Feb 28, 2012

What Comes Around Pt. 3 - Gina des Cognets, T’01

This week we have T'01 and Director of Marketing and Communications Gina des Cognets serving up some advice and fond memories. Gina loved her Tuck experience so much that she couldn't wait to come back and has been a sparkly-eyed advocate for applicants and the envy of her B school peers who wish they were still in Hanover.

Q1:  What advice would you give a student entering thir first year at Tuck (i.e. what do you wish you'd known before matriculating)?

I have three points of advice. First, open yourself to everything that Tuck has to offer. When you get here, there will be so many opportunities to learn, to grow, to stretch. At times it will be completely overwhelming. Take it all in stride, and immerse yourself in the community and the opportunities that abound. Two, be true to who YOU are, even if the crowd seems to be heading elsewhere. This community is small, and there are times when “going with the flow” – particularly around career choices – can be tempting. When everyone around you is getting worked up about bidding for interviews with consulting firms, you might find yourself thinking “maybe I should be doing that too,” even when you are pushing down a different path. Don’t forget to remind yourself about your own goals and priorities, to follow your own voice, and to stay true to your own inner compass. Finally, run (or bike, swim, paint, or sing) or whatever brings you that inner state of calm and relaxation every day. Mark it on your calendar. You will never regret taking 30 minutes to run through Pine Park to clear your head, but you will be sorry you spent 30 extra minutes dawdling on email! Learning to take time for yourself is one of life’s most important skills, and if you can do it during Fall term, you will be able to do it when life really gets interesting!

Q2:What role has a Tuck MBA played in your career?

What I learned at Tuck helps me every day – particularly the skills I gained to think strategically, analyze challenging problems, and to work toward a solution as part of a team. That’s the obvious stuff. As important (if not more so) has been the Tuck network, which has been instrumental throughout my career post-Tuck. I graduated in a tough year (2001), and through the Tuck network, I found several consulting projects which carried me through until I secured a position as the Chief of Staff for the Vice Chairman of AOL TimeWarner. When I decided to leave that role, the Tuck network came into play again.  I met an alum who had also served as a Visiting Executive host who was leading a small start-up in Boston and who was looking for someone with my skill set and experience. One thing led to another, and I worked at that firm (with 5 other Tuckies) for three years. Coming back to work at Tuck has been the icing on the cake of an adventure-filled and interesting ride since graduation.

Q3: What fuels your passion for Tuck or led to your return to the institution in your professional role?

The community and all of the richness it holds. I have never been associated with a more stellar, smart, warm, supportive and stimulating group of people in my life, and am so proud to be a part of all that is Tuck – students, alumni, staff, faculty, partners. I hope I am here for many more years to come, helping to maintain and improve the quality of the community.

Q4: How has Diversity (as broadly defined as you like) and/or Globalism impacted Tuck?

Everyone talks about how Tuck is in Hanover, NH, in the middle of “nowhere.” Yet within this micro-community, we have diversity of experience, race, gender, and citizenship that rivals many larger cities. Diversity serves to make Tuck’s community fabric that much richer and more beautiful. More specifically, the perspectives that classmates bring from their experiences throughout the world and from all sorts of backgrounds serve to make classroom learning and discussion that much deeper and more meaningful. Tuck embraces diversity in many ways – not the least of which is the wonderful Diversity Conference held each fall, at which I have had the honor of working on in varying roles over the course of my time on staff here at Tuck. It is really energizing to see the hope, excitement, and enthusiasm of so many different people from all areas of diversity here on campus, learning about the Tuck experience, and then to see some of those same people become Tuck students, and then alumni.

Q5: What is your favorite memory from your time as a student at Tuck?

There are far too many to pick just one! Highlights for me are Hurricane Island Outward Bound, my fall term study group (shout out to Jake, Jed, Cholo and Devin), Winter Carnival, FSIB in Bangkok, Thailand, big dinners at the Skybox second year, and E-ship class with Professor Horvath.

Thanks to Gina for the laughs and insight.