Alyssa V. Buchanan
“I am a personable leader that is mission driven, intuitive, emotionally intelligent, witty, and charming.”
Hometown: Saint Louis, Missouri
Fun Fact About Yourself: My parents had aspirations for me to be an actress, so they named me after Alyssa Milano and Vanessa Williams.
Undergraduate School and Major: Howard University, Chemistry
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Mondelez International, Associate Scientist II
Aside from your classmates and location, 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? There were three things that led me to choose the Texas McCombs MBA program: culture, community, and brand equity. Brand was specifically important to me because of the associated network and resources that it would provide. I also sought to be around professionals who were eager to learn and apply new concepts, able to accept constructive feedback for self-development, and leave prepared to positively impact society. During my visit to McCombs, I knew that I wanted Texas MBA to be a part of my legacy. It just felt right, and that was enough to seal the deal for me.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? That’s tough! I have high interest in the Marketing and Board Fellows programs. Each fellowship provides the opportunity for hands-on experience, company exposure, and networking.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I’m most proud of my contribution on a $6 million savings concept for the Chips Ahoy! brand. By utilizing a waste stream ingredient, we discovered a novel use for the technology allowing us to apply for patent submission. If granted, it would be my first patent!
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? When you’ve only been doing one thing for so long, you eventually become an expert in that one thing. This experience can be seen as limiting if you’re interested in exploring opportunities. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to round out my skill set and build upon my R&D knowledge. As a chemist, I was siloed from the commercialization of a product once innovated. I also yearned to be closer to the consumer. However, with only my technical background, there was an obvious skill-gap between the innovation and overall management of a brand. That is what led me to pursue an MBA.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied to Emory (Goizueta) and Vanderbilt (Owen).
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Honestly, the most challenging question I was asked was, “Why do you want an MBA?”. I had to work hard on telling a story that was fluid, concise, and impactful.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? I determined my fit at various schools by attending diversity weekends and scheduling informational calls with current students and alumni. I weighed the responses I received very heavily because they provided me an insider prospective of the culture and community of the school. I wanted to be absolutely certain that I was making the right choice.
What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Before starting classes in the fall, I began communicating with the Career Management Center. I knew that recruiting for internships would be a completely new experience for me, and I wanted to be over-prepared. I intend to explore new industries for my career and the personalized approach that McCombs’ career center offers has helped identify the right organizations for me.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I applied internally for a few roles at my company and did not receive any of them. I knew it was difficult to make the pivot into something else on my own, but I thought I would get at least one opportunity. When received I my last NO, I changed my focus and started to research MBA programs. The biggest lesson I learned from my rejections is that everything is not meant for me. I didn’t stop pursuing my goal, I just found another way to get there.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Nike. Just Do It. These next two years are going to fly by, so take advantage of every opportunity that seems right for you. Don’t be afraid to lead and stand out.