2016 Best MBAs: Heidi Laki, Emory

Heidi Laki Emory

Heidi Laki

 
Emory University, Goizueta Business School

“There are three main sources where Goizueta students seek guidance during their MBA journey:  Our faculty, our staff, and Heidi Laki.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Houston, TX

Education: Pepperdine University, International Politics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? NRG Energy and Peace Corps

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? McKinsey & Company

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

VP Interview Prep, Goizueta Consulting Association

Chief Risk Officer, Goizueta Impact Investing

Student Director of Academics, Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being VP of Interview Prep for the consulting association has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at Goizueta. Each year, the students who have gone through consulting recruitment provide knowledge, training and support to new students going through the process. However the process was largely informal and unstructured. I created a curriculum, schedule, developed content and engaged with 30 second years to help train first year students. As a result, each intern received 13 hours of individual instruction including case demonstrations, group case workshops and individual case practice organized through the consulting association. The work was very personally gratifying as you had first hand exposure to students’ improvement and felt like you were helping contribute to one of the most important goals of business school: getting the job you have worked so hard for!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While at my previous employer, I created a real time quoting and contracting platform which enabled us to gain greater access to an under penetrated sector of the small business channel. The concept was new to market and being implemented in a business unit of the company known for its inflexibility and laggard innovation. The biggest impediment to success was not external adoption, but internal support. Communicating and convincing support teams of the value created enabled us to gain buy in critical to the success of the project. That project really brought home the importance of engagement and communication to the success of projects. Within 12 months, the channel brought in 90% of the acquisition business in the mid markets channel.

Who is your favorite professor? Kevin Coyne. He challenges us to really think through problems using both creative and analytical approaches. There are no clear cut answers and he pushes students to think outside of the box for interesting solutions.

Favorite MBA Courses? Competitive Advantage, Project Finance, Global Macroeconomic Perspectives, Consumer Psychology, Goizueta Marketing Strategy Consultancy

Why did you choose this business school? A combination of things led me to Goizueta. I knew I wanted to be in the Atlanta area after graduation, so the location was great for networking and site visits. My second factor was meeting the students and the faculty. The school felt warm and welcoming, in spite of the rigor imposed on the students. I got the distinct impression that students picked each other up and helped each other grow, which was exactly the type of culture I was trying to find.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I have really enjoyed the ability to try anything in a safe space. While at Goizueta, I joined the Impact Investing association, where I served as the Risk Officer responsible for assessing and mitigating risk for debt loans we were extending to small businesses. I have no finance background, but felt I was in an environment where faculty and fellow students would allow me to challenge myself and guide me in the right direction.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? Beginning to understand how much you don’t know. Business school gives you exposure to so many new sectors, functional areas and concepts, which is both an eye-opening and humbling experience.

What was the hardest part of business school? Prioritizing. I did not appreciate the sheer number of engaging and fulfilling opportunities I would have. Managing a thirst for learning, developing friendships with classmates, and giving back to my community has been incredibly challenging and has forced me to become much more intentional about prioritizing my life. I really had to focus on trade-offs, decide what I want out of every experience and most importantly, learn to say no.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? It is critical to come to the school, meet the students and get a feel for the culture and the people. It’s time intensive and expensive, but incredibly worth it. Meeting your cohorts and future faculty will help you decide on a grad school in a way that a weighted matrix will not.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was negotiating a joint venture and I could sense a distinctive difference in how my executive team strategically approached the project. I knew I wanted that 50,000 foot view and a top tier MBA could help get me there.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…managing the product portfolio for the roof top solar business line at an alternative energy company. It’s a fun, new growth sector that would have been a great opportunity to be a part of that movement.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I was at NRG Energy during a pivotal moment in the company’s history. David Crane, our CEO, was transitioning the company from a 20th century utility to a 21st century energy provider. He had a real vision for both the company and the industry. He not only communicated the vision effectively, he changed the culture of the organization to match the vision. You felt the direction of the company in every division and function. He also inspired employees to believe in where NRG was headed. I work daily to emulate leadership like David’s, capable of that level of change within an organization.

What are your long-term professional goals? I would like to return to my Peace Corps roots and use my skills for economic development of underprivileged and underserved areas, both domestically and abroad. I think there is room to provide financing for small businesses in at risk areas and consulting services to ensure they have the tools to succeed in achieving their goals and repaying their obligations. In the long term, I would like to create my own non-profit that connects lenders with at risk borrowers and provides basic consulting services at cost that enables small businesses to function effectively.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mom is absolutely the person I thank for my success. She was one of the first female masters in chemical engineering to graduate from NYU in 1971. Her bravery, persistence and curiosity continue to inspire me every day.

Fun fact about yourself: I played with a wild baby bear cub while serving in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia.

Favorite book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Favorite movie: The Big Lebowski

Favorite musical performer: The Decemberists

Favorite television show: Breaking Bad

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere new, fun and adventurous

Hobbies? Hiking, board games, travel

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

“There are three main sources where Goizueta students seek guidance during their MBA journey: Our faculty, our staff, and Heidi Laki. Heidi has a well-earned reputation as being a top scholar and someone who is instantly relatable to others. She personifies the Goizueta promise of developing students who are both capable and relatable. Heidi has been a perennial Dean’s List student while maintaining a busy schedule of extracurricular activities. Perhaps most significantly to the Goizueta experience, Heidi is a respected leader within the Goizueta Consulting Club.  As Poets&Quants has reported, Goizueta produces the highest percentage of consulting MBAs of all top business schools. Heidi stands as a wonderful example of why our students are valued so highly in this ultra-competitive field. Her advice on academics and consulting is only surpassed by her empathy for others. Heidi has led our students into the area of impact investing because of her passion for helping others. With all of this, Heidi still finds time to engage socially and mentor our students in their personal lives. Heidi Laki shouldn’t be surprised if our faculty and staff end up seeking her guidance after she graduates in May. She will be missed!” — Brian Mitchell, Associate Dean and Director of Full-Time MBA Programs, Emory University, Goizueta Business School

DON’T MISS: CLASS OF 2016: THE BEST & BRIGHTEST GRADUATING MBAS