2021 Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Yenny Andrade Castillo, University of Maryland (Smith)

Yenny Andrade Castillo

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Passionate, motivated problem-solver and always willing to collaborate and work with others as a team.”

Age: 47

Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve always loved to dance, dating back to when I was in my home country, Colombia, including in high school and college. I did both salsa and folk (Cumbia and Bambuco) dance. More recently, and before the pandemic, I enjoyed Zumba classes that incorporated Latino, African and World music.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Santiago de Cali University – Public Accountant; University of Valle – Finance Postgraduate

Where are you currently working? International Finance Corporation (IFC — member of the World Bank Group) as Associate Portfolio Officer

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I was working for the International Tropical Agriculture Center (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia, I had the opportunity to work in a joint project with the World Bank aggregating the financial statements of CIAT’s sister centers around the world. As a result of this successful partnership, I got a job offer from the World Bank. Thus, I moved to the United States in 2012 as a World Bank program assistant. Working for the World Bank has been a rewarding experience. I’ve traveled on missions to the Philippines, Malaysia and South Africa, and I’ve seen the developmental impact of the World Bank’s work in helping poor people. At the same time, I’ve progressed in my professional career, advancing from an assistant position to associate portfolio officer in the Private Equity Funds unit at IFC.

Why did you choose this school’s online MBA program? I chose Maryland Smith because its graduates gain management skills and have competitive advantage to improve in their careers. The insight came in part from great recommendations by co-workers who graduated from the program. My admission counselor was also crucial in my decision, as he guided me and made the admission process smooth and efficient with the right requirements. Most importantly, I was drawn to the online program’s flexibility to enable me to work full-time and study at home.

What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? I enjoyed the interactions in the live sessions, as everyone in my cohort could participate. This included interesting and interactive breakout sessions in which we could speak freely and get to know one another in real time.

What was the most surprising thing about an online learning environment? I was surprised with the high level of technology including a versatile IT platform and its ‘remote Smith desktop’ in data modelling class. Separately, in a data analysis course, I especially appreciated creating interactive charts with maps in the Tableau application. And another application, Canvas for remote curriculum and assignments via laptop and mobile, was especially useful for staying on top of all course discussions and reminders.

How did your online experience compare with your in-the-classroom experience as an undergraduate student? I found a much-changed educational experience compared to my undergraduate experience through 1997 at Santiago de Cali University – moving from the traditional in-class lectures to online classes that I found to be much better and interesting. For example, the format’s live sessions challenge students to be especially prepared to contribute to and engage in a deep analysis of a particular case. This was especially motivating for post-session study to reinforce and practice the learned concepts.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant for thriving in an online MBA program? I found it be very useful to prepare and maintain a weekly schedule or road map of day-to-day course assignments. Also, prioritizing time management is crucial to balancing academics, work, and home life. I found that dedicating at least 2 hours daily to academic work enabled me to have considerable free time on Saturdays or Sundays – unless a special project required weekend preparation. Most importantly, the support I received from my husband, Jorge, and family helped me navigate the intense work. 

What would you change about an online MBA Program? I would increase the opportunities for networking with MBA classmates from and outside the cohort through informal events outside the academic rigor. These events would increase team building skills and comradery between the students. At the beginning of the MBA, we organized a gathering to celebrate the first semester, but during the COVID pandemic we no longer met in person. Under this type of circumstance, virtual networking events still can be effective for getting to know your cohort and advisors for career development. 

How has your online education helped you in your current job? My online education has given me new-found confidence and empowered me to ‘raise my hand’ and participate in more projects at work. I have learned academic concepts like corporate valuations that are especially practical in the field of portfolio investments at IFC. I have gained vital soft skills in communications, leadership, and teamwork. This helped me gain a promotion from portfolio analyst to associate portfolio officer. Overall, my online MBA was a great experience because I gained knowledge that will help me in my professional and personal life.

Number of Hours Per Week Spent On Online MBA: 18 hours

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Leading and contributing to IFC-World Bank projects that have a positive impact on the lives of poor people in developing countries, especially in the Latin American region.


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