2019 MBAs To Watch: Melissa Castro, Babson College (Olin)

Melissa Castro

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

Tenacious problem solver with an unparalleled work ethic.”

Hometown: Salem, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I binge on true crime podcasts as a way of relaxing (Sword and Scale).

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Massachusetts Amherst, B. A. (Include Graduate Schools and Degrees If Applicable)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked at iCrossing (Hearst Magazines) as a Project Manager.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I interned at Eataly Flatiron, New York, in their marketing department.

Where will you be working after graduation? In a role connecting food entrepreneurs to new customer segments.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 2-Time recipient of the Prospanica Scholarship
  • Fellow at the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership
  • Butler Launchpad Cohort
  • Vice President, Black Association
  • Food Sol Network
  • Honor Board member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of developing the first-of-its-kind, Center for Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership Mentoring Program. I’ve matched over 160 women professionals and implemented a tailored program that focuses on topics critical for the success of women entrepreneurs and professionals. This program has allowed me the ability to build deep connections with my classmates and provide lasting value to their lives.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was brought in to manage the TD Bank Rolling Renovation Campaign, a 50-stop east coast tour that included digital, traditional and experiential marketing. I was focused on promoting home equity loans and lines of credit. It was a complex project that had many moving parts and a lot of unknown territories. Yet it was the most collaborative project iCrossing and Hearst had ever worked on. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment knowing I was the glue that kept the team together and was able to provide support to TD Bank customers who were undergoing the life-changing experience of renovating their homes.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Ruben Mancha. He is the Assistant Professor of Information Systems. He has the ability to make rising technologies approachable in a way that is interactive and exciting. He goes out of his way to get to know you and your future career aspirations and connects class lessons to your interests.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite MBA course was the Babson Consulting Alliance Program. It’s a course that pairs you up with a partner organization. As a team, you get to work on a client challenge. We used design thinking and Babson’s methodology of entrepreneurial thought and action (ET&A) to develop an innovative solution for a leading financial firm. I learned that the most successful teams are those that are made up of people from diverse cultures and professional backgrounds.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Babson because of its focus on entrepreneurship and its resources dedicated to women in business.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Do your research and be authentic in your admissions letters. Write from the heart, not what you think they want to hear. Babson is a unique program with a specialized curriculum for those who are daring enough to think outside the box.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That it is only for individuals who have a business idea they want to pursue. Babson fosters entrepreneurs of all kinds and that includes intrapreneurship. You can come to Babson if you want to be a leader and use the tools of entrepreneurship to take risks and drive change within an organization.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Most will tell you not to overextend yourself. The reality is, you are here for a limited amount of time. It’s more important to find a focus on what interests you and fully commit to your experience. Push yourself and join the conversation even if you feel you don’t know enough about the topic. If you don’t embarrass yourself or go through the anxiety and vulnerability of being uncomfortable, then you will never know if the thoughts that keep you up at night can become your reality.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The transformation was extremely personal. Working on your weaknesses is uncomfortable, but necessary. It starts with being aware of what you need to work on, acknowledging it, experimenting on ways to improve, taking action, adjusting, finding advocates who can give you feedback, and repeating the cycle. Change happens when you are stretched outside your comfort zone and tune it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ankush Kumar Bagrecha. He is from Bangalore, India and can speak 4 languages. He is methodical in how he participates in class, constantly providing value and coming from a place of selfless contribution. His greatest gift is not his brilliance but his emotional intelligence. It gives him the ability to connect and help others in a way that is compelling.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Jomaree Pinkard. He is the co-founder of Hella Cocktail co, a premium cocktail company founded in Brooklyn. He grew up in Queens, New York, from humble beginnings, attended Wharton University, and is a dear friend of mine. I witnessed him invest time, be vulnerable and sacrifice relationships in order to transform an idea into a thriving business. His entrepreneurial journey showed me that you can’t let your circumstances define you. Instead, use them as an anchor that makes you relentless in pursuing your dreams.

What is your favorite movie about business? Chef, with Jon Favreau and Sofia Vergara. It depicts how entrepreneurship is a journey and one that most often than not lacks a clearly identified path.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? MYTOO, Managing Talent: Your Own & Others and pronounced “Me to you.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in digital marketing and dreaming about a career where I can use food to bring people together.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? My MBA education taught me how to look in the mirror and rebuild the parts of myself that were barriers to accomplishing my dreams. Through Babson, I now have the unique ability to empower myself to continuously improve in areas of professional development. Above and beyond the many hard skills I’ve gained at Babson, knowing that I have the confidence to succeed at anything I put my mind to is priceless.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Buy my mom her dream home
  • Eat my way through every country in Latin America

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A businesswoman, someone who did whatever she had to do to get to the top.

Hobbies? Cooking, handwriting letters and immersing myself in cultural experiences.

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

“Melissa Castro is a quintessential entrepreneurial leader: she sees what is, knows what could be, and builds what is needed. I have had the pleasure of watching her make a difference as an intrapreneur within Babson’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) and as an entrepreneur as she launched her own venture, La Conexión.

As CWEL’s resident intrapreneur and graduate assistant, Melissa was the driver behind three high impact new programs: the CWEL Graduate Women’s Mentor Program, the CWEL-Circles roundtables and the graduate student Sales Workshop Series. In each case, Melissa listened closely to her peers to determine their needs, designed a solution that created value for them and for Babson, enrolled the right people as partners, launched a pilot to test her idea, and then iterated and replicated each initiative. She literally took what she learned in the classroom about entrepreneurship for impact and applied it in real time. In less than two years the outcome of her efforts include scores of successful mentoring relationships between MBA women and seasoned professional women leaders and a sustainable graduate student mentor program that will continue long after Melissa receives her diploma. A new permanent series of intimate roundtable conversations for women MBAs about the relevant and real-world topics they are most eager to discuss; and a sales skills program that she prototyped in her first year, redesigned in her second year, and delivered to a highly selective “application only” cohort before she graduated.

As an entrepreneur, Melissa brought her dream of creating a Latino marketplace (food hall) that celebrates and builds community. La Conexión was created for a diverse consumer base that seeks the comfort and quality of authentic and home-cooked meals: think Eataly meets Latin America. While at Babson Melissa shaped her idea into a viable concept, spent a summer interning at Eataly, and launched a pop-up experience in Babson’s Weissman Foundry. By all accounts, it was a success.

Melissa is a doer. She dreams she cares, she hears what people want and she sets about creating ways to make an impact. She lights up a room with her intellect and energy and she makes all of us who have had the privilege of working with her proud to be on her team. The mission at CWEL is to educate, empower and inspire women to transform their entrepreneurial potential into impact. Melissa Castro is a living breathing example of what that looks like in real life!”

Susan Duffy, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership

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