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Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2020

Raúl Méndez

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

A highly competitive, results-driven Panamanian striving for academic excellence, professional achievements, and personal growth.”

Hometown: Panamá City, Panamá

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have represented Panama in karate, baseball, and football.

Undergraduate School and Major: Universidad Católica Santa María la Antigua, Law & Political Sciences

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: MAPFRE PANAMA, Sales Strategy Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I reduced the end-to-end time for the issuance of an insurance policy by 50%. I noticed my company’s back-office processes took place exclusively in its corporate headquarters, forcing branch offices to rely on a foreign team and leaving the branch offices with no control or oversight of the process. Through consultations and meetings with various teams, I adjusted the process so that back-office duties pertaining to the issuance of policies could take place remotely, empowering the branch offices to take control of the entire process for their cases.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The quality that best describes my MBA classmates is “diverse.” My peers come from very different backgrounds (geographic and professional) and are willing to share their experiences and to learn from mine, creating a learning environment within the classroom and in everyday conversations.

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? The key factor for me choosing Owen was everyone’s responsiveness and willingness to help. From the moment I began researching schools, Owen was by far the most responsive, from the admissions staff to Owen alumni. During phone calls and emails, I noticed that people from Owen take pride in their school and go out of their way to lend a helping hand. This was important to me, because the purpose of an MBA is furthering your career. I believe that first-class faculty teaching me technical skills, along with a highly responsive student and alumni network that can help open doors, are two tremendous tools to do just that.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I look forward to joining the Owen Strategy and Consulting Club. I plan on using my MBA education to pivot into consulting, and this club will allow me to learn from peers that have had previous experience in the industry and to prepare for case interviews required to get into the industry.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt I had reached a ceiling in my career. My lack of technical skills was hindering my growth within my company and limiting my opportunities in career paths I was looking to pursue.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? In Panama, a graduate education is an unspoken requirement to aspire to senior leadership roles. Having a degree in law and no educational background in business, pursuing an MBA was a no-brainer. The pay gap between MBAs and non-MBAs is considerable, and I saw an MBA as an opportunity to expand my network beyond Panama while also putting myself in a great position to succeed professionally and financially when I decide to return to Panama.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?

University of Miami Business School

University of Michigan (Ross)

University of Texas (McCombs)

University of California Los Angeles (Anderson)

How did you determine your fit at various schools? After researching rankings, admission requirements, locations, and teaching methods, the way I determined fit was by visiting campuses for interviews and reaching out to current students and alumni. Current students’ willingness to share their experiences in their respective schools spoke volumes about the schools’ cultures and helped me get a clearer picture of where I wanted to be and who I wanted to surround myself by for the next two years. I knew Owen particularly fit my goals because being on a first-name basis with faculty and the ability to approach them was something I was certain I would need. Having no business background, I felt it was important to be able to count on peers and professors for additional opportunities to learn beyond the classroom. Also, the responses I received from the alumni I reached out to were insightful and well thought-out. I felt confident that I would someday be able to reach out to the alumni base and be able to network effectively.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was moving from the United States to Panama when I was eight years old. I had to face a language barrier and what at the time seemed like the overwhelming task of having to build new friendships. In the long run, though, what seemed like a tough transition helped me understand that great things can result from leaving your comfort zone. Not only did I acquire a new language, but I learned to appreciate the importance of creating relationships with as many people as possible, and the virtue of refusing to be complacent, whether in school, sports, or any other aspect of life.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After graduation, I plan on learning the ins-and-outs of diverse industries and putting my skills, honed from an unconventional background, to good use by identifying areas of opportunity, providing and implementing creative and effective solutions, and driving change. The best way of accomplishing this is through the consulting industry, which is why after graduating from Owen, I look forward to joining an influential consulting firm.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself as a trendsetter! I see myself as a person who has accomplished enough to be trusted to take leaps and embrace risk beyond what is accustomed in the consulting industry. I want to be able to stretch the realm of possibilities when it comes to strategic plans and developing roadmaps. I see myself leading and endorsing change to the status quo. I see myself influencing how industries work and creating impact that will have a positive effect far beyond a client’s P&L statement.