2019 MBAs To Watch: Carolina “Caro” Perez, University of Florida (Warrington)

Carolina “Caro” Perez

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

“Christian, Gator, Astraphobic, Puppy Mom, World Traveler, Charismatic, & Driven… with a huge heart.”

Hometown: Miami, FL

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve been to 23 countries and 35 states.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Florida International University, Bachelor of Business Administration majoring in Finance.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? UBS International – Registered Client Services Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Microsoft – Redmond, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft – HR Trax Rotational Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I am a merit scholarship recipient for the UF MBA Program and along with that honor, I had the opportunity to give back to my program through my involvement in the MBA Association. I served as Cohort Rep (2017-2018), Vice President of Outreach (2017-2018), and Vice President of Communication (2018-2019), where I focused on encouraging and increasing participation and morale in our program through programming and building relationships with my peers.

I have also served as Career and Peer (CAP) Mentor (2018-2019), where I helped other MBAs and specialty master’s students prepare in their career search through resume reviews and mock interviews.

Lastly, and probably most rewarding for me, I am a UF MBA Ambassador – a role that allows me to meet potential incoming students and evangelize the best aspects of our program and share why I love it!

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As VP of Outreach last year, one of the events the position annually organizes – along with other VPs – is the Christmas Sleigh Ride in which the Hough graduate students helped donate over $500 worth of toys to the local children of Gainesville. My graduate outreach chair, community service outreach chair, and I combined forces with some of the specialty master’s students and organized the event which included dressing in holiday attire, making gingerbread houses, networking with other programs, and donating to Toys for Tots.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest achievement occurred this past summer during my internship at Microsoft. As part of my role as a Talent Sourcer for the Engineering & Operations Team, I had to source candidates, screen them, and properly match them to a hiring event hosted on campus. My manager had set a goal of “looping” (bringing to interview) two candidates. After sourcing 100+ candidates, I moved five candidates forward and had one of them receive an offer! Best of all, the candidate happened to be a Florida Gator!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor would probably be Dr. Steven Tufts. I am currently taking his Professional Selling course and, while I am not going into a traditional sales role after graduation, Dr. Tufts has demonstrated the importance of selling yourself, setting goals, and building trust and relationships. As a people person myself, I enjoy how Dr. Tufts focuses strongly on building relationships with his students and encouraging us to build those same relationships with our other classmates. Every morning, he begins class by asking us to, “Tell me something good.”

One of the most impactful lessons he taught us was setting up a 10 year plan based on the whys, goals, strategies and actions needed to get there and then breaking that 10 year plan down backward (five years, two years, six months, two weeks, etc.) so that you know exactly what you need to be doing NOW to reach that long term goal. I found so much value in this because you can apply it to all aspects of your life – professional, financial, spiritual, etc.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite course, to my surprise, was the Art and Science of Negotiations. I came to business school to challenge myself and go outside of my comfort zone. I knew negotiations were not my strong suit. This course taught me the do’s and don’ts of properly negotiating and put to rest some of the misconceptions I had about it. I am more confident and aware of the situations, speedbumps, and exit strategies that could arise in a variety of negotiations types thanks to this course. 

Why did you choose this business school? For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a Florida Gator. When I started looking for the best MBA programs, I found one in my own backyard and was brought full circle to where I first dreamt of graduating from the orange and blue. The instant credibility of a UF MBA is created by its graduates in the workforce. I wanted a program that offered diversity within my peers, the concentration programs available, and the top name companies it partners with –as well as a return on investment. The global recognition of being a UF graduate, the catered attention the program gives to the education, and resources made available to its students made me feel as though I would be part of a family, not just an institution.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice is to spend some time getting to know yourself – your interests, your values, and your ambitions. Knowing how to sell yourself and coming in with a strong foundation will set you up for even greater success. And study for the GMA…a lot.

What is the biggest myth about your school? We can’t “play with the big dogs” because we’re a public university. Well, myth busted. My peers and I interviewed and interned at some of the best Fortune 100 companies, many times competing against the Ivy League MBA programs. We are equally as successful and consistently climbing the ranks. It’s one of the reasons I am so proud to be a Florida Gator!

