2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Andrea Caralis, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Andrea Caralis

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Passionate introverted-extrovert who gives 110% to anything I’m working on, or anyone I’m working with.”

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a classically-trained singer, but now prefer a good round of karaoke and singing musicals in my car.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Miami University, Oxford OH – Bachelors of Science in Finance with a French minor.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked for PNC Bank, in Capital Markets, in the Pittsburgh HQ for 5 years and Chicago for 3 more. I began in an 18-month rotational program in Credit Underwriting and Corporate & Institutional Banking, and left as a Director of Foreign Exchange, where I owned a book of business of mid-sized companies and advised on international growth strategies from cross-border cash flow, account management, and risk management perspective.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I interned at Amazon in Seattle, WA as a Senior Product Manager.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am excited to be returning to Amazon and heading back to the West Coast!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was voted into our Student Government (GBA- Graduate Business Association) as the Professional Development Officer. This role gave me the responsibility of connecting the student body with our Master’s Career Center and our Accelerate Leadership Center. In general, it was a chance for me to not only promote the already strong programming that the school offered, but also create new resources for my peers. Over the past year, along with my individual responsibilities, the GBA Board worked together to help the school transition into our new building and created new programming to aid in student preparedness. I also spent my time giving back to the Business & Technology Club as an Advisory board member. I helped with career prep, tech company student panels, and the Mentorship and Open Office hours programming. Finally, I worked as a communication coach for our Accelerate Leadership Center during the weekdays. This program helped facilitate peer-to-peer coaching and gave students a forum to practice their communication skills.

From an honors and awards perspective, I am privileged to be a Forte Foundation Fellow and a recipient of the De Lyle W. and Laurie W. Bloomquist Scholarship. Between my first and second year, I also earned the Arjun V. Gokhale Spirit Award from the Tepper School. This recognition was such an honor. For that, I’m eternally grateful. Without the generosity of these organizations and individuals, my MBA experience would not have been possible.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In my role on the GBA, I had the opportunity to create new and innovative ways to help our student body build their professional skillsets.

After gathering feedback from my classmates and the career office, we recognized that time was an MBA’s #1 currency, and it was scarce. A typical MBA’s schedule was often booked solid from 8:30 AM until 10 PM with the academic, club, personal, and professional demands. Truth was, sometimes interview preparation fell to the wayside! So, I invented Friday Foundations: a workshop that occurred every Friday morning of Minis 1 & 2 with various professional themes to help students get prepared for recruiting. This was a designated hour of the week set aside where there was a direct focus on practice! The first 15 minutes was a refresh on a topic (LinkedIn Pages, Elevator Pitches, Behavioral Interviews, Networking, etc.) and 45 minutes of active practice of whatever the skill was that we were building. The ratio of 1st to 2nd years each week was around 3:1, and students received hands-on practice and live feedback. Our 2nd years were instrumental in giving their time & expertise, and our first years were always prepared to work!

I’ve learned during my time in my MBA program that nothing is more fulfilling than giving back and supporting my friends’ professional growth. Although I may have eventually been given the nickname “Tepper Mom,” I’m okay with that. I know my classmates and colleagues know that I’m a constant support system and alongside them for all the ups and downs of career success.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, I am most proud of the risks I’ve been willing to take, and how I’ve managed through them. The first large risk I’d taken was relocating to a growth market with my previous company. Leaving HQ, changing cities, teams, colleagues, and customers were one of the most difficult transitions of my career, and through all the variation, I’m proud of the success my team and I found together in Chicago.

The next largest risk was stepping away from a successful career to get my MBA full-time and change industries. I didn’t take this decision lightly, and it was not an easy process to land in a program. However, I’ve never looked back and have given everything I can toward my experience at Tepper. I look forward to seeing how my previous background paired with my new skillsets learned from my MBA and summer internship have prepared me for my next journey.

What was your favorite MBA Course One of the most influential courses at Tepper was Negotiations. During each class, students actively negotiated together different scenarios and got hands-on practice and feedback. Every student came prepared and brought their best negotiation face. Outside of our mock business scenarios, I’ve also negotiated during life events. I’m planning a wedding – so my vendors have seen my skills!

