2018 Best MBAs: Mabel Gomes, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Mabel Gomes

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“I seek inspiration listening to people’s stories. I’m always looking for the next lesson.”

Age: 35

Hometown: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Fun fact about yourself: In Brazil, con men call people with fake kidnapping threats, pretending to hold people for ransom. When I received one of these calls a few years ago, I went to a police department, kept them on the phone for six hours and coordinated with police to setup a trap for them. Our plan worked, and the police apprehended the “kidnappers” that day!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Communications and Journalism, Londrina State university, MSF in Journalism, Rio De Janeiro State Univ.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Serpro (Brazillian Government-Owned IT Services company) — PR Special Projects Leader / Public Relations

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Microsoft, HR Trax Program

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft, HR Trax program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Executive VP of Owen Student Government Association (OSGA)
  • Admissions Ambassador
  • First-year Senator working for Communications and International Affairs committees
  • Forte Foundation Fellow
  • 2016 Martin S. Geisel Scholar
  • Head TA for Macroeconomics

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my work with the OSGA as a senator and EVP, focusing on recruiting and supporting international students. I was here during the latest election cycle and saw how it created a confusing scenario for international students. So, I worked with school administrators, the career management center, and special student-led groups to lend extra support, which included redesigning our three-week orientation program for international students and lean-in groups backing them to find the best jobs and navigate the forthcoming challenges. I do my best to help every student who reaches out to me. I’m proud that I supported a lot of great students that chose Owen — it is always good to have a community with stronger and better international students. I always want my classmates to be successful. I’ve never said no to anyone that wanted help preparing for roles at Microsoft, in HR or elsewhere. My success is defined by the success of others.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proud of my work with the Brazilian government to prioritize transparency in a new era of democracy and technology. I led a program with different workshops and courses to support journalists to learn how to deal with open data, and we were able to build trust and relationships between journalists and the government.

As the Edward Snowden matter unfolded, I led the Brazilian’s President’s PR efforts to craft the initial official response to the Snowden releases. It was a sensitive moment, because it affected the Brazilian / U.S. relationship — the communication could impact the long-tern connection between the two countries.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Tim Vogus. He’s a great scholar – very resourceful and intelligent – but also someone who understands that what he teaches (Leading Teams and Organizations and Negotiations) requires a lot of change, and that his students arrive at different levels. He also respects everyone’s time. He’s a professor who, if you give more, gives more back. Every time I needed extra support in my recruiting, career choices, or even negotiations with companies, he was always able to give professional development advice.

What was your favorite MBA Course Negotiations was my favorite, because it underscored the importance of building relationships. You can always improve soft skills that are core to building trust in your work environment (how to listen, empathizing), especially if you’re going to be a leader; knowing people’s fears and ambitions is key to getting their support. You learn about your own emotions and biases to make better deals. The smartest thing to do is listen and be confident to change your preconceived ideas. One session on international negotiations was very impactful — I want to be on the global scene, so it was very critical for me personally. The smartest decision comes from listening to others and learning when to trust your peers.

