2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Gabriela Pacheco, University of Rochester (Simon)

Gabriela (Gabi) Pacheco

University of Rochester, Simon Business School

“Go-getter, dreamer, passionate about creating meaningful connections with people, and advocate towards positive change.”

Hometown: Santa Ana, El Salvador

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a coffee lover! One of my biggest passions is to discover new coffee grains from around the world. I can also recommend the perfect coffee depending on your mood for the day.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios, El Salvador, Bachelor in Economics and Business

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Starbucks – Central America, Assistant Regional Marketing Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?

Microsoft | Product Marketing Manager Intern – Global Demand Center & Integrated Marketing (Analytics and AI Marketing Play) | Virtual Internship

Where will you be working after graduation?

Microsoft | Product Marketing Manager – Cloud Marketing

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Graduate Business Council – VP of Global Student Experience
  • Latin American Students of Simon (LASOS) – VP of Events
  • Jay S. and Jeanne Benet Career Management Center – Student Career Advisor
  • Forte Foundation Fellowship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest honor during business school was being able to serve as the first VP of Global Student Experience for the Graduate Business Council. Simon is the most diverse MBA program in a list of highly ranked public and private business schools (U.S. News & World Report). Hence, our community has a variety of backgrounds and perspectives to share. With this, I had the opportunity to build a legacy for the Simon community where the main goal I established was to elevate the global experience for every student, empowering them through programs oriented towards cross-cultural awareness and community engagement through actions grounded on empathy and inclusion values.

In this capacity, I had the opportunity to revamp and launch a new program for our community called: Broaden your Horizons – One World Many Stories! The program’s main goal is to foster cultural and racial diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and to bring together the Simon Business School community to celebrate, learn and connect. Under this umbrella, I have had the pleasure to organize different virtual events They include: Global Showcase 2020 (cooking around Latin America, traveling around China, and celebrating around Africa), Namaste: Diwali 2020, Doing Business Around the World Series: Taiwan, and Lunar New Year 2021. I created a task force formed by a group of astonishing classmates who worked as a team for these initiatives and we established this new platform for the incoming generations. This could not have been possible without all the support from the Graduate Business Council, my advisors: Nate Kadar (Director of Student Life) and Janet Mejias (Director, Equity, and Inclusion), and all Diversity Club leaders from Simon.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my pivot out of my traditional marketing path into the Product Marketing world in tech. During my professional journey, I realized I truly enjoyed connecting with customers through products and services committed to innovation, sustainability, and the desire for improving people’s lives. Thus, I wanted to leverage my customer orientation and marketing skills to the next level, so when I came here to the US to study for my MBA I discovered how my expectations and future goals were so aligned within the tech industry, particularly to Product Marketing. Then, this summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern at Microsoft as a Product Marketing Manager Intern at Cloud Marketing. My project was about Connecting the go-to-market strategies for the Analytics and AI Marketing Play, where my hero product was Azure Synapse Analytics.

What I enjoyed the most was having the opportunity to do cross-functional teamwork with many areas and get to know many people in the organization, hence receiving the opportunity to return as a full-time employee marked an inflection point in my professional career.

Why did you choose this business school? From the beginning of my journey at Simon, the school always made me feel at home and as an international student. This was a key aspect for me. Our tight-knit community and the meaningful interactions I was able to have with everyone at Simon made me feel I was not just going back to school but gaining a whole new family. All these genuine interactions that I was able to have within the community, also allowed me to have a holistic and integrative experience during the program which also helped me to hone my leadership skills.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I really loved our Graduate Business Council Coffee Hours. This was a weekly community building activity where we gathered to enjoy a cup of coffee/tea and a Simon Club or the GBC would host the event and discuss a particular topic, workshop, panel, or talk. When the pandemic hit and we went fully virtual, school leaders were afraid to lose the engagement we had during this space. However, we were able to embrace the change and transition smoothly into the virtual world.

Big shout-out to my classmates for having delivered amazing events that allowed us to enjoy our coffee/tea together from each of our homes while learning from different and relevant themes. Events we have had include the following: Celebrating Black History Month Ft. Boss Blend Coffee CEO (Simon Black Student Alliance), Juntas We Shine! (Simon Women in Busines & Latin American Students of Simon), and Mental Health: Thriving During Winter (Graduate Business Council).

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I think everything was part of the process. If I could change one thing, I would have been more intentional about taking time to slow-down and saving more “me-time”. I love being pretty involved in many different projects and work hard for their success. However, this experience also thought me the importance of self-care and saving space for ourselves. I realized that by having more “me-time” I am able to re-energize and bring more of myself and be more present for the activities I am committed to.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the biggest myths about Simon is that the program is mainly focused on finance or analytics. While our program has indeed an unmatched analytical approach – which I consider as one of the program’s biggest strengths – Simon also covers a wide variety of fields. An example of this is the fact that Simon is the first business school in the country to offer a STEM MBA option regardless of a student’s specialization. In my case, this allowed me to learn from the most quant-heavy courses related to marketing, such as Predictive and Causal Analytics with R or Pricing Analytics. From there, I combined them with other courses more focused on building on my soft and leadership skills, such as Interpersonal Persuasion and Professional Communication.

What surprised you the most about business school? My classmates have surprised me the most. They have been like teachers to me during all this experience. I have not just learned based on how bright they are, but also based on their experiences, life lessons, and advice throughout these years.

