2019 MBAs To Watch: Mike Alcazaren, University of Rochester (Simon)

Mike Alcazaren

Simon Business School, University of Rochester

“I’m a curious person that loves to create and build interesting things and experiences.”

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I am a classically-trained violinist.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  1. University at Buffalo – Mechanical Engineering, BS 2012
  2. University at Buffalo – Aerospace Engineering, BS 2012

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Autodesk – Program Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Amazon, Senior Product Manager Intern – Seattle, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? Amazon, Senior Product Manager – Seattle, WA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

School Awards:

  • Ronald Fielding Leadership Fellowship, full-tuition scholarship & stipend
  • 2018 Dean’s Leadership Award, one of two awardees
  • Academic Dean’s List, all quarters
  • Class of 2019 superlatives: “Most likely to give a TED Talk”, Peer-voted class award

Leadership Roles

  • Graduate Business Council – VP of Academic Affairs, 2018-19
  • Graduate Business Council – Blue Cohort 1st Year Representative, 2017-18
  • Simon School Venture Fund – VP of Deal Sourcing, 2018-19
  • Simon School Venture Fund – Senior Analyst, 2017-18
  • Net Impact – VP of Partnerships2019 Class Gift – Co-chair

Community Roles

  • Board of Advisors, Engineers for a Sustainable World, 2017
  • Board of Advisors (observer), Foodlink, Inc., 2018-19

Case Competitions

  • Tepper Technology Innovation Challenge – Finalist
  • Duke Energy Week Case Competition – Finalist
  • Internal VCIC competition – Winning team

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being honored with the 2018 Dean’s Leadership Award from our Office of Student Engagement. This was given to two students from our 2019 class WHO embodied the Simon Business School spirit through leadership and service. It means a great deal to me to have my hard work noticed by the administration, and I hope that I can continue this service post-graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, I am most proud of my work at Autodesk as a Program Manager on the Autodesk Education team. My role was to work with university faculty, staff, and students to enhance their engineering education experience. One of my fondest memories was helping to launch an annual student event at North Carolina State University called “Make-A-Thon.” This was a weekend-long event for students that challenged them to create solutions to address today’s toughest environmental challenges.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is my entrepreneurship professor, Dennis Kessler. I had the pleasure of having Dennis as my professor twice, once for on our international immersion class to Israel and once for our New Venture Development Class. Dennis is a successful entrepreneur and he brings incredible energy to anything that he does, from our night classes to coffee chats. The amount of knowledge that I’ve gained from having him as a teacher has given me the confidence to succeed in my future entrepreneurial goals.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite MBA course was Marketing Research. The biggest insight that I gained from this class was how to research and analyze customers. The techniques that I learned in this class were invaluable for my summer internship at Amazon as a Senior Product Manager. Our professor drilled home the concept of “Value of Information” and prioritizing market research with cost and timelines. Over the summer, I was tasked with launching a new product feature. I utilized many of the class concepts to analyze the market Amazon wanted to enter and better understand their customers.

Why did you choose this business school? Simon’s culture felt like the best fit among all the business schools where I applied. Being an engineer, I wanted an MBA program that approached business challenges with an analytical approach. This was evident in the curriculum and experiential learning offerings at Simon. I knew Simon was the right fit for me after I attended an in-person recruiting event called “Experience Simon Weekend,” where you really get a feel for the school’s commitment to diversity, community, and academics.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? It’s cliché, but be yourself. The community is vital to Simon, and a part of what makes our student experience wonderful. Tactically, I would highly recommend chatting with current students, alumni, and staff to get a feel for what makes Simon special. Lastly, don’t miss the Experience Simon Weekend events! They’re the best way to meet your future classmates and see Simon in person.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about Simon is that we over-index on analytics. In other words, students might be lost without a quant background. While an analytical approach is key, Simon is a very collaborative place with students from a variety of backgrounds. Our class includes not only analytical wizards, but amazing storytellers and community builders as well.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program I wish that I knew just how important making a bucket list for grad school is, and making sure that you check in on it as you progress through the program. There is just so much to accomplish in such a short window of time! Thankfully, I’ve been able to accomplish most of everything that I had hoped, and I’ll use the remaining six months to continue to maximize my experience.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business school accelerated my career to new levels. I would not have been hired by Amazon as a Senior Product Manager without my education. Business school has also helped me to round out my engineering skill set with an understanding of fundamental business skills, from finance to economics.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tori Vossler is someone that I really admire in our class. She is a natural leader and has done amazing things to make Simon better every day, specifically with the organization Simon Women in Business (SWIB). It amazes me that she’s also able to run a small business on top of classes and leadership positions. She’s extremely talented and hard-working, which will serve her well in her next role as a management consultant in the retail space.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My girlfriend, Adrian Finch, pushed me to make the commitment and pursue an MBA. Adrian has her MBA and an MS in Marketing Analytics from Simon. I have seen how successful this has made her in her career as a marketer and knew that this was the right decision for me too. She was there every step of the way, from the early days of preparing applications to studying for the GMAT, and she has remained my biggest cheerleader during the past two years of my MBA.

