2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Olga Timirgalieva, MIT (Sloan)

Olga Timirgalieva

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Curious, driven to help others, and impact-oriented. Always ready for life’s next adventure.”

Hometown: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Fun fact about yourself: I went skydiving twice – the first time with a friend, and the second time with my mom because she couldn’t believe I’d gone without her!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Florida Southern College, Economics/Financial Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? McNICHOLS Company, Business Intelligence & Finance Manager. US Coast Guard (Reserve), Petty Officer First Class.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Boston Consulting Group, Boston. I was fortunate to work with Partners in Health as a BCG Social Impact Ambassador.

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group, Boston.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-founder and co-president of FLI@Sloan (First-generation/Low-income) club
  • Co-President of the Management Consulting Club
  • VP of Admissions with Sloan Pride
  • VP of Finance with Sloan Women in Management
  • Core Fellow
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Planning Committee member for Hack for Inclusion 2020
  • MIT GSC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conduit
  • Siebel Scholar
  • Dean’s Fellowship recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of co-founding FLI@Sloan – MIT Sloan’s first affinity club focused on socioeconomic inclusion. The unique challenges faced by first-generation/low-income (FLI) students are rarely discussed in business schools, and my co-founders, Riana Shah and Nhat Nguyen, and I envisioned a community for FLI students and allies. We were eager to start important conversations on advocacy and provide FLI students with support via mentorship, events, and professional recruiting opportunities. During our first year as a club, we received open and heartfelt feedback from our members and from FLI prospective students. As someone who had my own doubts about my fit at a business school, it’s been empowering to speak to prospective FLI students and tell them, “you are amazing and you are very welcome at Sloan!”

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time at McNICHOLS, a steel distributor company, I helped launch a successful digital marketing strategy. At the time, most of our marketing was done through direct mail catalogs and the company lacked methods to measure return on investment or pursue digital campaigns. I led a team to implement weekly email campaigns that grew our sales. However, what I was most proud of were the relationships I built with our sales department. By listening and sharing insights, I was able to incorporate ongoing feedback from the sales field to further improve our campaigns. At the end of the project, one of the sales managers commented that in his twenty years with the company he had never seen such strong collaboration between Sales and Marketing.

Why did you choose this business school? Since most programs fit my professional goals, I focused on opportunities to create lasting relationships with my classmates. I looked for smaller class sizes and a core course structure that would allow me to bond with my cohort. I tend to get along with down-to-earth people who are passionate and quirky, so Sloan was perfect. Sloanies went out of their way to help me learn about the school and they helped me prepare for the admissions interview. I felt I was part of the community very quickly and knew I made the right choice!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish I’d taken greater advantage of pre-COVID international travel opportunities. Since Sloan’s core semester and my consulting recruiting were both demanding, I postponed going on some trips until spring semester. Then COVID hit. In a way, it was a lesson to seize each opportunity in the moment and trust that I can achieve my goals while making time for other things that matter to me – like quality time with friends and going on adventures!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I tried not to fall into the trap of stereotyping various business schools, but one of the biggest myths I heard about Sloan was that the school has a heavy focus on the tech industry. While recruiting into the tech sector is strong, Sloan has plenty of students recruiting into other industries, and the school is well-equipped to support students pursuing a variety of paths.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming into business school, I knew I would be navigating academics, a busy social life, and professional recruiting. However, I did not realize how much learning and personal growth happens outside of the classroom. I was amazed by the extent to which Sloanies lead clubs, organize conferences, and advocate for new initiatives. As someone who was not heavily involved in extracurricular activities as an undergrad, I leaned into these opportunities as a way to advance my own personal growth while helping others.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I reached out to multiple current students for quick chats about the school, the community, and their experiences. It helped me determine if the school was a good fit and get advice on everything from clubs and classes to recruiting. There is so much to absorb once the semester starts, so these early chats really helped me focus my attention and not feel overwhelmed. It was also nice to be able to show up on campus already knowing some students and seeing familiar faces. Even as a second year, I’ve stayed in touch with and relied on guidance from students I met during my application process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is such a tough question. There are so many amazing Sloanies who are passionate, hard-working, and brilliant! Since I have to highlight just one classmate, I’ll introduce you to Nadi Kassim. What I admire most about Nadi is his genuine care for the community. He strives to bring people together and support others. Nadi is involved in several leadership initiatives at school including his service as Operations Co-Chair in the Senate, Vets Association Admissions Chair, Core Fellow, and Student Advisory Board member. One example of Nadi’s impact is his contribution to T3 (Tuesday Team Training) – an initiative Nadi and a few other Sloanies started to promote health, fitness, and community building. T3 are weekly exercise sessions led by Sloanies who opt to develop and run group workouts. Over the past 1.5 years, Nadi and the T3 team held over 75 free workout sessions. It’s been an awesome way to promote teamwork and stay healthy, especially during the pandemic.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? COVID disrupted every aspect of the typical business school experience. As the pandemic unfolded, my classmates and I adjusted to a new hybrid environment with robust safety measures and daily COVID testing available to Sloanies. I tried to make the most of my time on campus during Fall, and I was impressed by professors who configured high-tech teaching setups that made virtual classes engaging and dynamic. Of course, business school is so much more than a classroom, and missing out on the traditional social experiences was hard. My personal silver lining was the chance to spend several months with my wife in Salt Lake City – a break in what would’ve been two years of a long-distance relationship.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who most influenced my decision to pursue a business degree was my wife. Ten years ago, I applied to an MBA program and did not get in. Following that experience, I pursued other opportunities and did not seriously consider re-applying. Frankly, I did not think I had the profile to get in. One day, my wife and I were discussing our biggest regrets, and I realized that one of my regrets was not pursuing an MBA. My wife immediately encouraged me to apply. She believed that I had what it took to be accepted, and that an MBA program could change my life. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

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

  • Find a solution to a large-scale crisis situation
  • Create a pipeline into top schools and organizations for FLI (first-gen/low-income) student talent

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

“Olga Timirgalieva was chosen at this year’s MIT Sloan Siebel Scholar, an honor that recognizes her excellence both as a scholar and a leader.    She has been a standout leader during her time at Sloan across multiple professional and affinity clubs.    Olga’s core passion is crisis management and increasing the role of private sector in humanitarian crises.  Before arriving at MIT Sloan Olga was both a volunteer firefighter and EMT and has served in the US Coast Guard reserves for almost ten years.”

Maura Herson
Assistant Dean, MBA & MSMS Program
MIT, Sloan School of Management


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