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2018 Best MBAs: Jana Soares, Texas A&M (Mays)

Jana Soares

Texas A&M University, Mays Business School

Believes building friendships, sharing ideas, cultivating humor, spontaneous travel, and continuous learning makes life sparkle.”

Age: 24

Hometown: I grew up in Suffern, NY and lived in Austin, TX since college.

Fun fact about yourself: I had the opportunity to pitch a 30-second idea onstage at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House.  This was during the Fast Ideas segment of the 2016 TEDxSydney conference in front of thousands of people, and I actually felt calmer and more at ease than at any other public speaking engagement so far.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

St. Edward’s University, 2015

B.S. Biology, Minor: Chemistry, Honors Program

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

U.S. Fulbright Scholar, Australia, 2015-2016

I was awarded a scholarship through the Australian-American Fulbright Commission to conduct microbiology research at the University of Technology Sydney.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Johnson & Johnson, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Where will you be working after graduation? Google, Associate Product Marketing Manager (APMM)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

Awards

  • Recipient of the Dr. Jerry R. Strawser Outstanding MBA Student Award
  • 1st Place Team, Mays Business School MBA Venture Challenge
  • 2nd Place Team, SXSW: Aggies Invent for an Intelligent Future
  • 2nd Place Team, Texas A&M University, Raymond Ideas Challenge

Case Competitions

  • Southeastern Conference (SEC) MBA Case Competition Team Participant
  • 3 Day Startup Participant

Leadership

  • Elected as President of Aggie Women MBAs, the National Association of Women MBAs, Mays Business School Chapter
  • Elected to the Student Advisory Board and co-led its restructuring to the student-run and student-led MBA Association Executive Board, serving as Communications Chair
  • Branding/Marketing Coordinator & Student Speaker for the MBA Student Speaker Series
  • Teaching Assistant for an Undergraduate Business Communication Course

Service

  • Career Mentor to First-Year MBA Students
  • Mentor to Undergraduate Marketing Students
  • The Big Event Community Service Volunteer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I participated in the university-wide “Aggies Invent for an Intelligent Future” competition, which was one of my favorite extracurricular experiences during business school.  Hosted by the College of Engineering, but open to students across disciplines, selected participants met that morning, formed a team, came up with a product idea, and created a pitch deck to present at the end of the day.  Our team included three engineering students and myself, and we were selected as one of the top teams to continue forward.  This meant we had two weeks to polish our idea and create a prototype to present at the 2017 South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. This was the first year that Texas A&M University had a presence at SXSW. We were honored to win 2nd place the day of the competition, and meet Michael K. Young, President of Texas A&M, who had seen our presentation and congratulated us on our concept.

I felt proud to have been part of SXSW and to have had the opportunity to work with three incredibly talented engineering students and learn about a new industry and technology.  We pitched a 3-D printed sensor-embedded product for the oil and gas industry to improve safety and monitoring in pipelines. This experience was a highlight, because I had the chance to apply newfound business skills that I gained from my courses, collaborate across disciplines, and witness the incredible work students are doing across the wider Texas A&M campus.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to completing my undergraduate studies, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Australia by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission to conduct microbiology research at the University of Technology Sydney. This highly competitive 10-month scholarship is awarded to selected students based on the project proposal, academics, leadership, service, recommendation letters, and global perspective.  I am most proud of this achievement because being eligible for it spoke to a culmination of four years of diverse experiences during my undergraduate education at St. Edward’s University.  Each summer, I had participated in a unique summer research experience which prepared me for the research I would be conducting abroad.  Various roles such as working as a Resident Assistant serving as a peer mentor, and leading service projects, enabled me to enhance my communication and leadership skills, vital for working and collaborating with others in a new environment.

