Sakinah Watts 19MBA has made a career out of seeking new experiences. It’s kind of her thing. After the lifelong Atlantan majored in economics at Spelman College, she packed her bags for a sales position at General Mills in Chicago. She recalls, “It was exciting to move to a bigger city and experience a different part of the country.”
When an opportunity to move to the company’s headquarters in Minnesota through a rotational leadership program opened up, Watts jumped at that too. “That was such an education because I got to see the different functions of an enterprise. I worked with marketing, logistics, supply chain, and so on. It was this dynamic experience where I gained a ton of exposure.”
Sampling these many facets of business made Watts hungry for more. “I began thinking about going back to business school,” she says. “It was something that I always wanted to pursue, and I think being involved in that cross-functional interaction at General Mills made me want to learn even more about how all these cogs fit together.”
Driven by Inquiry and Powered by Innovative Thinking
Watts was more than happy to return to her hometown for business school, but although she was back in a familiar setting, she didn’t let herself get too comfortable. With characteristic passion, Watts threw herself into new learning opportunities at Goizueta.
Before her MBA, she knew little about venture capital, private equity, and entrepreneurship, but that didn’t stop her from signing up for an innovation and entrepreneurship short course at the Coller School of Management in Tel Aviv.
“Israel has a ton of startup and innovation activity,” she says. “They’re world-renowned for the amount of innovation that comes out of such a small country. So, it was interesting to learn more about factors that helped to create this innovative mindset. The semester I took this trip was a pivotal semester for me in terms of the classes that I was taking, and this trip was the cherry on top. I was taking Venture Capital and Private Equity with Klaas Baks, who is a phenomenal professor; Entrepreneurship with Charlie Goetz; and a market research class with Dan McCarthy, who has launched some of his own companies with much success. It was this trifecta of amazing classes, and then I went to another country and got to see how all of these concepts came to life.”
Watts’s thirst for the new and enlightening serves her well in her current position at Accenture, where she helps the consulting company activate cutting-edge technologies through partnerships with startups at the forefront of innovation. Though she started in Accenture’s Mergers and Acquisitions Strategy group, Watts was still interested in venture capital because of her time at Goizueta, so she took advantage of the company’s “plus one” policy: “You can think of it almost like an extracurricular activity, or a club,” Watts explains.
I found out about Accenture Ventures, the company’s venture group, and I wanted to learn more, so I connected with the lead for the South and helped to build out this community of ambassadors that were eager to learn about ventures and entrepreneurship. I helped grow that group from about 30 people to over 200 in two years.
When a position opened earlier this year on the venture group’s Open Innovation team, Watts was the perfect candidate. Now, her days are full of phrases like “the metaverse” and “augmented reality”—concepts that most of us haven’t even heard of yet but that Watts says will soon be part of our daily lives.
When asked if she has advice for current Goizueta students, Watts, unsurprisingly, tells them to seek out new experiences.
Students often come into business school looking to pivot, but they still feel like there are parameters on what is possible. I would say that you shouldn’t let your prior career track limit you. Do an internship, take a class in a new subject. If you have a new interest area, go for it!
“The other thing I would encourage is to tap into the resources Emory provides,” she adds. “For example, Amelia Schaffner runs The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and while I was at Goizueta, the Center offered events like case competitions and presentations from members of the local innovation ecosystem. Take advantage of your institution’s extracurricular offerings.”
To learn more about The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s programs, events, and partners, click here.