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2017 Best MBAs: David A. Distant, University of Rochester (Simon)

David A. Distant

Simon Business School – University of Rochester

Age: 29

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul

Hometown: Hartsdale, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I have a twin brother named Daniel and a younger sister named Debbie. We all have black belts in Tae Kwon Do.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University at Buffalo–BA in Political Science, Minor in African American Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Barclays Wealth & Investment Management, Portfolio Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Citi, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? Citi, Technology Investment Banking Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President – Simon National Black MBA Association
  • Founder and VP of Finance – Simon Investment Banking Club (merged under SFIC)
  • VP of Investment Banking – Simon Finance & Investment Club
  • Board Member: Orientation Program Prep – Simon Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
  • Board Member – Student Career Leadership Board
  • Student Career Advisor – Career Management Center
  • Admissions Ambassador & Panelist – Admissions Office
  • Graduate Assistant – Admissions Office
  • Venture Capital Analyst – Excell Partners, Inc.
  • Israel iTrek MBA Consultant – MedAware
  • MBA Consultant – Payment Processing Consultants, Inc.
  • Mentor/Tutor – University of Rochester, Minority Male Leadership Association
  • Recipient – Simon Business School, Goldman Sachs Scholarship
  • Recipient – Simon Business School, Annual Giving Roy Whitney Fellowship
  • Recipient – The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Wallace L. Jones Fellowship Award
  • Recipient – Simon Business School, Dean’s Leadership Award
  • Recipient – Minority Male Leadership Association, Graduate Man of Distinction Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The work I did as a venture analyst at Excell Partners was one of my most fulfilling experiences during business school because I helped propel everyday people’s designs from ideation to monetization. Excell is local venture capital fund born out of the University of Rochester that invests in New York-based start-ups. Its goal is to drive economic development, particularly in upstate NY Cities like Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse, which house a wealth of intellectual property from their academic institutions. Seeing start-ups create innovative ways to commercialize has been fascinating to me. I’ve met numerous CEOs and CFOs to discuss their ventures’ value propositions while being able to witness the passion that they have to make their product or service successful. It has been a truly rewarding opportunity during the times we’ve made investments and it’s always amazing to see these local companies grow.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of receiving an offer to become an Investment Banker at Citi. It is one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have ever accomplished, and the odds were against me from the very beginning. To start, investment banking is one of the most competitive careers to pursue in business school. There was also a steep learning curve for me, a political science major, especially when compared to many of my classmates, who were finance and accounting majors. My summer internship at Citi brought even more challenges — there were many interns, but limited room on the teams that could give an offer. It was exciting, stressful, fast-paced and very trying at times, but I couldn’t have asked for a better summer experience than at Citi. I learned so much and felt completely supported by the Tech team. I’m sure they realized I knew this is the place I wanted to be full-time. I also found through that experience an even deeper sense of appreciation for my Simon Business School Community. Simon took a chance on me, wholeheartedly supported my endeavors, and prepared me for my career goals from day one.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite and most challenging course has been Financial Statement Analysis with Professor Charles Wasley. He’s unequivocally a powerhouse when it comes to really analyzing and understanding a firm’s health solely through the financial statements. Whether it’s a common size or ratio analysis, forecasting and valuation, mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), accounting, or the fundamentals of the discounted cash flow (DCF), he knows it all like the back of his hand. It’s one of the most enlightening courses I’ve ever taken.

Why did you choose this business school? Simon’s strong focus in finance and economics is really what sparked my interest as I looked for a very quantitative program to complement my social science background. I also knew the difficulty of such an analytical MBA would be challenging and that a smaller class size would certainly be beneficial. Once I visited campus, however, I saw for myself what really makes Simon special. The intimate size of the program gives you the opportunity to forge deep relationships with most of your class; the emphasis on inclusion I observed during Diversity Weekend made me feel extremely valued as a minority; and the economics-based quantitative rigor was exactly what I was looking for to bolster that form of problem-solving analysis.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I looked at this period in my life as an opportunity to grow through every avenue possible, and I enjoyed pushing past the limits on what I thought I could do. The academic rigor, student leadership roles, part-time jobs, relationship building and international travel all helped mold me into the business professional I aspired to become. It would’ve been hard to imagine that this is where I’d be in two short years, but the full-time experience of business school is 100 percent what you make it. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The most surprising thing to me was how close I became with my classmates. You spend so much time in teams, on class projects and in business school club activities. Before you know it, you have made real, meaningful friendships. Even this past winter break, a few classmates and I spent 10 days in Manila, Philippines because our classmate thought it’d be great to show us around his home country. He took us out to really experience the city and introduced us to his friends from back home. I had such a great time and recognized that friends like that aren’t easy to come by.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

The best advice I can tell a prospective student is to network with the Admissions office. Building good relationships with the admissions team can easily be the determining factor in admission to Simon and the potential for a scholarship.

