Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Nick Pugliaresi, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Nicholas (Nick) Pugliaresi

Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business

“Itinerant remote worker, cycling enthusiast, devoted friend, partner, and foodie. Striving to improve healthcare.”

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Fun Fact About Yourself: Each year I ride more miles on my bicycle than I drive my car. I average over 8,000 miles per year on my bike.

Undergraduate School and Major: Dartmouth College, Government and Chinese (double major)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Optum, Capability Director

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Carnegie Mellon’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Tepper MBA’s STEM designation was definitely a large selling point that drew me to the program. Throughout my life, I’ve always been drawn to math and science and have enjoyed any part of my job involving hands-on experience with analytics, technology and data. In my post-MBA career, while I may not be directly writing code, building a predictive model, or completing an optimization exercise, I will likely often be put in a position where I have to explain the process and results of these exercises to others. My hope is that Tepper’s STEM MBA will give me the experience needed to understand and coherently explain more technical concepts to non-technical audiences. Separately, my fiancé and I moved to Pittsburgh last year for her medical residency. We’ve fallen in love with this city, and I’m excited to be able to pursue my MBA here.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Carnegie Mellon? The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship! It’s been a dream of mine to either start a company one day or to be a part of a burgeoning start up with an exciting idea. My career thus far has been at a large firm, and I’m excited to pivot my focus towards learning the nuts-and-bolts of starting and running a successful early-stage venture. The Swartz Center has a great reputation for collaboration across the different schools at Carnegie Mellon, and I’m excited at the prospect of working alongside some of the brilliant engineers, designers, scientists and mathematicians also at the university.

The Tepper MBA is known for intensive one-on-one coaching and personal development. What area do you hope to strengthen during your two years in business school and why? I enjoy being a subject matter expert and understanding a process, product, or model to the finest level of detail. In my career, I know I will be put in positions where I cannot be the expert, but will be asked to explain concepts to the best of my ability. I want to leverage the one-on-one coaching at CMU to help me project confidence during these presentations without overstepping my knowledge boundaries.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I worked as the lead of Offer Management, an Optum product that displays personalized health management offers to users of Optum’s digital portals or telemedicine services.  While I led the team, the product delivered $110M in medical expense savings in 2019, a $22M year-over-year increase from 2018. These savings stemmed from real individuals connecting with care that helped them avoid future hospital stays, and disease complications. It is an accomplishment that I’m truly proud of.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 has made me appreciate how vulnerable we are as a society to unforeseen events, and has re-emphasized how vulnerability can be vastly uneven due to structural differences in access to care. The experience of the pandemic also highlighted the importance of socialization and human relationships. I’ll never forget how excited I was to see my family after 3 weeks of total isolation when I had COVID-19 at the very beginning of the pandemic. I think in our current age of smart phones and social media, it’s ironically increasingly easy to feel isolated from others. Even though it can be hard during the rush of the day-to-day, I now try to make an effort to call friends and family more often.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Since graduating from college in 2016, I’ve worked at Optum. Although I’ve had the opportunity to work in a few different roles at the company, I wanted to pursue an MBA to transition into a product manager role at a smaller firm focused on healthcare tech. I enjoy fast-paced environments, and am excited about the opportunity to work with a product that aims to lower healthcare costs and improve the quality of patient care. The current state of US  healthcare is broken in many places, and there are a multitude of opportunities to improve the experience for both patients and providers.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Ross, Wharton and Kellogg

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Carnegie Mellon’s MBA program? Leave enough time for the MBA application process. It takes time to study for the GMAT and to craft an application that is truly representative of your accomplishments and goals. If possible, try to have the GMAT done by the time you start your applications – it’s quite hard to juggle both on top of a full-time job. Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to current students or alumni. These conversations will help you make the connection between your goals and how Carnegie Mellon specifically will help you get there.

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