Accepted into HBS’s 2+2 Program her senior year of college, Atima Lui spent two years working at Walmart before coming to HBS. Having majored in business as an undergraduate, Atima was eager to build upon that background and hone her leadership skills at HBS.

How did you first hear about 2+2 and what made you interested in applying?

In undergrad I studied business, and one of the star students at the school my freshman year was a senior who was accepted into the inaugural 2+2 class. I later went on to complete summer internships at a large company in Silicon Valley where I was very impressed by my intern peers and work colleagues; many had gone to HBS, and a few of the interns were applying to 2+2. This convinced me that HBS could be a really good career fit, and that I should take the time to apply.

What was your undergraduate background?

I received a BSBA degree and majored in International Business, Marketing, and Spanish from Washington University. I wanted an MBA from HBS specifically because I felt like I had already learned a lot of the business basics, and that HBS’s focus on leadership would be of greatest value to me. I also want to work in emerging markets, and leadership training from HBS is invaluable when going to places to conduct business where what you are doing has never been done before.

Where did you work before coming to HBS?

I worked for Walmart Marketing, as an Assistant Marketing Manager, for two years before coming to HBS. I decided two years was enough because I realized I really liked marketing, and that I did not want to be a career switcher post-HBS. Therefore, it was time to go to school now to fast-track my career, and put myself in a position to be eligible for marketing jobs with other Fortune 500 companies. Generally, you need an MBA to work in marketing, so I was very lucky to get my position after graduating from college. I knew I wanted to continue this trajectory with my career, and open up as many opportunities to learn from other organizations as possible.

How did knowing that you had gotten into the 2+2 program change your plans for the next few years? Did it give you any extra freedom?

It gave me the confidence to work for a company in a location I had serious reservations about, but really liked the work. Since I knew I was already accepted at HBS, I could be less risk-averse and try things I would normally be a little afraid to. Working for Walmart in Bentonville, Arkansas turned out to be great! But I would not have been as likely to take that chance without 2+2.

What’s your best advice for someone who’s considering applying to the 2+2 program?

The application process can seem really daunting. Just take everything one step at a time. I focused on getting a good score on the GRE first. Then I focused on the application essay. I had many people in my network review my essay, including current HBS students! I recommend finding HBS grads at companies you have worked for, through HBS club websites that focus on your areas for interest (Africa Business Club has a student dedicated just to talking to prospective applicants) or that you come to any of the number of conferences held or hosted by the clubs at HBS. They are open to the public, and are an awesome way to meet others. Finally, if you are not able to come to any of the conferences, I also highly recommend coming for a campus visit. Sitting in the classroom and watching the case method unfold is a very valuable experience that will help you understand if HBS is the right fit for you.