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? One thing I wish I would have known before my MBA was the variety of master’s programs that exist. Since I specifically made a career change into Human Capital, I could have explored a Master’s in HR or Industrial and Labor relations. Luckily, I chose a program that offered a concentration in Human Capital along with a well-rounded course catalog that contributed to my growth in leadership, organizational behavior, and professional communication.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The UF MBA tagline is “Transformation Guaranteed” and coming into the program I was skeptical of how much I could really change in two years. However, hindsight really is 20/20 because I am leaving my master’s program with a new career path and a deeper understanding of my passions and strengths. I am a better, more prepared leader and colleague based on the growth opportunities the UF MBA allowed me to be a part. I have moved far out of my comfort zone – competing in case competitions, which sharpened my strategic and analytical skills; juggling multiple extracurricular roles, which increased my time management skills; and most importantly, sharing the best two of my life thus far with a group of experienced, intelligent, and wonderful people and built strong relationships with them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire most is Vladimir Charles. Vlad is a first-year MBA whom I had the pleasure of meeting during prospective students weekend last year. He is the kind of person that gives 110% to everything – his schoolwork, his love for UF, and his friendships. Vlad and I are very similar, and I’ve had the opportunity to see him blossom into an exemplary UF MBA over the past year. He dove into this program and gave it all he has, and it’s shown. From multiple internship offers to his involvement as Cohort Rep, UF MBA Ambassador and most recently, one of only two first-year CAP Mentors, his passion and determination for all he does are contagious.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Preparing to go to business school reminded me of all the supportive people I had around me: my parents, my sister, my friends, and colleagues. However, the person who I’d say most influenced my decision was my former administration manager at UBS, Beatriz Cardona-Adams. During my time as her direct report, Beatriz was constantly pushing me to improve myself. Under her leadership, I obtained my Series 7 & 66 licenses and, when the time came to think about the future of my career, I realized how much I wanted to someday do what she was doing for me. I brought up my desire to pursue an MBA at UF and my reservations about possibly having to leave my current job when the Full-Time option became a reality. Beatriz was never selfish in trying to get me to stay, but rather made sure I opened my eyes to the opportunity I was blessed to receive. I was lucky to have worked for her and had her as a mentor.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie is probably Joy. Aside from the fact that it’s a true story, it tells of the places creativity and determination can take you. Joy Mangano faced road block after road block to see her Miracle Mop succeed as it should. Her ideas all stemmed from finding a practical solution for an everyday problem. She is a resilient pioneer for female entrepreneurs.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? NBMBAA (pronounced: nuh-bim-ba). NBMBAA, which stands for National Black MBA Association, is a non-profit organization that hosts an annual conference were 300+ of the best companies attend to recruit MBA talent. After a couple of weeks of being in the program and hearing so much about the NBMBAA conference, the acronym became part of our regular vocabulary. “Are you ready for NBMBAA?”; “Do you have any interviews lined up at NBMBAA?”; “Is your top company going to NBMBAA?”. Well, it wasn’t until I was discussing the conference with MBA students from other schools that I realized we are the ONLY ones who refer to it as nuh-bim-ba while everyone else says “National Black”.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably be preparing to take my Series 9 & Series 10 license exams to be on the management track at my previous employer, but would have eventually pursued an MBA or master’s degree in the near future since it was always on my bucket list.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I would have originally answered this question by saying that my UF MBA is priceless, but it sparked curiosity in me to calculate the actual NPV of my degree. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ten-year NPV for my MBA was about $250K which is multiple times more than I paid for it. This calculation doesn’t account for the life-long benefits of our Gator Nation, the quality friendships I made along the way, and the peace of mind that came along with reaching this milestone. If I had to do it all again, I would in a heartbeat and for much more than I paid!

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I’ve been lucky enough to scratch off many of my bucket list items in the last few years, but I’d love to finish visiting all 50 states in the next decade and, as a fellow Christian and Gator, meet Tim Tebow.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? My peers will always remember me as their Cohort Mom and I hope that title encompasses how much I loved the time I spent with them and in this program, as well as the passion behind my leadership and extracurricular roles.

Hobbies? I love to travel, so I’m usually on a plane or planning my next trip with my trusty K9 sidekick, Nugget. Most recently, I’ve started to enjoy skiing and hiking and look forward to doing more of the two when I move to Washington.

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

“Before attending the University of Florida, Carolina was living in Miami, FL working in Wealth Management Client Services where she worked to mitigate fraud attempts, spearhead account openings, and oversee compliance. While she is from a traditional business background, she acknowledged that changing industries would require additional coursework, determination, and involvement and she worked tirelessly to prepare for the future. Carolina is an innovative, collaborative, and passionate student whose incredible work ethic exceeds expectations and consistently produces high-quality results.

Her leadership began just a few weeks after starting the program when she was appointed to the MBAA executive board, the overarching student government body of the program, as VP of Outreach. As a first-year student, Carolina not only looked for opportunities to bring classmates from the full-time program together for events on and around campus with relation to social, community service and networking, but spearheaded initiatives to invite professional, executive and online MBA students within the greater Gainesville communities as well. Her efforts to include students from across the MBA portfolio have resulted in a more powerful network and a stronger sense of community. Her passion for continuous improvement is on display whether serving as an ambassador and giving a tour to a prospective student, hosting a webinar for admitted students, or assisting a classmate with an assignment, her innovative, collaborative and passionate approach allows her to provide feedback in areas where the MBA program could be enhanced. She to the initiative to collaborate with the administration this year to capture course feedback with the goal of adding a newer course to the human capital concentration. Armed with information from staff and students she has been working with the faculty member to provide suggestions on how to make the course more rigorous in hopes of it one day being added to the approved MBA electives for future students. This commitment to improvement inside and outside the classroom is unmatched among her UF MBA peers.

Additionally, Carolina has become the go-to second-year student for all things Human Capital.  After receiving multiple internship offers and ultimately selecting Microsoft, she has been a valuable resource in providing guidance, mock interviews, and workshops to her fellow UF MBAs students interested in Human Capital.”

Shane C. Van Deree

Academic Program Specialist for MBA Student Experience

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