2017 MBAs To Watch: Daniel Farfan, Penn State (Smeal)

Daniel Farfan

Penn State, Smeal College of Business

“I have an eclectic personality.  My humble background defines me.  My dreams to make a difference drive me.”  

Age: 34

Hometown: Miami, FL

Fun fact about yourself: I was born in Peru, grew up in Nicaragua, and moved to the US at 15. Kids at school called me “Tri Americas”.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Strayer University, Bachelors of Science in Database Technology.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? United States Marine Corps

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Amazon, Richmond, VA

Where will you be working after graduation? Citi, Miami, FL

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, MBA Military Veterans Association

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I hosted a philanthropy dinner party at my house where I roasted a pig, Cuban style. It was a success.  We were able to raise a little over $1500.  We donated the money to THON to help fight childhood cancer.  WE ARE!!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As a First Lieutenant, I had the privilege of being the commanding officer of an Air Training Facility on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean.  A couple of months after I took command, I identified a safety shortfall that was very likely to cause injury to someone. I conducted extensive research on solutions that would be of low cost to the unit.  I became frustrated when my boss was reluctant to approve the changes I needed. After talking to him several times, I decided to take action by tapping into my relationship with the Japanese Mayor and other city officials. I then implemented several changes that got me into a lot of trouble. After an investigation, the changes I made were deemed critical and were credited with saving lives. I wasn’t fired from my position. Whew!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Fariborz Ghadar who teaches Global Finance.  The man has an incredible resume.  He used to be an Assistant Minister in Iran before the revolution.  He brings life to our class with his first-hand accounts of the application of financial instruments in a global environment. Genius!

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I had to take a moment to think about this one.  There are so many.  I’m going have to go with Power and Influence.  As a Marine Captain, you think you know everything about leadership. The transition is tough because the military is completely different.  This course gave me a deep insight into what it takes to motivate and persuade colleagues in the private sector. Don’t be mistaken: many aspects of leadership in the military are still applicable and identifying the differences is not difficult, but transcending through those differences and having specific tools to help you reach people and gain commitment instead of compliance is another thing altogether.

Why did you choose this business school? One word: Family. Smeal simply felt like home. That’s funny because I’m from Miami, Florida. But when I say home, I mean the people. When I visited, everyone from the staff to the professors to the students were incredibly warm and welcoming.  When I met Sandy, our front office Administrative Support Assistant, I knew that I would regret not going here.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I really enjoyed all the different events that were hosted by the MBA Association.  That included everything from international celebrations like Diwali and Lunar New Year to the “Talent No Talent” show and Thanksgiving. These events truly bring all the student and their families together.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? During our first year, my days at Smeal were from 7 AM to Midnight.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them.  I can’t remember the last time that I drove home from work at midnight and thought to myself, “Wow, I love this!” It actually scared me a little.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself in the application process.  Smeal is big on fit.  We are looking for talented leaders  who are going to accomplish great things in their lives.  If you’ve been offered an interview, you are more than likely talented.  Now just be yourself.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That the Nittany Lion does not exist…… Ummm. Yes it does!!

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not playing more soccer.  There is a good group of Latin American Undergrads here who play every week.  I wished I had joined them more often.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Viswanath Vadakkath.  He is an Indian student who left everything to come to the US to find a better life.  He is incredibly smart and hard working.  I was most impressed with his polite and humble demeanor.  Don’t be fooled though, he is a warrior. During a class skiing trip to Vermont, I was teaching Viswanath to ski. It was his first time skiing. He kept falling over and over again for hours.  He fell so much that he had to stop using his left hand to get up due to soreness. He was cold and wet with improper clothing, but remained resolute. We were on the slopes all day, non-stop. At the end of the day he was skiing pretty well. Champ!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I decided to get out of the Marine Corps. In the Marines, there is a glass ceiling called rank structure. I knew that if I wanted to maximize my chances of not hitting a glass ceiling in the private sector, I had to go to business school.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working for any company simply because it was a pay check, instead of having my dream job.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would create an event where the MBA’s got the opportunity to interact with the EMBA’s.  The EMBA’s have a wealth of experience that we can tap into by just having a conversation with them.

 What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to make a positive impact in people’s lives. I know many people say that.  But I truly do. I’ve already identified several things that I might want to do.  But first I want to focus on me.  I think I deserve that after 13 years of service.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My brother Jose.  Jose had a motorcycle accident when he was 18. I spent one summer living and caring for him in his rehab center. I was only 16, but during that summer my humanity was enlightened in ways I can’t explain. His constant fight to recuperate from his traumatic brain injury is constant encouragement to continue challenging myself and pressing on no matter what the circumstances.  Jose is my hero.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As the team member who challenged their preconceptions and cultivated awareness.

Favorite book: Anthem

Favorite movie or television show: Narcos

Favorite musical performer: The Black Keys and Mana

Favorite vacation spot: Robertsport, Liberia

Hobbies? Soccer, Flying Cessnas.

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

“Dan is an incredibly special part of our class. As a Marine officer, of course, we all stand a little straighter when he’s around. But Dan’s natural gravitas is complemented by a humble calm. Dan will jump in to help anywhere, any time, at any request or simply the sign of need. From meeting with candidates to carrying boxes to collecting Toys for Tots, Dan is always ready to serve. Most importantly, Dan has encouraged each of us to open our world views wider than before. A single conversation with Dan will leave you with a broadened perspective. He has a remarkable ability to combine passion with compassion and provocative inquiry with respect. In a time when it’s easy to narrow our lenses and retreat to our affinity groups, Dan encourages us to reach out and over those boundaries.”

Carrie Marcinkevage

MBA Managing Director



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