2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Neville Williams, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Neville Williams

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

“I’m an eternal optimist who is interested in the latest technology trends and the “best” dad jokes.”

Hometown: Lynn, MA

Fun fact about yourself: It was my wife, Jane, one of Poets and Quants 2019 MBA’s to Watch, who inspired me to get my MBA.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Syracuse University, Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a Minor in Political Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked in talent acquisition at Netflix.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I interned as a summer associate with Deloitte in Minneapolis (I started two days after I got married!) working in a hybrid environment.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’ll be returning to Deloitte where I’ll be working as a senior consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

* University Senator, representing the students of the Carlson School of Management on a graduate level within the University of Minnesota university system.

* Team Leader for the Technology Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Team within the Carlson Funds Enterprise, the student-managed investment fund. This is a part of the experiential learning component of Carlson’s MBA program.

* Mentoring: Supported undergraduates and graduates by providing career advice along with interviewing tips and tricks. Also provided advice to post-graduate professionals by reviewing essays, navigating the application and financial aid process, and being a peer to incoming Carlson School students.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was managing the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Team within the Carlson Funds Enterprise. Not only did I manage the TMT team but I am an authorized trader and now a portfolio manager for our fund. Considering my pre-MBA background, this enterprise and team-leadership experience pushed me to learn and grow in areas where I did not have a lot of experience. I am grateful to the TMT analyst teams in both semesters for their great work providing thoughtful performance commentary and tracking quarterly earnings. Our pitch to purchase WWE was quite fun.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I appreciated the opportunities afforded to me in supporting the hiring process for executive leadership positions within the product organization at Netflix. It was great to sit in on early discussions around hiring strategy relating to the development of Netflix’s gaming organization. I have to thank my manager for trusting me to represent Talent Acquisition externally to candidates in high-profile positions as well as internally to hiring partners looking to build world-class teams across the globe.

Why did you choose this business school? For me, it really boiled down to the Carlson School’s Enterprise Program. As someone who had very little experience in asset management and equity research going into the program, being part of the Funds Enterprise is a great way to gain experience in equity analysis in an approachable, fun, and engaging way. It is OK if financial models are not perfect and there is space to talk through how macro trends affect micro sectors or even what is “macro” and “micro.” It is not every day you get the opportunity to manage an investment fund as an MBA student without going into industry first.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I enjoyed classes with all my professors at the Carlson School. Some elective classes are taught in different modalities to accommodate your learning style and personal schedule. I really appreciated Svjetlana Madzar’s approach to teaching classes on “Strategic Alliances” and “Management of Teams” (as the former was online while the latter was a three-day in-person seminar) taught over the course of three weeks. In both instances the content was presented in an engaging manner that fit well with the topics we discussed. For Strategic Alliances, it was great to understand the nuance of corporate partnership between the typical build or buy discussions of corporate strategy. In Management of Teams, the seminar class featured a number of Part-Time MBA students whose industry experience added a richness to a topic that no written case could provide on its own when talking about the dynamism of people in teams.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Dr. Kathleen Vohs teaches a course called “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.” I call it an amazing class on behavioral economics. My classmates liked the class as well, so much so we used the final project to create a business plan for improving our annual spring charity auction. This led to 2023’s donations outperforming the five-year average for donations (even when adjusting for COVID-19 variances).

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Ostensibly, the Carlson School’s academic semesters run on quarters (i.e. an A-Term and B-Term for fall and spring). As a first-year MBA student, getting through finals, networking, and applying to summer internship opportunities at the end of Fall A-Term can be a tough period when it comes to managing competing interests. Something I started as a second-year student, with the support of fellow classmates, was having a little celebration after the completion of the first final at the end of A-Term. We had fruit snacks, Goldfish crackers, oranges, and Chewy bars – everything one would expect after a typical middle school sporting event in the U.S. … just in graduate school! I thought it was a great way to build inter-class camaraderie while also helping to de-stress at a tough point in the semester. Every tradition starts somewhere and this event should continue on for the years to come.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I had the opportunity to learn SCUBA diving, for class credit, as part of my MBA program. One of my classmates did and it sounded like she really appreciated it. I wish I took the time to do that.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Do not write off the Carlson School because it is cold in the winter. The city of Minneapolis (well most Minnesotans, really) embraces the weather! You can enjoy winter activities like curling, ice mazes, and the Luminary Loppet (a celebration of ice and light, held at night, and usually on a frozen lake). All of these turns what can be a dark and dreary time of year into something amazing.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Minneapolis has a strong restaurant scene with great diversity of flavor and cuisine. In addition, this city has America’s best pizza, Wrecktangle Pizza, as recently decided by Good Morning America. I realize this is a bold claim, considering Pequod’s in Chicago and the times I have visited New York, but I shall stand by it.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I made sure I was clear on my reasons why I wanted to attend the Carlson School over other schools. Additionally, I had frank conversations with the admissions team about personal finances and affording an MBA degree. I would encourage applying as early as possible and ensuring your test scores are competitive to help build your case for admission and additional financial support.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? We have a number of parents who are part of our Full-Time MBA program. I am in awe of the work they do both in the classroom and raising their children. Carlson’s MBA program is challenging enough when working on personal aspects of leadership, corporate strategy, or marketing analytics without having to manage our next generation of leaders as well. With all the discussion about working from home and managing competing priorities while still remaining present in the workplace, kudos to the parents both as classmates and as parents for succeeding at both! Their lived experiences and points of views are not easily dismissed when thinking about future of work trends.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Mentoring is amazing. There is a lot of trust and vulnerability that goes into the process, both ways. It would be wonderful to seek the mentorship of those further along in their career to help in talking through my familial, personal, and career aspirations. Additionally, I hope to join an advisory board or two, both corporate and non-profit. I see this as a way to also impart knowledge, support the strategic success of initiatives, and to continue to learn from peers.

What made Neville such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Neville Williams is a star in every sense. I first met him two years before he joined the Carlson School at an event for prospective students. He was somehow able to stand out even in this pre-COVID crowd at a local brewpub with his intellect, his humor, and his interest in expanding his knowledge of the business world. When he finally arrived on campus in the Fall of 2021, I was thrilled that he chose to join the Funds Enterprise experiential learning program. For many students, joining Funds is a bridge too far — the world of finance is complex and off-putting. But Neville jumped into this experience with enthusiasm. With no background at all in the investment world, he has been one of the strongest contributors to the program. He has learned how to develop complex financial models, wrangle portfolio returns and performance data, and think about the complex interaction between sustainable business decisions and company valuation. He has taken on the extra challenge of being a trader for our equity fund, just because he wanted to learn more about it.

Neville has all of the obvious qualities of a successful student: intelligent, hard-working, able to integrate new information quickly. But I think it is Neville’s joyous approach to the world and his humble demeanor that really make him stand out. He should be arrogant because he is so good at so many things, but he is not. He is generous with his time and he gives of himself in a truly personal way. Whether it is recommending a stock, discussing world events and economic data, or choosing the latest Harry Styles song to kick off our morning meeting, he has brought an infectious sense of the possible to our work. He believes in himself, as he should, but he makes everybody around him believe in their own abilities. He has led our effort to create a culture that listens to everyone. I just wish I could figure out a way to keep him here in the Funds Enterprise — but it would be unfair to him and the world to hold him back. I know that he will be successful no matter what path he chooses in the future, and I am excited to see where that path leads.”

Susanna Gibbons
Managing Director, David S. Kidwell Funds Enterprise


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