on myself so I tried to change that. I assembled a support group for myself, talking more openly about my struggles (and wins too) with other moms and close friends. I started following social media accounts geared towards working moms - satire and serious. I started investing in self-care and a house-cleaning service. My husband and I leaned into each other, finding moments to laugh at and high-five ourselves and to enjoy our precious baby. Most importantly, I was honest and open with my team at work about what I needed and welcomed their support. I’m still getting the hang of things and finding my groove but things are much better. Baby starts teething soon, so wish me luck!"
Despite her own challenges navigating her new role as a MBA mom, Josephine offers the following advice for professional women considering an MBA:
"Make sure you understand the outcome hoped for and to determine whether the MBA is the optimal path to that outcome. For example, if higher pay is a desired outcome, just know that there are many levers to pull before making the time and monetary investment of a graduate degree. My second piece of advice is to focus on fit over rank. MBA programs have different cultures. Attending a program that is the right culture fit will help you thrive and have a fruitful network for years to come."
Josephine's advice for professional women considering starting a family is that: "there is no perfect time to start a family - it will be a beautiful and challenging experience regardless of when you start. If and when you decide to embark on the journey, seek out employers with generous maternity leave policies, flexible work arrangements, and supportive culture. You will need time to heal and to bond with the baby, flexibility to manage parenthood, and a team that supports you! "
We're so excited to have smart, dynamic women like Josephine as part of the MBA Mama community. Stay tuned for the next edition of MBA Mama of the Month in October 2021.