2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Paolo Luciano Rivera, MIT (Sloan)

Paolo Luciano Rivera

MIT, Sloan School of Management

(As a note, I’m part of the MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations program, which means I’m simultaneously pursuing an MBA and an M.S. in Operations Research)

“Datamancer, AI maximalist & electronic music enthusiast  – bridging the gap between businesses, tech & math”

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Fun fact about yourself: I used to tutor the kids of a former president of Mexico.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.

B.S. in Actuarial Sciences

B.S. in Applied Mathematics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Uber Eats LatAm – Senior Regional Operations Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Zara (Inditex) – Worked remotely from Cambridge, M.A.

Where will you be working after graduation? Amazon

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

  • Chair of the Machine Intelligence for Manufacturing & Operations (MIMO) committee. Organized a new conference: Operationalizing your Enterprise’s AI strategy. Raising over $50k and distributing over $10k to MIT students
  • VP of Content for the AI & ML Club. Sourcing speakers to the newly-formed Gen-AI Summit. Moderator of the “Future of Creation” panel
  • Teaching Assistant for The Analytics Edge course and private tutor
  • Member of the LGO New Student Recruitment
  • Finalist for Siebel & McGowan Fellowships
  • Developed an optimization algorithm for PowerFlow AI – A startup that aims to optimize the charging schedules for fleets of vehicles

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Having organized two, brand new, AI-focused conferences! Given my background, AI & ML have always been my biggest interests, even before the hype. Hence, business school was the perfect opportunity for me to nurture them: I got to know my heroes (even moderating a panel) and work alongside like-minded people. The reason I’m proud of organizing them is because everything was stacked against us and few people believed the events would succeed. Both were organized in record time with extremely limited resources. However, both ended up being a major success. We started something new, from scratch and now, the conferences are set up to become fully fledged MIT Sloan staple events. That makes me extremely excited.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My time at Uber Eats LatAm was amazing. I can’t stress how much fun I had working during the “Delivery Wars”. The business was growing rapidly and it was an extremely dynamic work environment. My hallmark achievement was Launching Uber One in 6 countries of LatAm in record time. My team and I did the pricing models, the go-to-market strategy and worked with product, engineering, operations, and marketing to make sure that everything was set up for success. What I liked the most was having skin in the game: the sense of ownership and accountability of a product you designed. When we finally launched, all eyes were on us. I’ll never forget our first organic customers, the moment a flat line started bending upwards was truly magical.

Why did you choose this business school? It is because MIT is the heart of the things I value the most. At my undergrad, most of my textbooks were from MIT professors. I read Hackers by Steven Levy and it showcased a culture of people I wanted to be a part of. Secondly, because I knew that I would have access to the most cutting edge research in the world. Sloan is a part of that. I would have a shot at helping build the future. Lastly, the MIT LGO program allowed me to pursue an MBA and an M.S. in the Operations Research Center. Being able to develop both my hard technical skills and my softer leadership skills was something critical. The LGO program at MIT Sloan was the only program that blended the two seamlessly.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor has to be, by far, Alex Jacquillat. I took a class with him titled Integer Programming and Combinatorial Optimization – literally a mouthful. This class is, also by far, the hardest class I’ve ever taken in my life. It was a PhD-level class in an advanced mathematical subject that I was clearly not qualified to take. However, Alex made it not only extremely engaging but fun. More importantly, Alex cares so much about his students. It’s not about the grades nor the academic arrogance, it’s about the learning: the concepts and the beautiful mind-blowing ideas that sometimes hide behind complex math symbols. Some of the techniques he taught us could literally save the planet and most of them can be spun into startups in every field. Last, Alex taught me not to shy away from hard classes. If we don’t challenge ourselves, we won’t be able to see far we can reach. His teaching style should be replicated all across the education system. Alex is simply an amazing professor, a world class researcher, and an even better human being.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Power & Negotiation has been my favorite so far. This is exactly the sort of class that I was expecting out of business school. It was a class that teaches you extremely practical skills with well backed up research. Professor Jackson Lu makes it entertaining and dynamic, with at least one negotiation case every class! It’s the sort of course that makes you forget about the outside world but also empowers you to tackle it head first. Since this class is very interactive, I’ve also met a lot of new people from all degrees and programs.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Given my background, funding was always a constraint. Upon knowing that there were some scholarships for academic merit, I focused a bit too much on it. Yes, even in the crazy math course I mentioned above. In hindsight, however, I would focus a little bit less on the grades and coursework and I would have shifted my attention to being part of the leadership of even more clubs, and doing more extracurricular activities like sailing. Time is your most precious resource at business school. Knowing how to distribute it is as part of the learning as the grades are.