Why did you choose this business school? When I think of what makes Tepper special, it is our community. My classmates and I come from diverse backgrounds from an industry, role, country, gender, and experience perspective. We challenge and push each other to be the best versions of ourselves. We also support each other and work together to help reach our goals. The term “Tepper Family” is “Why Tepper” to me.  

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I recommend speaking with current students. That is the best way to see ‘inside’ of an MBA program and understand what a typical day looks like, and what makes them tick!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I believe the biggest myth about Tepper is that it may be a difficult environment for women. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The women at Tepper are achieving some of the most amazing things: some are starting their own businesses; some are presidents of our largest Professional clubs; some are growing their families while obtaining their MBAs, and some are landing jobs at their dream companies! I truly believe the Tepper Community gives an opportunity to all students, and everyone can thrive!

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program?

I wish I would have been more direct in identifying earlier where I should focus my career hunt. I had a general idea as to where my passion was, but for a role-specific level, I took too much time identifying the right path. I recommend talking to people, networking, and learning about specific roles and companies prior to applying and prior to beginning your programs, so your time is used in a valuable way!

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I can only agree with the MBA alumni who describe business school as transformative. It challenges you in so many ways: academically, professionally, personally, and socially. Not only have I been able to hone my analytical skills during my MBA, but I’ve also been able to build life-long friendships and who knows…when it’s time for me to start my own business, I will have some seriously amazing business partners to work with! 

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate, Katie Glass. She personifies what it is like to challenge the norms and persevere as a woman in tech. During our first year together, we attended every Business & Technology Club event possible, trying to soak up industry knowledge and learn from our peers. We knew as two people with non-technical backgrounds, we had a lot to learn!

During recruiting season, Katie ruthlessly practiced, had coffee chats, networked, and landed interviews and internship offers at some the country’s top tech firms. I watched with profound respect and worked hard to keep up! Later in the year, it was no surprise to me that when she ran for the President of Tepper’s Business & Technology club that she would be successful. During her time in that role, she worked on a diverse board with classmates with varying skillsets and she customized her leadership style to support each one, individually. She led the board and B&T club with grace and poise, and her accomplishments were not unrecognized.

Finally, Katie was there for me during not only my journey into the technology industry but also my MBA life. Through thick and thin, she always believed in me and helped me through whatever challenge I was facing. Now, as we both head to the West Coast — working for amazing companies – I can’t wait to see what she achieves next!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? If we are talking decision making in undergrad, it was honestly simple: my love for math and my athletic scrappiness led me toward business. However, once I began working, I was constantly motivated by my female mentors that I’ve had along the way. Their resilience throughout their careers pushed me to be stronger and empowered me to take risks. 

What is your favorite movie about business? A League of Their Own. Women’s athletics was a huge part of how I was raised, and it taught me about teamwork, leadership, success, and failure. The movie also reiterated that women can achieve anything!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in the Loop, in Chicago, and visiting my niece and nephew more!”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? The MBA education was worth more than what I paid for it. There is a trajectory that I am now on, that wasn’t obtainable without this experience, and to me – it is worth its weight in gold. As a number cruncher myself, I can promise I built all the financial models to try to decide if I should go full time or not. There is no financial model for the experience and upward opportunities that the MBA world gives to you.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I don’t really have a bucket list, but I love to travel and look forward to going to more amazing places with my fiancé in the future. I also would love to go to the Ellen show, she brings joy to so many people’s lives, and reminds the world to ‘be kind to one another.’ What could be better than that?!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? When creating a Tepper start-up, we have a hacker, a hustler, and a designer. I hope my peers call me when they need a hustler.

Hobbies? Back when I had more spare time, I would exercise, go see musicals, travel to visit my friends, snowboard, or play in adult kickball and bocce leagues. Currently, the extent of my hobbies includes singing at karaoke night and helping with interview prep.

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

“As VP of Career Development, Andrea demonstrated a strong focus on helping fellow Tepper students improve their interviewing and networking skills by providing new venues to practice together on a regular basis. Her efforts also included contributing to an innovative solution to streamline the student trek sign-up process and she worked to promote a very collaborative partnership among the leaders of the primary career-related Clubs. Andrea’s contributions to the Tepper School are a strong example for future student leaders to follow!”

Stephen Rakas

Executive Director of the Masters Career Center at the Tepper School of Business



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