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2018 Best MBAs: Alana Williams, University of Texas (McCombs)

Alana Williams

University of Texas, McCombs School of Business

A northeasterner riding to the beat at Soul Cycle while thinking strategically about investing interest, food destinations and communities.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Monmouth County, New Jersey

Fun fact about yourself: My first mountain hike was Lion’s Head, Cape Town, South Africa

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Maryland, B.S., Finance; University of Baltimore, School of Law, J.D.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Social Security Administration, Office of Adjudication and Review, Appeals Council; Attorney Advisory

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Evercore Partners, New York, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? Evercore Partners, New York, NY; Investment Banking Associate; Generalist, Mergers & Acquisitions

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Graduate Finance Association, President
  • Co-Founder of Inaugural Texas 3P Civic Hackathon, Project Manager
  • Venture Fellows, Vice President of Finance (Internal), Internship Company: Whole Foods
  • Wall Street for McCombs, Vice President, Content Coach and Member of Selection Committee for MBA Class of 2019
  • Selection Committee for Texas McCombs MIINT Team
  • Graduate Assistant, Leadership & Inclusion, Sorority & Fraternity Life
  • Evercore Partners, New York, MBA Diversity Fellowship
  • Consortium for Graduate Study, Scholarship Recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of my application to McCombs, I expressed an interest in creating an event that would engage my classmates and the greater Austin community around economic development issues. To my surprise, two years after I submitted my application, I organized the first civic-focused tech hackathon at McCombs.

The Texas 3P Civic Hackathon grew out of a conversation with two professors at Copenhagen Business School during a one-week intensive class on regenerative sustainability. In this program we learned about ways private companies can work with the public sector to improve communities. After a transformative experience in Copenhagen, I decided to take the ideas of sustainability, community and business to launch the inaugural civic hackathon. The event drew approximately 50 attendees to examine affordability in Austin, green building awareness and measures to enhance diversity and inclusion education at the University of Texas. The teams presented to a panel of judges from the campus and Austin, and proposed three technological solutions including an app to help people track the affordability of their community using existing data on population growth and business development. With the success of this hackathon, this starts a new chapter on fulfilling University of Texas’s core purpose: transforming lives for the benefit of society.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I graduated from law school in May 2012, I took the Maryland bar exam the following summer and did not pass. I recently started with the Social Security Administration Appeals Council as a judicial law clerk. In order to continue as an attorney advisor, I had to obtain my legal license in one of the 50 states within 16 months of my hire date. Due the bar examination schedule, I had one more opportunity to pass the bar exam.

I decided to take two exams in February of the following year in Maryland and New Jersey, my home state. After months of waiting, I checked the bar exam results website. I immediately called my sister to let her know that I passed. A couple of weeks later, I checked the New Jersey state website, and found that I passed that exam as well. I rose to the challenge despite work and time constraints to become the first practicing attorney in my family.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Private Equity with Dr. Ken Wiles. Prof. Wiles provided both theoretical and practical education in preparation for the final class project, which was to determine if a private equity firm should invest in a public company. The project was an extension of the finance-related courses since the first semester of the program. I enjoyed working with my team to present a strategy that was similar to the Amazon-Whole Foods acquisition. I experienced the creative side of finance that I will use in my career.

Why did you choose this business school? McCombs is situated in one of the largest, elite public institutions in the country with an intimate class size of 265 students. The culture of the program is relaxed with warm, friendly and sharp students, faculty and staff. The program offers many high quality, experiential learning opportunities including marketing, finance and operations. I was specifically drawn to the opportunity to intern at a venture capital firm in Austin, given the difficulty of finding opportunities to learn about this industry in my previous network. Lastly, after traffic, politicians and too many lawyers, I was looking for a new, awesome city to explore over two years, and I ‘swiped right’ for Austin!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Lean into the experience. You have value to add to the program, so find the opportunities and people to execute a shared vision. Show up! Be part of your class in a meaningful way and ask classmates, staff and faculty to coffee on a weekly basis.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I thought FOMO was only about attending the MBA social events; however, it also extends to course selection, networking events and MBA student involvement (on- and off-campus).

What was your biggest regret in business school? I regret not traveling to more countries!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Sweena Kahn due to her work ethic, unyielding standard of excellence and kindness. We became friends through our shared interest in investment banking careers. We leaned on each other through our summer internship experiences in New York and pushed one another to become better versions of ourselves. Plus, she artfully prepares stellar class assignments and work products!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? INROADS played a major role in exposing me to the opportunities that existed in business.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working as an attorney at a philanthropy and impact investing firm.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would include a required MBA trip during the first year’s winter break to enhance relationships.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Take beautiful photographs of different cities in the U.S. and world to frame them for my home
  • Explore top food and cultural places in Brazil, Columbia and Chile

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I was a kind, giving and genuine contributor that wanted to leave McCombs better than she found it.

What would your theme song be? “Electric Lady” by Janelle Monae

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere that is relaxing with a scenic view and good cocktails

Hobbies? Reading, Concerts, Sports, Cooking (Healthy Lifestyle), Exercising

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

“Alana Williams is a brilliant leader and using her skills to make the world a better place. Among her many roles on campus, she served as the president of our Graduate Finance Association and VP of Finance for our Venture Fellows Program. She plans to work in investment banking in New York after school.

She stands out through her knack for using data to improve anything she touches, whether it be an organization’s processes, programs, work environments, or personal life choices. During her internship with the Office of the Dean of Students’ Sorority and Fraternity Life, she was recognized for her leadership due to her ability to creatively address and design processes to enhance student leadership and education. She created a process that tracked student leader participation, engaged them in content development, and provided consistency in leadership coaching for seven staff. Because of Alana’s efforts, she was able to establish clear success metrics and significantly increased student participation. Alana’s greatest gift is her penchant for looking for places to have an impact wherever she is.

Fellow Poets & Quants Best and Brightest nominee, Joey Martin, describes Alana as “one of the most well-respected people at McCombs and a gifted leader who is actively involved in several of our finance organizations. I have an incredible respect for her judgment and character, and she is always the first person I seek out for advice.”

Alana consistently recognizes and acts on opportunities to launch initiatives that not only help develop the skills of her peers but impact the larger community. During her time at McCombs, Alana started the Texas 3P Civic Hackathon, which examined affordability in Austin, green building awareness and measures to enhance diversity and inclusion education on campus. She brought the model back to Austin after attending a sustainability program in Copenhagen with our partner school, Copenhagen Business School.

I have no doubt, through her unique combination of genuine kindness, keen wit, and raw intelligence, Alana will continue to make positive impacts on the world.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean

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