Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2021

Daniel Ballesta Quintana

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management

“Ironclad disciplined, tireless traveler, firm believer that finance must be used to benefit everyone.”

Hometown: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Fun Fact About Yourself: My obsession with alarms has gotten to worrying degrees, I need to set up seven alarms in order to wake up every morning. I also must admit that I will go further than most to prove a point, I studied and earned a Law Degree after being challenged by a close friend.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Business Management Degree, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (2012)

Law Degree, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria  (2015)

MSc in Institutions and Financial Markets, CUNEF Madrid (2013)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Santander Bank, XVA Derivatives Trader

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Definitely, my biggest accomplishment so far has been getting accepted into the MBA of MIT with a fully-funded merit scholarship from the Spanish not-for-profit institution “La Caixa Foundation”.

This accomplishment is the culmination of my commitment to forging a strong educational background even after having finished two bachelors and a Master’s degree. Since my early professional days, I have never felt fulfilled only by my work and have always sought to improve myself in different aspects, complementing both my professional and my academic career. While working as a trader, I obtained a Law Degree and not long after that became a CFA Charterholder; later on, I strived to go further and obtained the fully-funded scholarship that will fund my MBA studies.

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? Leverage and a platform for transforming ideas into real impact are the two key aspects that come to mind. As a part of the MIT community, I feel that all the knowledge and experience I have gained throughout my life – when mixed in together with the exceptional MIT faculty while working alongside fellow classmates from different multidisciplinary backgrounds – will generate projects that will have a real positive impact for society. Ideas will no longer be mere thoughts, they will become tangible solutions.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? So far, I’ve only met a couple of them face-to-face. Nevertheless, I’ve contacted a lot of classmates and I would describe them as sincere and helpful. All of them have gone out of their way to answer all my doubts in the best way possible, not only by providing helpful answers but by providing advice and mentoring in a way I would have never imagined. This is especially true about the ones whom I approached regarding my future professional goals in the Impact Investing industry. Furthermore, you can feel the enthusiasm in the way they talk about their projects and their hopes for the future, while remaining at all times realistic. My fellow classmates have so far proven to be reliable, helpful, and kind and I am looking forward to embarking on this new adventure with them.

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? I was drawn by the energy that MIT puts into innovating and disrupting everything related to sustainability and its remarkable engagement with this urgent cause. When I read and researched about the projects created by the Sustainable Lab, I understood the relevance of what Sloan is accomplishing in terms of social and environmental impact. Sustainability is one of the main pillars of the rising Impact Investing industry and I firmly believe that being prepared to address the most challenging issues facing society will be a key factor to undergo my career change.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Related to my professional goals, I would love to keep taking the right steps towards the Impact Investing industry. The Impact Investing initiative at Sloan is very active and I am looking towards participating in the creation of an Impact Investing student-run fund.

At the same time, I would love to share with fellow classmates the experience I have so far gained while working in the financial sector by helping others with a non-financial background to get a feel for the challenging derivatives industry.

On the personal side, I would love to take advantage of the broad opportunities that MIT, together with its location in Cambridge and Boston offers in terms of activities I practice such as hiking, traveling or skiing (love it) with enthusiasts from other cultures and sectors.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I could mention many unexpected questions I was asked during the admission process for which I wasn’t exactly prepared for. However, the most challenging question was one that all of us are asked. Describe yourself or tell me about you. We all feel that we deeply know and understand ourselves. When the time comes, it’s extremely hard to face the self-reflection process and, at the same time, express in a short text or in a 30-minute interview your true essence and value.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I’ve been working very hard for the last ten years, both on the professional and academic fields, trying to build a strong and successful career in the financial markets industry. However, after working for six years as a Trader during a complicated period for Spanish banks, I came to a realization. During all those years, I was so focused on my career that I never stopped to ask myself: Why am I doing this? Who am I creating value for?

Gradually, I have become interested in gaining new perspectives about the purpose of finance and how it can generate a real positive impact on society and in our environment. I decided that, after working for six years in financial markets, now was the perfect time to take the next step and undergo the career change towards Impact Investing.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, NYU Stern, Chicago Booth

How did you determine your fit at various schools? My key was a hands-on program that would allow me to put theory into practice from the very first moment. Flexibility was another essential aspect of the program. Since Impact Investing is not the common target industry for MBA students, I looked for universities with labs and projects in this field. I wanted to follow a non-traditional curriculum that would allow me to create my own educational experience “à la carte”. Finally, I was aware that this career change must be driven and accompanied by the most acknowledged professionals from the industry. At MIT, there are many faculty members that have been an inspiration for me. Having the opportunity to work under their wing would be a truly rewarding experience.

My two main sources of information during the research process were MBA program websites and well-known reference portals (such as Poets & Quants) and contacting alumni. I did as much research as possible for each MBA program (Top-20) and then I cross-checked the information with former and current students from each class to form an informed opinion. I realized that the culture and hands-on approach at MIT Sloan was exactly what I needed for this new chapter.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I don’t think there is “ONE” defining moment for me, but rather a gradual process where I have evolved from being solely a career-oriented finance professional into becoming a firm believer that finance can be used for the benefit of all.

Back in 2013, I had the opportunity to work in a branch office as a mortgage analyst. At the age of 22, I was obsessed with getting ahead in my professional career, but soon this led me to some very tough, eye-opening experiences such as telling a family of four that they were losing their house due to mortgage execution. I remember feeling hopeless as I tried to look for solutions but none of them was a good fit and, truly, there was nothing I could do to help. Later on, working as a trader showed me how employees are forced to compete and always keep their colleagues at a distance.

These experiences made me realize that there is a latent opportunity for the financial sector to undergo a change and have a true positive impact on society. Instead of just being another player in the financial sector, I strive to become the driver of change towards a more balanced system.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In the long-term, my dream is to become an influential leader in social finance, playing a role in reducing the $2.5 trillion gap needed worldwide to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations. This could be achieved through a senior role in a traditional financial institution where I can voice the relevance of mobilizing capital towards social and environmental impact or by leading an impact investing fund. All this must be compatible with the two most important aspects in my life: traveling and family.

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