Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Ruslan Ismayil, University of Texas (McCombs)

Ruslan Ismayil

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“I am nomad in essence; traversing life’s grand terrains. I believe that every event holds meaning; I view failure as a growth marker, then persevere.’”

Hometown: Ganja, Azerbaijan

Fun Fact About Yourself: Once a communications officer by profession, I became a chatty enthusiast out of professional habit, despite my true introverted nature!

Undergraduate School and Major: Baku State University, BA in International Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: GoBizMe, Small Business Consultant in Toronto, Canada

What makes Austin such a great place to earn an MBA? There’s a palpable energy in the air when you set foot in Austin, a magnetic force that seems to pull the nation’s vibrant youth, brilliant innovators, and audacious entrepreneurs towards its heart. This is where dreams dance to the rhythm of live music, where the next big idea is just an over-caffeinated conversation away, and where the Lone Star state shines the brightest.

The economy’s compass has been swiveling, and wealth migration has tilted the center of gravity southward. This process is already unstoppable. Austin doesn’t just find itself on this roadmap by accident; it’s at the very heart of it. Strategically positioned within a bustling economic triangle, this city sits at the nexus of commerce, culture, and connectivity. Pursuing an MBA here feels akin to watching history unfold, to being at the right place at precisely the right time.

Austin resonates with a young, pulsating energy, reminiscent of a city forever on the brink of something great. It’s a place where ideas are the currency and music, the universal language. It’s a confluence of minds, drawn from all over, crafting the future of industries, technologies, and art forms. Embarking on an MBA journey here, one is not just learning from textbooks, but from the city’s tapestry of stories and its passionate residents.

An MBA isn’t a mere degree, it’s a metamorphosis. It challenges, breaks, molds, and refines you. Austin, with its unique blend of tradition and modernity, offers an unparalleled environment for this transformation. The city, with its opportunities and challenges, becomes an extended classroom, allowing students to apply knowledge in real-time and evolve holistically.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that includes its global footprint. The Longhorns, alumni from the University of Texas and other Austin institutions, are sprinkled globally. Their reputation precedes them, and their network is expansive. Being an MBA student in Austin gives you a passport to this illustrious community, broadening horizons and creating opportunities in every corner of the world.

Lastly, on a personal note, if you’re someone who believes that sunshine can fuel both solar panels and souls, Austin is a paradise. It’s a city that allows you to bask under the sun while diving deep into where science converges with technology. The quality of life is not just good; it’s radiant, much like its weather.

Austin is not just a city; it’s an experience. Earning an MBA here isn’t just about the degree; it’s about embracing change, growth, and connections in an environment that’s as nurturing as it is challenging. It’s about being vulnerable yet strong, professional yet personal, and always, always learning.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Texas McCombs’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? When I began my MBA application journey, like most aspirants, I was inundated with choices, decisions, and compelling scholarship offers. The pull from various business schools, each boasting of excellence, was indeed powerful. And yet, amidst this cacophony, Texas McCombs stood out clear and resonant.

As a career switcher, my quest was not just for an academic expedition but for a transformation. I didn’t merely seek to change jobs or industries, but to undergo a holistic transformation that would seamlessly meld my past experiences with future ambitions. I envisioned stepping into a realm where I could embrace the innovative and disruptive currents shaping the tech landscape. And as I delved deeper into the McCombs curriculum, my epiphany came to life.

The McCombs MBA program isn’t just a rehashing of traditional business administration tenets. The revamped curriculum is a testament to McCombs’ vision of intertwining varied fields of study, prepping its candidates not just for the current business scenarios but also for the unforeseeable challenges of tomorrow. For instance, when one delves into their supply chain track, one discerns an infusion of marketing nuances. And the energy track? It doesn’t just discuss energy in isolation but threads in elements of sustainability and leadership. This interconnectedness and forward-thinking approach made me feel that McCombs wasn’t merely teaching business; it was sculpting future visionaries.

