2017 Best MBAs: Gabrielle Kuey, University of Maryland (Smith)

Gabrielle Kuey

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Energetic and compassionate. I go about life fiercely seeking new adventures while taking methodical risks.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Chappaqua, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I started my first business when I was six years old, it was a nail salon during recess.

Undergraduate School and Degree: American University, Washington, D.C. – Business Administration

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Totes Isotoner, E-tail Strategist (2014-2015)

Kate Spade Saturday, International Market Associate (2013-2014)

Calvin Klein, E-commerce Coordinator (2011-2013)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? PricewaterhouseCoopers, Advisory – New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? PricewaterhouseCoopers, Advisory – Management Consulting, Senior Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Awards:

  • First-Year MVP Award: Award given for exemplifying outstanding performance in all areas of academics, leadership, and engagement at the Smith School throughout the first-year.
  • Terp Helping Terp Award: Voted by peers for compiling study sessions and instructors during final exams and organizing a fundraiser to help a peer attend the MBA gala.
  • First-Place Cognizant Consulting Competition

Scholarships:

  • Forte Fellow
  • Terrapin Fellow

Leadership/ Community Involvement:

  • President of Master Consulting Club
  • Forte Foundation Ambassador
  • VP of Finance, Emerging Markets
  • Board Member, Black MBA Association
  • Graduate Assistant, Admissions
    • Manage Smith Brand Ambassador Program: Oversee the Smith Brand Ambassador programs to attract new talent to the Robert H. Smith School of Business. Along with managing hours worked and pay per ambassador.
    • Planned and executed four Diversity and Inclusion recruitment programs to illustrate the Smith School’s support for diversity and to recruit top minority talent.
    • LGBTQA application option: Identified a gap in recruiting LGBTQA applicants and researched ways for the Smith School to be more inclusive in the MBA application process for the LGBTQA community which is now executed in the school’s application.
  • KeyNote for Accepted Students Weekend for the incoming 2018 class.
  • Office of Diversity Intuitive Ambassador – Assist in coordinating Focus Groups on Class Climate in order to understand how the school could craft a more inclusive classroom for all.
  • UMD Undergraduate Support Programming
    • Resume/Interview Building workshops through student interview panel
    • Program Creation: Why an MBA? Targeting undergraduate junior/senior women on the process of determining if a MBA is the right path and  and how to seek the right program.
  • Change the World Consultant: Helped a nonprofit increase donorship and resources via social media for a village in Uganda.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? At the Smith School’s end-of-the year awards banquet, I was awarded the “First-Year MVP” for exemplifying outstanding performance in all areas of academics, leadership and engagement at the Smith School.  I remember my friend pointing at me from across the table as I shook my head in shock. It’s hard to explain in words how much this meant to me, but I’ll try. Coming into business school I knew I wanted my contribution to be more than just in the classroom. Motivated by positively impacting those around me, my focus centered on helping my peers reach their best selves and creating a strong personal brand, while applying myself in the classroom. It was overwhelming to hear that my peers truly appreciated my efforts in organizing study sessions, offering career advice, or just lending an ear when they needed someone to listen.  Prior to pursuing an MBA, I felt as though my contributions were unrecognized; this was the first time that not only was my work recognized, but it was voted by my fellow peers and professors. I don’t think I have ever felt such a rush of joy than in that moment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As the International Market Associate at Kate Spade Saturday, I had a true “intrapreneurial” moment. A team of two, my manager and me, were the liaisons between our international and domestic coworkers. We were the advocates and the voices to ensure that the international customers’ requests were communicated and met during key milestone meetings and product development. Several times, I noticed a gap where I could leverage my e-commerce background in order to grow that portion of the international business. I took this opportunity to initiate a project and researched customer behavior in Japan, which helped bring to light the need for creating a mobile shopping experience (before mobile sites were big). This insight, along with 9 p.m. calls to Japan reversed negative growth rates through the launch of the mobile site. The new mobile site contributed to a 73-percent increase in site visits and 35-percent sales growth within a month. My Japanese co-worker shared her appreciation for my dedication, support and patience in relieving stress from her workload. I learned the importance of understanding cultural norms and how it can impact business, as well as the benefit of being curious and taking risks.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? There are two reasons that Financial Strategy for Corporations was my favorite class. First, my discomfort for finance, and secondly, Professor [Michael]Faulkender’s passion for the subject. Finance for me is a struggle. It was outside my comfort zone, yet I felt it was important for me to take these classes during my MBA. This class taught me more than I anticipated. I was able to navigate and understand topics on taxation and corporate cash policies beyond the conclusion of the class, integrating my learnings into conversations. Professor Faulkender made us truly breakdown and discuss financial firm cases. As finance is often the root of business successes and failures, my biggest insight from this class allowed me to understand multiple different angles of corporate financial management.

