Soft skills and hard skills.
Call it good cop and bad cop. Suave diplomats vs. clumsy nerds. The difference between fluff and substance. When you possess soft skills, you’re the savvy salesman who can build consensus and close deals. Problem is, you turn to your techie after two questions are posed. When you’ve developed hard skills, you become the go-to guru in your department. Too bad you get shuttled away when you can’t dumb down the jargon.
In business, there used to be a place for the go-between and the geek. Now, you need to be both. That’s because long-term success requires a mix of EQ and IQ. You can master complex concepts with study and support. Through daily practice you can hone your listening, empathy, and conflict resolution. Whether you want to be an influencer or a leader, Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School prepares MBAs to relate emotionally and deliver technically.
FORGET THE LEFT AND RIGHT BRAIN EXCUSES
Growing up, Tanvi Parmar believed the world was divided between the analytical left-brained and the emotional right-brained — and you had to pick a side. However, she learned it was quite the opposite after starting her career. “In banking, I have found that I need to balance the technical financial information with a more intuitive understanding of the clients I work with,” explains the first-year Tepper MBA. “For that reason, it was especially important to me to find a program like Carnegie Mellon that emphasized both the analytics and personal development and how to use them in conjunction to succeed in the business world.”
Data matters to the Class of 2023. And the Tepper School is grounded in management science. Here, data is a means to drive decisions. It requires gathering the right data and applying the right models. In the process, MBAs can identify patterns and project probabilities to guide strategy. It is a research-driven discipline designed to produce reliable principles and practices. This analytical approach, which requires MBAs to dig deep into the data, resonated with José Vargas.
“The Tepper’s School compelling vision of wanting to be the business school of the future, at the intersection of business, technology and analytics, is what brought me here,” writes the Colombia-born cybersecurity executive. “I hope to strengthen my ability to make lots of decision under uncertain criteria and with limited data. I am best at decision making when I have all data available, and in business, this is not always possible. I seek to find ways to develop an ability to remain analytical but also action-oriented in the face of uncertainty.”
A QUANTITATIVE PROGRAM DESIGNED FOR POETS
While the programming is deeply analytical and evidence-based, faculty pride itself on a multidisciplinary approach that reveals connections between various functions and industries — not to mention other disciplines. Known for academic rigor, the program consistently ranks among the top MBA programs for Teaching Excellence in The Financial Times’ annual surveys of students and alumni. Indeed, Tepper MBAs come to Pittsburgh for a reason. They want to immerse themselves in business analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning — and become proficient in SQL, Tableau, and Python. Despite its quantitative bent, the program provides intensive support to help students master these areas.
You don’t need to be an engineer to thrive here, explains Hensley Sejour, a 2022 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “The professors start from a basic level, so everyone moves along at a common pace. If you do struggle there are plenty of opportunities with tutors, study groups, and office hours to help you along the way. Our class is full of non-engineers who performed extremely well in the program. That being said, I did lean into the strong design and computer science reputation of Carnegie Mellon as a whole. I took advantage of classes in CMU’s School of Design and Human & Computer Interaction department to prepare myself for my role in the technology industry.”
In the end, technical knowledge is only as good as someone’s ability to convey it. That’s why communication is such a core part of every course. For Frank Avino, a 2021 MBA grad, this was one of his biggest takeaways at Tepper.
“I have found endless opportunities to grow my emotional intelligence as a leader and communicator,” he writes. “Through the several practice negotiations in Professor Laurie Weingart’s Negotiations class, I discovered how I could be more assertive while focusing on the issues. In Professor Evelyn Pierce’s Executive Communication Skills class, I learned how I could employ analogies and purposeful body language to become a more persuasive public speaker. In Professor Clara Burke’s Consulting and Conflict Resolution class, I learned how to empathize with others’ goals, concerns, and emotions during a conflict. I feel that these critical experiences complement my experiences in many rigorous quantitative classes.”
A PLACE TO LEARN LEADERSHIP
Tepper MBAs don’t just absorb these soft skills in class. The program is renowned for its Accelerate Leadership Center, or ALC for short. Here, leadership coaches hold regular one-on-one sessions with MBAs. For example, they’ll role play how to deliver feedback, so students understand how to build connection rather than resentment. In addition, Frank Avino notes, the ALC leadership certificate program involves heavy reflection, so students understand their “values ad purpose” — not to mention the self-awareness to recognize their misconceptions and faults. Scott Mentzer, a 2022 grad who recently joined Deloitte Consulting, credited the ALC to expanding the leadership capabilities he’d first developed as an officer in the U.S. Army. grown in the U.S. Army.
