2016 Best MBAs: Jean Perez, SMU Cox

Jean Perez SMU

Jean Perez


Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

Age: 29

Hometown: Paris, France

“There is a quiet, philosophical approach to everything that Jean pursues, but it is more than merely a quest for knowledge. It is as if he is finding his own inner strength while exploring all of the possibilities and connections made available through school, but without any ego or self-promotion.”


Sciences Po Paris (France), MA in Human Resources Management

Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum (Rome, Italy), BA in Philosophy

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? After high school, I left France to start on the path to the priesthood within an international non-profit organization dedicated to youth educational programs. I pursued my seminary studies in Cornwall, ON, in Cheshire, CT and in Rome, Italy. I then worked for that organization as a Relationship Manager in Milan, Italy and as a Student Counselor at the Instituto Cumbres of Santiago, Chile.

While in Chile, I decided to leave the seminary and that organization. Upon coming back to France, I pursued a master’s degree while working at the Lycée Stanislas (Paris, France) as a Student Counselor and later at Schneider Electric (Rueil, France) as a Human Resources Specialist. Post-graduation, I joined KPMG Advisory (Paris, France) to work as a Management Consultant.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? I interned at JP Morgan, Private Bank for the Latin American region, first at the investments desk in New York, NY and then as a banker in Miami, FL.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working at Deloitte Consulting, Strategy & Operations, Finance Consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was awarded the Business Dean’s Merit Scholarship upon admission. During my first year, I integrated the Cox Leadership Forum at the Business Center, facilitating extracurricular leadership development training. I also volunteered my time both with my class at a Salvation Army location and individually at a food distribution center in downtown Dallas.

During my second year, I decided to be more involved in the program to be in a position to help first-year students have the same great experience I had. I was selected to serve as Honor Council Co-Chair and Vice President of the Finance Association. This second role allows me to coach students in their internship search and class orientation, as well as to offer club activities such as stock pitch competitions and company visits.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Since the beginning of my second year, I have led a team of five to winning first place in the CFA Institute Research Challenge for the Southwest U.S. region, qualifying for the Americas finals in April – a first for SMU. I am proud of this achievement because it meant being successful in my new field of interest and required practicing my leadership skills toward my group members.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Five years into my seminary training, my first post-undergrad job was working with a senior minister between Milan and Verona, Italy. The change from the discipline and community life of the seminary to the self-regulation and solitude of pastoral work was very impactful for me. It took a great deal of humility and conviction to learn to focus on the needs of others and to put myself at the service of these communities. I am proud of having been able to manage this transition, which was fundamental in establishing my work ethic.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Harvey Rosenblum, a twenty-nine-year veteran of the Dallas Fed who teaches Monetary Policy and who has inspired me by acting as my mentor. As I was preparing to go to work at JP Morgan, he helped me develop my interest for macroeconomics and monetary policy, both by communicating his professional experience and sharing his best practices.

Favorite MBA Courses? One of my favorite MBA courses has been Monetary Policy, as I was able to better understand the financial crisis and the actions of the Fed. This helped me develop a framework to analyze and evaluate the financial industry and current events in the economy and the markets. Another course I have enjoyed has been Financial Modeling, which brought together the accounting and corporate finance knowledge that I had learned so far. It also laid the foundation for a better understanding of later Finance courses and made for great job interview preparation.

Why did you choose this business school? As I could only know the schools through their website and admissions interviewers, I felt that SMU was the one to best accept my non-traditional background. SMU’s reputation for Finance also played a part as I was beginning to be interested in that field. Incidentally, my wife’s friend from childhood attended SMU for undergrad and referred to it as the “Harvard of Texas.”

What did you enjoy most about business school? By and large, I enjoyed most being able to start from scratch. My financial education was so limited that I had to research who was this Warren Buffet that everyone kept mentioning. Business school really meant for me the ability to take new courses about things that had always seemed so distant, such as Finance and Accounting, while enhancing my skills through group activities and opportunities for leadership roles in the program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? The biggest lesson I have learned is definitely one about myself. On one hand, it is a lesson about believing in my capabilities and achievements. On the other hand, it is a lesson about interacting with bright individuals and learning to better collaborate and to be a true team player. Study groups particularly helped me to improve my teamwork abilities, as well as to take the time to learn from others.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was going into the program telling myself that I would take my studies as my job, although I certainly was not expecting to be that busy. My first year, I thought that having a newborn and undertaking all these new courses was a handful. My second year, I assumed different leadership roles and took part in case competitions and club activities. Looking back, I realize that only business school could have unleashed this potential in me.

