2022 MBA To Watch: Ayanna Egbarin, Fordham University (Gabelli)

Ayanna Egbarin

Fordham University, Gabelli School of Business

“A creative, self-starter exploring the world with goals to bridge the gap between art & technology.”

Hometown: Bloomfield, CT

Fun fact about yourself: I decided to accept a job in London without ever visiting before and my only prior knowledge of it coming from T.V. shows like The Inbetweeners and UK Skins. It was the best 3.5 years of my life.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia, BA in Psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Cvent UK, Account Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Microsoft in New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft as a Product Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Dean’s Scholarship Award Recipient
  • Student Activities Council, VP of Events
  • Net Impact, VP of Digital Media and Design
  • Black and Latinx MBA Association, Treasurer
  • Fordham Gabelli Marketing Society, Jr VP
  • Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Enrichment

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Getting elected as VP of Events on the Student Advisory Council has been one of my proudest achievements. What I love most is that I get to work closely with to pave the way for what an in-person experience looks like for a student body that hadn’t truly experienced that in the past. In this position, I get to work with deans, club leaders, and other faculty members to reinvigorate the elements of the Fordham community that attracted us all to the school in the first place. Since being in the position, I’ve helped to galvanize student engagement and hosted events 30% above the original target set out for the year. I had never previously run for positions like this in high school or college in fear that I wasn’t the best fit or that the school was too large for me to actually make a difference. Within this position, I’ve learned how untrue that is.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Every year, we all set resolutions to buy a dream car, learn to cook fancy meals, or get the 8 pack abs of our dreams – and I was no exception to that. In January of 2020, I was in my apartment in London, nostalgically reflecting on the year before and creating wishful goals for the year to come. I had a written down, “Do everything in your power to get the internship of your dreams and live the New York life you’ve imagined since you were a kid.” Like every goal, it doesn’t always pan out in the exact way that you imagine, New York was a bit different the summer of 2020 when I finally moved there, but that resolution did work out in one really big way. I landed my dream internship at Microsoft doing the role that I used business school to transition into, Product Marketing. I was proud of myself for really being my own boss and understanding the true meaning of fundamental building blocks. I networked my a** off and a figured out how to show people who I am through a virtual environment. It paid off. I breached into the big tech world, met a ton of uniquely interesting people, and am super excited to continue exploring Microsoft and more of New York City after graduation.

Why did you choose this business school? Growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut, all I ever dreamt of were skyscrapers and city-lit adventures, essentially the opposite of what I’d been used to. In my high school’s class trip to the city, we got to run around Times Square spending way too much time in the M&M store, eating 5 courses of pasta in Little Italy, and spending our allowances in Soho without chaperoned supervision. Here, I had this feeling that I needed to live in New York at some point in my life. When I made the decision to apply to business school, I knew that the only schools I would apply to would be in that city. At the time, I was working in London so I was also devoted to keeping my international connection. In fact, London was where I first interacted with Fordham. I had a networking dinner with another student (who ended up in my cohort!) and 2 of the deans and they painted a picture filled with the type of connections and pathways to my future that I wanted. Alongside that, the tight-knit community and fact that they had a campus in both London and New York sealed the deal for me and I haven’t regretted anything since.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Sertan Kabadayi is perhaps the best marketing professor at Fordham. I have had other great professors, but I’ve never seen any as unanimously loved as Kabadayi. He is the person who solidified my decision to concentrate on marketing and set the bar very high for all of my future marketing professors. There are a lot of different teaching styles out there that engage some students and not others, but Kabadayi has found the magic combination of real-world application, case-based learning, giving everyone a voice, providing honest critiques, and encouraging hard work that not every teaching style touches on. Outside of that, we all can tell that he genuinely cares about us as people. He’s the only teacher who reaches out to the cohort as a whole to update us on industry learnings that he finds interesting and the histories of holidays that we are celebrating, even as we have moved beyond his course. He’s the not-so-hidden gem of the Gabelli faculty.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event is still yet to come. The annual Spring Gala takes place in May and it is the most anticipated on of the year. What I’m excited about is that it is the last chance to gather with not only your fellow students, but their significant others, faculty, administrators, and alumni before graduating. Since gatherings like this have been limited, this will be the first time that we get to see all of these people in one place in my entire business school career. It is also steeped in tradition as the night includes honoring special members of the community and passing the baton to the next Student Advisory Council board. The entire time that I’ve been here, Fordham has instilled in me this sense of community and it was one of the main reasons that drove me to this school. It is a founding principle and I have seen that throughout all of the school’s actions. This night is the embodiment of that plus some dancing and good food.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would make more of an effort to get to know more of my professors on a personal level. In business school, we spend a lot of time getting to know our classmates and even the students in the class below us as we know that we have this shared experience and will be making connections to last beyond school, but I think I’ve overlooked the value in keeping those same relationships with professors. They have a wealth of knowledge that we can see, as they attempt to pass it on to us class after class and they should be seen as more than just people who teach us things a couple of hours each week. Luckily, there is still more time in my MBA experience to hopefully rectify this and make better attempts to build stronger relationships with professors that I’ve admired; but if I somehow still don’t, I bequeath this advice to the MBA classes after me.

