2021 MBAs To Watch: Maria Olivo, HEC Paris   

Maria Olivo   

HEC Paris

“Someone looking to have a meaningful impact and make a difference.”

Hometown: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Fun fact about yourself: You could say that I’m truly a student of the world—along with going to school in the Dominican Republic, my home country, I’ve also studied in Guatemala, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and now France!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Birmingham, International Relations BA

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Caribbean Biotech Labs, Co-Founder, Business Development Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Greentropism, Paris

Where will you be working after graduation? L’Oréal, MBA Internship

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was an Academic Representative during four terms, a member of the MBA Council during two tenures, and I also served on the board of both the MBA’s Healthcare Club and its Entrepreneurship Club. I was a recipient of the MBA’s Transformational Leadership Award.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During the quarantine, a classmate and I were able to put together support groups for almost 100 students to help them with the emotional toll of the pandemic and the uncertainty it presented.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I co-founded and served as business development director for the first Contract Research Organization in the Central American and Caribbean region. It now serves as supplier to major international players in the diagnostic sector in the United States.

Why did you choose this business school? HEC Paris was the only school I researched that combined a truly international environment with a small enough cohort – limited to 300 students yearly –  to allow for meaningful interactions and connections among everyone. It was a door to the best companies in Europe and to very promising career prospects at a much lower price than its counterparts.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Mathis Schulte. I really enjoyed his Organizational Behavior course. I am a people person and understanding in more depth the behavior and politics of interactions in an organization was, for me, one of the most enjoyable topics of the entire MBA curriculum. Mathis is a great professor, with a remarkable capacity to render abstract concepts tangible and easy to understand.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Most events and traditions were cancelled due to the pandemic. I really enjoyed the welcome dinner we had at the university’s chateau.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I honestly have no regrets during my time at HEC Paris.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Haha, that the school is in Paris! That said, having a campus in a small village on the outskirts of Paris does allow for interactions and the building of bonds among classmates which would take double the time to build in another setting. This is invaluable. However, the campus is definitely not in Paris.

What surprised you the most about business school? The diversity of reasons why people choose to pursue an MBA.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe being only the second Dominican and the first Dominican woman ever to attend the school gave me an edge during the application process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate I most admire is Michael Venditto. It’s rare to come across someone who really and truly cares. Michael cares about his community, making a difference, and the people surrounding him. His commitment to the MBA Council and the well-being of students on campus was impressive. The organization and leadership skills he demonstrated made tangible differences for many aspects of our lives as students.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?The shift to an online environment, and then hybrid, and then online again was rather traumatic. I am someone who needs face-to-fact interactions. I am a people person. We did do our best to adapt and keep having as many in-person interactions as possible, but having all classes and career activities shift to an online format was definitely a challenge. It takes a lot away from the experience and one feels the toll, especially regarding motivation. However, everyone involved — from professors, to careers staff, to students — made an effort for the transition to be as smooth as possible.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who most influenced my decision to pursue a business degree was my father. I worked with him throughout my career in our family business. Even though I was able to learn a lot through practice alone, I felt I needed more exposure to the theories of business and a more structured idea of what business is as time went by. I also wanted to gain more international experiences to continue my professional growth. An MBA seemed like the ideal stepping stone.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I would like to lead an organization that has a tangible impact on people’s lives, and I would like to help shape the future of the healthcare industry.

I would also like to create an organization in my home country that offers affordable healthcare solutions to its clients as well as solid employment opportunities and careers for its employees.

I am aware of the extent of my ambitions. We shall see if hard work and luck allow for them to materialize.

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

“Maria Olivo is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. She has human and moral qualities that have undoubtedly won her unanimous support among her classmates and the HEC Paris staff.

Her presence has been essential in aiding HEC Paris successfully navigate the COVID-19 crisis. She helped the Student Affairs Department set up support groups for students who were feeling anxious or having difficulties during the confinement. Being an extremely trusted person, she was our main link and relay between MBA participants and the medical center. Perfectly trilingual in French, Spanish and English, she has also been able to help students adapt to life in a new country.

Without a doubt, for me and for many people, Maria has been one of the pillars of her MBA intake.”

Johanna Abouteboul
Relationship Manager for the HEC Paris MBA Programs, Student Life Department


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