2017 Best MBAs: Carolyn Escobar Kent, MIT (Sloan)

Carolyn Escobar Kent

MIT, Sloan School of Management

Age: 30

Hometown: Durham, NC

Fun fact about yourself: I’m the eldest of seven.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Duke University

Major: International Comparative Studies, Minor: Spanish, Global Health Certificate

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Strategic Planning Manager, National 4-H Council

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Morgan Stanley, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? Abraaj Capital, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Dean Fellowship Recipient

Co-President, Hispanic Business Club

Sloan Senate – Diversity & Inclusion and Sloan Serves Committees

Toigo Associate

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work that I’ve done with my classmates and the Admissions team at Sloan. When I first visited Sloan, I saw an opportunity to help Sloan build a more diverse student population. We work very closely with Admissions to help in recruiting,  hosting Google Hangouts, hosting regional Alumni and current student info sessions, planning diversity weekend activities, and thinking of new and creative ways to create a community on campus with the Black and Latino students. I’m a first-generation Latina and I’m the first person in my family to receive any type of Master’s degree so increasing the diversity pipeline is a goal that I’m very passionate about achieving while at Sloan.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my primary project during my time as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala. I worked with a group of indigenous leaders to develop the idea for a Mayan Educational Center. Two years after we discussed our idea, we inaugurated a 1,000 square foot building that continues to serve as a center for education, commerce, and connectivity for the Mayan population. In addition, we built the center using an environmentally-friendly technique known as eco-bricks, these “bricks” are plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. I partnered with the local schools to collect over 5,000 eco-bricks that were made by the community. Television and news stations traveled eight hours from the capital to cover the inauguration of the country’s first Mayan Center made from eco-bricks. That day remains as one of the happiest days of my life because I felt as though we had achieved the impossible. Prior to Peace Corps, I had never worked with a team to think up a crazy idea and then do everything within our power to make it become a reality. I also love that it still operating to this day and has evolved to become embedded within the fabric of the community.

Why did you choose this business school? Sloan is incredible because the people are refreshingly inspiring and the school is part of the larger, and wildly fascinating, MIT community. First the people, I’m in my second year and I’m still learning about my classmates’ accomplishments because we really aren’t the type of people to self-promote or name drop. That was a huge relief coming from a place like D.C. that can sometimes have a hyperactive networking culture. I also came to Sloan because it was the only business school that would expose me to technologies that I never even knew existed. I had never heard the word “blockchain” prior to Sloan and this technology has significantly shaped my Sloan experience – helping me form meaningful relationships with faculty and staff and opening opportunities to conduct research around the world.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Show your unique personality throughout your application. What makes you tick? Truly. Take some time to go journal and reflect on who you are and why you made the decisions you’ve made, try to take the time to connect the dots so that you can showcase yourself. Don’t worry about fitting in with the applicant pool. It’s about what makes you different and how those differences will help you contribute to our Sloan community.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think there’s a huge misperception that MIT is only an MBA for engineers. I am so far from an engineer it’s not even funny. That being said though, I’ve come to learn that we’re all scientists in some way, we just may not have realized it yet.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I would have taken an operations class. I wanted to focus on finance and entrepreneurship so it just didn’t fit into my schedule, but I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I didn’t take a single operations class at MIT.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I look up to my co-president of the Hispanic Business Club and the co-presidents of our sister organization, the Black Business Student Association. They inspire me to keep setting the bar higher when it comes to advocating for diversity and increasing the pipeline of underrepresented minorities who receive an MBA. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

 I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I took my first social entrepreneurship class in undergrad.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… working in another developing country; I knew I needed some sort of change in my life.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would make sure students engage more with the realities faced by the surrounding community, whether it be spending time at a nearby school or community center, working with the local health care clinics, etc. We’re definitely in a bubble.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I strongly believe that finance and technology can be used to create meaningful, sustainable, and measurable social impact. I want to be in that space long-term. I’m not sure what job title that will be exactly, but I’m confident I’ll figure it out.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Both of my grandfathers. When my mother moved to this country, my grandfather came to the U.S. shortly thereafter. He didn’t know English and went from being the CEO of his own accounting firm in Colombia to a security guard at the organization I worked at before coming to Sloan (crazy how the world works!) He has worked relentlessly to be a leader within the Colombian-American community in Maryland and set an example for his grandchildren. I am so thankful for his sacrifice, wisdom, and guidance. My grandfather on my Dad’s side served in the Navy during WWII and is 97 years old. His navy ship was sunk by a kamikaze and he had to hang on to a door in the middle of the Pacific for over 30 hours in order to survive. I can’t think of a better example of resilience.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Only Sloanies will get this, but if nothing else, I’d like them to remember my story from the Yarn, and dancing at the c-functions.

Favorite book: 100 Years of Solitude

Favorite movie or television show: I loved the first season of Insecure.

Favorite musical performer: Too many to list but I’ve probably seen the Grateful Dead perform the most in my life.

Favorite vacation spot: Any new developing country, Vietnam is next on my list.

Hobbies? Traveling, running, dancing, and finding the best spicy drink in any given city

What made Carolyn such an invaluable part of the Class of 2017?

“Carolyn is an outstanding student and member of our community. I have been teaching MBAs since 1991 and I cannot remember anyone who has contributed so much and in so many ways.

Carolyn and I met during her first semester at business school (fall 2015). She was pitching a project to study the use of blockchain as a solution to document land rights for indigenous and displaced populations in rural areas of Guatemala, where she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and Colombia, her mother’s country of origin. A year-and-a-half after that initial meeting, Carolyn has continued to demonstrate her dedication to creating tech-driven solutions that improve society – particularly focusing on less advantaged people and on some of the poorest parts of the world.

During that first semester when we met, Carolyn joined a small group of forward-thinking students who gathered weekly to discuss their research on blockchain applications in areas of finance, supply chain, and asset registries. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to leverage blockchain technology to empower the disenfranchised was not the only reason why she stood out in the room; she was also the only female student at these meetings. I asked her, quietly, to help bring more women to this emerging and potentially high impact technology space. These same events now regularly attract an audience in which nearly half the participants are female – in part due to her efforts.

Carolyn faced the challenge of working in a male-dominated setting in the same way that she faced the challenge of learning the complex technology behind blockchain – with integrity and conviction. She has traveled to Central America, India, and Dubai to explore the potential application of blockchain in the areas of land registries and solar energy. She continues to test these applications and is currently working with my colleague, Michael Casey, at the Digital Currency Initiative on a potential pilot with a Native American community in the U.S.

In addition to her passion for international work, Carolyn has also illustrated her commitment to serve underrepresented communities in the U.S. In an age when algorithms have the potential to further perpetuate systemic societal injustices, Carolyn has contributed her point of view at Sloan as a first-generation Latina. We are currently working together with my colleague, Brian Forde, to build the curriculum for a class focusing on ethics and technology (including Artificial Intelligence). Carolyn is an important member of our team and she will have real impact on how we discuss these issues – and how we encourage others to do likewise.

I look forward to continuing to work with Carolyn during her last few months at Sloan and have full confidence in the impact that she will continue to have after graduation.

Whatever she chooses to do next, I know Carolyn will make us proud at MIT.”

Simon Johnson
Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship
MIT Sloan School of Management

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