MBA student spotlight: Stacy Danika Alcantara-Garcia

  • October 17, 2023
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 4 minute read

MBA student spotlight: Stacy Danika Alcantara-Garcia

There is nothing like a concrete life plan to weigh you down. Because if you always have one eye on some future goal, you stop paying attention to the job at hand, miss opportunities that might arise, and stay fixedly on one path, even when a better, newer course might have opened up.

The first time I came across this quotation by former Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi, I stopped and savored it alongside my favorite cup of coffee. It’s one of those memorable quotes one can’t help but jot down on a tiny notebook or save in your phone’s Notes app for future reference—for a mini pep talk if you must. Apart from fangirling Indra for as long as I could remember—yes, I do love empowering female role models, especially in business—her words particularly resonated because there came a point in my life when I felt I needed some reassurance as I contemplated my career journey while packing my bags for the Philippines after my tour of duty in London had come to a close.

As I sealed the boxes of stuff I had accumulated from my four-year stint in the UK, it dawned on me that I had never really been intentional regarding my career choices. I simply said “yes” to the opportunities that came my way, following what aligned with my energy and seeing where the path would ultimately lead. Sometimes, that path would lead to a cul de sac or a closed door, which I would take as a sign to change direction or switch gears.

Lessons from industry hopping

I’m Stacy Danika Alcantara-Garcia, a Foreign Service officer who previously worked for Unilever and Mondelēz International after graduating with a master’s degree in diplomacy and a bachelor’s in journalism. A year after taking on one of the most meaningful roles in my life at our foreign ministry’s Office of the United Nations and International Organizations, the opportunity to pursue my MBA unexpectedly presented itself, and so I gave the chance to study at WashU a resounding “Yes!”

Family, friends, and a handful of colleagues found this move unthinkable because many thought the foreign service and an MBA were two pieces of a puzzle that didn’t fit. But to me, it made perfect sense: The stuff we learn in B-school, whether it is strategy, finance, operations management, leadership or storytelling, is fundamental in running a business or an embassy or working the halls of the United Nations.

If there is any valuable takeaway I’ve learned from being a serial industry hopper, it’s that the principle of a circular, zero-waste economy also works within the context of one’s career: There is no such thing as starting from scratch when making a career pivot because you carry with you the wisdom and unique perspective from the circumstances that shaped your experience.

You only really have to know how to connect the dots and use the skills you’ve earned. For example, my experience in journalism was a gamechanger when I handled public and media relations during my first year in the Foreign Service, while my familiarity with supply chain management came in handy in optimizing the process flow in consular affairs.

"Unexpected detours"

Moving to St. Louis to pursue my MBA meant hitting the pause button on my career in the Foreign Service. While I miss sharing after-work cocktails with my friends and colleagues or burying my toes in the Philippines’ white sand beaches, I feel a renewed sense of energy and excitement in exploring my new city and forging new friendships.

Two months since arriving in St. Louis, I’ve found simple joys in listening to a podcast while lounging under a shaded spot on campus, admiring A.A. Fischer’s broken frieze houses during strolls around Central West End, or spending weekend afternoons surrounded by lush greens at the Missouri Botanical Garden or in Forest Park.

While waiting for my ride at the Metrolink station one afternoon, I flipped through the notes on my phone and stumbled upon Indra Nooyi’s quote. I am reminded that while it is important to have plans, we must leave some wiggle room for life’s many unexpected detours.

By saying ‘yes’ to new experiences and opportunities, we can craft a life and a career that is a rich tapestry of experiences, each contributing to our growth, making us more adaptable, and nudging us to spaces that resonate best with who we are. Focusing on the summit is great, but let us also enjoy the journey, celebrate the detours, and savor the unexpected twists and turns. They often lead us to places with the most breathtaking views, places that would change us forever. Mine thankfully led me to St. Louis and WashU.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

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