2020 Best & Brightest MBA: Giovanni Cruz, Yale SOM

Giovanni Cruz

Yale School of Management

“Analytical. Dynamic. Committed. Caring. Socially minded. Servant leader.”

Hometown: Carolina, Puerto Rico

Fun fact about yourself: I have a twin sister (which I thought was fairly unique, but out of the five people on my school’s learning team, three of us have a twin sister, so I’m starting to wonder whether I need to look for another fun fact!)

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Puerto Rico, B.S. in Industrial Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Teach for America – Director of Reporting and Analytics in Dallas, TX

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019?

Summer 2019: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – Analytics Intern in Seattle, WA

Fall 2019: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – Research and Analysis Intern in New York, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? The Bridgespan Group – Consultant in New York, NY

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-Chair of Internship Fund
  • Co-Leader of Out of Office
  • Co-Leader of SOM Voices
  • Co-Leader of Pre-Graduation Trip Planning Committee
  • Welcome Weekend Planning Committee
  • Admissions Guide
  • Social Impact Consulting Club
  • Student Government Community Outreach Committee
  • Education Leadership Conference Case Competition Winner

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Last year, I had the opportunity to co-lead the Internship Fund. The Internship Fund, one of the first programs of its kind, is a club that fundraises throughout the year to financially support students who pursue a social-sector internship. For over 40 years, the Internship Fund has been supporting about 10% of each class, removing financial barriers to ensure that students are able to follow their passions and pursue a social-sector internship. I am proud to have co-led this group for a few reasons, but fundamentally I believe Internship Fund perfectly embodies SOM’s culture. SOM’s student body is committed to each other and to the social sector, as evidenced by last year’s 92% participation rate and our ability to raise over $260,000 to support 30 students last year. Our committee (and our entire class) worked incredibly hard last year, but coming back to campus and hearing the stories from our recipients made it all worth it!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Early in my career, I decided to take a risk and switch functions/industries. I worked at a great Fortune 500 company but felt my skillset will be better suited for the nonprofit sector. So I took the risk (along with a considerable pay cut). And it paid off! Now, I couldn’t see myself leaving the nonprofit sector. Had I not taken that chance, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m proud to have been able to follow my instincts and pursue a different career path early on. I encourage others (to the extent possible, of course) to do the same!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Lorenzo Caliendo, an Economics professor at SOM. He’s smart, knowledgeable, approachable, and has a great sense of humor. He’s also one of the few Latinx professors at SOM. Coming to Yale, I didn’t expect to meet many professors who’d share my background. Being able to speak Spanish around him and connect with him outside of class has been amazing. He’s a great role model!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite SOM tradition is Voices. Voices is a weekly event in which three of our classmates share their stories. I believe Voices represents our school’s culture in many ways. As a class, we value getting to know other, and Voices provide a platform for students to connect with one another in meaningful ways. Co-leading the club this year has been an honor, and I continue to be amazed by the incredible people I get to share my MBA experience with. I can’t wait to see how our tradition continues to evolve over time!

Why did you choose this business school? The school’s mission – and how that mission is reflected in everything the school does – was my biggest draw to SOM. In my experience, because of its mission, SOM attracts people who understand the importance of contributing to society. It’s both refreshing and energizing! Traditions like the Internship Fund, our active Net Impact club, and the community service events happening throughout the year showcase SOM’s commitment to the social sector. As someone who comes from – and will be going back to – the nonprofit sector, this is important to me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice would be to be thoughtful about your story. Make sure to spend time thinking deeply about how the decisions you’ve made so far (both personally and professionally) connect with why you want to pursue an MBA and what you’re looking to do afterward. Having a consistent, well-thought-out story will not only help you succeed in the application process but will be helpful as you start to navigate career options post-MBA and beyond.

What is the biggest myth about your school? It’s important to know that Yale SOM takes academics seriously. The academic workload (particularly in the first year) can be overwhelming at times. There’s certainly space for recruiting, socializing and getting involved in extracurricular activities, but note you will have a heavy workload and will be expected to actively contribute in class.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? When you step on campus, it’s very easy to overcommit and say yes to everything. I wish someone would have told me it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to focus on what’s important to you. I’m certainly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, but I wish I would have taken more time for myself. I hope to do that in the coming year.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Amanda Hatheway. She’s incredibly committed to the school, having served in student government, the Internship Fund committee, and Welcome Weekend planning committee (among other extracurriculars). She doesn’t hesitate to help others when they’re in need. I believe she has probably helped dozens (if not hundreds) of people prepare for case interviews throughout her time at SOM. Moreover, she has been an incredible friend to me throughout my time at SOM. I’m inspired by her every day, and I’ve learned so much from her leadership, commitment, and determination. I look forward to continuing to build our friendship in the coming years!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I’ve been lucky to have been raised by incredible women, including my mom, my sisters, my aunts, and my grandmothers. They’ve all played an integral part in helping me get to where I am today. My grandmother, in particular, has played (and continues to play) an important role in my life. She has always been my biggest cheerleader! She is someone who makes me believe I can do anything, simply because she believes I can do anything. Having her advice and support throughout the years has been my biggest source of confidence, motivation, and inspiration. I’m so thankful to have her in my life!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Learning Mandarin and pursuing another Master’s degree (in business analytics, perhaps) are the top two items on my list right now.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like them to remember me as kind, caring, and committed.

Hobbies? I greatly enjoy traveling and reading. Luckily, I’ve been studying in Singapore this semester, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of both recently!

What made Giovanni such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Giovanni has been a force for impact and good since he began at SOM and has consistently been involved in giving back to the SOM community. As a first-generation college student, the attitude of paying it forward has been instilled in Giovanni and has shown in what he has engaged with at SOM. From leading the Internship Fund, a student-run club designed to provide financial support to students embarking on an internship at a Non-Profit or B-Corps over the summer, to be a leader in Voices, Yale’s unique, student-run speaker series that gives students and the community the ability to share their stories and voices, Giovanni’s sense of mission and purpose can be felt from all corners of the school.

When Giovanni entered SOM, he had an explicit goal to become a change agent in the Social Impact sector, and his outcomes from a career perspective have exemplified those goals. As an active member of the Consortium, Giovanni began his journey before he even entered the halls at SOM, and that vision and perseverance led him to secure an internship at the Gates Foundation. Knowing that he could continue to grow and learn from other experiences, Giovanni was able to build a strong relationship with UNICEF and worked part-time during the fall as he balanced his community and academic rigors on campus. The hard work for Giovanni translated into him ultimately accepting his dream job with the Bridgespan Group, where he will take his unique qualities of community building, advocacy and determination into Social Impact Consulting.”

Mike Colelli
Career Coach
Yale School of Management


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