Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Neil Noronha

Yale School of Management

“A Washingtonian-area, national security extrovert aspiring to operate undercover internationally as a strategy consultant.”

Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once played a drug mule for the DEA in a training exercise in Panama with the Panamanian police.

Undergraduate School and Major: Georgetown University (School of Foreign Service), Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service (international economics major), Master of Arts in Security Studies (U.S. National Security Policy concentration)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Office of Senator Tammy Duckworth, Foreign Policy and Defense Fellow (fellowship sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Becoming one of the youngest political appointees during the Obama Administration at the Department of Defense and National Security Council staff (and having a situational awareness update that I wrote included in the Homeland Security Adviser’s daily briefing to President Obama).

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Intellectually curious—the classmates that I have met at Welcome Weekend were just as interested in my professional background as I was of theirs. They understand that an interdisciplinary outlook allows people to approach a problem with a myriad of solutions, many of which are unconventional because they draw upon subject matter from a field different from that of the problem.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Any business school can teach me economics, accounting, finance, and the expertise-related knowledge to be successful. However, the Yale School of Management seeks to create interdisciplinary leaders who care first about management and the social interactions that govern our systems and society. These leaders approach challenges not just from a purely financial or economics angle, but also from a scientific, environmental, legal, cultural, political, and social one.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Case Competition club—I want to improve my methodological approaches for solving complex problems.

The Yale School of Management is regarded as a purposed-driven program. What is your mission? How will your MBA at Yale help you fulfill that mission? My mission is to use my talents and the knowledge from the study and experience that I gain over the course of my life to maximize society’s welfare. Yale SOM will teach me how to manage, both up and down, people of various backgrounds who hold a diverse set of ideological opinions. In turn, learning and the hopefully practicing effective management will allow me to make the most impact in human society.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Why do you want an MBA?” The challenge was not necessarily answering it as it was convincing the interviewer how a national security professional would benefit from an MBA given that my academic interests in international affairs don’t align, at least on the surface, with my intended pivot into business.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I am interested in the intersection between national security and finance—namely, how governments, multinational conglomerates, and citizens interact around issues related to security and economics, such as international trade, counter-threat financing, or intellectual property theft. I have professional experience and academic expertise in national security. However, while I have always been interested in finance, I have no understanding or experience in it. Thus, I want to pursue an MBA to gain both: learn the fundamentals of how businesses operate and their interactions with customers and governments and put into practice what I have studied within the field. I chose to pursue the MBA now, as opposed to before or later, because I am on the border in my career between entry-level and mid-professional. If I went when I was in the former category, I would not get as much out of my MBA experience as I would be still developing and understanding what career I would want. If I went when I was in the latter, even with a great MBA experience, it would be difficult to make a career pivot.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UVA, UChicago, Wharton

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Given that I am an unconventional MBA candidate, one who wants to pivot into business in order to strengthen my understanding of national security, I prioritized how interdisciplinary a school was, from its curriculum to its faculty, and finally to its admitted students. For the first, I desired an MBA school that would let me interact with other elements of its parent university. Yale School of Management does that like no other, allowing students to take classes in just about any of Yale University’s departments. For the second, I wanted to interact with professors who come from different academic fields, so I researched the classes offered by the school and investigated into the professional backgrounds of the professors. For the third, I looked at the entering class data on the school’s website to see how diverse professionally the entering class was.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Getting accepted into Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS) was a defining moment. I had applied to business programs for my undergraduate education, with the only exception being Georgetown University (I applied to SFS given its reputation in international affairs, a field within which the school offered a major in international economics). Among the schools I had received an acceptance of admission, SFS was the best option. I entered SFS, desiring to position myself for a post-graduate opportunity on Wall Street in finance. However, during my freshman year, Operation Neptune Spear (the raid to hunt Osama Bin Laden) occurred. Fascinated by the events surrounding the Operation as well as being in D.C., I started interning in national security agencies, during which I learned how international economics could be applied to national security. If I had gone to a business school for my undergraduate studies, I would have ended up in finance directly after school and missed out on the opportunities in national security that I had.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? If I work in the private sector, I hope to be an experienced strategy consultant or corporate development officer, helping multinational firms navigate the global geopolitical landscape in order to identify opportunities for growth in new markets while mitigating financial and non-market risks. If I’m fortunate to return to another presidential administration, I hope to be a leading international economics policymaker, specializing in export control and financial sanctions policies.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.