Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Cynthia Panez Velazco, UCLA (Anderson)

Cynthia Panez Velazco

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“A driven, committed, and empathic woman, who wants to generate positive change.”

Hometown: Lima, Peru

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a volunteer panda-keeper for a day in Chengdu, China. I cleaned, prepared meals for pandas and I even fed a 1-year-old panda! I also learned about China’s efforts to protect pandas and to get them back to their habitats. Pandas are my favorite animals and being so close to them was a dream come true.

Undergraduate School and Major: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, B.S. Industrial Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Banco de Crédito del Perú, Product Owner

UCLA Anderson is founded on the Three Pillars: Share Success, Think Fearlessly, and Drive Change. Which pillar resonates most with you and why? I really identify with the three Anderson pillars, but if I had to choose only one, it would be “Share success.” My journey to Anderson has not been easy. In those tough situations, collective effort made all the difference. And that has shaped me into a grateful person with a “pay it forward” attitude. Even before coming to Anderson, in my interactions with students, admissions, alumni, and faculty, I could see how the community shared success. And now that I’m here, the Share Success spirit is everywhere. It already feels like my classmates are here for me, and no matter how tough things may get, we’ll get through them together.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of UCLA Anderson’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I came to Anderson to combine my two passions: building tech-driven products and my love of music. My goal is to work at an entertainment tech company as a product manager and I knew that Anderson’s resources would help me get there. Among the most relevant resources are Parker Career Management Center and Anderson’s academics and faculty.

Career Services support is key for anyone who wants to pursue an MBA to do a career switch. I knew that Parker was one of the best career services centers and that they would provide me with guidance, resources, and support to achieve my goals. You can clearly see the success of Anderson’s students to land Internships/FT positions in tech and in product management (PM is the #1 function Anderson MBAs go to post graduation, ~17% of the class), and a great part of that success is thanks to Parker. I especially liked that even before fall quarter starts, Anderson offers Parker Series, which is almost like a class (with assignments, readings, and participation) that makes students focus and spend time on crafting resumes, preparing 30-second pitches and value proposition (among others).

In terms of academics, Anderson’s Easton Technology Management Center offers classes and events for students who want to learn more about technology. I plan on pursuing the Technology Management Specialization that Easton offers, to improve my skills and strengthen my profile when recruiting. Also, when I was researching about Anderson’s faculty, I discovered professors Terry Kramer and Mark Thomas, who have a lot of experience in the industry, and I knew I wanted to take their classes. I’m glad to say that I have already accomplished this! I enrolled in the Tech Immersion Program (8 classes about technology and product management) that Anderson offered before summer quarter, and I have learned a lot from these two professors already.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at UCLA AndersonOne of the clubs I’m really looking forward to join is Women Business Connection, which is a professional club that supports and develops women in business. This mission really resonates with me because I believe we need more smart, powerful, driven women in business. Coming from a country in which not everyone (especially women) has access to education, working towards a more inclusive world in which we all have the same opportunities is very important to me. I hope I can contribute to this goal by participating in this club’s activities.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  In 2019, I won a case competition organized by my employer, focused on increasing customer satisfaction. Working collaboratively, my team and I discovered that one of the main reasons for customer dissatisfaction was that the bank’s branches were always full. With this insight, we explored the idea of forecasting and informing customers about traffic in the branches. Having this information beforehand would help them make better use of their time, therefore, increasing satisfaction. Among the 150 teams that participated, only 5 were selected as finalists, including us. For the final presentation, each team had to pitch their ideas to C-suite executives in an event that was broadcast to the whole bank. So, I led the team to define our MVP, implementation plan, and success metrics. As a result, my team won the competition. We implemented our idea and increased customer satisfaction by 20 pp.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation?  During my time at BCP, I’ve found it fulfilling when my work creates a positive impact on customers. Having seen how technology has the power to boost this impact, I’ve known for quite some time that I wanted to pivot to this industry and that an MBA was key to successfully make this transition. The timing, gaining experience in leading teams before starting an MBA was important to me for two reasons. First, it was because it would allow me to better understand leadership and business issues. Second, it would allow me to contribute to my classmates’ learning experience.

As I mentioned, post-graduation I hope to join an entertainment tech company as a product manager.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you enjoyed and would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? In my Parker Series class, we watched a video about happiness and Ikigai, which is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” In summary, to be happy, you need to spend your time in your reason for being. Your reason for being is at the intersection of 4 components: something you love doing, something the world needs, something that pays you well, and something you are good at. While preparing to apply to an MBA program, I would encourage applicants to reflect and try to figure out what is their reason for being and how an MBA can help them to fulfill this purpose.

Here’s the YouTube video.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to Michigan Ross School of Business, CMU Tepper School of Business, INSEAD and London Business School.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into UCLA Anderson’s MBA program?  The biggest piece of advice I could give to MBA applicants interested in Anderson is to make sure that you learn as much as you can about the school. Talk to the students and alumni; sign up for events hosted by admissions, Parker or academic centers, research classes and professors; and talk to people in clubs you would be interested in joining. Also, invest your time in self-reflection. Look back and analyze the choices you made in your career so far to build a cohesive and clear story. What’s the next chapter of your story? And how will Anderson help you get there? Sometimes, applicants, including me, focus a lot on GMAT scores. However, I think that having a clear answer on “why an Anderson MBA?” and “why now?” could even be more important.

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