“They gave me leadership assessments to find the gaps in my leaderships skills and provided counseling with a leadership coach to help me set goals and come up with a plan for development,” Mentzer wrote last November. “The ALC also host great workshops to further develop the great young business leaders coming through Tepper. They, along with professors Anita Wooley and Rosalind Chow in my Managing Teams class, introduced me to the team contract to lay the important groundwork for a team to succeed in an MBA program. Tepper has an excellent leadership development program that can help anyone become a better leader and they’ve really helped me adjust and take my leadership style to the next level.”
And James B. Evans, a banker by trade, hopes to follow a similar path as a member of the Class of 2023. “[I want] to take advantage of the Leadership Career Center to develop the soft leadership skills while taking advantage of the Business Analytics track to improve the analytical decision-making skills,” he writes. “Carnegie Mellon University has an approach to business school completely different from others; it is known to have the most intense academic curriculum across top MBA programs. I’m going to grad school to be challenged both professionally and personally, and I can’t think of a better place to compete for an MBA.”
QUANTIFIABLE ACHIEVEMENTS TOO
…especially with the Class of 2023. In true quant fashion, they were responsible for posting some big numbers. Take Nick Pugliaresi, a Dartmouth alum from DC. Before business school, he managed a telemedicine team. In one year alone, he saved his clients $110 million dollars in medical expenses, “a $22M year-over-year increase from 2018.” With Kendall Williams in charge, it took less than 18 months for a team of manufacturing engineers to build a casting plant. And how is this for a sign of appreciation?
“The most special moment of my career was when I was appreciated by the leadership team of the company I worked with and was called from a crowd of almost a thousand engineers during an internal launch of a vehicle I worked on,” writes Charu Goyal, a senior product engineer from India. “Acknowledgement for my work from the leadership really boosted my confidence and I led different projects after that.”
Tyler Weger got his start running a family bicycle shop in San Francisco. During his six years at the helm, the shop was named a Top 50 North American Dealer from Cannondale and Giant. “I grew our business to around four million dollars by promoting continued retail growth, and by proactively pushing for engagement in many grass-root sales projects with vendors like Adobe and Google,” he tells P&Q.
A LOOK OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
Saswati Devi started her career in software engineering, eventually running point on safety for an autonomous vehicle. Safety was also on Jeremy Levine’s mind. When COVID-19 started, he worked on practices for conducting virtual visits during clinical trials. At that same time, Alejandro Zamora, a neurobiologist-turned-consultant, spearheaded a project between two entertainment studio giants.
“We had won a project that would have us at the center of their workforce integration following the acquisition, and a couple of our partners agreed that my experience within the industry (and with both clients) made for an easy decision to have me lead the project.”
You can’t bet Zamora’s Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do — which he earned when he was 12 — came in handy during an “Every man for himself” merger. The martial arts is just one of the unique talents possessed by first-year MBAs. José Vargas can speak 5 languages, while Nick Pugliaresi bikes more miles a year —think over 8,000 miles — than he drives. That said, the class could easily form a rock band. After all, Tyler Weger helped pay for his undergraduate tuition with garage band gigs — and Kendall Williams plays piano, drums, and bass to match. If you’re looking for a classmate who personifies perseverance, check out James B. Evans.
“I went to college under a football scholarship, I was part of the first college football team at my undergrad institution. After 5 years of suffering we finally made it to the national championship game.”
A CLASS PROFILE
In the aftermath of COVID, Tepper applications rose by 17% last year, as the class size jumped from 141 to 231 students. This surge carried over into other areas. Average GMAT scores rose from 680 to 691, as scores ranged from 640 to 740 in the mid-80% range. The class’ GPA also came in at 3.35. Women make up 21% of the class, while U.S. minorities hold 44% of class seats. The class includes students from 29 countries, including Australia, Germany, Japan, Peru, and Turkey. Overall, international students comprise 34% of the Class of 2023. While the Tepper MBA is located firmly in Pennsylvania, the school attracts MBAs from across America. 30% of the class hails from the Mid-Atlantic, with the Northeast represented by another 21%, The rest of the class includes students from the West (17%), Midwest (13%), Southwest (10%), and South (8%).
This industry is reflected in the industries where these students last worked. True to the program’s quant roots, the Finance and Technology sector boast a 19% and 18% share of the class respectively. 15% come out of Consulting, followed by Manufacturing (7%), Energy (6%), Health Care (5%), Consumer Goods (5%), and Hospitality (4%). Professionally, the full-time class brings 5.4 years of work experience to discussions. Academically, a third of the class holds undergraduate degrees in Engineering-related fields. Combined, Business (22%) and Economics (16%) take up more seats than Engineering, however. Arts and Humanities and Social Science — both 6% — also represent large segments of the class.