Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2018


Thais Hernandez

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: As an entrepreneurial and multilingual leader, I get things done in many languages.

Hometown: San Ramon, CA by way of Havana, Cuba

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I am a classically trained percussionist and I performed in Carnegie Hall with my youth orchestra. Most recently, I was a vocalist in a Latin band.

Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University, International Relations with Latin American Studies honors

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

The Fulbright Program, English Teaching Assistant

Target Corporation, Executive Team Leader

Renaissance Leadership (Boutique Executive Search Firm), Associate

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am very proud of the changes I made as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) at the Federal University of Alagoas (UFAL) in Brazil, as well as the lasting impact I had on the lives of the students.  As the first-ever Fulbright fellow at the university, I created an innovative curriculum to help students retain their English language in the long term, but faced student engagement challenges since there was no formal structure for the program. For example, only four students arrived for class on my first day of teaching. I resolved to solve the problem by connecting with students and the general community through conversation outside the classroom to get insight into the values of the community that I was immersed in.

I learned that many of my students placed high value on a certificate of completion for the extra work outside of their official class schedule. I also noticed that the state of Alagoas had limited foreign contact, thus students felt intimidated by foreigners and felt very shy about their English speaking abilities. These key findings led me to partner with the director of the English department and other professors to implement an extra credit program while ensuring that my teaching style was highly engaging and my lessons were full of team-based exercises.  The four occasional attendees increased to 12 loyal pupils. Three of my students graduated with honors because they used my classes as a primary source for their own senior theses about foreign language education reform. My work set the standard for subsequent years in the Fulbright program and today there are five ETAs at UFAL and in the community. Most importantly, I saw a transformation in the self-confidence of my students that embedded in me a commitment to develop people into leaders.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants?

1) Adopt a mindset that allows you to enjoy the process of deep introspection that is the MBA application process. The several months leading to those application deadlines are an opportunity to reflect upon your professional and personal experiences, and to define what you want your future to look like. Thus, leverage resources that help you specify your personal brand and your short-term and long-term career goals before you begin writing your essays.  Formal resources, such as Strengths Finder 2.0 and Career Leader, can provide research-driven personality insights while the feedback from colleagues, friends and family is highly valuable as well.

2) Conquer the GMAT as early in your application process as you can. The GMAT is the type of test that requires razor-sharp focus for an extended period of time. Give yourself about three months to study intensely on nights and weekends and, then take the real test even if you don’t feel quite ready. When the adrenaline kicks in on test day, you may surprise yourself in a positive way!  If you didn’t hit your target score, take the time to recharge, reassess your study strategy and hit the books with gusto. Plenty of people before you have taken the test several times before hitting their target score.

3) Enroll a team of individuals who are committed to your success and communicate with these people early and often. Life does not stop during this process and you need your “core team” to know that the reason you are not returning their text messages is that you were at the local Starbucks from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day working on timed exams.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Ross is a community of highly passionate and supportive people who are committed to your individual success. My passion for Ross began with the Admissions team. Soojin Kwon, Diana Economy, and Bryan Johnson helped me feel at ease throughout the process by facilitating connections with current students and alumni from day one. Once I stepped on campus for my interview, I noticed that the admissions team is an accurate reflection of the rest of the community at Michigan, for every person I talked to had an executive presence that was also very approachable.

Further, my time in operations management and executive recruiting taught me that leadership lessons are retained through visceral experiences rather than through mere recall. I look forward to experiential learning classes such as the “CEO class” at Ross (Business Leadership in Changing Times) to apply organizational behavior and business strategy in high-stakes situations.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? When I lived in Brazil, I realized that many American CPG products sit on foreign shelves, which gives CPG companies immense power to shape how people think and feel about products and ideas.  My dream employer would allow me to create innovative beauty and personal care solutions for men and women of multicultural backgrounds in the United States and around the world.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? “Thais brings the perfect blend of competence and personality to every team she joins.  I respect her ability to gain the support of a wide variety of people by making genuine connections with people. I would choose her team any day!”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.