2017 MBAs To Watch: Diana Mihaela Stangu, Penn State (Smeal)

Diana Mihaela Stangu

Penn State, Smeal College of Business

“Reliable and determined, analytical and result oriented, communicative and friendly, I strive to leave places a little better than I found them.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Fun fact about yourself: I am an avid traveler. So far I have visited 37 countries across 4 continents and 10 states in the USA.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I guess I’ve loved school as I hold 2 undergraduate degrees and another graduate degree beside my MBA.

Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Bachelor of Science in Economics

Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania – Master in Project Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? My career was equally divided between the Government of Romania (European Affairs Councilor) and Siemens Corporation (Business Unit Manager).

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Dell, Austin, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? Dell, Senior Advisor, Sales Operations, Austin, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

  • National Association of Women MBAs, Smeal Chapter – President 2016-2017
  • MBA Career Services – Graduate Assistant
  • Academic Integrity Committee – Volunteer Member
  • MBA Admissions – Student Ambassador
  • Management and Organization Department – Teaching Assistant
  • Applied Professional Experience Program – Team Lead

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being the president of WMBA was the most honorable, enriching, and rewarding experience. Together with my board, we revived the association through new initiatives such as Speaking series, Pink Out (supporting the fight against breast cancer), and adhesion to the National Association of Women MBAs. These initiatives, along with the traditional ones like corporate visits webinars, and social events, allowed us to have the highest enrolment rate among all professional or interest-based MBA associations. But the dearest achievement to my heart is the annual charity event that I believe is the most representative to the Smeal spirit: a family enjoying their time together while also making an impact in the lives of those less fortunate. I was overwhelmed by both the light-hearted atmosphere and the generosity of my colleagues. We set a new record, increasing fundraising by 20% in 2015 and 100% in 2016.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While working at Siemens Romania, I had the unique and amazing opportunity to lead Siemens’ entrance into the green transportation market. In 2012 Siemens added a new line of business to my business unit. The portfolio addressed electrical infrastructure, a field almost nonexistent at that time in Romania. This addition was met with skepticism by some of my colleagues and completely ignored by others, so I offered to take charge of it. I saw this as a great opportunity for our company to pioneer green transportation. By the end of the year, we were involved in three major initiatives. First, we signed a strategic memorandum with an important car manufacturer in order to promote packages of both electric cars and charging stations. Second, we started negotiations with an oil and gas corporation to add charging stands to their gas filling stations. And lastly, we joined a strategic development project that was aiming to transform a big city in Romania into a smart, energy efficient community.

The project was considered a great success even though it was still in the initial phase. Although Siemens did not profit extensively from this initiative, it was recognized as both an innovative and socially responsible company. And more importantly, we all had the great satisfaction of having set Romania on the track to a more environmentally friendly infrastructure.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? One of the MBA blessings is to have the opportunity to learn from great minds. I am more than grateful to have had the opportunity to pick the brains of absolutely brilliant professors like Dr. Dennis Gioia, Dr. Vilmos Misangyi, and Dr. Ralph Oliva just to name a few. But if I would have to pick just one, it would be Dr. Donald Hambrick, the “father” of the Diamond Strategy. Donald Hambrick is my favorite professor for two reasons: the impressive knowledge he passed to us and his inspiring personality. I was impressed to discover not only a world-renowned scholar, but also a humble, humorous, helpful, and friendly professor.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Strategic management was the course that led me to pursue a concentration in Strategic Leadership. Through the course, we examined the concepts, principles and tools involved in successful strategy making at the top level. My main take-away from the class is that successful strategy is about being able to establish a difference (competitive advantage) that can be preserved over time. A competitive strategy is about having a unique and valuable position, trade-offs in competing, and fit between resources and capabilities – all features that enable sustainability.

Why did you choose this business school? Definitely, I considered the great combination of valuable instructors, ideologies, methodologies, and experiences that Penn State offers. But if I would have to name the ultimate factor, that would be community. Community is reflected in the small size of the class (67), which creates a unique opportunity to build strong and lasting relationships with peers, faculty and staff. It also provides the chance to make a lasting impact during our short stay here. In addition, community includes the alumni network, and Penn States has the largest alumni network in the world. When I decided to move overseas, I looked for a school with a strong sense of community that would provide me the opportunities to network and immerse myself in other cultures, enhancing not only my career development, but also my personal growth.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? What I enjoyed most was definitely the people. I am grateful for the chance to meet astute and supportive professors, extremely helpful and friendly staff, and amazing and inspiring colleagues (and their beautiful families). I enjoyed the laughs we shared over a nice dinner, memorable trips to South Africa and India, and gatherings to celebrate all our international holidays.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Coming from a very different educational system, the most surprising thing about business school was the case method used in almost every class. The method, coupled with the diverse and interesting backgrounds of my classmates, was an amazing source of learning and provided me perspectives and insights I never considered before.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice is to figure out your passion, goals, and core values. Know yourself first and then get to know Penn State. Learn about what makes us unique, research the opportunities within the program that will enable you to reach your goals, and get to know our values. Then be true to yourself and see whether there is a strong fit between you and Penn State. There are many incredible programs out there, but only one that is right for you. If this happens to be Penn State, then go for it. I can assure you that it will be a memorable experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Rumor has it that Penn State Creamery’s ice cream is only available on campus because its high fat content is above FDA regulation levels. In fact, no maximum standards for milk fat exits. For ice-cream, the FDA established only minimum standards for composition and milk fat. Regardless of its fat content, the creamery’s ice cream remains one of my guilty pleasures, and I will miss it for sure.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that I didn’t get more involved in business case competitions. I feel that I missed a great opportunity to both learn and network.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire most is Sasha Murr, an extraordinary young woman who metamorphosed over these two years from a shy person concerned about her non-traditional background to a strong, confident woman with several awards under her belt and a great job opportunity in the field she is passionate about. She is an inspiring person who taught me some great lessons about overcoming adversities in life.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that preparing for higher position in the hierarchy was not possible outside the classroom.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…most probably in Romania, working for a multinational company.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would introduce a community service class. This would be a core class for a year and would have a single assignment: every week pick a different team and spend two hours doing community work. This will ensure all people get the chance to work together, get to know one another, and have fun while also giving back to the community which is their home for two years.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal is to create and run a non-profit organization that will provide access to education for disadvantaged children. If on top of that I get the chance to teach classes, it will be my dream job.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? First and foremost, I would like to thank my family. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my parents who always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, who are my greatest supporters, and my models of integrity, respect, compassion and hard work. My deepest gratitude goes also to my brother and his wife who were my huge proponents in pursuing my MBA. They were always there to encourage me and provide advice during the sleepless nights when essays, applications and interviews seemed a little too much to handle.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a person who tries her best to make a positive difference wherever possible.

Favorite book: The Journal of Happiness – Nicolae Steinhardt 

Favorite movie or television show: Schidler’s List 

Favorite musical performer: Adele

Favorite vacation spot: Lisbon, Portugal

Hobbies? Travelling, reading and photography 

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

“Diana made an impression on us at orientation. She jumped in to help others, was always first to offer input and feedback, and was always, always armed with an ear-to-ear smile that lit up the room. She brought her incredible work ethic and smile to our office to work as a graduate assistant in our career team. If we ever needed a pick-me-up, we’d get up and go see Diana and her smile. When she became the WMBA president, she brought a remarkable blend of professionalism and warmth to the role. Always other-centered, she connected and developed her classmates and her own leadership. We’ll remember Diana as truly making a difference and lighting up the world around her as she does it.”

– Penn State Smeal Faculty Member



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