Meet The MBA Class of 2022: Gabi Fernandez, Duke University (Fuqua)

Gabi Fernandez

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Inquisitive foodie with an unquenchable desire to explore the world.”

Hometown: San Juan, PR

Fun Fact About Yourself: I sailed through the Bermuda Triangle on the coattails of Hurricane Dorian. Fortunately, there were no major incidents or supernatural sightings.

Undergraduate School and Major: Georgetown University, International Politics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Navy, Surface Warfare Officer

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? Impactful Stewardship. As a leader I cannot be satisfied with the status quo. Instead, I need to be willing to create and implement solutions that will improve the community. This principle reminds me that I need to make a positive impact during my MBA and beyond.

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? The experiential learning opportunities at Fuqua were one of the main strengths of the program. Specifically, I am very interested in doing the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP). I want to transition into consulting after my MBA, so I thought it was exciting to have the opportunity to apply what we have learned in the classroom and put it into practice by helping these organizations solve their most pressing challenges.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? All my classmates have been very supportive during this challenging time. The world is undergoing drastic changes. In the midst of it, my classmates have been extremely generous with their time. Even on the first day of orientation, I already felt the support of this community. I know that my classmates will support each other through any challenge.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am looking forward to joining the Duke Armed Forces Association. All the Veterans at Fuqua were very helpful during the application process last year. I want to be able to pay it forward by helping current military members who might be intimidated by the business school application process.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I had the opportunity to lead a team of over twenty sailors in the first missile shoot onboard my destroyer. The ship was brand new at this point and had never been taken out to sea. My sailors trained extensively prior to the missile shoot and oversaw the initial testing of the missile system before taking the ship out to sea to perform the missile shoot. It was great to see how this group of sailors, who had never worked together on a ship, came together as a team to complete the mission. The sense of accomplishment that came from seeing how our team was instrumental in making our ship become seaworthy was extremely fulfilling.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? In the Navy, I was already leading a group of twenty sailors. I had gained great leadership skills through my experiences. However, I wanted to pivot into consulting and I realized I needed a solid theoretical and practical background in business. When I was finishing my commitment to the Navy, I knew it was the perfect time to apply.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UPenn, Rice, Yale, Georgetown, WashU, Northwestern

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The, “Why an MBA?” question encompasses the entire MBA application journey. It requires intense reflection to recognize what you have done personally and professionally until this point. After you have determined your strengths and weaknesses, you need to think about what you want to get out of an MBA and how it will assist you in achieving your goals after the MBA.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Since I had no prior background in business, I knew I had to make sure I was as prepared as I could be for the rigorous academic requirements of an MBA. Therefore, I took a couple of Coursera courses in finance and accounting before applying.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? It was the first time I was placed in charge of the navigation and operation of my ship. At that moment, I became responsible for the safety of the 300-person crew and the execution of the naval operations of a warship. I had received extensive training on navigation and experienced various types of operations. Despite all this training and experience, there is a moment of doubt when you are placed in charge of the entire bridge team for the first time. However, I realized that I could not let my own uncertainty prevent me from ensuring the safety of the ship and achieving the mission.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I have always admired how Henry Ford created a process to make cars into a product that could be more readily accessible. We now think of the car as this ubiquitous good that is a part of our daily life, but that was not always the case.

DON’T MISS: Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class of 2022