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Real Humans of Texas McCombs’ MBA Class of 2022

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Eli August, Texas McCombs MBA Class of 2022

Age:  30
Hometown: New Haven, CT 
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Georgetown University, Political Economy
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Epic Systems (Health-tech, 2014 – 2018); Kiva Microfunds (Microfinance and fintech, 2018 – 2019); I just completed a Master of Science in Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, focusing on Technology, Wellbeing, and Contemplative Science

Why business school? Why now? 
I flirted with the idea of business school for a couple of years before finally taking the plunge and applying. My education in political science and economics had situated me well to succeed in my previous professional roles, but, I often felt that there were gaps in my knowledge base and business acumen which could be filled. This was particularly the case in the domains of finance and strategy. Furthermore, I enjoy quantitatively oriented work and wanted to double down on my analytics skills in a more structured environment rather than relying on self-study above and beyond my daily working responsibilities.

In more general terms, I saw business school as an important opportunity to reflect on my values and long-term goals and also to experiment with domains I have a personal interest in but perhaps hadn’t gotten formal professional exposure to. For example, I’m really excited about continuing to work in the technology space but wanted to better understand what it looks like to start a new enterprise and also to assess companies from the perspective of a venture capital firm. I’m going to begin working this fall as a Senior Student Associate in the healthcare division of the Austin Technology Incubator, and I am excited about the possibility of interning at a venture capital firm sometime in the future as well. After only a couple of months, I have already benefited from the wealth of opportunities made available to us as McCombs students. If it weren’t for my participation in the community here, none of those doors would be open to me.

Why Texas McCombs? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
There’s so much to love about McCombs, and I already feel quite validated in my decision to pursue an education here. I only applied to a handful of schools based on a set of criteria that felt important to me. I was looking for schools that have a very strong record in tech and which are in vibrant cities I could see myself living in post-graduation. Location mattered a lot to me, both for quality of life and for the ability to get professional experience while in school. I really value community and therefore looked for business schools that are known to focus on people and have an environment that is both collaborative and supportive.  The McCombs manifesto is “Human Centered. Future Focused,” and I find that the school really embodies those values. It helps a lot that we have smaller class sizes in the 240-250-person range, as it is easier to feel embedded in the community and to know most of our peers. Finally, after years of living away from family, I wanted to relocate closer to relatives. My dad and younger siblings live in San Antonio, and I have an aunt and uncle in Houston.  It’s great to be able to see them (safely distanced) with greater regularity.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
I think one of the things that differentiate me from my peers is my optimistic attitude and the reflective approach I bring to my personal and professional life. For example, I have an innate love of people and can see the best in others independent of whether we share views or background/upbringing. This helps me to build meaningful connections with a diverse range of people and to find something redeeming in almost every interaction. Further, I spent a lot of time in my 20s trying to develop a greater familiarity with my values and cultivating a grounded sense of self. I believe this is one of my greatest assets, as it helps me keep a sense of perspective and calm along the roller-coaster ride that is business school.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I love to hike/trek and have been privileged enough to visit the Andes, Alps, and the Himalayas. In 2014 I completed a 20-day teahouse trek in Nepal with my stepbrother Sage.

Post-MBA career interests? 
In the short term, I hope to work in product at a technology firm. Once I’ve gotten some more experience under my belt, I would like to help build a new company and at some point transition into venture capital if the right opportunity arises.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I am glad that I chose to focus on community and atmosphere rather than targeting rank alone (which, in my view, is an imperfect way of valuing schools). I would really encourage prospective applicants to understand that top business schools will all propel your career forward and that there is a lot of value in thinking about what type of environment will make you happiest for the two years of your MBA.

–One thing you would change or do differently?       
After receiving admissions offers, I wish I could have visited schools during their formal welcome weeks. I was working and traveling abroad during the application process and was not able to participate in those sessions, which felt like a loss.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I think it’s easy to dip into self-doubt and a comparing mind when applying to competitive schools, and I wish I would have placed less pressure on myself to excel across the board, from the perspective of both admissions and scholarship offers. Having a strong and supportive group of friends and family helped me immensely through this process.

What is your initial impression of Texas McCombs’ students/culture/community?
I really love my peer group (“McHomies”) and staff/faculty at McCombs. I would describe my fellow students as outgoing, kind, energetic, and collaborative. Our student body is really experienced and has an impressive working history, but most everyone is helpful, fun, and down to earth. During recent finals, we all banded together to form study materials and help each other along the way. Staff and faculty have largely been great, and I believe they are delivering a top-notch experience even despite challenging conditions given the current global pandemic.

One thing you have learned about Texas McCombs that has surprised you? 
I have been happily surprised to see that McCombs truly lives its values and puts them into practice each day. I think a lot of institutions preach a core set of beliefs, but it takes effort and intention to implement them in the world.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
I believe I am making an extra effort to meet my peers outside the classroom and build community, in a way I would not if it weren’t for the pandemic, since we are missing out on the normal schedule of in-person social events and meetups. There are limited ways for us to gather, though the warmer climate in Austin makes things much easier to be sure.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I have loved the community here and am excited to continue meeting and learning from my peers.

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.