2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Allison Shimamoto, University of Virginia (Darden)

Allison Shimamoto

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Lover of hikes, commuting cyclist, natural product at-home chemist, Bittman trained home chef & foodie.”

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve never had a Philly Cheesesteak despite living in Philadelphia for several years. It’s been so long, I can’t break my streak now!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brown University, A.B. Psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Manager of Strategy & Analytics at Digitas Health

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? The Boston Consulting Group in Philadelphia, PA

Where will you be working after graduation? Consultant, The Boston Consulting Group

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Chair, Darden Resilience Initiative
  • VP of Corporate Sponsorships, Black Business Student Association
  • VP of Communications, Pride at Darden
  • Lead, Darden Stories
  • Mentor, Consortium at Darden
  • Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge Judge, MarketingEDGE

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

In my second year at Darden, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as the Chair of the Darden Resilience Initiative Committee – a working student group dedicated to improving the student experience by bringing awareness and resources to the spectrum of issues related to mental health and wellness. This experience has been by far my biggest commitment at Darden, and a source of great fulfillment. We put on workshops focused on teaching meditation and mindfulness, panel discussions on student resilience stories, yoga, and dance sessions, replaced First Coffee with green pressed juices and healthy treats, and even hosted an animal therapy event – Yappy Hour. The Committee is in its second year at Darden, and like at any business school, getting a high-achieving and outcomes focused audience to take time for self-care is a challenge. But the moments when my classmates share how the work we’re doing is changing their lives keep me excited to continue the work.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I once ideated, designed, and implemented a big data lead score model strategy, which enabled my client at the time to rank and score 964K contacts on digital and brand engagement. Using this data, I designed a complimentary email campaign which re-engaged 18% of previously dormant contacts and expanded audience reach by 50K+ contacts.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Darden is Michael J. Schill of the Finance department. I came to business school to improve my quantitative acumen in core business functional areas where I had little to no exposure. Finance is just one of those subjects that not only is intimidating for many but has the potential to be dry in a classroom setting. Professor Schill is arguably one of the best professors at Darden. He has a way of engaging the class and making finance fun while creating a safe space, all with a twinkle in his eyes! For example, for one of his Managerial Finance classes, he brought in a rocking chair from outdoors and had each student take a seat and share a “financial principles proverb!”

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite course at Darden is Interpersonal Behavior taught by Professor Martin Davidson of Darden’s Leadership & Organizational Behavior department. The course opens with personality assessments and introspective exercises, role plays of difficult conversations and includes feedback from peers who know you well and those with first impressions. This course taught me more about how my actions are interpreted by others in professional and personal environments. It’s a great reminder that business is all about people.

Why did you choose this business school? My Forte mentor and Darden alum, Mariel Furlong, really encouraged me to apply to Darden. She raved about Darden’s collaborative culture, strong core curriculum, and abundance of extracurricular activities. Upon visiting, I found all of these to be true. I knew that I wanted to go to a program where I’d get the academic rigor I needed to build my business acumen. Additionally, I enrolled with a dream career in consulting and the case method is uniquely suited to prepare students for that environment.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t try to change yourself to fit into a mold of a person that you think the admissions committee wants to see in an applicant. It’s much better to be your authentic self both in your application and in the interview.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program?I wish I knew more about the recruiting process and the types of stressors that come along with it. As MBAs, we’re expected to balance course work, volunteer activities, and interview prep, all while keeping an optimistic outlook. The Resilience Initiative provided a great deal of support and tools like mindfulness and meditation to improve my focus and rebound skills and help me weather the storm.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Coming into Darden, I was timid and speaking my mind in front of new people was challenging. Now it’s these conversations that bring me the most joy. I’m not hesitant to voice my needs and opinions and find that it strengthens my relationships with others. I’ve also met a lot of amazing people in classmates, administrators, and professors whose stories are inspirational and have taught me a lot about being a grounded business leader.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? If I were to choose one classmate whom I most admire, it would be Zhana Edmonds (Class of 2019). Zhana is an accomplished and strong black woman and isn’t afraid to show it. She is often bubbly, bursting with energy and excitement — something I find to be invigorating as a more serious person.

Zhana handles difficult conversations about diversity and inclusion with grace. As president of Darden’s Black Business Student Association, she has made it her mission to create an open and safe space for healthy dialogue on issues of race, and to create spaces to celebrate all that’s beautiful about our community. She’s also from a nontraditional MBA background and knew she wanted to do a career pivot from the director of events at a digital advertising association to marketing strategy. Career switching is particularly challenging at Darden, and she pulled it off! She’s heading to Wayfair’s customer growth division, and I cannot wait to see all that she’ll accomplish in her career.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad. He immigrated to the US for a better life at age 15 for university, completing both an undergraduate and master’s degree in statistics in three years. Throughout his career, he rose from a statistician to senior vice president of marketing strategy. I’ll never forget the day I visited his office for Take Your Child To Work day. He showed me three logos and said, “Which one should we pick?” I chose, and he said, “Now convince me why.” It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in marketing. When I began to explore higher-level strategic projects at work, he really pushed me to pursue an MBA to quench my curiosity.

What is your favorite movie about business? Michael Clayton. It’s filled with some of my favorite actors like Tilda Swinton and George Clooney, but also makes the case for the criticality of business ethics in decision-making. While a project or strategy may make the company the most money, if there are harmful effects on society, employees, or the environment, is it truly worth it? I strongly believe that as business leaders, we have a responsibility to do create more good than harm in the world.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? There are some truly creative extracurricular club names at Darden. My favorite of which is the WACC (Wine and Cuisine Club), and I bet they have competitive hurdle rates.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a farmer with a plot of land in Putney, VT.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I couldn’t place a monetary value on my education; to me it’s priceless. I’ve grown so much as a person, and feel energized to re-enter the workforce. The opportunities afforded to MBAs to meet others from diverse backgrounds, learn from guest speakers who lead innovation in their fields, and practice the type of business leaders they want to be are truly incredible.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo, and spend a month in an ashram or silent meditation retreat.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered for speaking my mind, advocating for what is right, and being a good friend in times of need.

Hobbies? I enjoy singing and vocal arrangement, and plan to get back into it now that I’m in my second year. I have a spouse at Darden, and enjoy spending time with my partner Kirk, cooking meals together. I enjoy watching classic and new films, and a good TV mini-series drama. Lastly, I have a natural hair blog and make organic natural hair and skincare products that I plan to pursue as an independent venture.

What made Allison such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“I’ve had the sincere pleasure of working with Allison Shimamoto as one of the student co-chairs of the Darden Resilience Initiative. In its second year, Allison has really taken this initiative and run with it. Her passions for resilience, mental health, mindfulness, and supporting her student community are unparalleled. A bit of an unsung hero, Allison has helped not only lead a tremendous Darden Resilience Week, but she has worked closely with her students’ committee and school leadership to provide on-going programming that continues to address these important topics and practices for our students. Our students are more thoughtful leaders because of Allison and this work. She leads by example, and she leads with tremendous passion, grace, thoughtfulness, and inclusiveness. I am so proud of her work, and I am so proud to know her. Her impact on the Darden community is a lasting one.”

Ed Warwick

Associate Director of Student Affairs



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