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Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Nataly Garzon, Washington University (Olin)

Nataly Garzon

Washington University in St Louis, Olin Business School

“I am a collaborative change maker, driven to leave a transformative and impactful legacy.”

Hometown: Grew up: New York City, New York; Live in: St. Louis, Missouri

Fun Fact About Yourself: Throughout middle and high school, I worked with several other youth in New York City to create short films and documentaries about the immigrant-lived experience through an organization called Global Action Project. I had the honor of being one of the Tribeca Film Fellows in 2010, and one of our film shorts was part of the Tribeca Film Festival in the spring of 2011.

Undergraduate School and Major: Williams College, History and Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United Way of Greater St. Louis, Specialist of Systems Change Strategies

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? One of the central reasons I chose WashU Olin is that the culture significantly values knowing everyone by name and story. With a class size of about 100 students, there is truly a cohort sense among each class. Professors genuinely want to engage with MBA candidates, and small class sizes allow for livelier intellectual conversations among peers.

My educational experience up to this point has instilled in me the value of tight-knit cohorts, as they lead to genuine personal relationships. I am thrilled to be going back to an academic institution where I will have a true cohort experience, and where I will get to develop lifelong friendships with those around me. The value of this network will be invaluable throughout our careers.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Olin MBA students are nimble innovators with an inner fire to have a positive impact. Two specific individuals who characterize this are Lloyd Yates and Tova Feinberg. As an undergraduate, Lloyd began a tie business that would become Tylmen, a high-fashion and leisurewear brand. When COVID-19 began to spread in communities across the country, Lloyd pivoted to selling face masks that can also be used as pocket squares. The masks are handmade in Chicago to support local workers, and for every mask purchased, one is donated to a student in need.

The second classmate who comes to mind is Tova Feinberg. Surrounded by the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tova and her friend Kianna Kelly wanted to bring back their childhood tradition of bread making and help encourage positivity and love in their community. They founded STL Loaves, through which individuals can purchase premade loaves or buy a starter. Head over to their Facebook page to learn more and to dip your toes into baking from scratch. Both Tova and Lloyd embody the Olin drive to have a positive impact through nimble innovation and with an entrepreneurial eye to the changing market.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am most excited about Olin’s Global Immersion Program, which is a six-week immersion experience that spans the globe. The entire class will travel to four distinct destinations over the course of 39 days in the spring of 2021. There are three core reasons why this experience deeply appeals to me. First, it will propel relationships across the class. Inevitably, international travel across numerous continents and fast-paced, hands-on group projects will create deep bonds among members of the cohort. Second, this experience will provide first-hand insight into international business and how it is conducted across different cultures, countries and economies. This will be particularly insightful as businesses globally pivot because of COVID-19. Finally, I value the experiential design of the program. Students are expected to answer market-entry questions and solve operational problems for real companies throughout the global immersion program. This will allow us to directly apply concepts learned during the fall semester. For these three reasons and more, I cannot wait for this formative, six-week immersion experience that spans the globe.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of my biggest accomplishments so far is a collaboration with the Nine Network of Public Media and the Clark-Fox Family Foundation to develop Blueprint4Careers. Blueprint4Careers is a free career exploration website that connects young people in St. Louis to short-term training programs that can launch them into automation-resilient, high-demand skilled careers with career advancement and livable wages. This tool is particularly important because 30% of graduating high school seniors in St. Louis go straight into the workforce. I led the team that developed the website’s content and spearheaded school district engagement to ensure the tool is being leveraged. Since launching in May 2019, more than 1,700 young people have used the website to learn about quality apprenticeships and credentialing opportunities in the St. Louis region.

A second significant career accomplishment is a collaboration with St. Louis’ public transportation system to reduce transportation barriers young people face in accessing employment and training opportunities. This joint collaboration and my advocacy efforts led to half-fare public transportation pricing for young people in the St. Louis region over the past two years. As a result, low income young people were able to access career-building summer employment and internship opportunities.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? My career goals are driven by a firm belief that an individual’s life outcomes should not be predetermined by their race or the zip code in which they grew up. After completing my undergraduate degree, this value led me to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, leading collaborative task forces focused on dismantling the systemic barriers that prevent minority and low-income young people from achieving their full potential. These experiences have cemented for me the reality that the nonprofit workforce development sector is all too often disconnected from private employer labor needs and is reactive to labor disruptions that have already occurred. In addition to the displacement occurring because of COVID-19, the divergence between the private sector and the nonprofit workforce development ecosystem is particularly worrisome because minorities in the labor market are projected to experience increased income inequality, job polarization, and job loss as a result of automation driven by artificial intelligence. I decided to pursue an MBA at this point in my career to become equipped with the skill set needed to pursue private and public sector leadership roles where I can drive strategy and policy centered on developing automation-resilient talent pipelines.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question I was asked during the admissions process was to share about an ethical dilemma I had faced. This question is particularly poignant within the space of public policy advocacy. All too often, it is very easy to identify a community problem—for example, intergenerational poverty. While identifying a problem is relatively simple, implementing concrete and measurably impactful policy change without negative unintended consequences is incredibly difficult. With limited resources, and political appetite for only some solutions, the best solution is often not the one that can be feasibly pursued.

In answering this question, I delved into the compromises that need to be made to execute a good enough solution, even when in theory there could be a much stronger approach that is not realistic given the circumstances. This experience in the public sector translates into business situations, where there are moral dilemmas, when there is no-clear cut answer or when unpopular actions need to be made.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I determined my fit at various schools through a ranked list of specific factors that were a priority to me. The factors, in order of importance, were the following: location, academic rigor, strength of school network, quality and quantity of experiential opportunities, class size, and existing recruitment relationships. I reached out through my undergrad network to have virtual coffee conversations with alumni of a number of schools to understand the lived experience in various programs.

Ultimately, I sought to pursue my MBA at WashU Olin because of the school’s global orientation and the tight-knit community. The global immersion program and numerous opportunities offered through the Center for Experiential Learning will expand my perspective, build my capacity as a future business leader, and help me crystalize my vision for the private sector career path that will allow me to achieve the impact I aspire to have.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I was born in Bogota, Colombia and moved to New York City at the age of seven. This move forever altered the direction of my life. My sisters and I grew up in Far Rockaway, a community characterized by concentrated poverty and highly under-resourced schools. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who saw potential in me and connected me to a specialized magnet school that built my capacity to thrive academically. Attending this school led to a seismic divergence in life outcomes between myself and those I was growing up with, even though we had similar starting potentials. A third defining experience that has significantly shaped my perspective was spending most of my summers in Colombia and Venezuela during my childhood after moving to New York. These experiences allowed me to remain bilingual and opened my lens to the global forces that drive economic change. Collectively, these experiences prepared me for business school by providing me overseas experience, sensitivity to cultural diversity, humility, deep self-awareness, and resiliency.

DON’T MISS: MEET WASHINGTON OLIN’S MBA CLASS OF 2022