What surprised you the most about business school? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much interaction we have with students in different programs. Business school can sound quite insular in the outset of things. That’s because you have a set schedule in the beginning and shared extracurricular programs, so I would think that this group of people would be the only ones I interact with. When actually, through club involvement and the courses you take beyond your core ones, you meet a lot of people from other master’s programs, the part-time program, and the executive program within the business school. It broadens your circle of who you can network with as, these students often times currently work in companies you’d be interested in and in general just more people to interact with and potentially befriend. It creates a more well-rounded experience and makes the student body feel even larger.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? It helped that I wasn’t afraid to fully be myself and show my serious studious side and my creative, jovial side in my essays and interviews. I was clear on what my highlights are and what I wanted to use business school to develop. Often times, as applicants, we get caught up in trying to project the student we think admissions wants to see instead of projecting who we are as unique value adds to the student body. We read articles about the applicant who has sold her 4th business to Amazon – or built a school in Ecuador with her bare hands – and think that is the only type of person that admissions cares to admit. What we ignore is that no school is looking for a homogenous student body; we all have star stories in our backgrounds and personalities that make us stand out. Focus on what makes you unique and what you’ll bring to the table and you’ll feel confident in your ability to stand out in your application process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Elainne Diaz and I latched on to each other from the very first week of business school. Since then, I have been in awe of all of the things I’ve learned from her and the ways in which she has helped me grow. I admire her most for her bravery, perseverance, and overarching joy she brings into every aspect of her life. She moved to the U.S. when she was 13 with Spanish as the only language in her repertoire. Throughout the years, she became fully fluent in English as she pushed herself through high-school and college. She dives head-first into experiences like studying abroad in Hong Kong and backpacking through Asia. She then goes above-and-beyond to teach herself Italian as she worked in Italy for an Italian bank all before starting business school. Every time I want to quit the duo lingo French app or I’m afraid about entering a case competition, I look to her bravery and all that she has accomplished and know that she would tell me, “Babygirl, just do it.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Only one? Mom, I’m sorry but I’m choosing Dad. My dad probably wanted me to go to business school more than I did at times! In reality, my dad, who came to this country from Nigeria to study and endured many losses while pursuing his undergraduate and law degrees, has always instilled in me the concept of perseverance. In whatever you did; you had to see it through to the end and if at any point you wavered it is because you didn’t grasp the fundamental building blocks to make it happen. I have truly taken that to heart as I set out challenges like taking the GMAT, pursuing business school, landing the full-time position at Microsoft. On top of that, he has also taught me to stay true to who I am and challenge the process. He sees the potential in me, which is encouraging for where I hope to see myself in the future. I can only hope that these strong-willed genes I inherited from him will pass on to my kids in the same self-assured way.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I hope to make an impact at a large company like Microsoft. Heading into their workforce is pretty daunting because the league they play in is large in size and widespread in what their outputs affect. The fact that a segment of the company is partnered with the Department of Defense puts a lot of pressure on my everyday work. Luckily, I have built up a considerable network of mentors and comrades through the internship program and clearly the company sees my potential and that gives me confidence for the fall.

Secondly, at some point I’d love to use all that I have learned and will learn about product development and marketing to launch my own passion project. I won’t say too much about it now but I, too, hope to revolutionize a part of our daily lives like so many of the other tech moguls before me.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has mainly changed my view on what a work environment looks like and how to build a network of co-workers that aren’t tied to a physical location or in-person meetings. My goals have remained the same and have probably strengthened with the amount of time saved from commuting that I can dedicate to them. While I relish the work environment that I had at Cvent and the life-long friends I made in DC and London, I see the many benefits of the current hybrid environment that I plan to take full advantage of when I enter the working world in the fall.

What made Ayanna such an invaluable member of the Class of 2022?

“We first engaged with Ayanna as an applicant while she was working at Cvent in London. Even before she submitted her application, she was laying the groundwork for active engagement in business school. From the beginning, she has consistently embodied community, excellence, and ethics—the essence of the Jesuit ethos. Though the global health pandemic significantly reshaped the landscape for her MBA experience, Ayanna continued to shine in and out of the classroom. At the onset of her first year, she demonstrated informal leadership among her peers as everyone was navigating social distancing and virtual engagement. She was one of the first students in her cohort to land a highly coveted product marketing summer internship at Microsoft. She then went on to help her classmates in their internship search—sharing best practices that she learned.

She’s held a variety of formal leadership roles at the school including Student Activities Council (VP of Events), Net Impact (VP of Digital Media and Design), Black and Latinx MBA Association (Treasurer), and Fordham Gabelli Marketing Society (VP). Ayanna was also a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Engagement and Academic Success. Outside of her life as a full-time MBA student, Ayanna is a phenomenal photographer having created Bar None Photos as a way to channel some of her creativity and passion.

Ayanna is an exemplary student and inspirational leader among her peers. She will continue to advance far and fast as she joins Microsoft as a product marketing manager after graduation. We can only hope future students will have the same determination, hard-working spirit, optimism, and energy as Ayanna.”

Lawrence Mur’ray 
Senior Assistant Dean 



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