Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Laura Calderon, Stanford GSB

Laura Calderon

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Generating a meaningful impact on others drives me to work towards becoming the best version of myself.”

Hometown: Bogota, Colombia

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a peculiar Colombian: I don’t like bananas or avocados, two of the most important agricultural products in my country.

Undergraduate School and Major: Colegio de Estudios Superiores de Administración (CESA) – Bachelor of Business Administration

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Patria Investments, Private Equity Associate

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Stanford GSB’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Two main factors drove my decision. The first one is Stanford GSB’s mission to “Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World,” and how it aligns with my own values and what I consider to be my mission in the world. The second one is the school’s strong focus on values-based leadership and on interpersonal skills development. I believe that the best leaders are those who, despite their achievements and positions of power, maintain a humble mindset and share their core values through actions. Moreover, for me, knowing how to build, maintain and manage interpersonal relationships is the most powerful leadership skill. Intellectual knowledge can only take you so far; however, what truly allows you to thrive is being able to understand, inspire, motivate, and help others grow. This was what made the GSB unique from my perspective.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about Stanford GSB so far? The strength of the GSB community. I always knew that the alumni network was large and that it expanded throughout several industries and geographies; however, what really surprised me was the quality of the community. Regardless if they are current students or if they graduated a while ago, GSBers are incredibly humble and generous people who are always excited to help others. During my time at Stanford, members of the community have helped me prepare for interviews, taught me about interesting topics, offered career and life advice, and introduced me to their own network. The GSB community has supported me in a way that I’d never witnessed before, and I feel like I have thousands of people in my corner helping me to get wherever I want to go.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Countless qualities describe my classmates (who astonish me every day); however, a good way to describe them is as humble human beings with a growth mindset. They have published books, founded non-profits and startups, won Olympic medals, and received professional and academic awards. But regardless of their achievements, it’s inspiring to witness how their humility and strong self-awareness allows them to recognize that they still have a lot to learn. They are curious, challenge themselves, question everything, and not satisfied with the status quo. They are eager to learn new things and grow intellectually, professionally, and personally to become the best version of themselves.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Private Equity and M&A can be very exciting and intellectually rewarding. I could mention a specific transaction or one of the titles that I held at portfolio companies as my biggest accomplishments. For me the real success is one that directly speaks to my values: the investments I participated in generated a positive impact in Latin America. They used foreign resources to foster the development of industries focused on the population’s basic needs. I had the opportunity to be a driver of change by improving the quality of life for many.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? My biggest accomplishment has been getting out of my comfort zone and opening up to more risk. We all live in bubbles, and it is easy to spend our whole life in them; however, I’ve learned that if I give myself the chance of looking beyond my bubble – the world is full of unimaginable opportunities. All I need to do is put myself out there and pursue them. There are very few decisions in life that are definitive, and if something does not work out, we can always pivot. Even if things don’t go as we expected, every step makes us grow. There are no mistakes, yet learnings that make us better. In the end, tackling a big challenge is as hard as tackling a small one, and big challenges come with big opportunities.

That doesn’t mean that I am now the most risk-taking person. Nevertheless, thanks to Stanford’s culture of vulnerability, the support of the community, and my classmates’ inspirational examples, I have become more willing to take risks and put myself out there. I am confident that regardless of what I decide to pursue next, I am going to learn, grow, and become a better professional and a better human being – embracing each risk with an open mindset will take me there.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Booth, Harvard, Wharton, and MIT. I was admitted to all of them, but my heart was with Stanford.

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? Being here has opened my mind in countless ways. Selecting only one epiphany is hard; however, one of the most important realizations that I have had is that success is defined by ourselves. My whole life, I had been in environments where success had a clear definition that was imposed by others: being the best student, working at the largest company, being a consultant or investment banker, earning a big bonus, or having a fancy job title. Nevertheless, at Stanford, I have realized that success is thriving in the path that you choose to become the best possible version of yourself to generate the most meaningful impact. There is not a single one-size-fits-all model of what a successful person’s life should look like, because success is different for every person. The GSB’s deeply rooted culture of introspection helps us to identify who we are, what drives us, and what success means for each one of us.

What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2024? Allow yourself to take a deep introspection through the application process. You don’t need to have all the answers and a detailed plan of what the rest of your life should look like, but rather understand who you are and what drives you. Be as honest and authentic as you can in your application. A lot of people believe that only consultants or investment bankers pursue MBAs. At the GSB, you will find the most diverse group of people with incredibly different backgrounds and professional aspirations. There is not a unique mold in which they all fit; however, what is true is that they are all uniquely authentic and true to what they believe in. If you give yourself such an opportunity for introspection, getting through the application itself is a true achievement (with so many learnings!), even if you are accepted or not.


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