What is your favorite movie about business? I absolutely love the 2015 film “The Big Short” directed by Adam McKay. This movie outlines some of the problems that led to the 2008 Great Recession. While watching this movie, I saw the power and importance of the finance industry, and I wanted to learn more.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? The goofiest MBA term that I’ve encountered is “It depends”. It’s the standard answer that actually applies and correctly answers most questions. I can’t wait to use it when I get to the workforce.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still be searching for clarity in my career.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? The financial return is pretty clear: at the end of these two years, I will have doubled my salary. My gut reaction is to build a financial model and discount these cash flows to get an exact answer. However, there are so many intangible things that my MBA education has provided. I forged so many new friendships and explored the world through our international immersion experiences. It’s really hard to put a dollar value on this, but I can say with confidence that the value of the Simon MBA was worth way more than I paid for it.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? The top two items left on my bucket list are: (1) Put together a class yearbook to help commemorate these wonderful memories from the past 2 years; and (2) start and launch a clean-tech company in the future.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a fun-loving, creative, and hard-working leader.

Hobbies? My hobbies center around finding ways to be creative and learning new things. Photography and videography are new hobbies, and I’m absolutely inspired by people like Casey Neistat (YouTube vlogger) and Pete Souza (White House photographer). I also love making music. My favorite instrument to play is the guitar. My classmates and I have had the opportunity to perform a handful of times under the band name “Rigoberto & The Yellowjackets.” I also love reading and getting lost in a good book. In today’s world of distractions, it’s nice to fully commit to long-form reading and unplug. Lastly, I love being active and watching sports. There’s nothing better than watching my hometown team, the Buffalo Bills, after playing a game of flag football with my classmates.

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

Michael, or “Mike” as he is known among the Simon community, has been an amazing addition to our MBA community over the past two years. As a native of Buffalo, NY, he has a passion for upstate New York and giving back to support his community. His prior educational and work experience as an aerospace and mechanical engineer has translated into a strong background in operations and program management that has added value to his classmates’ learning.

Mike has held leadership roles in several other Simon organizations including serving as a VP of Academic Affairs to the Graduate Business Council, where he initiated developing a yearbook for the Class of 2019 to commemorate their MBA experiences and developed a closing video for their class.  He was also instrumental in recommending Slack as a new communication tool to pilot for his class to remain informed on key topics.

In Mike’s role as the VP of Partnerships for the Simon Net Impact Club, he joined the nonprofit organization Foodlink as a non-voting member to get experience, while also strengthening our relationship with the organization to bolster volunteer opportunities for Simon students.

Mike serves as the VP of Deal Sourcing for the Simon School Venture Fund (SSVF) – a student-led $1.8MM fund that provides students with valuable experience in learning about the process for investment decisions in early-stage seed funding for start-ups. Mike was on the winning team for the Venture Capital Investment Challenge competition at Simon and will be moving to the regional competition. He has also taken ownership for developing a welcome video to introduce the SSVF.

As part of his service to the Simon School as a Fielding Leadership Fellow, Mike is involved in screening candidates for admission by reviewing applications and conducting admissions interviews. In addition, Mike has worked as an Admissions Ambassador to host prospective students visiting campus for Admissions events and has also traveled with the Admissions team to New York City to meet and network with admitted students.

While it is hard to believe Mike has any additional free time, he completed International treks as an MBA student to South Africa and Israel.  He also participated in five case competitions, including two “Top 8” finishes at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper Tech Competition and the Duke Fuqua Energy Week Competition.

As you can see, Mike has worked tirelessly to create a legacy that will outlive his MBA experience, and he has positively impacted the Simon and Rochester communities. He is extremely well-liked by his fellow classmates in part because he is among the first to volunteer his time in support of his peers’ personal or professional endeavors.”

Rebekah Lewin, MBA 2002
Assistant Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid

Are you a friend of Mike? Leave a comment to congratulate him.