2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Chantell Hernandez, Wisconsin School of Business

Chantell Hernandez

Wisconsin School of Business

I’m a first-generation Cuban American looking to close gaps through analytics and insights.”

Hometown:  Miami, Florida

Fun fact about yourself: I like to build my own PCs – I look forward to upgrading my rig again!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Florida International University, Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school?  Hasbro, Trade Marketing Coordinator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?  Dell Technologies, Austin, TX

Where will you be working after graduation?  Dell Technologies, Solutions Operations & Analytics Advisor

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Consortium Fellow, Forté Fellow, Consortium Co-Liaison, Co-President of Graduate Women in Business, and Co-President of Diversity in Business

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  I characterize myself as a ‘gap closer’. I am most proud of two unique events I helped bring to campus. The first was a salary negotiation workshop for Graduate Women in Business, in an effort to give women the tips and knowledge they need during recruitment, when employers are most able and willing to negotiate. By working with the Career Services team, we had a very open and honest conversation about this critical moment of the job search process and addressed specific tactics women can leverage to improve their offers and work towards closing the pay gap. After this event, I’ve had some of my peers approach me to say this workshop gave them the confidence to negotiate their salary during the recruitment process. Another event I planned was a ‘blind’ lunch for Diversity in Business where we tried to close the communication gaps between our peers and bring the community closer together. My VP and I put together a quick survey that helped ‘match’ lunch buddy pairs of people who had different background, interests and likely had not spoken to each other very much throughout the program. Next, we got the conversation started with a trivia game about our MBA members (participants had to match the fun fact with the correct person), which broke the ice between the lunch buddies, kicked off some great conversations, and ultimately brought our community closer together.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  It may seem odd to say, but simply getting my first “real full-time job” at Hasbro was really meaningful to me and my family. I was the coordinator for the retail planning, space design, and activations in 10+ different countries across the LATAM region. The most successful event I led was a Play-Doh Kitchen MasterChef Jr.-style activity, which drew in over 1,000 participants and thousands of media impressions across Central and South America – we even had celebrity chef hosts! There were a lot of great projects throughout my time at Hasbro, I really came into my own in that position and brought in new methodologies for planning the retail spaces and events. As the daughter of immigrant parents from Cuba who worked hard to give me that kind of opportunity, I did not want to let them down. Getting a strong start on my career path felt like I was fulfilling a dream, both for me and for them.

Why did you choose this business school? I knew I wanted a more analytics-focused career, and I had been considering an MBA for some time. UW-Madison has one of the first and best analytics & insights MBA programs and it had been on my radar for years. Due to its long program history, it had an extensive alumni network, which really helped open opportunities for me. In fact, both my internship and full-time opportunities at Dell would not have been possible without alumni support.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is definitely Neeraj Arora. His Marketing Analytics class taught me analytics skills that I used in my internship and led to my full-time offer. He interspersed professional and life advice throughout his lectures, which became more pertinent when we had to suddenly switch to online due to the pandemic. His class ultimately kept me sane through the transition, and he was one of the first people I went to when I needed professional guidance regarding my full-time opportunities. He always gives great advice that I know I will continue to value it for the rest of my career.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is the Arts Showcase & Talent Show during On Wisconsin! Weekend. I first attended it during my preview day and it was exciting to see so many of my peers in the program show off their hidden talents. People prepared for months ahead of time for their performances, and it was really awesome to see such a professionally run show put together by the Artful Business Collective. It really showed the amount of love and dedication that students put into this program.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Had I known I would spend so much time doing remote work and learning, I would have gotten a bigger apartment with a balcony! In all seriousness, the importance of at-home comfort is really understated when it comes to online learning and working. I originally looked for a small place because I did not expect to spend much time at home between classes, but 2020 really threw a curve bal. Working in a small space made remote learning difficult at times.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Madison is known as a college town, but I had the opportunity to live here through summer during COVID and I learned that it was so much more to offer, even when school isn’t in session. Madison is an incredibly beautiful place – it has both natural and man-made architectural beauty. Even though a lot of indoor locations were closed this summer, nothing can take away the outdoor activities Madison has to offer. The university and the city are places of congregation and community building both for the students and the surrounding neighborhoods.

What surprised you the most about business school? I expected it to be a lot like undergrad in terms of community building. My undergrad was huge – roughly 50,000 students – very similar in size to UW-Madison, and it was easy to never meet the same person twice. It’s very different from a grad perspective: going through a cohort MBA program creates a tight-knit community. It’s been nice to see the same friendly faces for my classes and know that I can count on people to have my back.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I started my research early. I knew before graduating from undergrad that I eventually wanted an MBA. I started researching schools, and even called UW-Madison two or three years before I applied to learn about the requirements. This gave me the time to prepare, look for funding options, and stay on top of deadlines.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I think my whole Consortium family is full of incredible people, but Kayla Anne Lewis has really had my back throughout the program. I could not have asked for a better Diversity in Business Co-President or Consortium Co-Liaison. She’s truly what has kept these two organizations running at UW-Madison. She is incredibly organized, creative, and inspiring. We often challenge each other to be better people. I have learned a lot from her throughout my MBA.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Functionally? Not very disruptive! I’m glad that I have been offered so many opportunities to develop professionally despite the pandemic. I was fortunate that Dell is a company that was prepared to tackle a massive work-from-home transition. I’m equally fortunate to be going back this summer full-time. Emotionally? It’s been rough – as I’m sure it has been for most of us. I remember two or three months into the pandemic, a news podcast described the feeling as ‘collective grief’, and I felt a great sense of relief having a phrase to describe my feelings. I think I’m still stuck somewhere between bargaining and acceptance.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I took a Consumer Behavior class in undergrad with a professor named Dr. Jessica Rixom. I remember her career path being incredibly similar to what I wanted to do in the future. Her previous job had been in Marketing Research for Johnson & Johnson – and her job sounded so cool! I met with her after class one day, and she was the one who mapped the path forward as a marketing insights and analytics professional. She was the first who recommended University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I stuck to her advice.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I plan on getting my PhD someday further down my career path. I would also like to sit on a non-profit board once things are more settled.

What made Chantel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Chantell Hernandez has been a wonderful member of the Class of 2021. She has been a consistent mentor to her fellow students and is always willing to participate in Center activities. Chantell views that which she doesn’t know with curiosity and approaches challenges with a sunny disposition that could warm a Wisconsin Winter. COVID-19 has been disrupting to students on many levels but Chantell has not let it deter her from lending a hand, or ear, to her classmates. Nor has she let it derail her from her dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion at the Wisconsin School of Business and in corporate America. During her time in the program she has served as Co-Present for the Graduate Women in Business organization and for the Diversity in Business Club, been an active member of the Consortium: engaging with alumni and increasing underrepresented groups’ application interest, and served on the 2020 FTMBA Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, a small group of students and staff who are committed to making a positive, action-oriented impact on the D&I of the FT MBA Program. Additionally, Hernandez interned at Dell and accepted a full-time position as a Marketing Operations and Analytics Advisor. Chantell has a bright future ahead of her as she enters the tech industry, where she will elevate female and Latino voices in this male-dominated industry.”

Christine Harrington
Assistant Director, Marketing Centers
Wisconsin School of Business


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