What was your biggest regret in business school? For a long time, I have wanted to study abroad, but I never got the chance. Studying abroad wasn’t possible during my undergrad years because I had to work in the latter half of college. In business school, I’m a club president, so I’m required to be on campus the entire year. However, I made that decision because I wanted to see better and more impactful programming from the Simon National Black MBA Association and our newly formed Simon Finance and Investment Club. In hindsight, I feel I made the right decision and the work both clubs have done to enhance our peers’ business school experience makes me extremely proud.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my friend Megan because I think she’s brilliant and one of the most driven people I’ve worked with. She started the MBA right out of undergrad; networked like a pro to get an internship in investment banking; declined the offer after realizing banking isn’t what she wanted to do; and landed a role as an IT consultant. Plus, she accomplished all of that while keeping her personable and outgoing attitude the entire time. She’s definitely one of my favorite people at Simon.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized I could completely pivot my career and earning trajectory through the right MBA program.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…pursuing some professional designations like the CFA or Six Sigma certifications.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were dean for a day I would expand the cross-cultural experiential learning opportunities available for MBAs. After visiting countries in Asia, Africa, Central America, and Europe I’ve realized that business is done very differently and very sustainably in other parts of the world. In order to matriculate MBAs that are global citizens and business professionals, opportunities should be available to learn and gain working experience in other countries. In my opinion, a great way to diversify business thought is to experience alternative corporate cultures personally and through other world perspectives.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? In the future, I want to become partner in a venture capital or private equity firm. However, my true long-term goal is to go back into public service as an elected official. In undergrad, I interned with a New York State Senator who hired me part-time and eventually offered me my first position out of school. It was extremely fulfilling to serve our constituents through legislation we passed, providing funding for community initiatives, and bringing capital projects back to the district. I ultimately hope to affect positive change and truly be a representative for people on the state or federal level.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my parents because they showed me the value of a dollar and hard work. Thank you Mom and Dad for everything.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as someone they could always count on and a good friend.

Favorite book: The Da Vinci Code

Favorite movie or television show: Gladiator, Game of Thrones

Favorite musical performer: Old Kanye

Favorite vacation spot: Boracay, Philippines so far

Hobbies? Martial arts, playing XBOX, visiting new parks with my Siberian husky, and intellectual debates with my friends

What made David such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“After working with and getting to know David personally over the duration of his program, he’s been a star since the day he stepped foot on campus. His internship and full-time job search was focused in Investment Banking, and he put more time and effort into the IB search than I have ever seen. David traveled to New York City to network, meet with alumni, and have informational meetings almost every Friday and Saturday over the course of his first Fall Quarter, while managing five core MBA classes and remaining involved in the Simon Community. His hard work paid off, and he landed a summer internship with Citi, eventually landing a full-time position with Citi as a Technology Investment Banking Associate. This is a true testament to his work ethic and determination, and has not gone unnoticed at Simon.

Additionally, David took it upon himself to step up as a student leader in the Class of 2017.  He took on leadership roles with clubs such as Simon National Black and the Simon Finance and Investment Club. David is a Student Career Advisor and member of the Student Career Leadership Board in conjunction with our Career Management Center, part of the Orientation prep team for our Consortium for Graduate Study in Management students, and is a Simon Admissions Ambassador involved in high-level recruiting events and hosting and regularly meeting with prospective students.

What impresses me most about David, on top of all of his accomplishments already listed, is his involvement as a mentor and tutor with the University of Rochester Minority Male Leadership Association (MMLA). David does this on his own time, and I regularly see him sitting outside the Office of Student Engagement late into the evening meeting with undergraduate students. He’s been a mentor for many of our minority male students on campus interested in pursuing a business degree, looking into an MBA, asking about the Consortium and how to apply, and learning more about David personally and professionally. For someone so busy, David always makes time for these young men on campus, and it makes a huge difference in their lives.”

Nathan Kadar
Simon Business School, University of Rochester
Director of Student Life

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017