2017 MBAs To Watch: Lillian Niakan, Texas A&M (Mays)

Lillian Niakan

Mays Business School at Texas A&M University

Age: 26

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Motivated individual who enjoys working with others and likes to make people smile.

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: Played violin for 7 years

Undergraduate School and Degree: I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Corporate Finance and a minor in Accounting. I am currently at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine working towards my MD degree.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Prior to beginning business school, I was completing my first two years of medical school.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? I did an accelerated program for my MBA, which allowed me to complete my MBA in the summer of 2016. I moved back to Austin, Texas once I finished my MBA.

Where will you be working after graduation? Following graduation, I began clinical rotations in the Austin and Round Rock area as a third-year medical student.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 3rd Place Team for Venture Challenge Competition
  • 3rd Place Team for SEC Case Competition
  • Best Presenter Award for SEC Case Competition
  • Member of Aggie Women MBAs

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Participating in the SEC Case Competition as a member of a 4-person team for my school and winning 3rd Place overall, as well as winning Best Presenter for my division of the competition. This experience was a meaningful achievement because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to exercise creativity while applying skills learned at my MBA program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of finishing my MBA while also working to finish my MD. I think there is power in combining multiple disciplines to try and find solutions to different problems. This degree combination has allowed me to also meet and build relationships with wonderful people whom I would not have otherwise interacted with if I did not cross disciplines in my professional career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Ashgar Zardkoohi. Dr. Zardkoohi is an extremely talented and well accomplished individual that cares about students greatly. He has a particular way of engaging students and translating course material in an understandable and relatable manner that stays with you well after the course is finished.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Business Behavior with Dr. Zardkoohi. I learned how significant incentive structures can be on an organization and how influential they are to the success of running a company and meeting desired goals. Incentive structures provide insight into how we can make large strides in company performance and efficiency through employee behavior.

Why did you choose this business school? Mays Business School provides a unique program that is recognized for its excellence and achievements. The program also provides a smaller-class setting that creates an environment that encourages participation and collaboration. In addition, Mays is able to provide students, who have shorter timelines, an accelerated program option.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My classmates and the faculty at Mays Business School.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The most surprising thing about business school is how much growth and self discovery a student experiences in the process. I was also surprised at how subconscious bias can influence one’s behavior. The MBA program helped me recognize some of my biases and eliminate them.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

Be true to yourself and know that regardless of your background and experience, you have great things to add to an MBA program. There is value in your experiences and there are lessons to be learned by others from the insights you took away from those experiences.

 What is the biggest myth about your school? The Aggie Network is one of the strongest networks you will ever come across. IT IS TRUE! I didn’t believe in the Aggie Network until I saw it in action and saw how much Aggies will go out of their way to help another Aggie. The Aggie Network and spirit is real and alive.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I had no regrets in business school. If anything, I wish I could work with such a talented group of people a little longer. The people that I met and the relationships that I built are amazing. I was privileged to be a part of this amazing group of people.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my peers from abroad, who traveled from their home countries to the US to obtain their MBAs. These individuals made many sacrifices to come to a different country to pursue their education. An MBA program is challenging enough, but to be totally immersed in a new culture, way of life, and business setting makes the experience that much more difficult. I’ve learned a great deal from these peers, not just in an academic setting, but on a personal level.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I began medical school and realized there was a lot of work that could be done to improve our healthcare system. Healthcare providers need to be involved in that work. There are multiple sides to healthcare and healthcare providers see a different side to healthcare that others are not able to experience, which can provide good insight when coming up with solutions.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… slowly gearing up to move to a different city to start residency.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would incorporate more international travel and experience into the MBA curriculum.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? The dream is to tackle healthcare. My hope is to help make a small dent in finding the answer to the big question: How do we improve the quality of healthcare for everyone in the US, while also cutting costs? It is a large goal, but if enough people from different disciplines work toward this goal, it can be accomplished. It is something that affects everyone.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family, loved ones, and my peers. Without their love and support, I would not be able to get through the ups-and-downs of life and academic growth. My peers are particularly near and dear to me because without them this experience would have been far less significant in my life. We kept each other strong, supported one another, and pushed each other to reach our optimal potential. The Class of 2017 was truly world-class.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? She could make me smile, even in the hardest of times.

Favorite book: Anthem by Ayn Rand

Favorite movie or television show: The Big Bang Theory

Favorite musical performer: Beyonce

Favorite vacation spot: Rome, Italy

Hobbies? Dancing, music, art, hiking, and food!

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

“Lilian was an invaluable addition to our MBA Program as a co-operative student. She had already completed two years of medical school and took a year to come get her MBA before returning to complete the final two years. The insight and perspective she brought to the class was vital, and her aspirations to combine her MD and her MBA will undoubtedly make an impact in the world. Combined with her vivacious personality, Lillian was a force to be reckoned with!

Fellow classmate, Jason Morgan, has this to say about Lillian: “With healthcare being such a significant portion of the GDP, it is great to have medical students like Lillian in the MBA program. Lillian’s perspective provides a unique insight to class discussions and adds another dimension to business analysis that we as classmates benefit greatly from. A perfect example of the benefits of having a medical student as part of a team of MBA students was on a team project involving a new way to treat dialysis related infections. Her medical expertise was critical in understanding the problem not only from how the infection starts but also the FDA approval process and Medicare reimbursement perspective.”

Amber Acosta

Associate Director, Full-Time MBA Program

Mays Business School

Texas A&M University



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