Also, it has been impressive how supportive they were, from finding a ride when you need it, to personalized preparation sessions for your next interview. Every interaction reflects how strong Simon’s core values are within each and every student.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Networking with current Simon students and alumni before applying was something that really helped me during the process and I truly appreciated how everyone was so kind to me by providing their best tips and advice. I think this made a huge impact on me during the whole process and allowed me to visualize myself as a Simon student – and hence working hard towards conquering my goal. Special thanks to Magdiel Guardado ’19 (MBA) who was my Mathematics teacher when I was in college in El Salvador and then decided to pursue his MBA at Simon. His guidance and mentorship have been key along this amazing journey.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ysabel Villamor. She is one of the most brilliant and well-rounded leaders I have met at Simon and I am so happy to also call her my friend. Ysabel serves our community as the President of Simon Woman in Business (SwiB), a Diversity Club focused on empowering women and work towards personal and professional development. She has been working restlessly for this cause and has conducted several projects under her presidency. I’m impressed by how she was able to touch on the intersectionality of the club by promoting multiple events that foster diversity, inclusivity, and allyship within the Simon community.

Ysabel has been highly committed to serving others through her MBA journey; she also is a Student Career Advisor, where she is always willing to help our classmates in terms of career preparation, coaching, or any other concern they might have. She will always do everything with a smile and the genuine attitude that characterizes her.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? This was very hard for me in the beginning, because I am someone who used to be very active and enjoy staying around people at school. Like everyone, I didn’t know how this “new normal” was going to be. However, after a few weeks, I was able to transition into the new virtual setting along with my classmates and started discovering a new way to connect and engage thanks to the joint efforts from our Simon Community.

We quickly moved on to virtual programming, where all our activities and classes went online. Even our weekly social gatherings (called “KSS”: Keeping Simon Social) went virtual and we found new and fun ways to interact. Staff, faculty, and students have done an amazing job adapting to our new circumstances and together and we are trying to do our best every day. Reflecting after almost a year after the pandemic hit, I can see how this situation has helped us to be more empathetic with others, resilient, and eager to find different solutions to challenges.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was most influenced and supported by my parents. Their long-term vision and perspective helped me to recognize the power of education. Both of my parents had to overcome many obstacles and challenges to acquire their college education back in my home country. It was a whole family effort for each of them that started with my grandparents’ hard work and vision. Hence, from a very young age, they instilled in me and my brothers the value and power of education and resilience.

As an example of this, I remember when I was 9 years old, my father decided to take me to my first English class (as our native language in El Salvador is Spanish). From that time, he or my mom would take me and my brothers to Saturday’s English academy as he knew learning a new language would bring us better opportunities. The holistic education instilled in me inspired me to choose business as a means to fulfill my professional dreams as a young girl who wanted to become the “CEO of her own brand or product”. A few years later, I was able to accomplish another big dream: to be the first in my family to acquire an MBA abroad.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. To become a product leader within the tech industry: My purpose is to bring the best of me every day, to work for the change I want to see in the world, and to have a growth-mindset open to challenges. Furthermore, as a Latina businesswoman, I aim to inspire and empower others like me and say: ¡Sí se puede! (Yes, you can!).
  2. Create a scholarship fund for girls in El Salvador and Central America: I want to help young women to complete their higher education and pursue their dreams by supporting university scholarship programs in my home country, El Salvador and then, expand to Central America.

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

“Gabriela Pacheco who goes by “Gabi” is a powerhouse with passion. Passion about her country, El Salvador, her heritage and people in Latin America, about diversity and bringing people together from different cultures and backgrounds and about giving back – paying it forward.

While completing her undergraduate studies at ESEN (Escuela Superior de Economia y Negotios) in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, Gabi learned about Simon through an alum of the school. He described the culture and diversity at Simon and the school’s focus on quantitative skill development which she felt aligned with her professional and career interests in marketing.

Before pursuing graduate studies, Gabi had worked for Millicom (a market leader in Latin America’s telecom industry) as a research analyst and as a regional marketing manager for Starbucks in their Central American market. Her goal was to build on her marketing experience in the area of brand management by developing the analytical prowess required to be successful in those roles today.  Simon’s STEM program supported her decision.

Gabi describes arriving at Simon as ‘coming home’. Its close, tight knit community that embraces and celebrates different cultures inspired her to get involved outside the classroom. Her enthusiasm got her elected to leadership positions, serving on the Graduate Business Council as the first VP of Global Student Experience and Vice President of the Latin American Students organization. With vision and energy, she led an initiative called “Broaden Your Horizons”, focusing on exposing the student body to the food, customs and cultures of different students in the Simon community. “My goal was to celebrate, learn, connect and illustrate culture in an empathetic way with fellow classmates”.

Gabi’s other passion at Simon was working in the Benet Career Center as a student advisor. For many years, and still today, Gabi has been a mentor to young leaders – young women – in El Salvador, giving them confidence in themselves and inspiring them to be all that they can be.  Understanding how challenging job search is the US and the many obstacles international students face, it was a natural for Gabi to think about helping other Simon students on their career journey. She says she was fortunate to land her internship at Microsoft at the National Black Career fair and to successful convert that internship into a full time offer.

With job search behind her, Gabi was able to devote her time and attention at Simon to mentoring other students in job search, and deepening understanding and appreciation for the uniqueness of each culture and the common thread of humanity we all share. Simon’s recent recognition by US News as the #1 most diverse MBA program was a source of pride for her and platform to build on in the future.

We celebrate Gabi and her gift of bringing people together and helping them appreciate, respect and learn from one another. She has enriched the Simon community by embracing differences and truly broadening all our horizons!”

Wendy Clay
Assistant Dean of Students