Yet, what clinched the deal for me was not just the academic allure but the human touch. Every interaction with McCombs, from the preliminary info sessions to the intricate details about clubs and programs, exuded warmth and intimacy. There was a palpable sincerity, an organic connection that made me feel less like an applicant and more like a family member awaiting a reunion. Their admission announcement wasn’t a mere formal acceptance but felt like a heartfelt embrace. McCombs didn’t just acknowledge my application; it celebrated my journey, my aspirations, and the promise of our shared future.

In essence, my choice for McCombs wasn’t predicated merely on its academic prestige but on its ability to see, understand, and uplift me as an individual. And that’s why, despite the tempting offers elsewhere, my heart and soul gravitated towards Texas McCombs. Because at the end of the day, it wasn’t about the scholarship amounts or the global rankings; it was about belonging, transformation, and the pursuit of a shared vision. And in McCombs, I found all of that and so much more.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Texas McCombs? As a career changer, I find myself in a unique position. On one hand, the rigidity of the core courses pushes me, molds me, and forces me to critically evaluate my future specialization. But this rigidity isn’t a constraint; instead, it’s the foundation upon which I’m building my renewed professional identity. Like many, I painted a vivid picture of my future during my admissions process, but life, much like the business world, isn’t static. We don’t just opt for an MBA to make ripples in the corporate pond; we do so to generate tidal waves of change within ourselves.

Being an international student, I have a particular inclination towards the STEM designation. My professional background has always echoed the whimsical notes of a poet, as described in Poets & Quants. Yet, here at McCombs, I yearn to balance that narrative by delving into the logical, structured world of ‘quant’. I want to be a harmonious blend of both.

Amidst the flurry of clubs and organizations, a few have managed to catch my eye. The Tech Club speaks to my aspiration to understand the cutting-edge innovations driving today’s industries. The Graduate Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club resonates with my inherent drive to create and revolutionize. The Operations and Marketing Groups offer insights into the very mechanics of the business world. These are just initial attractions, and I eagerly await the exploratory journey ahead.

But beyond academic and professional pursuits, there’s a cause close to my heart – the advocacy and representation of marginalized communities in the business realm. Being a ROMBA Fellow, I firmly believe in the ethos of the EQUAL MBA Club. In a world where businesses often act as the vanguard of societal change, it’s imperative that vulnerable and minority groups are well-represented. I am committed to this cause, as I truly believe that businesses flourish when diversity of thought, experience, and identity is celebrated.

What has been your first impression of the McCombs MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best McCombs story so far. Walking into McCombs was like stepping into a well-orchestrated symphony, where each instrument, though distinct, blends harmoniously to create a melodious tune. The uniqueness of each student astounded me. It felt as if someone had meticulously curated a tapestry of the most vibrant threads from across the world. Just as I thought I had met someone with a similar background, the next introduction would be the polar opposite. This delightful diversity isn’t mere coincidence; it’s the magic of McCombs. We aren’t just classmates; we are pieces of a puzzle, each one unique, but fitting perfectly together to complete the picture.

Orientation brought with it a delightful twist. We were grouped into four cohorts, reminiscent of the four Hogwarts Houses. Proudly, I was sorted into Cohort 2 – aptly named ‘Second to None’ (or as we playfully call ourselves, the McCombs’ Ravenclaw). As much as I jest about our superiority, what truly stands out about my cohort is the richness of experience and the international representation. From tech wizards to finance gurus, from the East to the West, we’re a melting pot of brilliance. The camaraderie, warmth, and security I feel in this fraternity is unparalleled.

While I’m still dipping my toes into the vast ocean of the McCombs alumni network, the support from our immediate seniors, the second-year MBA students, is incredibly overwhelming. Whether it’s guiding us to snag that coveted internship, offering invaluable advice on courses, or simply showing us the best spots to relax around Austin, their wisdom and willingness to lend a hand has been a beacon.

