Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Cecilia Rios Murrieta, University of Virginia (Darden)

Cecilia Rios Murrieta

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“I’m a self-starter. Writer, entrepreneur, and ‘esprit indomptable’. Eternal optimist and joy seeker.

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love to sing and I kill at karaoke. I try to find a karaoke bar in every city I visit. Singing is one of the things that brings me the most joy.

Undergraduate School and Major: ITAM + UVM. I studied Business administration. I started at ITAM and dropped out during my third year when I decided to start my own business. I went back to school last year to finish in order to apply to Business school.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Mezcales Murrieta, Founder

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? Most of what I have learned in my career has been by experiential learning. When faced with a problem, I love to explore the reasons why things happen and narrow down the best possible solution. The case method gives us the opportunity to learn by doing, while at the same time interacting with our peers in a conversational environment, allowing us to learn from each of our different backgrounds and points of view. I believe the case method also lets us think outside the box and develop our own voice, which is very important to becoming a better manager.

Aside from your classmates and the case method, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The most important thing that led me to my decision, aside from my brother and sister-in-law being part of the class of 2011, is the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists at Darden, UVA, and Charlottesville. When making my decision, I simply could not refuse the opportunity to have access to so many resources, including the vast network of alumni, angel investors, VCs, and mentors. As an entrepreneur wishing to continue to pursue a career as an entrepreneur, there were very few programs that I considered to hit the mark on supporting students who don’t wish to pursue a traditional internship. Darden’s Batten Institute has excelled in making it possible to create your own path. Like [Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Director] Sean Carr said, ‘There is no cookie-cutter approach to being an entrepreneur, and they make it easy for you to see all the options, explore and find your own way.’

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The camaraderie. One of the positive side effects of COVID has been the chance to connect and meet with many of my future classmates and the rapport was simply instant. Despite being thousands of miles away from each other, we have held each other through the ups-and-downs of uncertainty and anxiety that the pandemic has caused in each of our home countries. Together, we have come out of this stronger and I can honestly say I feel like I now have best friends in India, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, China, and the US, and I love it! I cannot wait to see everyone in person very soon.

What makes you most excited about starting business school here? What makes you most nervous? I’m very excited for the network of students, teachers, and mentors that I will have in Charlottesville. I can’t wait to see my new friends and finally see Darden’s campus. I’m nervous about COVID, but to this day Darden and UVA have been the most responsive and caring about our unique situations and I am convinced that there is no place I would rather be at this moment.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment has to be launching a spirits company from scratch with no prior experience in the industry, no partners or major investors, as a 26-year-old woman in a male-dominated industry. In spite of the skepticism and fear-mongering from a certain few around me, I pushed forward and managed to build a brand portfolio within one of the biggest spirits distributors in the US. I did it, and I had the time of my life doing it.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Around 2017, I was beginning to feel that I had come full circle in my career in spirits and that I needed to transition. My life priorities have shifted towards mindful habits and a pursuit of physical, mental, and spiritual wellness, so I felt like this was the perfect moment to invest in myself and treat myself as my next venture. I had always known business school would be on my path, and the timing had finally aligned with my purpose.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard and LBS.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I think it was when I was asked how others would describe me. It’s hard to assess your own character and put yourself in other people’s shoes. It’s like when we take a selfie, and we see a reflected and measured version of ourselves. When you’re randomly tagged in a photo that you didn’t notice was taken, you suddenly see a version of yourself that was completely candid and often not the most flattering one. So, how others see you is often a different version of how you see yourself.

Since being accepted, what have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Well, COVID has certainly helped me to stay focused and with one goal in mind: prepare in the best way possible for business school. I’ve sort of taken an athlete’s approach when it comes to prepping. I’ve been focusing on strengthening my yoga practice and maintaining my mind, spirit, and body in the best shape possible. I’ve taken multiple webinars on leadership, gender parity, time organization skills, and I’m trying to master my French before I start school (that’s still a work-in-progress). But I’ve also made an effort to connect with my future classmates through weekly Zoom social gatherings, as well as hosting yoga on Saturdays with people from all over the world. It’s truly amazing what this pandemic has taught us and allowed us to achieve, despite the challenges.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment was when my father passed away early last year. He was 82 years-old, and few people have lived such a full life as him. His enthusiasm for life, staying in shape, and making the most out any situation fueled my drive to seek experiences that would bring me absolute happiness and growth. It was as if, at that moment, I understood the importance of prioritizing what truly matters: purpose. I am fortunate to have had him teach me so many valuable lessons. Most of all, he left me with a desire to search for joy and an endless appetite for knowledge.

What is your favorite company and why? Disney. I grew up as a Disney fan watching every movie and singing along to every soundtrack. But I read a biography of Walt Disney when I was 11 and I was fascinated by his life story. From that moment I knew I wanted to create something as memorable and significant in people’s lives as the Mickey Mouse logo. I think that was my moment of inception, and since then I have become fascinated with brands and their impact on people’s emotions and decisions. I truly admire everything Walt Disney was able to accomplish in his lifetime, and hope to one day aspire to even a fraction of his genius.

DON’T MISS: Meet The MBA Class Of 2022: The COVID Cohorts

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.