Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Deidre-Ann Nelson

Class of 2013

Deidre Ann Nelson

"I was amazed at how supportive Fuqua alumni continued to be throughout my internship experience. As long as schedules could permit, they made themselves available to spend time with me and candidly discuss both professional and personal details. As the big day arrived for my final presentation, many of them attended just so I could have familiar faces in the room."

My Background

My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the sunny island of Jamaica, when I was very young. Since then, I've lived most of my life in New York, aside from 4 years of undergrad in Boston (at Brandeis University). I'm the eldest of two daughters, and I'm blessed with a very loving and caring family who has been endlessly supportive of my goals and dreams.

Prior to Fuqua, my professional roles all related to the world of investment banking and leadership development. Those 6 years were very rewarding and instrumental in helping to guide me to business school.

On the personal side, I love a lot of different things. As a child I wasn't able to travel much, so as an adult I've seized every opportunity to learn more about the people and cultures around me. Fuqua has helped incredibly with this life mission. My other interests include photography, art, music, and dancing (ballet & modern). My deepest love of all is—food! I'm not a certified foodie, but I really enjoy a good meal and even more when its with good friends. All of these interests are linked to the idea of living, learning, and continuously exploring who I am and the world around me.

Why I Chose Fuqua

Prior to Fuqua, I worked at Goldman Sachs for 6 years in New York City and London. Between 2008 and 2009, I decided that I wanted to attend graduate school for an MBA with a focus in healthcare. Why healthcare? Well, my grandmother passed away due to a medical error, a close friend was facing deep health issues, and I felt stirred to return to an interest in healthcare that I had developed in college.

When applying to business school, I wanted to leave the northeast, and find  a program that felt like a personal fit and had a strong healthcare industry focus. After personal soul searching, working with Management Leadership for Tomorrow, visiting schools, and attending Fuqua's Blue Devil Weekend, it was clear to me that Fuqua was the right place for me. It might have been the fantastic sunny weather when I was visiting, or the equally warm yet confident people who I met, but I felt that Fuqua could be a place where I could grow, make a difference, and achieve my career goals. Particularly as a career changer, there was a lot that I needed to learn, and I was looking for a 'safe environment' to ask all my questions and take risks. I also wanted opportunities that would allow me to learn about the health industry and develop a solid business education. Curriculum flexibility, hands-on practicum experiences, and phenomenal classmates have made all of that possible and more.

Leadership Attribute: Resilience

One of the themes of my Fuqua experience has been the notion of resilience. Being surrounded by so many bright, energetic, curious, and brilliant people, resilience is a key part of each day for me. During the Spring of my first year, I faced a few health challenges. Thankfully, none of them were life threatening, but in totality, they made for a very difficult time for me. I simply could not do all the things I wanted to do; and therefore, I could not achieve many of the goals I had set for myself. Keeping up with my studies was difficult; and in particular, I felt like I was letting down my teammates because the vast majority of work at Fuqua is team-based. From a leadership perspective, all of this was devastating.  

How can a leader effectively lead when they aren’t well? This was a huge lesson for me in terms of learning more about the importance of followership in the paradigm of leadership, my own limitations, and the necessity of delegation and personal resilience. I made it through the term by learning to more fully depend on others, and to deepen trust in relationships and leverage that trust for the completion of tasks. By taking myself more out of the picture, I was able to really understand the enabling power of leadership as well as the importance of honest friendships. As the clichés go, in life we don’t always get what we want, no matter how hard we’ve worked for it, and sometimes your best isn’t good enough. What is important is how you react to uncertainty, failures, and disappointments; and even more importantly, how you learn to be resilient to prepare for the next opportunity or challenge you face. It was an absolute watershed moment for me, and I’m grateful to all the people at Fuqua who helped me through that time period and made me stronger for it.

Five Random Things about Me

  1. Strange food requirements: I save all my pink and purple Skittles until the end. I also save the innermost parts of pastries and sandwiches to be my last bite.
  2. After taking an AP Art History class in high school, I discovered my two favorite artists, Caravaggio (Baroque/Renaissance) and Salvador Dali (Surrealism). Yes, their art is crazy and possibly creepy, but that's probably why I love it.
  3. I'm an introvert.
  4. I was once a Captain of my JROTC High School Army battalion.
  5. I adore accessory shopping, particularly for hats, necklaces and scarves since they are a huge part of my personal style. I'm ashamed to reveal the number of these items I have, but am convinced it's not at Hoarders level yet.

You can read more on my blog post of 25 random things.

What I Love About Durham

Durham is a great little gem. When I left New York, I knew that Durham was going to have a slower pace, but I've been pleasantly surprised at how much it has to offer. While not all parts of this town are safe, it's a manageable city packed with great restaurants, culture (performing arts, museums, etc.), animal centers, golf, nature, and generally good weather. Finding tasty food is always at the top of my personal list, and Durham has several great brunch places and solid options for a nice lunch or dinner. When it's time to splurge (on a student budget), my friends and I venture over to Chapel Hill (15 minutes away) for even more fun options. There are several venues that attract new bands and established musicians, often at very affordable prices. Durham is definitely a student-friendly place with discounts for various services and spacious apartments that make living here for two years pretty easy. Finally, and this is a bit unique, I think the RDU airport is fantastic! With so much school related travel—where else can you step onto your flight just 30 - 45 minutes after leaving your house?

The Impact of 'Team Fuqua'

To me, Team Fuqua epitomizes the notion of "all hands on deck." This Team Fuqua spirit exists when clearing a mess in the Fox Center, to helping a classmate prepare for interviews, even when you have several other commitments. It is the knowledge that even if you are briefly in another country, a fellow Fuquan will provide you with a bed, and more importantly, take you out for drinks and dinner. Team Fuqua is such a strong cultural norm that it even has an antithesis that we call "Anti-Fuquan" behavior, which our community won't stand for.

My internship experience provides my favorite Team Fuqua moment. While working at Amgen, I was amazed at how supportive the Fuqua alumni continued to be throughout my internship experience. As long as schedules could permit, they made themselves available to spend time with me and candidly discuss both professional and personal details. As the big day arrived for my final presentation, many of them attended just so I could have familiar faces in the room. It was an incredible representation of Team Fuqua respect, camaraderie, and caring.