My First Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Conference [733 words]

Author’s note: This article is adapted from my book, Network Beyond Bias.

I just returned from the Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) conference. It was an incredible event, and so valuable for me. If you were in any way affiliated with this conference, or if you have ever included someone who felt they didn’t belong, thank you.

My Humble (and Uninformed) Beginnings

I grew up in Southern Indiana. The only people I knew with college degrees were my teachers and my doctor. Even as I was graduating from high school, I had no idea what options were available to me in college. I literally thought business school was where people went to learn to type. I never even considered it as an option.

My first undergrad degree was in Criminal Justice with minors in Sociology and Spanish (and one credit shy of an African American Studies major). I wanted to be a civil rights attorney because I had read about the ACLU somewhere. When I found out how much law school would cost and what “pro bono” meant, I abandoned that dream and took a publishing job that paid just above minimum wage.

I quickly tired of my limited job prospects and was unsure what to do next. A coworker suggested I go back to school for Computer Science. Not knowing anything about the field other than “companies are hiring and even giving sign-on bonuses,” I registered for classes and completed my second Bachelor’s degree. Over time, my understanding of business school evolved, but only very slightly.

I have worked in IT and the insurance industry for a combined 17 years. I recently decided that the best way to expand my horizons would be to pursue my MBA. Without a formal business education, I began to feel I lacked not only the competency, but even the vocabulary, to move forward in my career. My first class at SNHU started in September, and I can’t believe how much I have to learn.

What Wowed Me about ROMBA

I spent three and a half days with people who understand the opportunities available in the world. It was eye-opening. I heard from people who are using their MBAs and business connections to make positive changes in the world. They’re not just here to make money. While I may be late to the party, I am so glad to finally begin to understand where I can go from here. And I am empowered by seeing smart, relatable people I admire.

You have no idea what it means for a little girl from Southern Indiana to hear from people like these.

Martine Rothblatt – Lunch Interview

United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt, who not only invented satellite radio, but then researched, developed, and launched a new drug that has already saved the lives of 32,000 children, including her own daughter
Martine Rothblatt, Inventor, CEO, Humanitarian, and all-around genius delivered a luncheon keynote at ROMBA

Michaela Mendelsohn – Panel Participant

Pollo West CEO Michaela Mendelsohn, who founded, a nonprofit to help Fortune 100 companies hire trans women and help them escape extreme poverty
Michaela Mendelsohn, Founder,

Amit Paley – Short-form Talk

Former McKinsey consultant and ROMBA alumnus Amit Paley, who now heads The Trevor Project, which is daily saving the lives of suicidal and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth across the country
Amit Paley, CEO, The Trevor Project

Emily Miller – Short-form Talk

Rumi Spice co-founder and ROMBA alumnus Emily Miller, who bridged the gap between her military service and international MBA program to help curb the production of opium and provide lucrative distribution channels for saffron farmers in Afghanistan

JD Schramm – Educational Session

Stanford Graduate Business School professor JD Schramm, who thanked me for my engagement in his amazing session on executive presence, and who looked me in the eye and made me feel like I belonged in the company of these amazing people
Princeton GBS professor and TED speaker J.D. Schramm

Literally, Everyone Else That Attended

At least 1,795 other presenters, sponsors, professionals, students, and other attendees. Everyone truly brought their A-game with honesty, compassion, insight, questions, experiences, handshakes, and (in some cases at least) business cards.

Anderson Cooper – Gala Keynote Speech

My own brush with fame was offering Anderson Cooper a glass of water during the ROMBA Gala keynote address. It was a moment I’m sure he’ll never forget.

CNN's Anderson Cooper delivers keynote address at ROMBA galaAmy C. Waninger (in an scratchy dress) at ROMBA

I am humbled and honored to have had this experience. Thank you for this amazing opportunity. I’ll be working to find or create an LGBTQ+ MBA group at SNHU. I am now inspired to leave a legacy of my own!

Permission to Reprint

Permission to reprint articles by Amy C. Waninger is hereby given to all print, broadcast, and electronic media, provided that the contact information at the end of each article is included in your publication.

Organizations publishing articles electronically must include a live, clickable link within the body of the article to: 

For print publications, please mail a copy of the publication to:

Lead at Any Level, LLC
11650 Olio Road
Suite 1000 #391
Fishers, IN 46037

Permission to reprint articles by Amy C. Waninger is granted at no charge with the agreement that:

  • The author’s full bio (see below) is included with each article.
  • One copy of the publication in which the article is published is provided to Lead at Any Level.
  • A fee of $300 per article will be expected for articles published without the closing bio and contact information. Contact for an invoice and payment instructions.

Permission is also granted for reasonable:

  • Content editing and addition of industry-specific examples
  • Length
  • Change of article title

For reprint permissions of other Lead at Any Level authors, please email

Amy C. Waninger Author Bio

Amy C. Waninger is the Founder & CEO of Lead at Any Level, where she improves employee engagement and retention for companies that promote from within. Amy offers assessments, advisory services, and training on essential skills for inclusive leaders. She is the author of eight books. Learn more at

Also available for download: profile photos, extended bios by industry

3 responses to “My First Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Conference [733 words]”
  1. […] in April 2017, I attended the Out Women in Business conference, a one-day gathering of professional LGBTQ women and nonbinary individuals. This event […]

  2. […] of a million freelance options to find Shae’s storefront. Their small transaction via Fiverr or 99Designs, for example, can lead to a long-term relationship and more lucrative contracts. When you connect […]

  3. […] early in my MBA program and preferred the Finance class to the Economics […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.