Harvard Business School
Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I’m the Plymouth Valiant from Spielberg’s 1971 movie Duel – the underdog car that defeats the monstrous big-rig.
Hometown: Paterson, NJ via Puebla, Mexico
Fun Fact About Yourself: I used to be a member of a competitive Mexican Folkloric Dance group
Undergraduate School and Major:
Passaic County Community College, A.S. in Mathematics
Cornell University, B.A. in Mathematics, minors: Spanish Literature & Latin American Studies
Cornell University, M. Eng. in Operations Research & Information Engineering
Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:
- Kapor Capital, social impact venture capital firm, Summer Associate 6/16-8/16
- Deloitte Consulting – Monitor Group, strategy practice – Senior Consultant 1/15 – 6/16
- Opera Solutions, boutique data analytics consulting firm – Engagement Manager, Senior Associate, Associate 9/10-12/14
- TechnoServe, NGO rendering business services to companies and governments in emerging markets, Volunteer Social Impact Consultant 02/14-06/14
- KD Secure LLC, a start-up focusing on the development of data driven security application, Business Development Analyst 08/08 – 10/09
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2014 I took temporary leave from Opera Solutions to serve as a volunteer consultant in Zimbabwe. In collaboration with national and international organizations, I worked on behalf of the Zimbabwe Microfinance Wholesale Facility (ZMWF) to identify the strategic and operational constraints hampering 140+ local Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), leading some to bankruptcy. I had finally married my big data analytics experience with my passion for social entrepreneurship and impact investing. The project’s complexities tested my leadership, diplomacy, and problem-solving abilities in a challenging macroeconomic and political context. Furthermore, I was managing a multi-million US-based project virtually. I had sold the 3rd phase of my US-based project resulting in significant revenue for Opera and so I worked at night for our US client while living in Zimbabwe’s rural areas with unreliable technology and power.
I completed the Zimbabwe project within four months, as committed. My analysis helped uncover $50K+ of annual fraud at one institution, improved the nationwide pricing methodology, informed policy, provided data-based benchmarks, and helped the ZMWF create a series of national capacitation programs. Our client sponsor was able to lower risk within their $5.6M portfolio and decrease loan disbursement time from 70+ days to fewer than 30 days which improved liquidity in the market. Most importantly, borrowers no longer had to wait 7+ weeks to secure much needed loans, which positively transformed their businesses and their lives.
This project gave me confidence and pride in my ability to make a difference with my interpersonal skills and intellect. I can only hope to someday be like my most memorable client in Zimbabwe – a hard-working, tenacious, and resourceful car-wash-clothing-poultry-entrepreneur who deepened my passion for social entrepreneurship and impact investing.
Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants?
Stop, Breathe, Reflect, Repeat: I would advise future business school applicants to take a deep breath, stop, and reflect. Before you even start to think about why your dream school is such a great fit, ask yourself why do you want to do an MBA and why now? I found the application process to be physically and emotionally taxing, but the reflection that I did before I started the process provided me the strength and focus that I needed to go through it.
Take a Project Management approach: Once you are clear as to why an MBA and why now, break down the application process into discrete parts, determine how much weight/importance you are going to assign to them, and try to divide your energy and time accordingly. Consider the fact that you are likely going to be working while going through the application process. I found that having a roadmap was very helpful.
Get Help: Do not underestimate the need for a support group, either formal or informal. I was part of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), an organization that helps minority students in the US to navigate the MBA application process. I found this to be an invaluable support network. I developed very close friendships with other MLT fellows living in the area with whom I would study for the GMAT, review essays, or simply take a much needed break and enjoy a nice evening at the park.
GMAT & Thinking Holistically: A few discrete items that I would like to go over are the GMAT, essays, recommendation letters, and admissions interviews. Please keep in mind that the GMAT, probably the one item that generated the most stress among all my peers going through the process with me, is just one part of your application. Taking the GMAT early during your MBA process, a year or more in advance, would remove a lot of the potential application anxiety you may feel later on. Set a GMAT target score for yourself. If you don’t achieve your target your first time, don’t worry. You can always try again. However, know when it is time accept a score and move on so you can focus on the other aspects of your application. All of your experiences can’t possibly be captured through your resume, transcripts, and standardized test scores, so use your essays to speak about your unique experiences. And don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. In my essays, I discussed how being a child miner in Mexico and coming to the US as an immigrant working at minimum wage jobs to support my family provided me the strength to overcome academic and professional obstacles. I have and plan to continue to use my professional and personal experiences to achieve my future goals. I prepared for my interviews by reviewing all of the content that I provided in my applications and having clear answers to potential ‘why’ questions.
Get Know Yourself Better So You Can Better Yourself: Overall, while I did find the MBA application process very taxing, it was also highly rewarding. It was as much a process of self-discovery as it was an application process. The process forced me to take the time to learn about the “why” of my choices and where I wanted to go. Hence, if you do decide to go through the process, I would highly advise you to see it as an opportunity to stop and reflect about how you got to where you are and how you plan to get where you want to be in your career. Doing so will help you to extract value out of the process regardless of the outcome.
What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I chose Harvard Business School for three primary reasons: the case method, increased support for entrepreneurship, and diversity of experiences of its students and faculty.
The case method – When I was applying to business schools, I reviewed all of the formal performance evaluations that I had received while working as a consultant. One of the items that resonated strongly for me was the feedback that I needed to think more like a CEO – broadly and long term. I truly believe the case method will help me to hone this skill. I had the opportunity to sit in a couple of classes and saw how the vast array of individual experiences of both the professors and students enriched the discussions. One of the classes was led by Professor Anita Elberse, who led a discussion with us on Beyonce’s radically different release strategy of her self-titled album in December 2013. It was a pretty well-rounded discussion on how the Queen Bey was taking greater control as the CEO of her brand as well as the pros, cons, and impact of her strategy. At the end, Professor Elberse explained how she went about writing the case, which showed us the case method in action through an engaging example.
Support of entrepreneurship – I have always wanted to follow my family’s example and become an entrepreneur. However, as major contributor to the welfare of my family, I have not been able to take this risk. HBS’s increased support for entrepreneurship, including the innovation lab and the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, provides the perfect incubator to explore this path.
Diversity of experiences – During my visits to HBS and research of the university, I had the opportunity to speak to students and alumni. Their backgrounds were simply impressive – founders of successful companies, leaders in our military, civic leaders in their communities, successful financiers and strategists – and their career and personal goals inspiring. They were more open, welcoming, and diverse than I honestly expected. The more I got to know those individuals the more that I wanted to be a member of that community.
Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? I spent this summer working for Kapor Capital, a venture capital firm focused on companies with a social impact aspect, and I loved it! My dream job is to help underfunded social impact organizations secure the necessary human capital and financial resources to achieve their profitability, sustainability, and generosity targets, ideally as a social entrepreneur in a VC firm. I also crave the quantitative aspect that comes with investing in companies that are in a later stage in their life cycle. Hence, I believe that working for a growth equity firm will allow me to combine my interest in investments with the stimulation of a data rich environment so I can enable companies that are trying to better our world.
What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? To paraphrase Einstein, I would like my peers to say that I inspired them to become people of value rather than just people of success by showing them my authentic self and enabling them to be their true selves.