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Real Humans of UVA Darden’s MBA Class of 2022

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Adriana Gadala-Maria, Darden’s MBA Class of 2022

Age: 32
Hometown: Miami, FL
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Notre Dame, French and Francophone Studies Major, with a Supplementary Major in History
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Over nine years building digital advertising and event partnerships for tech companies, including Reddit and TechCrunch.

Why business school? Why now?
I’m passionate about helping startups grow and have spent the last nine years generating top-line revenue. Now, I’m interested in pivoting to the business strategy side by supporting startups via venture funding. I wanted to get my MBA to help me develop the finance skills I need to become a strong venture investor and felt like I had the right amount of work experience to make the most out of the 2-year program.

Why UVA Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I was looking for a top MBA program with a strong entrepreneurial and venture capital community. I knew I would find this at Darden and around Charlottesville (ranked #1 fastest growing VC city in the US), and after seeing the energetic case method during an on-grounds visit, I was immediately drawn to the unique learning experience that Darden offers.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
I think my most valuable contribution to Darden’s Class of 2022 is my professional background. I had the unique experience of joining Reddit during an exciting time of the company’s growth from 2011-2017 and have also spent my career helping startups market themselves through digital media channels. I’m eager to support Darden’s startup community by sharing the lessons I’ve learned during my time on the “frontlines.”

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
This past summer, I learned how to perfect the art of sourdough bread making! Even Paul Hollywood would agree.

Post-MBA career interests?
Post-MBA, I hope to continue supporting the startup community as a venture capitalist. I’ve seen the magic of startup success before and want to be a part of it across a portfolio of companies moving forward.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Take the time to understand what you want to get out of an MBA program and look for a school that can help you achieve your goals.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
Start the GMAT and MBA application process early! It takes time to coordinate the moving parts of an MBA application.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Studying for and taking the GMAT. It had been years since I had taken a standardized test, and the GMAT indeed proved difficult. Creating a study schedule, sticking to it, and having supportive family and friends was my saving grace.

What is your initial impression of UVA Darden’s students/culture/community?
I’m blown away by how supportive Darden’s community is. The Darden professors, students, and alumni have all been so helpful since day one – whether it’s in helping me understand an accounting assignment or in getting me connected with a professional mentor – and I’m grateful to have this new, invaluable network.

One thing you have learned about UVA Darden that has surprised you?
It has a thriving vineyard scene! I spent the last five years in San Francisco thinking I would miss visiting Napa and Sonoma on the weekends, but it turns out I only need to drive 15 minutes to enjoy the vineyards around Charlottesville. And here’s my bonus fun fact: UVA’s founder and our third president, Thomas Jefferson, helped share a love of wine during the earliest days of our nation.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I hadn’t been in an academic setting for many years and was nervous about coming back to the classroom, especially given Darden’s rigorous case method. That said, this challenge was also a big draw for me. The case method has been difficult, but it’s given me more confidence to understand and speak to business challenges.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Getting to know my classmates and exploring Charlottesville. Most Darden students are living near campus, and with hybrid-style classes, we’ve had the opportunity to get to know each other. With Fall here, I’m excited to further explore Charlottesville’s seasonal activities (like apple picking, hiking, and camping) with my classmates.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.