2019 MBAs To Watch: Yonnas Terefe, University of Rochester (Simon)

Yonnas Terefe

Simon Business School, University of Rochester

Highly motivated professional striving for community impact, personal growth and professional achievement.”

Hometown: Gaithersburg, Maryland

Fun fact about yourself: I went skydiving to overcome my fear of heights.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Maryland College Park (Economics)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Calvert Investments, Equity Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Morgan Stanley, Investment Banking – New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? Morgan Stanley, Investment Banking Associate.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Graduate Business Council President

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? (I worked with MMLA (Minority Male Leadership Association), an on-campus organization created to positively impact the local Rochester community. This program allowed me to speak with children from similar backgrounds as myself about the value of going to college as well as walking them through the application process. Having emigrated from Ethiopia, I had to go through this process alone, so being able to help these young men in similar situations gave me a great sense of accomplishment. I hope to continue to engage in similar programs throughout my professional life.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time as GBC (Graduate Business Council) president, I had the opportunity to work with the school administration (Dean Bauer and Dean Ainsley) to continually improve the Simon MBA program. It was during this time that Simon introduced the STEM MBA program, one of the first full-time STEM MBA programs in the country. This helped our program earn the Poets&Quants “2018 MBA Program of The Year” award, as well as inclusion in its “Top 10 MBA Programs To Watch.” Both achievements helped to validate and give momentum to the great initiative we at Simon have been working on.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Cliff Smith. During our first class with Professor Cliff Smith, he made a statement that resonated with me. He stated that his goal is not to teach us the right answer to finance-based questions. Rather, he is more interested in teaching us on how to think critically. True to his word, his class was one of the most challenging courses I took at Simon, but I also credit that course with helping convert my summer internship into a full-time offer.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Business Modeling. This course allowed me to learn how to uniquely approach structuring problems. I think without establishing a proper structure, it is very easy to get lost in a problem let alone lead others to a solution. This class taught me how to analyze and map out solutions to a problem prior to taking any action, thus helping to save time and resources. This skillset was especially useful during my internship.

Why did you choose this business school? Simon has felt like a community to me since the very beginning. I interacted with Julie Sadwick and Andrew Brayda from the admissions team in 2014. Although I decided to push off business school for two more years, they embraced me with arms wide open when I returned. The fact that they remembered who I was and built that bond with me made it clear that this was truly a community and not just a slogan that admissions teams use to recruit students.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Prior to applying, do some self-reflection and truly understand if this is the best school for you in terms of fit. The only way to determine the answer to that question is to visit the school and really get to know the current students and staff. Connecting with students and staff will also give you an edge in terms of your application because people will know you and can put a face and personality to your application.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I knew how essential analytics has become in the world of Finance. I would have spent additional time preparing myself to get the most out of my MBA program by learning foundational programs like R.

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 has been transformative for me in many ways. It has allowed me to recalibrate my professional focus, by allowing me to pursue a career field I am passionate about at a company I have desired to be a part of for a long time. It has also allowed me to explore different ways to contribute to the greater community, through leadership roles in several student organizations. These leadership roles also gave me the opportunity to interact with both alumni and school administration, which helped me improve my leadership skills. Finally, and most importantly the program has introduced me to a group of classmates who have and will continue to contribute immensely in my personal and professional development.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This question is a difficult one given that our program is filled with many individuals with inspiring stories. However, one classmate and close friend that stands out to me is Diego Covarrubias Gomez, who has been excelling in the program and providing insightful feedback to both myself, as GBC president, and the school administration. This is all while he and his wife raise a young child. Given the demanding nature of business school, his dedication to his family, professional development, and the continued help in the improvement of the Simon MBA program is truly admirable.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? (My parents by far were the key influencers in helping me decide to attend business school. My parents came to the United States to ensure that my brother and I receive the best education possible. They sacrificed their family, a comfortable lifestyle, and professional careers back in Ethiopia. With this in mind, I’ve known since my days as an undergraduate that I would one day pursue a graduate degree. Towards the end of my undergraduate studies, I developed a passion for finance which led me to pursue an MBA.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Big Short. The idea of identifying a strategy that counters current investment trends and having the knowledge and conviction to see your strategy through is a lesson I think is important for me to remember as I pursue my professional career.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, which I think sounds a little aggressive.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in the asset management industry focusing on socially responsible investing.”

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 experience has been much more valuable than what I paid for it. From a purely financial standpoint, I will earn a significant return on my investment. However, the relationships I have built during this program have been invaluable.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Firstly, I hope to create a scholarship program for young people in less advantaged countries to pursue a college education at top schools like Simon. Second, I’d like to travel to South Africa to learn more about one of my role models, Nelson Mandela, and his struggle to end apartheid.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a classmate who was dedicated not only to his personal and professional growth, but also the growth of the greater community.

Hobbies? Traveling to learn more about new cultures, and hiking.

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

“I have become very close with Yonnas over the duration of his program, and am very proud of the hard work, determination, and hustle he has put into his MBA experience at Simon. On top of his classes, investment banking and recruiting were at the top of his priority list during the Fall Quarter 2017 of his 1st year. I remember keeping close tabs on Yonnas as he would travel down to New York City every Thursday afternoon after his classes ended for the week. He put everything he had into networking with Simon Business School alumni, his own professional network, and contacts from his peers. Investment banking is an extremely competitive industry, and Yonnas showed he had what it took to not only land an amazing Investment Banking internship with Morgan Stanley, but to put everything he had into that internship over the summer and come back to Simon in the Fall Quarter 2018 with a full-time offer in hand. He didn’t stop there, and immediately upon his return, he and other students that worked in IB over the summer began working with our new 1st year MBA’s and guiding them through the recruiting process. At Simon, we have a long history and culture of student and peer support, and seeing Yonnas and his classmates immediately start working with the 1st years was incredible to see and personifies him and his commitment to the success of the Simon Business School and our students.

As president of our Graduate Business Council (GBC), Yonnas led a board of nine 2nd year MBAs and create initiatives to continue to improve the student experience while working closely with Simon Dean’s and senior administration. We are all very proud of the work done by our outgoing GBC and the impact and legacy they will leave behind. Their willingness to help with academic initiatives and involvement in the STEM MBA designation, working closely with the school’s marketing department, increasing diversity and inclusion initiatives, and helping Simon earn the Poets & Quants 2018 MBA Program of the Year have a major impact on the future success of Simon. On top of his role as GBC president, Yonnas has remained an active member of the Simon Finance and Investment Club, Simon Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, and the University of Rochester Minority Male Leadership Association working closely with male high school students in the Rochester City School District.

I have personally learned a lot from Yonnas and am proud to call him a friend. There is no doubt in my mind he will be an extremely engaged alum and someone who will continue to work with Simon students and take pride in the success of the school. I look forward to watching him flourish in his professional career and personal life.”

Nathan Kadar

Director of Student Life

Simon Business School, University of Rochester

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