2017 Best MBAs: Katherine O’Hara, University of Florida (Hough)

Katherine O’Hara

University of Florida, Hough Graduate School of Business

Motivated, caring team player, always ready for a challenge.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Tampa, FL

Fun fact about yourself: My grandfather was an avid outdoorsman who rode horses for the better part of his life, and he passed that love of horses on to me.  Gainesville isn’t too far from Florida’s horse country, and I have recently been able to start taking lessons again.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Arts

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Central Intelligence Agency, Leadership Analyst; Office of Naval Intelligence, Military Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA

Where will you be working after graduation? Accenture Strategy, Senior Strategy Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 2016-2017: President, Women in Business Association
  • 2016-2017: Coordinator, Student Career Coaches
  • 2017: Member of 1st place Katz Invitational Case Competition Team and winner of individual “Excellence in Response” award
  • 2017: Student representative, University of Florida Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition Planning Committee
  • 2016: Member of 2nd place Southeastern Conference MBA Case Competition team and winner of individual “Best Presenter” award
  • 2015-2017: Admissions Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As a first year, I was able to work with a talented team to represent the University of Florida at the SEC MBA case competition. This year, the University of Florida will host the competition, and I was asked by the Senior Director of Student Affairs to help plan the competition and serve as the student voice on the planning committee. Taking on this responsibility has stretched my ability to manage time and give my all to classes and extracurricular activities, but it is completely worth it! I am a detail-oriented planner, and this opportunity is allowing me to directly give back to my MBA program in a real way and shape my legacy beyond graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As an intelligence analyst, the dream is always to provide meaningful support to the policy makers and senior military leaders we serve. A few years into my career, I had the opportunity to directly embed with a planning team at Special Operations Command.  While I can’t speak to the details of the effort, it was an incredible feeling to work with and support the needs of our Special Forces community on a daily basis. I couldn’t ask for a better way to round out my career in the intelligence community.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Gwen Lee. 

Why did you choose this business school? When I was making the difficult choice of deciding amongst business schools, the University of Florida stood out to me for three reasons. First was the obvious sense of community. Our program is small, and I know everyone in my cohort by name. Second, on the flip side, is the size and strength of the Gator Nation. UF graduates are everywhere and are loyal to one another. It was amazing to me how frequently throughout the recruitment process I would find Gators doing great things. Finally, and not insignificantly, was the value proposition of the program. With low tuition and generous scholarships, I knew I would graduate well-positioned to enter the job market with little to no debt, affording me the benefit of choosing a career that I wanted, not that I needed.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I’m actually pretty good at, and oddly enjoy, statistics. When my husband was wondering about drivers of job satisfaction after hearing about a lecture in my Organizational Behavior course, we built a rough survey, had him fill in his responses for a few months, and then I built a model from the data to help him better understand his own professional needs.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be genuine and understand what you truly want to attain from business school. The University of Florida’s MBA program is a tight knit community, and it is a place that expects a lot of its students. If you are looking to constantly learn—both in and outside the classroom—then it is the place for you (the weather doesn’t hurt either).

What is the biggest myth about your school? Having attended the University of Pennsylvania for undergrad, I didn’t really have a real concept of what it would be like to attend business school at a large SEC school. The atmosphere on campus during game days is unrivaled, and I’m pretty excited to have a team to pull for now!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Worrying too much! While it has certainly been a wild ride, everything has happened for a reason, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have turned out. Our career services advisor, Jason, can probably remember precisely every time I came up with a new “dream career,” but he pretty much pegged from the beginning that I would find my fit with strategy consulting.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lexie Cegelski. As a first year student, Lexie, a second year and the President of our MBA Association, always seemed larger than life. Her personality lights up a room, and she always has a smile on her face.  Working with her during the SEC Case Competition, I was always impressed with her upbeat attitude, dogged persistence in pursuit of her goals, and outrageously positive outlook.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that contributing to my country in a meaningful way was not limited to working in the national security field.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…scheming about different business ventures and finding ways to make my plans come to life.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Throughout my program, I have enjoyed the opportunities I have had to interact with business students at other programs, particularly through case competitions. I would love to see more formalized mechanisms for exchange of ideas amongst business students.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I love to learn, and I am motivated less by position and more by the ability to be constantly be challenged. I hope to eventually be in a leadership role as I truly enjoy thinking strategically, solving problems, and leading teams.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Without a doubt, I want to thank my parents. They have very different personalities and strengths, and I see myself as a blend of the best of both of them. Although I lost my mother to cancer shortly before embarking on my business school journey, I feel the impact of her life every day. I know she would be proud of what I have been able to accomplish.

It does not go without saying that I am only in this position because of my amazing husband. He is truly a partner, and the reason I have had the space to excel professionally.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered more for my willingness to help others than any particular individual strength or accomplishment.

Favorite book: A Farewell to Arms

Favorite movie or television show: The Man in the High Castle

Favorite musical performer: Adele

Favorite vacation spot: Vienna (my grandmother and her family emigrated from Austria to the US during the Great Depression)

Hobbies? Horseback riding, cooking and baking, being active outdoors, spending time with my husband and my dogs.

What made Katherine such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Kate O’Hara came to the UF MBA program with tremendous work experience that would enhance any MBA cohort, most of which she is not permitted to discuss. As an analyst for the CIA, Kate entered the MBA program having already been responsible for briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While much of the details of her work remain a mystery to her classmates, her ability to lead and influence others is unmistakable as is her capacity to be a tremendous team player. Kate has been particularly effective as a leader of multiple case competition teams and has been recognized as an individual, winning both Best Presenter and Best Q&A awards in national competitions. She further invested time in developing her classmates by training other case competition teams. As a direct result of Kate’s involvement, our case competition teams have been incredibly successful this year.

In addition to case competitions and volunteering as a peer career coach, Kate joined the UF Women in Business club and quickly gained a leadership role in her first year. Kate’s passion to promote issues of equality in the workplace led her to be elected as President of the club in her second year. During her tenure, Kate has delivered several beneficial programs such as Women In Consulting speakers and a student-consulting project for the Gainesville Commission on women’s issues. These programs offered a powerful learning opportunity for our students and enriched our community.”

Kara Kravetz Cupoli, PhD
Senior Director, Leadership, Assessment, and Full-time Student Affairs

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017