Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Victoria Velasquez, University of Virginia (Darden) 

Victoria Velasquez 

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

“Hard-working problem-solver passionate about advancing positive change and uplifting underrepresented voices.” 

Hometown: Moorpark, CA 

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am the second youngest grandchild in a family of over 30 and the only one who has been fortunate enough to attend and graduate college. 

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Notre Dame, Management Consulting and Political Science 

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate at Simatree, a start-up data, analytics, and technology strategy consulting firm. Joined as employee number two and left when the firm had grown to 20 FTEs and had also been acquired by a financial holdings company. 

What makes the case method so attractive as a means to learn and become a better manager? Being a problem-solver is part of my DNA. When I made the decision to leave my job as a management consultant to go to business school, I knew that I needed to go to a program where I could continue to problem solve both inside and outside of the classroom. The case method was the only pedagogy where I could truly see myself being fulfilled, while also having the opportunity to grow as a management consultant and leader. By tackling ambiguous problems—which often don’t have a “right” answer—through the case method, I know that I will leave Darden better prepared to handle any challenge, whether technical or interpersonal, that I may face in my post-MBA consulting career and beyond.  

Aside from cases and classmates, what was the key part of Virginia Darden’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I knew I wanted to pivot into strategy consulting at a global firm post-MBA, so I was really drawn to Darden’s resources and programming offered through the Consulting Club and the Career Center. This programming has helped Darden achieve one of the highest placement rates for full-time consulting roles year-after-year and has helped solidify its reputation for developing strong management consultants.

For example, when I was making my decision about where to attend business school, I was able to speak with a partner at one of the MBB consulting firms to get her advice on which school produced the best consultants. She said, without hesitation, that the best consultants that she had worked with came from Darden. I have already taken part in some of Darden’s consulting prep programming while recruiting for internships as part of the pre-MBA recruiting cycle, and I can attest to the strength of the school’s programming. Getting to participate in the Consulting Club’s Summer Case Camp and having access to dozens of second year students for mock interviews have helped me secure four summer internship offers for 2023 before even starting classes at Darden.  

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Virginia Darden? I am most excited about being an active member of the Darden Consortium cohort because I am passionate about the Consortium’s mission of advancing the representation of Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals in business school and management positions. As an incoming Consortium Fellow, I have already greatly benefitted from my second year Consortium mentor, Britanny Biggs, who has provided me with guidance and support throughout the pre-MBA consulting recruiting process. I hope to serve in a similar role next year, helping incoming underrepresented minority business students secure offers from the world’s top consulting firms before even stepping foot on grounds in August. I hope to also expand this support to helping those individuals prepare for their summer consulting internships by creating a pre-consulting internship workshop that provides an overview of key consulting skills and cultural norms so that my peers are set up for success on day one of their consulting internships. 

What has been your first impression of the Darden MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Darden story so far. It was evident early on in my MBA application process that Darden students and alumni are extremely vested in helping people achieve success, uplifting them during times of challenge and then celebrating their eventual victories. This has continued to play out for me since I first interacted with the Darden community. When I faced the inevitable application process panic and stress about finishing all of my applications on time, one Darden student went above and beyond to help me finalize my essays before the quickly approaching deadline. Whereas when I reached out to a student at another MBA program for similar last-minute essay review and support, I was told that I should probably consider applying during a later application round. That stark contrast in support from those students really demonstrated what sets Darden apart from other business schools. Now as I am weighing offers from different consulting firms, it has been the Darden alumni at each firm who have been the first to congratulate me and have gone out of their way to ensure I am connected with the right people and resources to help me make my decision.  

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far. I took a big leap of faith when I left a stable and secure job at a global federal consulting firm to join a start-up consulting firm, Simatree, as employee number two. Throughout my nearly three years at Simatree, I was repeatedly stretched outside of my comfort zone, as I took on responsibilities to help grow this nascent company during a period of economic downturn.

While I am extremely proud of my business development accomplishments that led to over $1.5M in new and follow-on contracts, growing the Simatree team to 20 FTEs that led to an acquisition of the company, my biggest accomplishment was shaping and defining the Simatree culture. The company’s culture is one that is equitable and inclusive, with team members at every level of the organization being encouraged to share their diverse perspectives and feeling empowered to execute on their innovative ideas. Additionally, it is a culture where team members and leaders can be the most authentic versions of themselves because we know that by harnessing each individual’s unique passions, interests, and life experiences, we can better serve our clients. I hope to continue to drive this kind of positive cultural change at Darden and throughout my post-MBA career.  

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I would highly recommend that prospective MBAs listen to podcasts and videos produced by the schools to which they are considering applying. We all have limited amounts of time to schedule coffee chats and networking calls with current students, alumni, and admissions officers, so these podcasts and videos are a great way to learn more about the school when you don’t have time for those one-on-one conversations. You can gain greater insight into various student-led initiatives, faculty research, and application tips so you can better focus your outreach and research. I saw a video recording of a student panel discussion and reached out to one of the students on LinkedIn because I wanted to learn more about her business school experience. She has since served as a valuable resource, providing guidance throughout the application process and now helping me land my dream post-MBA job.  

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School, Wharton, Kellogg School of Management, University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and Duke University Fuqua School of Business  

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Virginia Darden’s MBA program? For potential applicants who are looking to gain admission to Darden’s MBA program, I would recommend that they invest the time in really learning about Darden’s most distinguishing feature—its community. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBA Prep program, which is focused on providing Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals with personalized guidance and effective tools to successfully navigate the business school application process. Because of MLT’s extensive alumni network and established relationships with admissions officers at its partner schools, I was able to make deep connections across the Darden community early in the MBA application journey. The experience that I had speaking with these students, alumni, and admissions officers throughout my application journey was unparalleled due to the level of earnest support and investment that I received from each individual that I connected with. When it came time to apply and interview, I was able to so clearly articulate how I would contribute to the Darden community because those individuals with whom I had spoken had welcomed me with open arms, making me feel like I already belonged in the Darden community. My decision ultimately came down to this community, knowing that Darden was not just a two-year decision, but a lifetime decision.  

DON’T MISS: MEET VIRGINIA DARDEN’S MBA CLASS OF 2024

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