2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Gabriel San Martin, Brigham Young University (Marriott)

Gabriel San Martin

Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Business

“A gritty and tough-minded optimist with an insatiable desire to learn and improve.”

Hometown: Born in Talca, Chile. Lived in New York City before the MBA program.

Fun fact about yourself: In high school I was part of the Spanish Drama Club and performed in two plays. The first play was Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca. I played the part of the bridegroom, which was one of the main characters. I am not sure I was very good because when we did Don Quixote, I played two different supporting characters that had very few lines. In the end, I had a short but fun “theater career”.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The City College of New York – Psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was the Assistant Director of the Optometry Program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I interned with Procter & Gamble in Oxnard, California

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working for Procter & Gamble in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Managing Director of Cougar Talent Solutions – A student led consulting group of 30 first- and second-year MBA students
  • MBA Student Mentor
  • Vice President of the Minority Leadership Association
  • SHRM Case Competition, 1st Place Winner
  • Purdue Case Competition, 1st Place Winner
  • Mentor for the Gantry Group – A non-profit organization that focuses on raising college persistence rates for students from the greater New York City area.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I feel very proud of the work I have done with Cougar Talent Solutions. I have been able to give the consulting group more structure. My vision was to elevate the status of the HR consulting group to potentially attract more students outside the HR track and to rely less on our academic advisors to secure projects. I wanted to ensure we are truly a student-led organization. After almost a year in, I can confidently say that I achieved these objectives. We have students in both the marketing and supply chain tracks who have joined. We have also been able to secure better quality projects for our students to work on (including UPS and doTERRA), without relying so much on our academic advisor. My first success after becoming the Managing Director was to select the right leadership to help me run the organization. They are incredible partners, and I feel so grateful for them. Together, we have been able to provide a positive experience for both first- and second-year MBA students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Soon after being promoted to the role of Assistant Director of the Optometry Program, I was informed that the program would need to expand in order to bring our optometric services to more children in New York City public schools. In just a few months, I was able to double my staff, secure the funding needed to hire more consultant optometrists, and provide the necessary training to all new staff.

Soon after the expansion, as I visited my teams in schools across New York City. I was able to talk to teachers and school administrators. I will never forget their gratitude for the work we were doing. I learned about the difference our work could have in the lives of these students. A free eye exam and pair of glasses always seemed like a simple service to me, but I realized we were improving the learning experience and quality of life for many children that couldn’t afford a pair of glasses. I felt very proud of my efforts to expand the program which allowed us to bring our services to more children around the city.

Why did you choose this business school? Many MBA programs can teach me the knowledge and skills I needed to succeed, but Brigham Young University is about more than knowledge and skills. I knew that BYU would stimulate a greater commitment to excellence and a more focused pursuit of my human potential. BYU is interested in me as whole person, not just my professional ability. I chose the BYU Marriott School of Business because I wanted to be a better person, and in the process, I have been able to learn a thing or two about business.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Troy Nielsen has been my favorite professor during the MBA journey. He is not just a great teacher, but he deeply loves and cares for his students. I have felt that love and care as I have met with him on multiple occasions. He is always willing to make time for me. He has helped me better understand my talents and how I can draw from my experience to add value to any organization I am involved with. Troy is also the academic advisor for Cougar Talent Solutions. As such, he has given me all the support I needed to lead the organization. He is not afraid of telling me the things I need to improve to become a better leader. I appreciate his candor and his willingness to guide me.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Something I heard a lot before coming to BYU was that the school did not have a lot of diversity. My experience has been quite different. The people I have met in the program have shown me that there is a vast diversity of life experiences and ideas here on campus.

What surprised you the most about business school? A lot of the learning goes well beyond business. The biggest lessons I have learned in business school don’t necessarily have to do with business. They have to do with my personal development and transformation. For example, I have learned about ethics: how to make better decisions; and have come to better understand my strengths and talents. All of these will help me be a better business leader.

During the first or second day of orientation, the MBA Program Director told us that more than anything he hoped we would experience a personal transformation while in the program. I never thought that coming to business school would have such an impact in changing my nature as a person.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was very open and raw about my life journey up to that point. I wrote and talked openly about my experience as an undocumented college student who worked in construction in order to pay his way through college. I was open about where I came from, and about my decision to stay in New York City to attend college instead of returning to Chile with my parents after graduating from high school. In addition to my story, I think my work experience set me apart. Government work is not the typical pre-MBA work experience. I worked for two government agencies in one of the most diverse cities in the world. During that time, I developed an ability to bring people from different backgrounds together to achieve a common goal. I think my life experiences, in conjunction with my work experience, is what gave me an edge.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are many people I admire but I have had the chance to closely interact with and observe Ethan Felix. He serves as our class president and probably tries to do more than any other student in the program. I admire him for his ability to connect with people in a way that most of us probably can’t. It doesn’t matter who you are, he wants to talk to you, learn more about you and know how you are doing. He already knows this, but I try to spend time with him because I want to be more like Ethan Felix “when I grow up.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was not planning to attend business school. In fact, I had applied to a master’s program in Organizational Behavior in New York City. I studied Psychology during my undergrad, and my work experience consisted of working in a Women’s Domestic Violence Shelter and in a couple of city government agencies. Naturally, I did not see myself in business.

In May of 2020, my friend Diane Zenger reached out to me and asked me if I had thought about BYU. I had dreamed of attending BYU as an undergraduate, for all the reasons I previously mentioned, but I had not been able to make that happen at the time. When Diane reached out to me about BYU, it seemed unlikely as I was not looking to uproot my young family. But the more I thought about it and talked to my wife about it, the more excited I became. I knew it would be an incredible opportunity. With Diane’s encouragement I quickly put my application together and sent it to BYU. By mid-June, I had been accepted into the program. We decided to sell our apartment and make the move. In August, we loaded a truck with all our belongings and drove across the country to Provo, Utah. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.

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

– Work overseas for a few years – somewhere in Latin America or in Europe.

– Lead HR in a smaller size company – I would love to bring the experience I gain working for large organizations to help a smaller company grow and achieve greater success.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? More than change my view, it has solidified the way I view and feel about my career. When the pandemic was raging in New York City at the start of 2020, I saw a good number of people pass away. I also saw the suffering people experience from being separated from their loved ones. The pandemic has been a good reminder of the things that matter most in life. While I look forward to my career and want to be successful in my job at Procter & Gamble, I also want to be successful in the roles that matter most to me: the roles of father and husband. Life is uncertain so I want to make sure I spend enough time with my loved ones. At the end of our lives, I doubt many of us would wish we spent more time and efforts focusing on our careers. We will probably wish we spent more time with the people we love.

What made Gabriel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Gabriel San Martin has been an inclusive, thoughtful, and highly effective leader in our HR consulting organization, Cougar Talent Solutions. As a project team leader and as a student, he has consistently sought to understand the strengths of his peers and then helped them leverage those strengths. Perhaps his strongest attribute is his humility – he has been highly coachable. He is highly respected among his peers and will raise the level of any organization with which he works.”

Troy Nelson
Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources


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