Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Derek Espinosa, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Derek Espinosa

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Getting comfortable being uncomfortable. Passionate about retail. Outdoor explorer with a below average golf handicap.”

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve run three marathons, two of them being NYC and Chicago … and am still recovering!

Undergraduate School and Major:  University of North Carolina at Wilmington, finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Belk, Inc., Omni-Channel Strategic Fulfillment Planner

Aside from your classmates, 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? UNC and Kenan-Flagler have a longstanding history of producing top talent and leaders who go beyond just the classroom. The extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities are what makes UNC unique. I’ve also read multiple books about Dean Smith and his leadership style relating to “The Carolina Way” and you can truly see that in the faculty, staff and community.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Agile. Given the recent COVID-19 pandemic, my classmates haven’t let that stand in their way of pursuing their goals and getting the most out of business school. The openness to adapt quickly goes a long way and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the Class of 2022!

What club or activity excites you most at this school? The Consulting Club. This will give my classmates and me the opportunity to take on real-life, complex business problems and bring our diverse experiences to the table.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Being part of a team that launched Belk’s new order management operating system, which incorporates AI with real-time selling data. The implementation required collaboration across multiple areas of the company and resulted in approximately $40 million annual cost savings.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? An MBA was always a personal goal of mine. After working for six years, it came down to the right timing and whether I wanted to pursue a full-time or part-time degree. The full-time route aligned best for what I wanted to get out of an MBA program and where I was at in my career.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Vanderbilt

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? If you were to build a team, what type of people would you choose?

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I leaned on resources like Poets&Quants for application tips, class profiles and glimpses of school culture. I also spoke with many alumni from various top-tier programs to pick their brain on their experience and career path as well, asking them what they liked or what they wish they had done differently. Ultimately, it came down to the quality of education, career resources and the community for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? From a professional view, being in my current role, which was more of an internal consulting group within Belk. This position allowed me to gain experience in working cross-functionally with multiple areas of the business and hone in on soft skills, such as presentations to key stakeholders and knowing your audience. The analytical piece was also rewarding. I needed to quickly pull and interpret data as we were typically under a tight deadline.

Personally, I don’t think I have one defining moment but rather a lot of “snapshots” that define me. I’m always searching for experiences that will push myself to the physical or mental limit and I like to think these snapshots help get me one step closer.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Target. From an omni-channel and supply chain perspective, they’re at the forefront of innovation in the retail industry. They’ve invested over $7 billion in innovation, which is seen through their customer service and fulfillment strategy.

DON’T MISS: Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2022

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