Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles In Courage

Carissa Sanchez

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Tohono O’Odham woman blazing her own trails – not only in hiking, but also in life.”

Hometown: Three Points, Arizona

Fun Fact About Yourself: As a kid, I raised pigs for auction and received my first lesson in accounting/finance – my step-dad taught me how to calculate profits based on my costs (building a pig pen, food and medication purchases) and my revenues (price per pound I was able to sell my pigs for at the county fair). I was hooked.

Undergraduate School and Major: Yale University – Mechanical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Arconic – Continuous Improvement & Lean Leader

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While on my rotation program, I realized I enjoyed engineering data and experiments, but what truly fascinated me was when challenges arose in the production of our product; people needed to be coordinated, and hard decisions needed to be made. I wanted to stretch myself, so I pitched to a VP that I do my next rotation as a production supervisor. It took some convincing, and I was warned that I would be thrown in the deep end, but I decided to jump. I won’t pretend I broke any records (supervisors that have been there for decades will always know far more than me), but I’m proud I had the courage to jump into that leadership role, and the rewards were great – I learned the ins-and-outs of how production works; the high intensity and pressure challenges they face (like when your machine breaks down or your employees need to face disciplinary action); and how to earn the respect of people with far more expertise and skill than me such that they were still willing to follow my lead and allow me to do my part to make their jobs better every day.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Each of my classmates I’ve met so far has been extremely willing and excited to authentically engage with others. It’s been an honor to get to know people whether it’s hearing about someone working ski patrol in the Alps; classmates offering me wonderful advice when they’ve gone through the same challenges; or learning proper swim techniques and drills from a very patient classmate who swam in college and is willing to coach us aspiring triathletes.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I’m an Arizonan who has lived/worked/studied in CT/ TX/ MI/ IN/ NJ, and I’ve learned I want to get back to the southwestern portion of the country (ideally Denver or Texas). UVA was the perfect balance for me to try living in a new region (the mid-atlantic/south), and use Darden’s strong network connections to recruit into Colorado or Texas firms (we have a surprisingly large number of alumni in those areas!)

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to Darden’s Outdoors Club – I’ve never spent much time in the mid-Atlantic or South regions, and I can’t wait to explore, hike, kayak, camp [insert grueling activity that requires bug spray here] in the beautiful area surrounding Charlottesville with my classmates.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I wanted to learn more, faster. I loved the content of my job, but I realized in order to take on bigger challenges that were intellectually fascinating, I needed to be at a VP level. I also recognized that in my industry, the typical path to VP required 20 years in manufacturing plants in rural areas. I wanted an accelerated growth and timeline, so I decided to pursue and MBA and catapult myself into applicant pools for jobs where I could focus on more strategy, big picture, and/or managerial roles.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? As a First Generation college graduate and a Native American, there was never a question of value of the investment of an MBA for me. I needed to do this to raise the standard of achievement for my people and prove that we’re out here, we’re smart, and we’re making things happen. It was a no brainer regardless of time or money. Fortunately, the Consortium Fellowship supports ambitions and perspectives like mine, and they’ve made the burden of this MBA investment much less overwhelming.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?

  • Dartmouth Tuck
  • Stanford GSB
  • UT McCombs
  • Goizueta
  • Tepper
  • UC Berkeley Haas

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? From high school onward, I knew I wanted to give back to my Native American tribe and thought I’d need to start a non-profit or become a teacher in order to make that happen. There was a moment in college when I learned that other wonderful people are already filling those needs and doing it much better than my natural aptitudes would allow, and I realized my strengths were better suited for me to climb the corporate ladder and mentor others and pull them up with me

That realization provided me the freedom to pursue career success without living on the Tohono O’Odham reservation and know that I was still doing good for my people – now I’m all about gaining the knowledge and experience to put a Native American, female face at the highest level of a corporation, where those who look like me are rarely found. And as I get there, I’ll be equipped to share my knowledge and expertise with the underrepresented minorities who will come after me.

 What do you plan to do after you graduate? I would love to find myself in operations consulting or a role in which I can gain practical management and operations experience (perhaps by managing a facility or P&L).

 Where do you see yourself in five years? If I’m loving life at the firm I join post-MBA, I hope to be continually growing and promoting there and finding ways to mentor, give back, and train up the next class coming behind me. Ideally I’ll be in Denver or Texas, spending time with family, and doing plenty of hiking and kayaking.

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