But if I were to cherry-pick my most cherished McCombs story, it would have to be my interactions with career services. Imagine preparing for the Olympics, but instead of an athletic race, it’s the race to our dream careers. Each one of us is paired with a career consultant and advocate. The dedication, rigor, and personal touch with which they prepare us makes me feel like I’m gearing up for a presidential election campaign! Every pep talk, mock interview, and resume review is conducted with such joy and enthusiasm, it’s contagious. They make the daunting journey of job placements feel like an exciting adventure.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When one is asked to reflect upon their biggest accomplishment, the mind often races to personal milestones – perhaps a promotion, an award, or a pivotal project. Yet, for me, the essence of accomplishment lies not within the walls of my office or the accolades on my resume, but in the heartbeats and smiles of those I’ve had the privilege to impact.

As I worked with global development organizations, I was consistently reminded of the immense potential that often goes untapped due to circumstances beyond control. Picture a skilled chef, with the talent to whip up gourmet dishes, but shackled by poverty. Or a resilient woman, left in the lurch by her husband, and subsequently by society, her dreams of economic empowerment stifled. Upon immigrating to Canada and transitioning into the role of an immigration lawyer, a new chapter unfolded. Here, I found myself in the incredibly gratifying position of not just advocating for these amazing individuals, but also helping them lay the foundations of a new life in a land of opportunities. But my involvement didn’t end at immigration. Recognizing the entrepreneurial spirit within many of them, I transitioned to working as a small business consultant. This role allowed me to witness and catalyze the beautiful evolution of these individuals. From budding entrepreneurs to established business owners, they not only secured their futures but also became pillars of support for others, creating job opportunities and fostering community growth.

Today, as I reflect upon my career thus far, my heart swells with pride not for my achievements, but for theirs. The warm handshake of a chef who now owns a bustling restaurant, the triumphant glint in the eyes of a woman entrepreneur, the joyous laughter ringing out from a newly employed individual – these are the moments that define my accomplishment. In a world that often measures success by personal gain, I choose to measure mine by the smiles I’ve helped carve, the dreams I’ve seen realized, and the lives that have transformed because I was fortunate enough to play a small part in their journeys.

Looking ahead two years, what would make your MBA experience at McCombs successful? With the MBA journey, it is tempting to project grand outcomes and weave visions of accolades. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the value of being present. Success for me won’t be solely defined by landing the most coveted job or securing the highest GPA. It’s about my development.

McCombs is a melting pot of brilliant minds, each one an ambassador of their unique culture and identity. While the academic rigor will undoubtedly shape my professional prowess, I’m equally, if not more, excited about the interactions that lie ahead. Learning from the varied experiences of my peers, sharing stories, understanding diverse perspectives, and growing from every conversation – these will be my milestones.

In a world that’s rapidly shifting, with businesses pivoting and strategies evolving, I aim to emerge from MBA not just with a robust skill set, but with an agile mindset. A mindset that’s ready to embrace change, spot opportunities, and innovate for the future.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Texas McCombs’ MBA program? Navigating the MBA admissions journey can be both exhilarating and daunting. As a former applicant veteran who has walked this path my recommendation will be “Engage, Don’t Just Apply!”

It’s easy to get lost amidst application forms and essay prompts. But remember, these applications are not just about checking boxes. If you have a question or uncertainty, reach out to an admission officer, member of admission committee or even us who are studying here. We ‘re there to help and offer insights. This interaction can also help you get a clearer perspective on what McCombs values in its candidates.

It’s natural to want to present an impeccable version of oneself. But authenticity trumps perfection. Let your genuine passion, drive, and aspirations shine through your application. Let them know the ‘why’ behind your desire for an MBA. Personal anecdotes, challenges faced, or moments of epiphany can often resonate more than generic statements.

Admission offers might flood in from various schools, each boasting its merits. While it’s gratifying, the real task is in choosing the right program. Beyond rankings and reputation, consider the experience you’re seeking, the community you’ll be a part of, and the culture of the place. Think long-term: how does this MBA align with your career trajectory and personal growth? McCombs, with its unique blend of academic rigor, community spirit, and strategic location, stands apart in many ways. Make sure to weigh these factors. In essence, the MBA admissions process is not just about getting in, but about finding a place where you’ll thrive, grow, and achieve your dreams. Approach it with clarity, authenticity, and purpose, and you’ll find your fit. Best of luck!


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