Meet Washington Foster’s MBA Class Of 2020

Ciro Eduardo González Peña

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“Ciro you are an Ironman!” shouted the announcer as I crossed the triathlon´s finish line.

Hometown: Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have taken baby steps as an entrepreneur launching a real estate venture with two friends and I have started my philanthropic journey by co-founding a non-profit organization.

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Texas at Austin, major Economics.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Monex Corporate Banking; Corporate Lending Senior Associate.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It is difficult to pinpoint the biggest accomplishment in my career so far. In my role at Monex Corporate Banking,  I had the opportunity to lead the third largest corporate loan and to participate as the lead senior associate in the biggest loan in the history of the bank.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Accomplished. As I have had the opportunity to talk with some of my future classmates, I have realized that the common denominator is they have all accomplished a great deal. It is going to be a real honor to share the classroom with them.

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 most important factor for deciding to join the Michael G. Foster School of Business at The University of Washington was the perfect fit. Foster, as a small class, has the opportunity to make your experience tailor-made. I had the opportunity of visiting Foster while I was applying and attended one class. I was amazed by the closeness of the professor with each of the students. It was amazing how this closeness made the learning experience more intimate and worthwhile. I wasn´t even a student, yet the professor dedicated her time to talk to me about my goals and what I wanted to learn. That unique moment made me realize that Foster is deeply engaged with each student which for me is the greatest learning environment.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? During my time at Foster, I will learn how to overcome my deficiencies in such a way that they become opportunities. More specifically, throughout the different cases, I will be able to learn proper strategies for structuring and financing funds. I will participate in the mentorship program that will help me learn from top executives or entrepreneurs. Foster offers a unique Angel Investing course, which I know is an opportunity that will give me a vast toolkit to later apply in my own fund. I plan to enter the Venture Capital Investment Competition, which will be a great hands-on experience to learn how to evaluate startups and invest in new ventures. I also plan on joining the different clubs such as the Finance Society and Real Estate Club.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I was presented with the opportunity to co-found a real estate startup company with an architect and an interior designer. We believed that together we had enough experience to start our own successful venture. However, we had no idea of what lay ahead.

When trying to sell our first house, we encountered several issues, such as cost overruns and buyers backing out of deals. The root of all these problems was the lack of analysis of potential buyers. Premium buyers tend to analyze every single detail because they are spending a significant sum. After these unanticipated costs, I decided to create an error database where I wrote down every single mistake made or any issue that was not accounted for in our first business plan.

After selling the house, we realized that we had to learn from our mistakes and adapt to what the real estate market was telling us and particularly to our limited funds.

If we want to turn the real estate startup company into a real estate investment fund, we not only had to learn from our mistakes but also we need a profound understanding of fundamental skills such as strategy, finance, marketing, negotiation, and regulation in order to turn a startup into a successful company. Therefore, I´ve decided that it is fundamental to pursue an MBA.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? An MBA will enhance my toolkit to apply in my future goals and, more importantly, an opportunity for me to change and afterwards to be boundless for the world and make it a better place.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Duke, Cornell and Stanford.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The most important factor leading to my decision was culture. I was convinced that I wanted to get the most out of my MBA and to make that decision I had to research the culture each different program had to offer. In my due diligence process, I took my time to talk with alumni, current students, professors and most definitely the admissions team. Another important factor for me, as a finance guy, was the Return on Investment, which Foster has the best to offer.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? One of my favorite phrases that I have had the opportunity to hear is “Ciro, you are an Ironman” when I crossed the finish line of my first Ironman Triathlon in 2014. I have had the opportunity to hear these wonderful words three more times, most recently in California, and hopefully I´ll hear it again soon.  The most important events in my life have been fueled by self-imposed challenges that have generated amazing learning opportunities which have led to a better me. For me, it is very important to be a better person because I am a firm believer of leading by example.

To cross the swimming portion of the Ironman triathlon—2.4 miles—I had to overcome many challenges; more specifically I had to learn how to properly swim. Before my first Ironman, I had never swum more than half a mile. I realized that to successfully finish, I had to ask for help. I remember having classes at 1 a.m. because I usually got out of the office at midnight. I learned that there are many things in life that I will need help from somebody else to achieve my goal. I also learned that it is ok not to be the best in everything but to recognize your flaws and to put a plan in motion to become better.

The 112 mile bike ride is the longest portion of the triathlon timewise and distance-wise. It helped me to become a better person because it taught me the importance of patience and to enjoy the journey no matter how demanding it is.

To be able to run a marathon after swimming and biking 116.4 miles, you must listen carefully to your body and listen to that voice inside your head that tells you loudly, “You must go on.” Without these two characteristics, it’s impossible to cross the finish line.

An Ironman triathlon gave me the opportunity to experience many different feelings throughout the different stages that led me to the finish line. One of my greatest joys in life has been overcoming these types of challenges because continuously improving as a person is what has defined me.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After graduating from Foster my short-term goal is to make the transition from corporate lending into investment banking. I plan on spending three years as an investment banker in the United States focused on Latin American deals. Afterwards, I plan to join a boutique private equity firm in a buy side role and spend two years in the job.  During this time, I will adopt a sponge attitude and absorb all the knowledge I can to later apply in Mexico and in the company I have already co-founded.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Five years after graduating from Foster and achieving my short-term goals, I plan on passionately pursuing five main goals. First, start a family which I plan on loving wholeheartedly. Second, manage my own private equity fund in Monterrey, Mexico. Third, successfully turn the real-estate startup I co-founded into a thriving Real Estate Investment Trust that yields better returns than the Mexican stock market. Fourth, expand the non-profit I co-founded to other states in Mexico. Finally, become an advocate for positive change in Mexico through social investing.

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