Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Joel Francia, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Joel Francia

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“First-generation college student and immigrant. An eternal optimist, tech-enthusiast, driven to break the bamboo ceiling.”

Hometown: Manila, Philippines

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once danced all night long, literally. I went to a west coast swing event in Dallas and danced with so many folks from around the country. I got to the ballroom on a Friday night and by the time I left, the restaurant in the hotel had already started serving breakfast. It was 6:30 the morning after and, at that time, I’d danced for almost 12 hours with no sleep.

Undergraduate School and Major: Canisius College, International Business & International Relations; University of Texas at Austin, Master’s in Professional Accounting

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Sixth Street Partners, Investor Relations

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA curriculum or programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? For me, it was the JD-MBA program. Having worked for a few years in public accounting and in private equity, I knew I wanted to combine business and law and be at the intersection of both fields. Northwestern’s JD-MBA program is a perfect marriage of two great schools, Kellogg and the Pritzker School of Law. The program is unique in that students work towards both degrees in three years. It’s going to be a lot of work but having access to the networks at Kellogg and Pritzker is an amazing opportunity.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Northwestern Kellogg? There are two things I’m excited to do at Kellogg. First, I’m looking forward to participating in KWEST (Kellogg Worldwide Experiences & Service Trips) in 2023. Every single person I talked to, from alumni to current students, raves about the trips. It’s a great way to start the year because it allows students to connect with one another and create meaningful relationships before classes even start. I believe Kellogg does this because at its core, it’s a reminder that we can’t accomplish anything alone or solve problems without a community. It’s genius to start the year with such a trip because it becomes the foundation of our collective Kellogg experience and beyond.

Second is the San Francisco Immersion Winter Quarter Program. This allows students to work with VCs and startups in the Bay Area. This hands-on approach is one of the things I really like about Kellogg, because we not only get the exposure to VCs and startups, but we also get a chance to apply what we learn in class.

What has been your first impression of the Kellogg MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Kellogg story so far. My first impression is that Kellogg alumni and students subscribe to a low ego/high impact mentality. During the pandemic, I attended different virtual programs to either learn a new skill like negotiations or talk about current events. Time and again, the speakers that I gravitated to did not have a hint of ego in their answers and were more interested in solving problems and sharing ideas with the other panelists. I looked at the impressive backgrounds of these speakers and, lo and behold, they all have something in common: they’re ALL Kellogg alumni. And now as a JD-MBA candidate, I can vouch for the other Kellogg students that I’ve met who have incredible backgrounds and work experiences from the military, retail, consulting, sports, private equity, AND MORE. Everyone is so accomplished and driven, yet no one rests in their laurels. The overall sense I get is each one is very interested to collaborate with one another.

What makes Chicago such a great place to earn an MBA? Chicago is an amazing city with a lot to offer. Whether you’re a foodie, sports fan, art enthusiast, or music afficionado, there’s something for everyone. I love that I can ride my bike on the beautiful lakefront during the day, enjoy a hearty lunch at Au Cheval on the West Loop, and then cap my evening by going to see the Chicago Symphony, which is one of the best orchestras in the world. I feel spoiled to have all these opportunities that enrich my experience, while getting my JD/MBA. It’s important for me that there’d be a balance between academics and extracurriculars and Chicago offers that and more. No wonder that for the sixth year in a row, Chicago has claimed the title of “The Best Big City in the U.S.” Folks who visit tell me how lucky I am to live and study here. I agree.

Kellogg is known for a team-driven culture. What quality do you bring as a teammate and why will it  be so important to the success of MBA class? A big picture mentality. I think it’s important that in any project that we zoom in and zoom out on the issues and that we invite everyone to speak. To be effective leaders, we need to understand problems from a variety of angles. This can only help us be successful because a diversity of thought leads to a more comprehensive, and often better, solution.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When I was in public accounting, I spent three months in India, splitting my time between Kolkata and Bangalore, to train our teammates there to support the US asset management tax practice. I was by myself in a foreign country and culture. But thanks to my team in India, I thrived and was able to deliver above and beyond the expectation. I came back to the US and helped start a formal training program. Outside of busy season, I ended up working in a change management team, which allowed me to visit almost ten offices across the US, culminating with a three-month rotation in Boston. I was very proud to help equip and train hundreds of professionals in the US and abroad.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After working in tax and accounting, I decided I wanted to pivot to the investing side. The social role of investments never occurred to me until I heard our CEO at Sixth Street say something to the effect of this: ‘Given the institutional funds we manage, we really are managing our nurses, teachers, and firefighters’ pension.’ For asset managers, there’s a mandate to deliver the returns to fill the liability gap that exists for these pension funds. That fiduciary duty spoke to me. A mentor told me that if I really wanted to be on the business side, I’ll have to get my MBA.

Post-graduation, I hope to go back to the alternative investment space to fulfill this mission. As a first-generation student, I’m passionate about financial security. I’ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities, and I would like to use my skills to give back, so that those who have sacrificed a lot won’t have to worry about going without.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I highly recommend listening to Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s an excellent podcast and has helped me think and rethink my own assumptions. I believe it’s important that we periodically reflect on our beliefs and the way we understand the world. Listening to alternative views is a great training for prospective MBAs/future leaders, who will one day be decision-makers. Whether we find our way in government, corporate boards, or academic institutions, our decisions will impact thousands, if not millions, of people. I believe good-quality decisions come from those who have considered a diversity of views and who (in the process) are able to support or accordingly adjust their course of action. It’s never too early to train our decision-making skills, and considering alternative views is part of that training.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT Sloan

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA program? Take the time to reflect and crystallize your why and how an MBA can help you. A JD-MBA alum told me recently and I believe this applies, don’t undervalue your strengths and experience, be it at work or school. Each person is unique, so lean in on what makes you special. Highlight your experience working in teams. Kellogg is a special place because it brings together folks from diverse backgrounds who care about collaborating with others and creating solutions. If you have relevant experience and examples, make sure your essays reflect that.


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