2016 Best MBAs: Jean-Marie Menga, Virginia

Jean Marie Menga Virginia

Jean-Marie Menga


University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Darden is known to have one of the toughest MBA curricula in the country and I wanted to challenge myself to go through the grind.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Buea, Cameroon

Undergraduate School and Degree: Western Connecticut State University – BSc. Mathematics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Sikorsky Aircraft as Senior FP&A Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Deutsche Bank – New York

Where will you be working after graduation? Deutsche Bank as an Investment Banking Associate in New York

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School? I am a mentor in the UVA-Darden Mentors program in which Darden students leverage our experience and network to help other members of the community with career guidance. I am also part of the leadership teams for the International Business Society and Darden African Business Organization. Through these two clubs, we organize and sponsor conferences and events that bring the multicultural backgrounds in the Darden and UVA communities to share our diverse experiences and help each other to grow personally, academically, and professionally.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of Project Einstein. Project Einstein is a program that I started developing during my first year at Darden to help provide educational opportunities for children in developing countries. Quality education, which is instrumental for personal and general economic development, is severely lacking and still remains a scarce commodity to a vast majority of people in developing countries.

Project Einstein aims to provide educational opportunities in three ways: (1) enhance academic quality and performance by providing uniforms, learning and teaching material and funding quarterly teachers training programs; (2) provide transportation facilities and access to quality education by providing buses to schools and financing the cost of operations and maintenance and (3) improve economic opportunities for parents and guardians by providing farm tools and storage facilities that will help farmers market their products and employ others as they all try to generate income to support their families.

I started implementation of this program in Buea, Cameroon in the Spring 2016 semester by providing approximately 1,700 notebooks and textbooks to 150 children and teachers and a 66 passenger school bus to help children get to school. The program will be implemented on a larger scale at the beginning of new school year in August 2016, and plans to reach 500 children, 150 teachers and 150 farmers in the first year.

My Darden classmates and professors, especially Professor Bobby Parmar, continue to be great resources for the development and implementation of this endeavor. Professor Parmar’s inputs have significantly helped structure the development and implementation of the program. Every child deserves a quality education and we must use our resources to provide the facilities for children to learn how to read and write and have a chance to pursue opportunities that exist beyond what they see in their towns or villages. Like Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I would like to say Project Einstein is my proudest professional achievement as well. The combination of my professional and academic experience has given me the opportunity to put together the knowledge and resources needed to develop and execute this program.

I recently received a thank you letter from some of the children who have already received some aid from Project Einstein, and that piece of paper has given more satisfaction than any certificate or award I have ever received.

Who is your favorite professor? Bobby Parmar and Elena Loutskina

Favorite MBA Courses? Impact Investing, Global Economies and Markets and Global Financial Markets

Why did you choose this business school? Darden is known to have one of the toughest MBA curricula in the country and I wanted to challenge myself to go through the grind. The case method requires a lot of preparation before class and challenges us during class discussions to process information real time and provide a well-articulated response to the class, in a manner that enables classmates with very diverse professional backgrounds to understand and carry on the discussion. I believe this is the best way to develop skills that will help us navigate the business world.

I have always enjoyed working in team oriented environments in which people support each other develop and pursue our goals. I learned of Darden’s collaborative and supportive community during the application process and my experience has more than exceeded my expectations. I am extremely happy with the choice that I made.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The best thing about my b-school experience has been the friends I have made. It has been a lot of fun getting to know my peers through classes, recruiting, soccer, social gatherings, travelling, and all the other interesting activities we have had. My class has a wide variety of very interesting personalities and we have really enjoyed our time at school and will continue to stay connected after graduation. I have also developed some great relationships with our faculty and staff members who are always ready to support us.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? Darden’s supportive community was one of the main reasons I chose the school, but I never imagined this level of support and collaboration at every level of the community. The very collaborative attitude is shared by every student, faculty and staff, and alumnus.

What was the hardest part of business school? Getting hit in the face by the recruiting grind while trying to get a grip of the Darden curriculum and student lifestyle.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Darden is a very tight knit community and everyone is always willing to help. Ask all the questions you may have and you will get genuine answers or get direction to where you can get the best answer.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I saw the personal and professional growth opportunities my friends had after they attended top MBA programs.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably working at Sikorsky Aircraft. I loved working there and still have great relationships with my former co-workers and bosses.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Elon Musk. He has an innovative mindset and continuously tries to create solutions that will significantly facilitate our future lifestyles.

What are your long-term professional goals? I would like to be in investment banking for a long time and at the same time work on projects that provide education and healthcare opportunities in developing countries around the world.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? There are a number of people I would thank for my success in life. I have been lucky to have mentors and friends who have advised and pushed me toward what I believe to be right choices. However, my mom and dad have been my super heroes from day one. They always worked very hard to provide my eight siblings and me every opportunity to succeed. My family has been very supportive and inspirational as they all strongly pursue their personal and professional dreams. My parents are responsible for putting together and coaching this team and their principles have never let me down.

Fun fact about yourself: My full name has 26 characters

Favorite book: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Favorite movie: Brave Heart

Favorite musical performer: Don Jazzy & Mavins

Favorite television show: Game of Thrones

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in Cameroon

Hobbies? I love soccer…playing, watching and dreaming of owning Arsenal FC

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

“I would like to offer my most enthusiastic recommendation for Nana Jean-Marie Menga Nkamlen (JM for short). I first met JM last year when he was a student in my first year ethics class. JM distinguished himself as a leader in our class discussions by broadening the class’s perspective as we discussed contemporary ethical issues. I heard from several of JM’s classmates that their Darden classroom experience was enriched by JM’s presence.

JM believes deeply that every child has to ability to succeed and make their mark on the world – he is doing everything he can to provide children back home in Cameroon with resources to develop their potential. JM and his brothers save the money they earn from their work to buy used school buses in the US and ship them back home, so that the children who live near their old village do not have to walk 4-5 miles everyday to get to school. To date they have bought several buses and are working on a new initiative to equip schools with new textbooks.

In his first year at Darden, JM was able to secure a coveted investment-banking job at a leading investment bank. He embodies Darden’s mission to be a leader in the world of practical affairs – he is pursuing his passion for investment banking and broadening the opportunities for children in Cameroon. JM is an inspirational person – he is successful, compassionate, and brings out the best in everyone he encounters – including his teachers.”

Bobby Parmar

Assistant Professor in Business Administration

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business


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