What was the hardest part of business school? I would consider the hardest part of business school to be juggling all the different responsibilities and opportunities. Besides being a father and a husband, I knew that my most important duty was my academic experience. I quickly realized that I also had to network, participate in the life of the community, and get a job. I believe that finding the right balance among all these things is a task for everyday and it is the hardest part for me. It definitely is the best preparation for my professional life afterward.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? My best advice for an applicant would be to seek orientation for possible career paths as early as possible. I started at SMU Cox without being sure of what I wanted to do and it took me some time to confirm that it would be finance. Given all the opportunities that SMU Cox offers from the very beginning, I wish I had been able to figure that out earlier to better use my networking time.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…” I realized that I could not advance in my career without the proper superior education.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…focusing on my translation enterprise, a personal initiative which allowed me to translate three books from Spanish and Italian into French.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I most admire Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan. I had read about him in the context of the financial crisis, and my experience over the summer allowed me to flesh out his character. I discovered that I very much identified with his moral strength and his philosophy of doing the right thing for his business.

What are your long-term professional goals? After gaining experience in financial consulting with Deloitte, I would like to join the corporate finance team of a firm and work on M&A deals. I am interested in valuation work and I believe that my job at Deloitte will open me the doors of finance departments to gain access to that field.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would most want to thank my wife for my success. She has put my education first at each and every step of the program. That involved taking care of the baby at night so I could spend the next day at the library, adjusting her schedule to mine so I could take part in the club or networking activities I needed to. She managed everything in our household to allow me to dedicate myself to my studies and my overall MBA experience. She was my first help for interview preparation. I owe my success to my wife.

Fun fact about yourself: I cherished the dream of becoming a professional runner as I was going through my masters in France. I spent more time training and competing than studying and going to class, making it to the French nationals of 10k, half-marathon and cross-country.

Favorite book: The Silmarillion, by JRR Tolkien. I particularly like the tale of Fingolfin, a character exemplifying the virtues of courage and integrity.

Favorite movie: American Sniper. The movie came out at the time of me really falling in love with Texas and getting to admire the US military.

Favorite musical performer: Billy Joel, a late discovery I owe to my wife. Billy Joel concerts are the only two concerts I have ever been to.

Favorite television show: Homeland. I coveted the dream of joining the CIA before reality caught up to me; I was even spending time solving the practice challenges for photo and aerial analysis on their website.

Favorite vacation spot: The Bay of Sorrento, in the South of Italy facing Capri. This is where we would go on vacation throughout the two years and a half that I spent in Rome. I remember the runs in the mountains, the swimming expeditions to underwater grottoes and making pizzas for the 400 members of the community.

Hobbies? Running with my son in the stroller, going out any time the grandparents can babysit, watching superhero movies.

What made Jean such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Jean Perez has the most unique background I can recall in my many years of working with bright and talented MBA students. He transitioned from his seminary studies to jobs as a youth counselor throughout Europe and Latin America, to falling in love, marrying, and re-locating to America (and ultimately to Texas) where he is pursuing his MBA. He was also a champion caliber distance runner while at university in France. He interned in private wealth management last summer with J.P. Morgan in Miami and is going to be working in the Financial Services division for Deloitte upon graduation.

Jean served as co-chair of the Honor Council this past year, along with another student who formerly attended West Point, so we like to say we had a priest and a soldier running our council—which is true! Jean led a student team this spring which recently won the southwest region for the CFA Institute Research Challenge, and he counts Monetary Policy as one of his favorite courses.

Multi-faceted, thoughtful, humble and introspective, Jean has excelled in many disciplines including his work as a translator of books from Spanish and Italian into French. He and his wife welcomed a baby last spring, too. There is a quiet, philosophical approach to everything that Jean pursues, but it is more than merely a quest for knowledge. It is as if he is finding his own inner strength while exploring all of the possibilities and connections made available through school, but without any ego or self-promotion. For these reasons, he is almost a reluctant leader who gains followers based upon his pure example.” — Michael Caplan, Assistant Dean, Student Services for Graduate Programs, SMU, Cox School of Business


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