Meet The MBA Class of 2022: Mario Arjona, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Mario Arjona

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“A creative problem-solver and compulsive learner.”

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a self-taught watchmaker, but I’m not very good at it.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Michigan, Mechanical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: General Mills, Operations Platform Lead

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? “Personal Scale” is a phrase I heard a lot before coming to Owen, and it became clear how much it meant to everyone here. The commitment to you as an individual starts with the small size of the school but extends to every part of the experience. I came from a huge undergrad institution where I found the most valuable experiences I had were in smaller group outside the classroom, through extracurriculars and other involvements. I wanted to go to a school where that tight-knit group philosophy was at the core of the program, and I found it at Owen.

At Owen, you are part of one of the most dynamic business environments in the country. What has made Nashville such a great place to live and learn for you? The Nashville feeling is infectious. I had been living here for five years before starting at Owen, and there’s a reason I didn’t want to leave. The city is exploding – new experiences and opportunities pop up every day. Nashville is constantly changing, growing, and redefining itself, and it invites you to do the same.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Collaborative. I continue to be impressed by how truly committed this class is to helping each other. Whether it’s with classwork, interview prep, networking, or anything in between, I’ve found there is always someone eager to help. It really speaks to the culture that has developed at Owen. We all made the decision to pursue an MBA for ourselves, but know we get the most out of the experience by helping each other get the most out of this experience.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: After participating in a pilot program to roll out new roles and team structures at my plant, I was selected to lead training and leadership workshops for new trainees as it was rolled out across the country.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? When I decided to stay in Nashville and pursue my MBA at Vanderbilt, I knew I wanted take advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the community in a meaningful way. Recently, I was selected to take part in our Board Fellows program, where I’ll have a chance to serve on the board of a local non-profit. I’m incredibly excited to represent Owen in the broader Nashville community, learn from and work alongside community leaders, and have an impact in the place that’s become my home.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I was extremely happy with all the experiences I’d had in my career so far. I got to be a problem-solver, engineer, collaborator, leader, and work with amazing people making products I really cared about. Having that broad range of experiences gave me a better appreciation of what I wanted the scope and impact of my work to look like long-term. I loved leading people and wanted to more strategically think about how products and experiences fit the needs of customers. An MBA was the perfect way to continue to develop those skills and open the door to those opportunities.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Pretty early in my career, I started managing a team in an area where I had no credibility or expertise. “Thrown into the deep end” doesn’t fully cover how overwhelmed I felt. Through that experience, though, I started learning how to establish trust, understand where people are coming from, empower people, manage disagreements, and add value as a leader – skills I hope to continue learning throughout my career. Ultimately, it became the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had and having that under my belt makes big, new challenges a lot less daunting.

DON’T MISS: Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2022

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