The Fulbright exposed me to widespread opportunities while I was in Australia.  I worked alongside amazing scientists to conduct research, shared my experience in interviews with news outlets, participated in pitch competitions in the startup community, kept a blog, immersed myself in the local culture, and traveled within Australia and New Zealand.  From these experiences, I aim to continue building upon skills in navigating a new environment, teamwork and collaboration, leadership, communication, and cross-cultural understanding in my career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Leonard Berry who teaches Services Marketing left a lasting impact on me.  His passion for teaching students showed through his lectures, carefully curated reading materials, a great selection of guest speakers, and meaningful assignments.  Dr. Berry not only taught how integral the concept of being service-oriented is as a marketer, but he also lives it, making time to meet with students and asking how he can be of help.  I also enjoyed his anecdotes from his research in studying healthcare organizations and how the patient experience can be adapted to create better health outcomes.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I had two favorite MBA courses: Leadership Development taught by Dr. Janet Marcantonio and Business Communications taught by Professor John Krajicek.  Both professors were so focused on student growth and success in the program, and the activities and assignments from these courses reflected that.  The biggest insight I gained about business from these two courses was that successful companies require genuine leaders who aim to improve their self, their employees, and in turn, their business. Building leaders in the workforce requires first that the individual discover his or her own strengths and areas of growth. Then, the individual can capitalize on strengths, selectively improve areas of growth, create cohesive teams, and strive towards becoming an authentic leader.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Mays Business School for 3 reasons: 1) its smaller class size; 2) members are united by Texas A&M’s core values of Excellence, Integrity, Leadership, Loyalty, Respect; and Selfless Service, and 3) it has a strong alumni network.  It was easy to get to know my classmates, faculty, and staff, and the experience was more personalized, where you develop a close-knit community driven by shared core values, classmates were always willing to help one another. The Aggie Network is made up of committed, dedicated, and service-oriented individuals always ready to share advice or lend a helping hand, and I am glad to be part of it.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best piece of advice would be to speak with current or former students to hear their stories and experiences and see if the program is a good cultural fit. Selecting a business school is a two-way street: the applicant should feel that the learning environment and school community is conducive to personal growth and professional development just as much as the program feels the applicant would complement and enrich the experiences of the student body.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Those who are fortunate enough to be part of the Texas A&M community are called “Aggies,” and it’s not at all a myth that the Aggie core values are highly regarded, creating a unique culture.  There is a stereotype that students in business school are very competitive, individualistic, and cut-throat, but this was not the experience I encountered while at Mays.  While I was surrounded by high achievers and academically gifted classmates, I found peers were always willing to help each other study for exams or learn course material.  Numerous times, students self-organized review sessions and supported fellow classmates in a multitude of ways.  As a whole, I saw our class wanted each other to succeed and do well.  It was a phenomenal culture to be immersed in.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had more time to interact with the MBA students in the classes of 2017 and 2019.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I had the opportunity to get to know a lot of my classmates really well, and I admire so many of them for various reasons.  One classmate I admire is John (J.P.) Kriegbaum.  He is the type of person who, when you first meet him, makes you feel like you’ve already known him for years.  As an Army Veteran, J.P. didn’t stop serving others when he got to business school. His trustworthy, flexible, adaptable, and “ready-to-hit-the-ground-running” attitude and work ethic was recognized early on in the program. He was asked by peers to consider the position of Student Representative for our class, and once elected, worked to make our MBA experience as smooth as it could be. His unique personal qualities exemplify that of an incredibly humble, down-to-earth leader who is ready to step up, but also happy to help and support his peers as they lead. I also admired how J.P. was able to balance academics and student leadership with spending quality time with his wonderful family.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents and my brother have always been supportive of every decision I have made, and I spoke to them extensively about pursuing an MBA. Through these conversations, I was able to better understand how my undergraduate degree and experiences combined with an MBA would be valuable for growth, learning, and career development. During the application process and through my time in business school, they encouraged me every step of the way.  I was fortunate to have guidance from faculty and staff I met while in college who also supported my decision.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…getting my PhD in microbiology.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would want to make it easier for students to participate in a study abroad opportunity.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 

  • Visit all 50 states
  • Travel to as many countries as possible

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who helped others and the organizations she belonged to, hopefully inspiring those around her to do the same.

What would your theme song be? “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

Favorite vacation spot: So far, Hawaii and Tasmania are my favorite picturesque destinations.

Hobbies? Painting, Reading, Traveling, Volunteering, Writing

What made Jana such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Jana had a significantly positive impact on our MBA program as I am sure she will on business in the future. Jana served as a leader on the Student Advisory Board (SAB) for the MBA program. More importantly, she led the efforts to completely overhaul the SAB structure. Along with one of her classmates, Jana converted SAB from an advisory board led by program staff to a student government run and led by students. Jana clearly defined positions and responsibilities for the 8 person executive board. The impact of her efforts and leadership on the program will be long lasting. Additionally, Jana represented Mays by placing in several competitions across the state.  She partnered with engineering students for Aggies Invent, creating a solution to strengthen 3D printing materials. Their team went on to compete in the Raymond Ideas Challenge at A&M and the South by Southwest competition in Austin placing 2nd in both.

Our faculty voted Jana as the “Jerry Strawser Outstanding MBA Student,” with outstanding praise for Jana. For example, one faculty member said, “Jana brings it, every hour, every day, every assignment, every project. Her intellect, energy, collaborative spirit, and passion for excellence consistently inspire those around her to reach higher and work harder. Much of her success stems from the fact that she frequently challenges herself by pushing beyond her comfort zone.  Without a doubt, Jana is one to watch in the years and decades to come.”

Dr. Shannon Deer
Director, Full-Time MBA Program
Texas A&M University, Mays Business School

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018