A Day in My Part-Time MBA Life

Balancing work, life and earning a UC Davis MBA

Sheena Tsang gets ready for a run
Part-Time MBA student Sheena Tsang gets ready for her morning run.

When I made the decision to return to UC Davis and pursue my MBA, I knew I would need a little help. When they say it takes a team effort, they aren’t kidding.

I knew my life at home was going to get even busier, so I’m thankful for my family and their support. I’m also thankful to have a supportive and encouraging manager at T-Mobile, where I work as an account executive, to help me along this journey.

I went to UC Davis as an undergraduate and enjoyed my time as an Aggie. I especially loved the beautiful Davis campus, as well as the people—so much so that I decided to also pursue my MBA through UC Davis’ Part-Time Bay Area program, which has turned out to be a fantastic decision.

I have made so many new friends and have developed a solid network of diverse acquaintances, each ready to lend a helping hand whether that’s with classwork or via a job referral. Many of my fellow classmates have also extended their kindness in offering emotional support in the event of personal travesties, milestones, and many celebrations throughout my first year in the program.

As I start my second year in the program, I wanted to share more about what my typical day looks like, how I manage my time, and what I enjoy most about my classes.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

5 a.m.: My alarm goes off. I debate on whether or not to hit the snooze button. My cat aimlessly repeatedly meows and whines for me to feed him. I get up and feed him to quell his hunger.

Breakfast for Sheena Tsang
Sheena Tsang starts her day with oatmeal and coffee for breakfast.

5:45 a.m.: Before anything else, I make my bed and carefully place my millions of decorative pillows in their respective place. I change into workout clothes. I quickly brush my teeth, comb my hair, make a protein smoothie or opt to fast through my cardio session. I then go on my morning run. Before the pandemic, many mornings I would join my boot camp classes in person at 6 a.m., completing 30 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT) and 30 minutes of weight lifting before heading back home. Now, I try to fit in a half hour or so each morning to catch up on any homework.

7:30 a.m.: After my run, I shower, make coffee or green tea, and enjoy a healthy breakfast, squeezing in a few quick chores before firing up the computer.

Heading into the Workday

8 a.m.: Once I’ve cleaned up a bit, I open my computer and hop online. Sometimes, I rely on my phone to check my work, school and personal emails. I always do my best to declutter my inboxes. I then make sure to update my hardcopy planner and my Outlook calendar to reflect my schedule with classes, group project meetings, school organization meetings, personal appointments (either for myself or my family) and work meetings.

“In fear of forgetting any of these scheduled events, I use several alarms on my phone as reminders. I also make a daily to-do list and add to a running grocery list in case I run low on items in my pantry. I don’t have a lot of time to shop, so I need to remember exactly what I need.”

As you can see, I am a big fan of lists and Post-it notes—they help me function.

9 to 11 a.m.: At work, my days usually start with a call blitz, where I call as many existing and new prospective customers in my assigned territory to check-in on them, or I participate in team meetings to get our group on the same page. Our goal is to have 50 points of contact by the end of the day, every day.

Sheena Tsang's notebook and desk
Tsang has a notebook and highlighters at the ready for her Zoom calls with her classmates.

Noon to 1 p.m.: Before COVID-19, this would be my lunch hour. But now, this time slot has become a crucial opportunity for school meetings. I’ll join Zoom meetings with my classmates, or the Bay Area MBA Ambassadors, or the Women in Leadership club, where I serve as director of outreach and engagement. Some days, I have all three meetings! I am usually eating during these meetings or drinking coffee.

1 to 5 p.m.: I meet with prospective customers—while physically distanced—or I join my team at the T-Mobile retail stores in Palo Alto, or I’m running appointments with new prospects or existing customers via Skype. As an account executive, I am constantly learning about the businesses in my assigned territories and proactively reaching out to them to ensure that I build and foster relationships.

5 p.m.: After work, I take a minute to switch gears and prep my notes for another MBA group meeting. Working from home during the pandemic has actually made this part easier. Without a commute from work to home, I can jump from work right into schoolwork to discuss roles for a project, homework problems or rehearse for a group presentation with my classmates.

6 p.m.: Exercise is an important part of my routine, so by 6 p.m. I need to get up and move around. Normally, I am intermittent fasting or maybe I’ll eat a small dinner. Then I’ll go on a brisk jog or power walk with my mom. It’s still important to squeeze in family time.

Evening Prep for the Next Day

Sheena Tsang's school binders
Tsang says staying organized is an important aspect of being a good student. She keeps her work in helpful binders stacked on her bedroom shelf.

7 to 9 p.m.: Depending on my workload, I use this window of time to prepare for classes, do individual assignments and complete readings for class. Occasionally, I’ll spend time with family and friends. I am lucky to have a circle that is supportive of my career and scholastic endeavors—they are always understanding when I have to turn down social invitations to concentrate on my workload.

9 p.m. to 1 a.m.:  As I complete my homework, I get ready for bed and wind down by reading a chapter of my book, maybe play with my cat or occasionally watch a show or movie on Netflix. I am usually asleep when my head hits the pillow as I complete another productive day.

Those last few hours can be reserved for test-prep, but I have found that I am more of a morning person and will sometimes wake up at 4 a.m. to study and prepare for exams. My trick is going through practice midterms or by working through practice problems.

Regardless of my prep, I make it a point to create a written personal quick reference sheet. Whether you’re able to use one or not, they are still very useful. The act of making a quick reference sheet helps you internalize the content, and most times you remember the information you wrote down and don’t need the card.

The flexibility offered through the Bay Area Part-Time MBA program has been key to my routine. With such a busy workload, it can be hard to fit everything into my schedule. But with weekend classes and now online sessions, it’s become a lot easier to navigate my work-life-school balance.