Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Daniela Fernandez, University of Virginia (Darden)

Daniela Fernandez

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Relentless Optimist, Passionate About Life. Eager To Deliver Impact Through Intentional And Empowering Leadership.”               

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m secretly a part-time singer & songwriter.

Undergraduate School and Major: Tecnológico de Monterrey, ITESM (Mexico). Bachelor in International Business.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Mattel Latin America – Brand Manager of Barbie

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? The case method is an empowering tool that allows the students to gain incredible amounts of self-knowledge and confidence. There are no right or wrong answers in the Case method and no magic formula to solve it. It’s all about digging deep in your convictions and knowledge. When you know yourself so well, it’s easier to identify the value you can add to an organization.

It’s also a great way of developing strategic thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills, rather than a technicity in a specific field; since it provides exposure to a wide range of strategic business issues. Employers highly value this skill set, which is one of the most distinctive of a good manager.

What word best describes the Darden MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? In a word, the community is fraternal. The deepness of the relationships and unconditional support make the Darden community a second family who will always extend a hand and help you become a better person.

Aside from cases and classmates, what was the crucial part of Virginia Darden’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school, and why was it so important to you? The faculty at Darden is a fantastic mixture of inspirational professors and terrific friends. All the alumni I’ve met keep in contact with the faculty throughout the years, continuing to consult them for their daily life challenges. As an international student, I praised having a solid support system, to build meaningful relationships with fellow students and professors.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden? The options and activities at Darden are endless, and it’s hard to tell what excites me the most. I can’t wait to join certain Career Clubs; I think it’s exciting to be on the same recruitment boat with peers and support each other to succeed.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My CPG Marketing experience has taught me that the best way to approach consumers is to offer tangible value to their lives. It’s not about consumerism, but about providing truly nourishing products and content that can improve their life quality and enable them to reach their goals. One of the projects that have made me very proud was the educational content program I developed while working at Reckitt Benckiser in the Infant formula business. I created more than 250 friendly science-based articles and a robust CRM program that accompanied the parents through their new journey, eventually leading to a sales increase. For me, the best marketing is when the product positioning comes as the consequence of empowering consumers to make the best decision for their needs. I’m proud of implementing this consumer-centric approach throughout my career, most recently in an amazingly inspirational brand, Barbie.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I’ve learned from COVID that all humans are more dependent on each other than we thought we were. Geographic, political, and ideological boundaries are meaningless when it comes to taking care of each other. And this is something we can do by taking care of ourselves, staying physically and mentally healthy.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I’ve been lucky to have an exciting career in marketing since I got out of college and I’m genuinely passionate about the practice area. Nonetheless, it’s essential to have a broad perspective of the different aspects of business for making a real impact. An MBA is an excellent asset for knowledge diversification, and also it’s a life-changing experience I wanted to go through. The second reason that led me to pursue an MBA is that I wanted to acquire international experience outside of Latin America, learning about other regions, and extrapolate my experiences.

After the MBA, I hope to explore different industries and strengthen my strategic problem-solving skills through Consulting. I find Tech very interesting as well. Thriving in such a fast-moving environment helps you become a nimbler leader.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Chicago Booth.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Virginia Darden’s MBA program? Darden is one of the most humane Business Schools from the Top tier MBAs. The advice I would give to any applicant is to keep it real, be authentic. Dig deep in yourself to identify what makes you a unique candidate amongst all the amazingly well-prepared applicants and how you will become a purpose-driven leader.


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