Why did you choose this business school? It’s easy for a school to market itself as a collaborative environment, but I’ve experienced that at Vanderbilt since my first contact. I had personal attention from the admissions team and professors when I visited, and I had a community ready to celebrate my visit and help me, even when I was still making my decision. Owen students were so willing to help me make the right choice. That’s still what makes my experience unique. Growing as a group is more important than growing individually.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Take the school culture seriously — we have advantages from a small school (personal scale), but Owen comes with a commitment to the community. Everyone takes the time to support each other’s growth, so if you want to keep up the success, you need to commit to the collaborative spirit.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I didn’t experience any myths that had to be dispelled, but I do want to say that I chose Owen because I know that I would have a world-class experience, great resources for career searching, and top-notch LDP resources.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Once we are admitted at business school, some of us who have never studied business before needed to do some online courses to prepare more for classes such as statistics and accounting. These courses are great, but I should have also invested some time researching about different careers and self-awareness. I applied to business school to become a brand manager, but this goal slowly changed. I worked so hard and got a brand manager internship offer from one of the biggest CPGs in the world. Eventually, I fell in love with people’s strategy, leadership development and HR analytics. I felt compelled to start another journey to make a transition into HR. If I have explored more about different careers, maybe recruiting would have been less stressful and I would’ve applied only for to HR internships.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Deidre Mitchell — president of Owen Black Students Association (OBSA), an intern at Nike who’s going into M&A consulting at KPMG after graduation. She exposed herself to high risk, had really ambitious goals, totally put herself out of her comfort zone, and took the hardest classes – looking to work for the most sought-after employers. She faced the challenge of running for her dreams and succeeded.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My career coaches in my last job forced me to think about my strengths and weaknesses. In particular, I look at how I was able to achieve so much, and that I shouldn’t limit my dreams based on circumstances I could overcome – such as working in Brazil, which has very specific challenges based on my passion and energy. The Brazilian culture and economy could make things difficult. My coaches helped me see how those limitations couldn’t crush my dreams of having an international career at a global company.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a professional development coach. I love supporting people and helping them overcome barriers they impose upon themselves and achieve the success they want.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would really focus on developing strategy to attract the best international students to come to U.S. schools. This is an era of instability and foreign immigration policies that can make it tougher for students to come to the US to pursue an MBA. Schools need to balance their commitment to be global with being transparent about the challenges students may have in getting a job.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I want to explore Africa – I’ve made close friends here from Africa, and I would like to learn more about a place that has been neglected. It’s a place I would like to connect more to. I also want to learn the art of telling stories through images, facts, songs, and other media.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who can listen, learn from others, and be ready to change her mind and choose the right path to make an initiative successful. I don’t want to be someone who thinks I know it all, but be someone who is eager to learn it all.

What would your theme song be?

Here Comes the Sun, The Beatles.

Favorite vacation spot: Colombia — it helps me connect with my Latin American roots. As a Brazilian, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your identity with Brazil, but Colombia helps me feel deeply connected with Latin American roots, and how you can overcome huge challenges and bring a lot of good opportunity for its people. It’s an inspiration to think my city (Rio De Janeiro) can recover the way that Bogota did.

Hobbies? Photography. Images can tell a story and help people from all around the globe to connect. The power of photography still impresses me, even though I’ve been studying it for 10 years.

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

“Mabel Gomes embodies the very best of Owen students and MBAs – brilliant, deeply committed and engaged, fearless, and passionate about growth and development. Each of these attributes applies to Mabel’s approach to her own pursuits, but also the way in which she consistently and continuously elevates others. Her truly unique combination of attributes has made her a role model for her peers from the first day of year one all the way through graduation.

Mabel has been nothing short of a transformational figure in the classroom. She makes the classroom truly global. Not just through her country of origin, but by how vividly she is able to illustrate what it means to do business outside the United States successfully. Mabel expertly distilled and synthesized her deep and varied experience in government and media to provide engaging and memorable examples that not only enabled everyone to think globally, but paired the shift in mindset with clear behavioral implications for how to navigate complex interplay of business and government.

Mabel’s true gift in the classroom, however, is the same thing that makes her such an effective, and even spectacular, leader outside it – she quickly assimilates complex conceptual material and seamlessly translates into meaningful behavioral change. In nearly every class session, she role modeled for all her peers precisely what a learning orientation and a growth mindset entails. In fact, in my 14 years teaching at Owen, I haven’t seen a student able to so flawlessly and publicly implement course material in practice.

She also exhibits these behaviors and provides examples from her experience in ways that make it clear how students can assimilate course material and turn it into personal practice in a manner that is also inviting and inclusive. Her actions did something my words and examples could not, provide a true peer role model. In doing so, Mabel regularly deepened learning and made it truly actionable for every member of the class.

Her academic excellence, coupled with her ability to set the classroom culture alone, merit this recognition, but Mabel’s contributions extend well beyond the classroom.  As the Vice President of the Owen Student Government Association, she has worked tirelessly to make it more accessible, inclusive, and open – especially to women, underrepresented minorities, and students from across the globe. Beyond her actions as a role model in the classroom and her leadership role, Mabel also makes an impact in more personal ways by readily sharing her experiencing and expertise through coaching that further catalyzes peer growth and development.

For being a model scholar-leader that has given everyone at Owen grounded, specific, and vivid insights into what it means to do global business effectively and how to simultaneously take a learning orientation while exuding exceptional leadership, Mabel Gomes is one of the Top 50 Graduates of the MBA Class of 2018.”

Timothy Vogus

Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. Professor of Management


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