Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

Jeniris Liz Montañez 

Simon Business School at the University of Rochester

Aspiring strategy consultant interested in the intersection of public and private sector to create impact.

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a new mom! I have a ten-month-old son named Lucas. I started my MBA applications while pregnant and finished them shortly after I gave birth. I am the only mom in the 2021 class and sometimes bring my son along to Simon events.

Undergraduate School and Major: Fordham University with a major in International Studies and a minor in International Humanitarian Assistance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Vice President at Bank of America, Merrill Lynch

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I spent five years at Barclays Capital and an Assistant Vice President, Technology Project Manager.  I managed a team of coders, testers, and business analysts that developed a brand-new client on-boarding application that served 3,500 users globally. The application replaced a legacy platform and resulted in a £20 million savings for the firm over a three-year period. I consider it my biggest accomplishment because I gained cross-functional management skills and achieved a tangible impact on a large user base.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My MBA classmates are extraordinarily generous! With such a diverse class, everyone is able to leverage their past experience and background to help others. My classmates share internship leads, academic resources, and all types of events in our class group chat. It is not uncommon to walk past a study group before a test and see students collaboratively studying. Classmates who have already secured internships or gone to pre-MBA conferences use their free time to help coach other classmates. There is a real sense of camaraderie and no one thinks twice to spend an hour or two of their time helping another student. It is the embodiment of “Simon Strong.”

Rochester Simon is known for being “unabashedly analytical.” Why does the program’s focus on quantitative analysis and decision-making appeal to you? How do you intend to leverage this approach as a student and professional? Simon’s analytical program was a big draw for me. While I worked in finance and technology, I was one of a few people without a technical or quantitative background. In Simon’s program, I saw an opportunity to fill those gaps in my knowledge. On a macro-level, analytics is redefining organizations and changing how we do business. Obtaining an education that trains us in the foundations of analytics and its practical uses is an assured way to have an impact in your organization. I intend to leverage all the resources at Simon to build my knowledge in analytics and use them as a strategy consultant to better understand data sets and make informed decisions at the C-suite level.

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? The key factor that made me choose Simon was the Simon staff. From the Admissions team to the Career Management Center and Office of Student Engagement, absolutely everyone has a vested interest in seeing you succeed. My first visit to the campus, all the staff knew my name, they knew the names of my son and partner and had arranged so that my whole family could be accommodated at every event. It really meant a lot to me that my family was welcomed with open arms.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most looking forward to Simon Vision Consulting Club. Simon Vision Consulting provides the opportunity for students to consult for local Rochester businesses on a variety of engagements. I am so excited to gain hands-on consulting experience to help local businesses in any way.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?  One of the most challenging questions I was asked during admissions was, “Why do your MBA now?”. It was such a tough question for me to honestly answer because by all outside measures it was exactly the wrong time to pursue an MBA. For one, I had a newborn. Secondly, I was in a Vice President role at Bank of America and would be sacrificing my upward trajectory to pivot to a different field. In the end, I determined that for some life changes there is never a “perfect” time and you just have to lean in.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Throughout my seven years in financial services, I worked with many consultants and was always curious and interested in the work they did with us and other clients. I began to wonder what kind of impact I could have if I used the skills I had learned in financial services in a different way, in a different industry.  At that point in my career, I felt confident and satisfied in the work I had delivered and felt it was a good time to explore what else I was capable of doing. Much of my work had been focused on strategy execution and I wanted knowledge and experience on strategy formulation, why businesses make the decision they make so I could become more well-rounded. I decided to pivot to strategy consulting and knew that an MBA would be the right way to navigate that pivot.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied to Columbia, Cornell, and Yale

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I assessed how the program would fill the gaps in my knowledge base and lend itself to the skills I wanted to gain. I assessed the strength of their Career Management Services, specifically looking at their placement rates, salaries and alumni network. For research, I used Poets&Quants to get in-depth detail about each program and class profile. Most importantly, I used the campus tours/information sessions as a way for me to determine if the school felt like a good fit for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I do not prescribe to the idea that there is just one defining moment in your life that shapes who you are. We are all capable of changing every day and there are so many moments that act as a catalyst for that. A moment that has stuck with me for years would be a service trip I took to Colinas, Brazil in 2012 where I helped build a home for a single mother and worked with a community leader to expand access to services for the family. I took this trip right after undergraduate graduation. Since then, it has become an imperative of mine to engage in social impact initiatives wherever I am. Even working in the private sector, I made a point to volunteer. I was on the Steering Committees of the Hispanic Professional Network and Women in Technology groups at Barclays Capital. It is important for me to ensure that the companies I work for are interested in improving the communities in which they do business.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In 10 years, I see myself enjoying a consulting career helping clients tackle challenging problems in a sustainable and equitable way. I will be involved in my children’s school and part of the PTA. I will be an active Simon alumna, helping the next generation prepare for the workforce. Hopefully, I will become an avid runner in ten years, considering that has been a goal of mine for the past five years.

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