Why did you choose this business school? Choosing the right business school was a long process for me (two years).  It was a true pivot point in my life, and it was imperative to move forward with no regrets. Strong academics was important, but one factor stood above all the rest: community. Coming from the fashion industry, I faced challenges centered around teamwork. It is the industry’s norm to be in an environment where people were quick to blame others to help push themselves ahead. These types of environments went against my moral grain, as I am a true believer that you can’t accomplish greatness alone. In order to obtain this type of program I took part in multiple class visits, observing the interactions between classmates. Smith’s fit the mold. The students were supportive of each other’s opinions and also demonstrated a high EQ level. Current students welcomed me as I stepped into the classroom and they were genuinely curious about my career goals and interest in Smith. That’s what I define to be Smith’s unique advantage: The students they recruit have equally high IQ and EQ, which is an imperative leadership skill. The cherry on top was when an admissions staff, who I had met at the Forté Conference, secretly wrote down my GMAT test date, and sent me an email the morning of wishing me best of luck on my exam.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The diversity of perspectives. The Smith program is a small program that allows you to form personal relationships with everyone. One thing that I enjoy is understanding the core of a person and how they see and navigate the world. About 6o percent of my learning during business school has come from observing and interacting with others. Smith provides an environment that generates a lot of organic conversations and student-led programming, such as International Night and “Unconscious Bias” and “Women in Business” panels. My peers, plus alumni and staff, have taught me different ways to approach tactical problems and create solutions. Overall, they have made me a more open-minded person. There are multiple people in my program I admire, who have helped shaped my professional and personal development. It is because of people of all of these different perspectives that I truly believe I am leaving the MBA program as a better, more well-rounded person.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Transformation! You come into business school with expectations that you’ll be challenged and walking away with great knowledge. But the amount of growth is astronomical. With more confidence, I can speak to my unique value. Reflecting back to the start of my MBA, I was full of discomfort when asked to define “what made me unique.” During first-year orientation we had to record an elevator pitch, and I didn’t finish the task, feeling ashamed. Working with my career coach, and observing my role in group projects helped bring to the surface my true value and understanding of myself. For that, I will always appreciate the MBA process because I humbly know and appreciate who I am.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Understand your fit and understand the community! Know what will make you propel forward. As a current student, I tell prospective students that they can experience the classroom rigor from any program. But knowing what environment and culture you need to succeed is the most important factor when deciding on your program. Sit in on classes and observe student interactions, because at Smith we are collaborative and team-oriented.

What is the biggest myth about your school? (and how was it the same or different than what you experienced) Smith students don’t get as much exposure as top universities. We have a lot of students who are breaking into corporations that traditionally only recruit from “top universities.” Smith has a unique value of students with high EQ and IQ, working very well in teams and propelling us in these recruitment opportunities.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Navigating all of the opportunities in order to craft the most value for my MBA. At Smith, there are numerous and diverse opportunities such as global experiences, consulting projects, and entrepreneurship. I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out); especially after hearing certain peer experiences. Unfortunately, the MBA program is only two years and you can’t do it all.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Alison Sharman is the President of our Smith Association of Women MBA and overall an amazing woman. Alison has been my partner in crime from day one. We roomed together during National Black MBA Conference, where she calmed my nerves and prepped me for my first case interview. Alison shares the same motivation to impact our community and has been involved in multiple opportunities from women initiatives, entrepreneurship and finance. I admire Alison’s perspective, dedication, and ability to execute with grace. Whenever I was feeling down during the program, Alison reassured me of my value to the program and for that I contribute a lot of my successes to her support.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized I had a job and not a career. Though I loved my experiences in the fashion industry, fashion was not my passion. I wanted to be a change agent, to truly feel that I was making a difference. It was time to get the necessary skills to transition into a direction that brought growth and passion.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…miserable – and seated at a desk, deep in thought about what I was going to do with my life. I definitely wouldn’t have my dream job at PwC.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My motto in life is “leave this world better than you found it” — Robert Baden-Powell. I would like to start a boutique consulting firm that focuses on diversity and inclusion initiatives for companies, especially across borders. I also want to become a motivational speaker for children with learning disabilities. Born with and overcoming dyslexia, I want to share my challenging journey with others.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents. They are the reason I work as hard as I do and have strong morals and values. My parents came from nothing when they started their life together and all they had was a mattress and a lamp, yet they built a comfortable life for me and my twin brother. They taught me to be well-rounded by introducing me to sports like golf and tennis, dance, vocal lessons, piano lessons, Girl Scouts, horseback riding and karate. They taught me not to put someone down and to pick myself up, that the early bird gets the worm, and when you fall off the horse you get right back up. Most importantly, they always supported my dreams and told me to always think big. I am one of the lucky ones to have such endearing, committed and engaged parents. Making them proud by going to business school and getting a job at PwC has meant the world.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a smart, funny, and strong leader who inspired people to be better.

Favorite book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Favorite movie or television show: Little Shops of Horror, The First Wives Club and The Color Purple

Favorite musical performer: Beyonce, Adele

Favorite vacation spot: Havana, Cuba

Hobbies? Softball, golf, tennis, broadway shows and love a great adventure!

What made Gabrielle such an invaluable member of the Class of 2017?

“Everyone at Smith knows Gabrielle. In a social media profile, she introduces herself as “moved by culture [and] driven by strategy and impact…”  The description reflects her Smith community engagement since day one. She is very involved and continuously works to make the Smith MBA program better and give back to her classmates. Not only is she Co-President of the Consulting Club, she is Vice President of Marketing for the Black MBA Association and Vice President of Finance for the Emerging Markets Association. Gabrielle is a source of fun and inspiration to her classmates, and this was formally recognized at the end of her first year when her classmates voted for her as “1st year MVP” – a distinction further recognizing her for “exemplifying outstanding performance in all areas of academic leadership and engagement.”

Academically, Gabrielle has pursued and excelled in a rigorous curricular program.  From my own classroom interactions with her, I can attest to the depth of her analysis and ability to think strategically about the implications of her analysis.  She was a regular contributor to class discussions and offered thoughtful insights while conveying a collegial personality. This strong combination of characteristics was recognized by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), where Gabrielle interned after her first year and where she will return full-time, after graduation.”

Michael Faulkender
Associate Dean for Masters Programs
Robert H. Smith School of Business

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