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Women at Smith: Sherika Shaw Ekpo, MBA ’09

Aug 08, 2014
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Work-Life Harmony

Manager Learns to Blend Multiple Roles 

Sherika Shaw Ekpo, MBA ’09, made her time count at Smith.

She was the first in her class to secure an internship offer and the first to secure a job offer, and she did this while working 20 hours a week on campus. She also brought together students from the full-time, part-time and executive programs as president of the Smith Association of Women MBAs. By the time she graduated, she had competing job offers to consider.

Despite the accomplishments, Ekpo said her most important work happened at home, where she managed a household as a single mother. “Being there for your family is really important,” she said. “Balancing school and home was difficult at times, but this was my top priority during my time at Smith.”

As a result, money was not the deciding factor when Ekpo had to choose between a corporate job that required frequent travel or a government position that offered more stability but less pay. She sat down with her daughter, explained the pros and cons of each offer, and then took her daughter’s advice to accept the lower salary.

“As a 9-year-old, she had no idea she would change the direction of my career, but she did,” said Ekpo, a manager at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who is married now and celebrating the recent arrival of her second child.

Although work and family commitments sometimes collide, Ekpo does not view life in separate compartments. “I see it as less of a balancing act and more of an integration,” she said.

When she was a full-time MBA student, she occasionally brought her daughter to team meetings and presentations, and the Smith community provided support.

“The sense of community that was there is real,” she said. “Our class was always about family.”

She said people sometimes scrutinize women’s priorities, but the integration of work and family involves personal choices. “You do not have to apologize for whatever decisions you have made along the way,” she said.

Women willing to organize their time and make sacrifices can make things work. “No matter what obstacles you have, you can overcome them,” Ekpo said. “And you can do that while managing multiple roles.”

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.