Diversity is a word that can be used to thread together the professional life of Montique Warren, MBA ’14. The Raymond A. Mason School of Business alumnus first learned about the full-time MBA program through a diversity-driven mentorship organization geared towards helping people of color successfully navigate the admissions process into top tier graduate business programs. His objective to diversify his professional experience was the reason he ultimately accepted the offer to enroll in William & Mary’s full-time MBA program. And in the years since graduation, he has sought opportunities to help minority students and alumni through networking and mentorship opportunities.
“I value relationships and connections,” Warren said. “You’ll see it’s a theme in who I am.”
Warren was born and raised in Hampton Roads. He went to East Carolina University where he studied business administration with a concentration in finance. Following graduation, he began his banking career at BB&T, which has since become Truist. The first few years of his professional life were challenging. Warren served the Atlanta and Tampa markets primarily in commercial lending and credit at the height of the Great Recession.
“I was in a specialty field supporting clients through problem asset management when I decided to pursue an MBA. As I had worked in banking for seven years, I believed it was time to diversify myself,” he explained. “I thought that pursuing an MBA with a focus on analytics could help me break into another path such as consulting.”
Management Leadership for Tomorrow Leads to W&M
As Warren began the process of applying to MBA programs, he connected with an organization called Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) which prepares talented and diverse individuals within the African American, Latinx, and Native-American communities for careers in business leadership through undergraduate and graduate school preparation programs as well as career development programs at all levels.
“MLT recognizes the challenges that we as minorities sometimes face in knowing the right people and knowing the process, especially for those who are first generation pursuing their degrees. We don’t necessarily have the guidance for that process provided to us,” he said.
While MLT is not associated with William & Mary, it was through the relationship with a MLT fellow that Warren was introduced to Amanda Barth, Director of Admissions at the Mason School. He immediately felt a connection and decided to apply to the full-time MBA program in addition to several other schools. He says it was the genuine, personalized communication he received from those at the Mason School throughout the application and admissions process that drove him to attend the program over others.
“I was choosing between several programs and the night before I had to make my decision, I reached out to my contacts at all of the programs. My student ambassador from William & Mary was the only one who responded, and he spent an hour with me that night helping me to work through the decision-making process. He never pressured me one way or another,” Warren explained. “I had a warm feeling and adding that to everything else I had experienced, William & Mary seemed like the right place.”
Warren says his experience in the program was extraordinary. He learned from a diverse cohort of classmates and the Mason School’s world-class faculty. He had the opportunity to network with employers during interviews and gained professional experience working on consulting projects which steered his mind towards his future career goals.
“But there was one gap,” he said. “We had a very small population of students of color at the time and I was very sensitive and aware of the impact of having limited diversity because of my participation in MLT as well as my experience at BB&T."
That small population of students in the full-time MBA program came together, and along with assistance from the Graduate Career Management Center, they shared information and supported one another through their respective job searches. By graduation, every student of color had secured full-time employment; many at top tier corporations that did not traditionally recruit at William & Mary.
Warren had landed an opportunity with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where he was set to work as a Capital Risk Market professional focused on credit risk within banking institutions, yet he felt there was still more to be done both within the William & Mary student and alumni population as well as the minority communities sending students of color to institutions of higher education.
“When I think back to the program, what was missing in some cases, was the experience that people of color had in a corporate environment because it is quite different. Opportunities to to ask someone of color how to tackle these problems were few,” he said.
Mentorship & Relationship Building as an Alumnus of Color
The idea came to him while he was still a student at the Mason School: form a vibrant network through which students and alumni of color can foster meaningful relationships, support one-another by engaging in current issues affecting business and society, and promote business development and career advancement.
“I kept pushing the idea and worked with Carlane Pittman-Hampton for a few years to think through the process of creating a sustainable and vibrant organization, and ultimately the Mason Alumni of Color Network (AoCN) grew out of it and here we are today,” Warren said.
Warren, along with four other Mason School alumni, serve on the AoCN Leadership Council which is responsible for developing the organization’s diversity and inclusion initiatives for both students and alumni. It was formally launched on June 19th, otherwise recognized as Juneteenth, and has since supported programs such as a presentation by retired NFL Pro-Bowl Linebacker Ken Harvey on adversity, a quarterly book club, and virtual networking happy hours.
The AoCN also aims to work closely with faculty and the administration to bring in more diverse speakers, panelists, and educational materials into the business school to help educate students across the portfolio of graduate business programs to better understand the issues and perspectives facing men and women of color in today’s business environment.
“This is our attempt to unify in a way where we can represent our views and experiences, and as a collective foster greater understanding when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and broaden perspectives to promote success in the ever-evolving world for all our respective careers,” he said. “We want to make sure that we support the efforts to represent the workplace properly as presenters are invited to talk on various topics.”
Warren feels that the key to the AoCN’s success is ensuring that both students and alumni who participate in these opportunities to engage with one another feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their experiences, professionally and personally.
“The AoCN cannot be successful if we do not encourage engagement. This is about an opportunity for us to connect with one another in ways that we have been unable to in the past,” he explained. “I often meet alumni of color from William & Mary and I am surprised because I didn’t know they existed. It should not be that way.”
For Warren, connections are vital and he says he is the type of individual who puts a lot of stock in meaningful relationships. It’s this value he places on understanding people from different backgrounds which led to him participate in networking and recruiting events in the New York-New Jersey metro area where he works and lives.
“I love meeting with prospective students and sharing my story with them. It’s amazing to me how in a matter of 15 minutes, I can develop a connection with these individuals,” he said. “Some choose to go to William & Mary, and some may not but it’s surprising to me how many I keep in touch with. I’ve learned through these experiences and through my time at William & Mary how to be unapologetic and how to be my authentic self.”