Real Humans of MIT Sloan’s MBA Class of 2021
Gabriela Lanza, MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2021
Hometown: Fort Mill, South Carolina
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Wellesley College, Media Arts & Sciences
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years – HubSpot, tech industry. I started out at HubSpot as a software engineering intern, then transitioned to UX design, where I worked for three years designing software for marketers and salespeople. In my last two years, I led diversity strategy and programs for HubSpot’s engineering team.
Why business school? Why now?
I was lucky to work at a company that grew so quickly in such a short amount of time, which gave me the opportunity to lead big initiatives and build programs pretty early on in my career. Through that, I realized that I liked the operations and strategy side of the work I was doing, but I was excited about doing it on the scale of a whole company.
Business school was a very efficient way of complementing my existing knowledge with skills I’ll need to be an effective operational leader — finance, accounting, organizational behavior, and so on.
Why Sloan? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I’ve worked on innovative products and initiatives my whole career. MIT’s deep focus on innovation and technology made it a great fit. Furthermore, I spent the last two years of my career creating a more diverse workplace and finding a school that encouraged and celebrated diversity was important to me.
It was clear from conversations with students and admissions staff — and even just the structure of the application — that MIT cares deeply about creating a diverse and inclusive environment.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2021?
My major in undergrad was a combination of Computer Science and Studio Art. I’ve always been both quite technical and quite creative, and I think that combination allows me to approach and solve problems in an innovative way.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
The summer after my first year of college, I worked as a movie and TV extra — you can even see me on screen in a few places!
Post-MBA career interests?
I’ve loved working in tech — I love the fast-paced environment and the endless possibilities on what you can do and build. I plan to stay in tech and find startup or early-stage scale-up where I can put my operations and strategy skills to work.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I had a really clear idea of what I wanted out of my business school experience, so I only applied to the three schools that I felt were a great fit. At times, I felt swayed by friends or advice on the internet to widen my net. But at the end of the day, I’m happy I stood my ground and put in three really strong applications rather than lots of weaker applications at schools I wasn’t as excited about.
One thing you would change or do differently?
I — true story — tripped over my cat, badly burned my hand, ended up in the emergency room the night before I was supposed to take the GMAT! But besides avoiding kitchen disasters, I would have spent less time worrying about the admissions process; it was easy to get caught up in thinking about that thing I should have said in my interview, or that anecdote I could have included in my essay — but none of that thinking is very productive. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to reflect, prepare well, and tell your authentic story.
Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Waiting was definitely the hardest part. Once your application is in and the interviews are done, there comes a time when there’s nothing more to do but to wait for the admissions committee to make their choices.
Plan fun outings, spend time with friends and family, and find a trashy television show to binge (I had excellent success with the TV masterpiece Riverdale) to take your mind off things in the days and weeks leading up to the decision date.
What is your initial impression of Sloan’s students/culture/community?
I first visited Sloan during their Spring LGBTQ Visit Day. That afternoon I asked one of the second-year students about the vibe of the student body, and he told me that Sloan has a pretty strong (unofficial) “No Jerks” policy.
And the more I’ve gotten to know the school, the truer it seems. From that first look inside the Sloan community, to now having just gotten back from a pre-orientation trip to Jackson Hole with a handful of new classmates, essentially everyone at Sloan is incredibly interesting, interested, humble, and kind.
One thing you have learned about Sloan that has surprised you?
How much learning goes on outside of the regular, semester-long courses. There’s SIP (Sloan Intensive Period) for a week each semester and IAP (Independent Activities Period) each January, where there are short classes, lectures, and travel opportunities on interesting and timely topics.
There are also a number of Action Learning Labs where you can put things you’re learning in the classroom into practice by working with real organizations locally and around the world. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with the enormous number of opportunities to add variety and context to your education.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Being a student again! Especially having no background in finance, accounting, or economics, I know I’m going to have to step up my game in the classroom first semester.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Meeting and getting to know my classmates! I’m excited to bond with the rest of the students in my cohort, and I can’t wait to learn with and from such a great group of people.