2020 MBAs To Watch: Michael Salazar, Texas A&M (Mays)

Michael Salazar

Texas A&M University, Mays Business School

Temperate, principled, thoughtful. I’ve been called “the best pretend extrovert” by more than one person.”  

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Fun fact about yourself: My wife and I were voted Valentine’s King and Queen at our 8th-grade school dance by our classmates.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Utah, BA Religious Studies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cvent, Project Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Microsoft (Cybersecurity Solutions Group), Bellevue, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft (Business Program Manager, Cybersecurity Solutions Group), Redmond, WA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Community Work:

  1.  Prepared daily lessons for early morning group instruction for local High-School Seniors at my church.

Leadership Roles (B-School):

  1. Team Leader, MBA Capstone Consulting project: Lead deep-dive analysis and produced business strategy recommendations for a Fortune 500 publicly-traded integrated communications firm.
  2. Graduation Committee: Assisted in planning and orchestrating the execution of the MBA Class of 2020 graduation celebrations.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Honestly, successfully completing the requirements of the program is what I am most proud of during business school. I think back to the deep generational sacrifices of those who came before me so that I could have the opportunity of qualifying myself for transformational experiences like this that would allow me to become self-sufficient and adequately provide for a family. Walking out of Mays with that degree in hand felt as though I had made my family proud and taken an important step in satisfying their hopes for me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had the opportunity to be the Project Manager and lead the team that represented our organization for the White House Easter Egg Roll and Christmas Tree lighting for a couple of years. The opportunity to do something that was uplifting to thousands of individuals and families, while having the privilege of doing it in the shadows of the White House was really a highlight of my young professional career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I really enjoyed Dr. Sarah Rice, our first-semester Accounting professor. She certainly provided us with the foundational knowledge to understanding financial statements and broad accounting practices within organizations. However, it was her willingness to facilitate an environment of learning according to each student’s needs both within and outside of the classroom that set her apart as a true teacher.

Each time I wanted to go deeper into material that wasn’t covered in the classroom, sought academic and professional advice or needed an encouraging voice to keep pushing through the rigors of the MBA program, Dr. Rice always made herself available. She has continued to be a trusted advisor even after the completion of the program.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Texas A&M is a university-rich with and passionate about their traditions. These traditions are very much a part of what makes College Station an incredible place to go to school. Among all these, the tradition of the Aggie Ring stands above them all in my mind. From the earliest-made Aggie Ring in 1889 until I received mine some 130 years later, the ring has been worn by Aggies who have reached certain academic achievements. More importantly, the wearer of the ring represents the Aggie Core Values the remainder of their lives.

This was a special day for me as I selected my wife to present my ring to me as it represented our shared sacrifice and commitment to this academic achievement.

Why did you choose this business school? Mays Business School at Texas A&M is the only MBA program I applied to. I wondered about the wisdom of doing that and then telling the admissions folks about that as well. However, I was confident in the decision and was committed all the way to joining the school and the distinct culture in College Station.

In addition to being an 18-month program that is highly affordable with top-ranked ROI which allows graduates to get back into the workforce sooner and with less financial burdens, the MBA program at Mays prides itself on producing leaders that view themselves as change agents and stewards to make the world a better place. It was this lofty view crafted by the administration of the school and carried out by its graduates, along with the tight-knit, small class size that ultimately drew me to the MBA program.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Mays seeks out prospective students who can keep up with the academic rigors imposed upon them during the condensed 18-month program. Those who are willing to grind and put in the work, while exhibiting characteristics of humility and teamwork, are those who are most successful during and after the program.

Above all, I would advise the students to know their “why” and their “who”. Meaning, they need to be able to tell a compelling story about “why” they are taking this critical academic step of getting their MBA at Mays. Furthermore, and most importantly, clearly identifying “who” they are, and exhibiting self-awareness and a growth-mindset will allow the admissions program to confidently welcome the candidate knowing they will contribute to the ethos of Mays.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think there may be a misconception that the students who attend Mays MBA are somewhat homogenous. However, I found this to not be the case. I was so grateful to experience rich diversity in our program,

I had peers from several countries and from throughout the United States. Furthermore, the variety of perspectives from my classmates often contributed to unique classroom discussions and learning, and opportunities to bond in special ways with individuals from different cultures and walk of life created a family environment that is unique to the Mays MBA program.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I’m not keen on regrets or dwelling much on the past unnecessarily. However, I think I would have allowed myself to open up to my peers sooner. Everyone, especially in the highly-charged environment of an MBA program, needs each other and has something to contribute. When you do, the tide rises, thereby lifting all who reside on it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Koki Tobita. He is one of the most brilliant and successful students in our program. Koki came to Mays from Japan not comfortable with English and having recently been married a couple of weeks before the program started. While his wife remained in Japan, Koki came to the program, struggled through the language, and showed me what it really looks like to persevere and truly succeed in a rigorous academic setting. He is consistently kind and reliable, and someone to watch as he returns home to Japan to resume his professional career.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My son. I determined from a very early age that I was going to be a hinge point in my family’s history. I wanted to achieve a level of success that, although aided by the sacrifice of those who came before me, would be fundamentally different than theirs. I knew that a key part of this was valuing my education and getting as much of it as possible. Having a son and knowing the position I was in when I grew up, motivated and influenced me to get my MBA and provide him the stability and prosperity he deserves.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Spend part of my professional career living and working in the Middle East (Near East) region of the world.
  2. Give a speech in front of the General Assembly at the United Nations

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? That I was always true to myself, and a person of high moral character.

Hobbies? Spending time with family, reading, writing, and traveling.

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

“A former NCAA basketball player with competition as his top strength, Michael Salazar took me by surprise during the first semester of our program. I fully expected him to work hard, play hard, and fight hard to outcompete his peers for recognition and job opportunities. I pegged him as one who might even seize the spotlight and be slow to swivel it onto others. I could not have been more wrong. For sure, Michael worked hard, burning the midnight oil to bring his “A-game” to every class, assignment, and project. Early on, however, it became clear that he measured his success, much less through his own achievements than by how much he contributed to the success of those around him. Week in and week out, he modeled for peers, faculty, and staff what it means to be a “we” leader.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the capstone consulting course. During team formation, Michael was selected through a peer nomination process to anchor a challenging project for a Fortune 500 company. Once the anchors were in place for all eight projects, students not serving as anchors were asked to submit their top preferences. In 12 years of teaching capstone, I have never received more requests to join a project based on the character traits of the anchor, in this case, Michael. His fellow students, frequent observers of his behavior, recognized that he had made the transformation from “I” to “we” leadership. They knew he would create an environment of trust and respect where all voices could be heard. They knew he would care about each person’s growth and development. Without a doubt, they knew he would drive the team to achieve excellence, no matter the obstacles. Did I mention Michael’s Competition strength? His servant leadership, with this secret ingredient, lifted others up, supported them in winning together, and made him an invaluable member of the Class of 2020.”

Dr. Janet Marcantonio
Executive Professor, Mays Business School
Texas A&M University


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