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Real Humans of Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class of 2022

Alejandro Ariza Gomez, Vanderbilt Owen MBA Class of 2022

Age: 31
Hometown: Bogota, Colombia
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Centre College, double major – Financial Economics and Political Science
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Finderter, Colombia’s largest development bank (project structuring team & trading desk 2 years), Nymex Capital, Boutique M&A advisory firm (2.5 years), PIMCO (Latam institutional client team, 1 year), Rappi, the fastest start-up in Colombia and Latam (finance team 1 year), El Dorado, Bogota’s Airport ( finance team 2.2 years)

Why business school? Why now?
I decided to go to business school for a couple of reasons. First, continuous education for me is a fundamental driver of success, and after more than eight years working in several financial roles, I decided it was a good time to go to school to develop new soft and hard skills. Second, in my previous role, I had the opportunity to be an active voice in strategic decisions and had the opportunity to manage my own team. Those opportunities showed me that in order to succeed further in my career I needed to develop my leadership and managerial skills, forester my analytical skills in decision making and operations, and improve my interpersonal skills. And lastly, in order to achieve my long-term goal of becoming a CFO of a multinational company, going to business school perfectly suited my short-term and long-term goals.

Why Owen? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? 
When I started my MBA process I wanted a school that would offer me a strong sense of community and inclusion. I also knew that I wanted somewhere where I could feel comfortable making mistakes, voicing my opinions, and having the opportunity to interact with faculty on campus and outside campus. Lastly, and understanding the importance of EQ in today’s business environment, I also wanted a school that would help me develop my interpersonal and leadership skills. So when looking at schools, Owen, through its leadership development program, small classes, collaborative and supportive environment, and more importantly its approachable and genuine community made the perfect sense for me.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
As an international student, I think one of my most valuable contributions to the class is my wide range of experiences not only personally but professionally. I have been lucky enough to not only study in several countries (U.S., England, Canada, Spain, and Colombia), but I have also been able to work in several areas within finance and within different industries – from startups to investment banks in both the U.S. and Colombia. In my last role before Owen, working in Bogota’s airport (the third-largest in Latin America), we faced not only a cultural transformation but also had to face the company’s restructuring given COVID, which taught me a lot about uncertainty and crisis management. I hope with these experiences I can bring diverse viewpoints to the class and enrich the conversations.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I am an avid triathlete and through practice/competition lost over 70 pounds in a year. Over the past three years since I started training, I have competed in more than six races, and it wasn’t for COVID, I would have competed this summer in my first Ironman, but I guess I will have to wait.

Post-MBA career interests? 
Finance and strategy is my passion, so I am currently focused on returning to investment banking to hone in those analytical and strategic abilities to in a future move to a CFO role of a multinational company.   

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? 
One of the things I would absolutely do again is start early. I think people do say it all the time, but I think it makes a big difference. I started my application process in June of the year prior to going to school. I know it was a good window of time that I gave myself, however, and sorry to say a cliché, time really flies when trying to balance work, tests, and personal events. Looking back, I think that organizing the application process and looking it as a project development/launch/transaction was really helpful. Organizing the process with a timeline and determining when big accomplishments should be met (test, essays, recommendations, etc) in addition to creating intermediate goals as well, will allow anyone to better organize the available time, meet the deadlines, and make adjustments if things outside of our control changes. Also, the more time you give yourself, the more practice you will be able to have in those areas that each student perceives as a setback, so nothing but upside.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I think there are two things I would do differently. First, I would better program my needs and abilities with the application process and requirements. A lot of the time, I think as a student we use all the same materials and resources without really understanding which ones fit our abilities better. One simple example is early on determining if the GRE, the Executive GMAT, or if the GMAT is the one that better accommodates one’s ability. I think this can be said to tutors, advisors, and even MBA programs. I think doing this analysis of figuring out the best fit will allow anyone to position itself for success. The other thing that I would do differently is talking to current students, alumni, and school officials earlier. I think in a post-pandemic world with the wide acceptance and adoption of Zoom talking and meeting with people will be different, especially for international students, but I think listening goes a long way of complementing the school’s overall picture, and be better equipped to make a decision.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? 
The part I would have skipped if I could would be the GMAT, I don’t know how many people feel this way, but for me was the worst part. However, I think once you are able to find a rhythm and practice, practice, and practice, it does not become this unsurmountable step in the process but you realize is just one more element of a greater picture. My advice would be for anything that seems hard, just to practice, practice, and practice.

What is your initial impression of Owen’s students/culture/community?
My initial impression of Owen is that the university and the community live up to the hype. I have no basis to compare it to, however, I have been impressed by the connections I was able to make through Zoom.

One thing you have learned about Owen that has surprised you? 
One of the things that surprised me about Owen, is the number of opportunities the university offers to work with students in the larger community and through a diverse group of individuals, working together to solve real business problems, helping social initiatives, or supporting another student’s initial business idea to get it off the ground. During this semester, I have been able to work with a Vanderbilt law student in developing the financial model of her new business to raise capital for her beta test. I have also have been able to work with two other MBA students and two Ph.D. students in helping another student develop her business plan for a company she wants to bring to the Midwest. And lastly, there are always ongoing opportunities to work with local non-profits to help around the city. I think these opportunities have been great for me – Owen is uniquely equipped for this given is small classes, large alumni base, and global reach – to not only expand my network but to put in practice the concepts learned in class and be better equipped for my internships and a full-time job after graduation.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
This first year has been a rollercoaster, but I think for most of us has been the same way as we had to adapt to this new reality. However, as an MBA international student, the anxiety started as the world was shutting down, at one point it was not clear whether or not I would be able to get the visa in time to start my MBA in person. So as you can imagine that was a stressful start, however, having Vanderbilt and Owen there one-hundred percent of the time, with all of its resources, made everything easier to manage.  Fortunately, things worked out great and I was able to make it to the U.S. only a few weeks after the program started. From there I think the anxiety shifted to the normal anxieties any MBA student faces – from getting to know people to getting good grades, to differentiating yourself, and to landing that coveted internship during the summer.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? 
As winter break approaches, I am really excited to continue to meet with my classmates and hopefully have more in-person activities.

Posted in: Real Humans of MBA Class of 2022, Real Humans of MBA Students

Schools: Vanderbilt / Owen

About the Author

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.

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