What surprised you the most about business school? The quality of our professors and the diversity of subjects. I seriously can’t stress enough how impressed I’ve been by some of the minds at MIT. Being able to connect with a Nobel Prize winner for a 1:1 or just to knock at the door of some of the most important researchers in the field is completely unrivaled. They are always friendly and willing to help and, in the process, foster a great MIT community. This is also clearly reflected in their quality as educators. The lectures are amazing and I’m constantly in awe of their deep knowledge. Secondly, I’ve been very impressed that you can always find a more niche class in every subject you’re interested in. If it exists, MIT has a class on it. Is the topic less than 1 month old? Well, somebody is already preparing a conference on it. Things move quickly at MIT, but that also means that there’s always something cool to explore.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Although I can’t fully validate it, I’m sure that what gave me an edge was my recommendation letters. The folks who wrote them weren’t famous nor high profile. They were simply my managers and professors who knew me extremely well. They were the people who had seen, first hand, what I was capable of. People who were truly invested in my development as a professional and as a person. Last, they were able to speak fondly of me and to invest enough time in the writing. I wouldn’t be at MIT without them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’ve met interesting people during my time at Sloan, but Scarlet Koller is by far the most unique of them all. Scarlet is like Ms. Valerie Frizzle from the Magic School Bus series. She is an infinite repository of knowledge, an unwavering optimist, and an amazing human being. I’ll never forget when I met her. Scarlett was wearing a space themed-dress with solar system earrings that matched it. Having worked at NASA, she literally built robots that walk on Mars. Her passion for space is unmatched; her energy is contagious. But the reason I admire her the most is that despite her quirkiness, she’s not afraid to show it. She’s truly an authentic person. The fact that she’s always willing to help out and to share his knowledge with the rest of our class is just the cherry on top of what makes Scarlet special. Oh and did I mention she’s also a superb athlete, a sailor, a baker and she speaks many languages? Ultimately, I hope to continue learning from her and to cherish our friendship for many more years.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1. Build and launch a product from scratch! A classic zero-to-one story, where I identify a problem, work out a solution and take it to market, hopefully, with great success! Bonus points if the problem/solution requires the use of advanced optimization, AI or such. Even more bonus points if it’s something that helps a lot of people.

2. Lead an organization with true positive societal impact. Life has given me a lot, so I would love to be able to give back some of it. Helping by example is the best way I can think of because it also empowers others to do so.

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

“Paolo is one of the Best and Brightest in the best possible way.  He contributes his intellectual brilliance to helping others, being a role model for classmates, incoming students and potential applicants, and driving new initiatives such at the inaugural Machine Intelligence for Manufacturing and Operations (MIMO) Research Symposium.

As a student in the Leaders for Global Operation (LGO) program whose engineering department is the Operation Research Center, Paolo brings an ability to understand and develop advance analytics methods and tools.  From his first summer as in the LGO core curriculum Paolo also demonstrated his commitment to his fellow classmates helping others learn core mathematical principles without the same background and deep understanding Paolo possesses. This same dedication carried forward into his MBA cohort, where others soon sought Paolo out for his wisdom and help.

Paolo was the chair and active member of the student leadership team which contributing to the development and growth of the MIT MIMO. He was the driving force behind and provided leadership for other students to mount the in first Symposium. There were keynote speakers from industry leaders and academics in the use of Machine Learning in improving Operations, as well as posters from LGO and PhD students doing research in field. The result was a first-class event drawing praise from participants who have extensive exposure to these types of symposiums.

Further, Paolo has been really helpful in admissions and recruiting new students, particularly in helping international students and admits with questions about moving to the US and what they should keep in mind. He has also been a great reference for interested ORC candidates and any prospective students from Mexico. I have connected him with quite a lot of folks and I am always confident he will represent the best aspects of our program and his cohort. He’s just overall be a great representation of the program, on panels and at meet-ups, with a warm and humble presence despite everything else he has going on around MIT!

Bottom line is Paolo is someone everyone can look to and rely on as a supportive community leaders and member. He leads with integrity and caring for our diverse cohorts.”

Patricia Eames
Academic and Student Affairs Manager
MIT Leaders for Global Operations


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