José Luis Ramos
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management
“I’m a builder who loves to turn ideas into their physical reality.”
Hometown: I was born in Mexico City, Mexico and raised in Redondo Beach, California
Fun Fact About Yourself: I lived on a ship for 115 days and visited 15 countries including Russia, Ghana, South Africa, and Cuba on the study abroad program, Semester at Sea. There’s nothing like learning about a particular topic, like Russian literature and arts, and then docking in St. Petersburg, having the opportunity to visit Dostoyevsky’s home and then attend the Russian Ballet.
Undergraduate School and Major: University of California, Irvine – B.S. Civil Engineering
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: MIT Martin Trust Center – Program Manager for delta v
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:
My biggest accomplishment was taking the risk very early in my career to leave civil engineering and transition to tech sales at startup companies. That decision was not easy to make. For about two months, I deliberated on whether I should do it or not and spoke to a number of friends and mentors about my decision. Most had actually recommended that I give it another year to see how I really felt, but there are times when you don’t need more data points and need to trust your gut. The day I left, my boss told me I’d regret my decision and never be able to go back to being a civil engineer; I’d just become a number at some large company.
I could feel the anxiety in my stomach throughout the process of making that decision but once I did, I commitment wholeheartedly and looking back I’m so glad I took a leap of faith. I’ll never forget the reaction my parents had: “Here he goes with another crazy idea!” Then I told them I’d be moving to Boston, a place I had never visited or had any connections.
When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How has your experience with the Sloan program reinforced or upended these early impressions? The first things that come to mind for me are engineering, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and technology. I’ve been fortunate to live only a few blocks down from MIT for the last four years and have continuously been impressed by how much Sloan and the campus has to offer. I’ve been fortunate to start my Sloan experience a few months early through my role as a program manager. I knew that Sloan would offer a strong entrepreneurial community, but I did not realize how strong it would be. I’m also fascinated by the concept of “Sloanies helping Sloanies” and it’s incredible to see how our class is helping each other through slack and whatsapp without ever having met one another yet. Just a few days ago, an international student posted that he was arriving on the 8/20 and needed help with his move. Within 30 minutes five people replied back saying they could help.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I’d say the two qualities that have stood out are humble and helpful. I met a number of my future classmates at the 2nd AdMIT weekend and none of them approached our conversations with a sense of needing to show off their accomplishments. It took a bit of digging and asking about people’s background to realize how much they have already accomplished. In fact, my soon-to-be roommate, who is an incoming Sloanie from Spain, did not tell me about all the incredible work he is doing in Barcelona until we grabbed dinner on his last night in Boston. In terms of helpfulness, it’s awesome to see how willing people are to answer questions and provide support. I had a question about one of the entrepreneurship programs, Legatum, and a 2nd year who is currently in Singapore quickly got back to me and hopped on a call to answer my questions.
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? This is a hard one because it certainly was a combination of factors. However, I’d have to pick the culture that MIT embodies. It truly is a collaborative environment and I’ve never experienced an environment where when you have an idea and share it with someone, they reference you to at least two or three other people that you should speak with. It feels like people want me to pursue my ideas as opposed to immediately shutting them down and telling me why I am wrong. I’m also fascinated by the concept of Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand) which is about being both thoughtful and practical.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Having worked at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship for a little under three months now, I am most excited for everything that has to do with entrepreneurship. Both the E&I track as well as 100k, Sandbox, Legatum, and all the clubs focused on entrepreneurship. I also can’t wait for all of the international trips that are led by fellow classmates. I hear the Israel and Japan trips are a must.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Wow, this is hard…I honestly can’t recall any particular question. However, what I can say is that the admissions team will dig 2-3 levels deep into the answers that you give so it is essential that you pick your stories carefully. I took the recommendation from friends who applied 1st rounder and asked a current student to do a mock interview with me. Jason Molina, who just graduated, offered up his time and he did a phenomenal job at making sure that I was prepared.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After transitioning into tech sales, I had an awesome opportunity to work at startup companies that were growing quickly and I could see a lot of the challenges that faced my managers. At the first company where I was, I started to see how a business operates a bit like a combination of gears…where each department helps or hurts adjacent departments. I started to ask myself questions like: how does sales, marketing, and customer success all work in unison? What does sales do that hurts customer success folks without knowing it? Since I aspire to run an entire organization someday, I realized that simply having a sales background would not be enough and that I should expand my knowledge on how a business truly operates. One tradeoff I saw in my work was that while I was getting better at sales, I was getting less exposure to other roles. As much as companies may tout their willingness to let you learn about other roles, it’s very hard to do so because you have your own metrics to hit that are not reduced so you can go learn. For me, pursuing an MBA is one of the best ways to take a step back so that I can learn about the core tenants of business while also developing and enhancing my own leadership capabilities.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard HBS, MIT Sloan, Stanford GSB, UVA Darden (Listed alphabetically)
How did you determine your fit at various schools? For my process, I decided to establish a set of benchmark questions that I could ask at different campuses. My goal was to ask these questions at each campus that I visited so I could get a sense for how they compared and then try to project what my experience might be like. My #1 goal for the next two years is to focus on developing myself as a business leader and entrepreneur so most of my questions focused around that. The question that I asked that I found most informative was, “How has your experience at SCHOOL X changed or reinforced your perspective on leadership?”
I also found that the best way to research culture was to start reaching out to current students on my own and to visit the campus when admissions was NOT holding events. The job of admissions is to sell you their program and I wanted to try to have an experience where I was not being sold. I was surprised at how welcoming students from MIT were and how open they were to invite me to their classes. In fact, in one of the classes (one on enterprise sales) the professor brought me to the front of the room and had a student “sell” MIT Sloan to me. My intention was to be a fly on the wall but was pleasantly surprised at how welcomed they made me feel.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? If I had to pick one it’d probably be my senior year of high school. Prior to that, I feel like I was not fully aware of my life and of my ability to impact it with decisions that I made. However, I was fortunate enough to have a phenomenal English teacher, Mr. Ammentorp, who continuously emphasized the importance of our attitude and mindset. I can’t remember anything that I read in that class, but the emphasis on attitude has stuck with me since. At the end of the year, I asked all of my teachers for quotes that I should take to my undergrad years and Mr. Ammentorp wrote the one that I continue to carry with me in everything that I do: “The value of a (wo)man’s life is in direct proportion to his service to others.”
Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 2029, I will hopefully have had at least one successful startup exit. I’d like to be starting a second venture focused on leveraging technology that is probably just starting to be tested at the MIT Media Lab or some other part of the world. I also dream of buying my parents a 6-month all-expenses-paid trip around the world and it’d be great to have the ability to do that within 10 years. Finally, I’d like to have started a scholarship fund that focuses on providing opportunities for the underdogs in our community. I envision that each of the scholarships will be named after the people that have been most influential in my life including my parents, my abuelitas, and a number of mentors who have continuously supported me in my journey.
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