Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Cody Mitchell Villanueva, Harvard Business School

Cody Mitchell Villanueva

Harvard Business School

At the intersection of New York City dreams and Arizona charm.

Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona

Fun Fact About Yourself: I taught water aerobics in High School     

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Arizona; B.S. Retailing and Consumer Sciences

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Macy’s Inc., Merchandise Finance Associate

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method allows you to think critically about how one may approach a problem before understanding the concepts at hand. It fosters a dynamic learning environment where you pull from your own experiences, and the knowledge from your peers, to understand business topics. I’ve learned that in business you will come across problems that you may not know the answer to, but through critical thinking and through the help of your colleagues, anything is possible.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Humble and helpful. When I was going through the MBA process, I worried that when reaching out to current students they would be disinterested in my retail background and state school experience. I learned that they value diverse perspectives and wanted to help me achieve my own dreams. Everyone I interacted with was easy to talk to and more than willing to be a resource. I felt like I could truly be myself.

Aside from the case method and 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? The campus itself. I love the fact that HBS is one of the few business schools I visited with a distinct campus for their MBA students. A large amount of business students live on campus in HBS-specific housing, which allows you to build strong relationships with the people around you. It also helps that the grounds are stunning.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? Global Business Club. I’m excited to take my learnings abroad and develop as a global leader where I put empathy, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of my decisions.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I worked closely with the college recruitment team at Macy’s and would frequently travel back to my alma mater to help recruit future talent for the organization. My biggest accomplishment was paying it forward by mentoring prospective candidates and increasing the number of diverse colleagues at the firm. I was in their shoes years ago, and you change people’s lives when you show that you believe in them.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I wanted to enhance my understanding of finance, specifically outside of merchandising/retail, while also learning about business in the international market.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Pennsylvania – Wharton, Columbia Business School, Dartmouth – Tuck, Cornell – Johnson, NYU – Stern, WashU St. Louis – Olin.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? What are five words you think your co-workers would use to describe you? What are five more?

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized community and potential employment opportunities. I wanted a community where I could be my authentic self, but also offered opportunities across all industries of interest. I would compare the student profile of each of the programs to my own profile and see where I could make improvements. I used sources like Poets & Quants to read about student experiences and US News to look at rankings. I was fortunate to have visited each of the programs in person before applying which allowed me to get a strong sense of what it felt like being a student at each of the schools. I knew HBS would fit my career goal when it emphasized developing global leaders and having partnerships to top banking and luxury retail institutions.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I always knew I wanted to go back to school but was unsure of exactly what it was that I wanted to pursue. After about four years of working I realized that an MBA would allow me to diversify my experiences through global opportunities. That year, I committed to applying to business school, and if I didn’t get in, I would try for a different graduate program. Once I committed, I did everything I could to put my best applications forward. This included joining Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and undergoing months of tutoring with Manhattan Prep. I’m happy to say that it finally paid off.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? LVMH. LVMH has driven sales and profitability growth year over year through its portfolio of luxury brands. In a time where brick and mortar stores continue to decline across the retail industry, LVMH has managed to grow.

What is the most important attribute that you are seeking in an MBA employer? A long-term strategy for equity and inclusion for marginalized communities. It is extremely important that the company I work for have lasting initiatives to dismantle systemic oppression in the workplace.



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