2016 MBAs To Watch: Megan DaGraca, Rochester (Simon)

Megan DaGraca-Rochester-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Megan DaGraca

University of Rochester, Simon Business School

Age: 29

Hometown: Rochester, NY

Undergraduate School and Degree: American University – Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Marketing


Where did you work before enrolling in business school? (List Company and Role)

  • MedEd-Link Inc. – Meetings Manager
    • Small meetings management company out of Chicago specializing in healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations.
    • RedPeg Marketing – Program Manager
    • Full-service experiential marketing firm in Alexandria, VA with clients such as the Army National Guard and Chevrolet.

Where will you be working after graduation? M&T Bank – Executive Associate, Marketing Segments & Services

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Vice President of Corporate Tours, Simon Marketing Association
  • Vice President of Special Events, Graduate Business Council
  • Dean’s List
  • Forte Fellow
  • 2014 Simon Games, 4th Place Winner

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud to be leaving behind a legacy of bringing people together through the events I organized. I was eager to plan a trip to Chicago for the Simon Marketing Association given that Chicago is such a hub for marketing careers and we often focus our attention on NYC given our proximity. It was thrilling to visit Nielsen Marketing Analytics after taking the Brand Management workshop where we spent a full quarter analyzing Nielsen data for a client and to hear Global President of Nielsen MROI, Ross Link, speak to us. I also had the opportunity to plan and create many social and cultural events through my GBC position, which I found very rewarding because it gave me and my classmates an opportunity to bond over something outside of academics.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After completing my interviews for the M&T Bank Executive Associate program I felt an immense sense of pride in my professional development through my MBA experience. I have never been as confident in such a challenging setting before and I felt completely prepared and comfortable speaking with such successful people about advanced topics in marketing and business. I am privileged and eager to be joining a team of business people I truly respect and feel I can learn a lot from.

Who is your favorite professor? Guy Arie teaches Economics of Competitive Strategy. He challenged us to think about company strategies in a way that was provocative and interesting. He kept the class relevant and applicable by using current topics and he was highly entertaining and excited about teaching.

Favorite MBA Courses? Marketing Analytics — probably one of my most challenging courses at Simon because it was my first time learning to code, but the class was at the forefront of data analysis and I think it was a critical course to take in today’s information age.

Why did you choose this business school? I participated in the Simon Games which is an online business simulation competition for the opportunity to win a scholarship. The top 10 performers in the simulation were brought to the school to present their strategy to a group of judges including professors, staff and current students. This experience gave me a hands-on perspective of the caliber of people at Simon as well as what a tight-knit community it is. I knew after this experience that Simon was the best option for me to challenge myself in topics I am less comfortable with such as finance and economics.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The people. I met people from literally all over the world and with such different backgrounds. Working on teams with people so different from myself was challenging but one of the best and most invaluable experiences of my life.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? More than any course content, I feel I gained a new way of thinking about business problems and an ability to analyze them and communicate a succinct solution.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was actually surprised by how difficult it is. I knew it would be hard, but it has challenged me in ways I never expected — both personally and professionally.

What was the hardest part of business school? Attempting to balance academics, extracurricular activities, and a personal life.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Be open to stepping outside your comfort zone.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I realized how much I missed marketing and knew that to get back into the field in a meaningful and successful way I needed to elevate my understanding of business.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… most likely working to start my own event planning or tour guide business in Chicago. I’ll probably revisit this idea one day after I retire from the corporate world.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? My dad is a business owner who, as a first-generation Portuguese-American, has built a very successful business from nothing. The amount of business acumen and wisdom he has amazes and inspires me daily. Not only that, but he is also incredibly generous and one of the calmest and most positive people I know.

What are your long-term professional goals? To have a successful career in business where I am continuously learning and constantly challenged.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I owe everything I am to my parents and can only begin to express my gratitude. My mom never once tried to stop me from dreaming big or from being the quirky, spontaneous, curious, creative, and crafty little girl that made me who I am today. She is incredibly compassionate and has been there for me every day of my life. My dad has inspired success in me since day one through his own example and encouraged me to push on every time something got difficult.

Fun fact about yourself: I never grew out of loving ketchup. If I was stuck on an island and I could only bring one thing, ketchup would actually be in the consideration set.

Favorite book: Devil in the White City

Favorite movie: Love Actually

Favorite musical performer: Ellie Goulding live is amazing

Favorite television show: Embarrassing to admit this in writing but the “Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” series

Favorite vacation spot: Boca Grande, FL

Hobbies? Traveling, event planning, crafting, and cooking

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

“Of Portuguese descent, Megan DaGraca Simon MBA ’16 was attracted to Simon because of its diversity. When you get to know Megan, you realize that it is her own diversity — of thought and approach — that sets her apart from other students.

“Megan is an ideal leader because while she has clear vision and excellent ideas, she takes time to get others on board in a way they all feel they are leaders, too. Megan quickly earned the respect of her classmates through her resolve to coordinate great events on behalf of the Graduate Business Council (GBC) and the Simon Marketing Association (SMA). In planning for the SMA’s Fall Corporate Tour, she was up against several serious risks and logistical issues given that she chose a new city, Chicago, for the event. Megan chose to think differently about the tour because she saw that it could be even more successful than in previous years. She was impressive in the way she thoroughly planned the event, and worked through issues calmly, with confidence and determination.

“In working with Megan, you quickly get a sense that she is very genuine and thoughtful. She presents her ideas in a way that others can get on board. For example she initiated the first annual ‘Simon Field Day’ last year. It came at a very busy time of year when students were pretty stressed about exams, grades, and looming internships. Megan realized this was exactly the time the students needed an active ‘community’ day, outside, with friends and families. Although many were initially skeptical, the idea was a winner, well-attended and enjoyed by all.

“Megan interned at Fisher Price and is an upcoming Executive Associate at M&T Bank. Throughout her time at Simon, she not only conducted her own job search, she helped many others with their job searches, prepping them for interviews and supporting them during the lengthy and uncertain internship and job search processes. My colleague Ron Carlson, an experienced team member in our Career Center who has worked with hundreds of students, says students (and faculty and staff) who interact with Megan say she is a pleasure to work with and she instills a sense of confidence that the improbable can happen successfully. This optimism and willingness to not only help, but to develop and ‘shore up’ others, are a characteristics of a natural community builder and leader — exactly the characteristics that exemplify a ‘Top MBA.’”

Karen Dowd

Assistant Dean, Career Management & Corporate Engagement

Simon Business School, University of Rochester







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