Prior to being accepted into the full-time MBA program at the Wisconsin School of Business, I had no idea what ROMBA was. I remember getting my acceptance letter and googling “ROMBA” in confusion, wondering what this fellowship was that I had been accepted for. Certainly, I had no idea what an impact receiving the ROMBA fellowship would have on my MBA experience. Reaching Out MBA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the influence and visibility of the LGBTQ+ community in business through the education, inspiration, and connection of MBA students and alumni.
ROMBA’s flagship event is the ROMBA Conference, held this year from October 6-8 in Washington D.C. It is the largest conference for LGBTQ+ business students and alumni, and I had the honor of attending as a ROMBA Fellow. From a personal perspective, being able to attend the conference was transformative; so often as members of an underrepresented population we become accustomed to trying to find a place in a space that isn’t really designed for us. I went into the conference not really knowing what to expect, or what I should do, but very excited about the idea of a space especially curated to aid and acknowledge the LGBTQ+ experience in the business world.
The ROMBA Conference had its 25th year this year, and the theme was “Look Back, Act Forward.” The theme was truly apparent in the programming. The breakout session featured business school stalwarts such as Consulting 101, Investment Banking Recruiting, and Careers in Tech, but also sessions looking forward to the future of LGBTQ+ impact in business such as The Subtlety of Language: Allyship for Our Trans Colleagues and Closing the LGBTQ+ Health Disparities Gap. There was also a career fair with more than one hundred employers looking to recruit LGBTQ+ talent, and multiple receptions aimed toward underrepresented populations such as women, trans people, and people of color.
What I found of immense value from the conference was the ability to make lasting connections. It was extremely fulfilling to be able to reconnect with my fellow ROMBA fellows and commiserate about our shared experiences being in the same stage in life as MBA students, and sharing that commonality of the queer experience. MBA attendees were also able to make lasting connections with employers through coffee chats, and it was definitely refreshing to be in an environment where companies wanted to talk to me especially because of the value that the skills and experiences of my queer identity have brought me. As with so much in business school, the ROMBA Conference was truly all about the networking, and I cannot wait to be able to go to Chicago next year for the next ROMBA Conference and continue building those connections with my peers, employers, and alumni.