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Real Humans of the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2023

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harvard business school mba classJose Sarmiento, Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2023

Age: 30
Hometown: I was born in Peru and moved to Caracas with my mother when I was 1 month old. Live there until I left for university.  
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Georgia Tech, Industrial & Systems Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 8 Years at Microsoft. First job after college.  

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
At my time in Microsoft, I’ve experienced the success and failures of strategizing and executing a digital transformation in a supply chain organization.  As a program manager I’ve not only become aware of the power of upcoming technology, but also about the difficulties of enabling change in the business and people to harness it.    

Technology such as artificial intelligence and blockchain excite me about the possibilities they can bring! However, today, they are being developed without much oversight and in an echo chamber of “techies”. Important decisions that guide how people discover the world and ultimately their potential are being left to a small minority who – in my experience – is too focused on the tech and not enough on the people. 

I see how many of the most popular tech products today are built to serve the most basic of human wants such as instant gratification and short-term economic benefit – an explosive combination that has caused grief to humanity in the past and will undoubtedly continue to do so until different values govern the development of technology

I aspire to build technology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. If we focus our technology to augment human dignity, we will by consequence build a society that is worth living in. For me business school is the context I want to be to help me explore and nurture my projects. 

Why did you choose HBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Before my interview I was flooded by alumni and current students giving me calls! What surprised me was the breadth and depth of the alumni network. When I shared my projects with alumni, they many times knew the right person who would mutually benefit from sharing my projects with them.  

The size of the alumni network, its influence and generosity that made me choose HBS.  

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
The diversity of experiences and odd jobs I’ve had across my life.  I find myself many times sharing life experiences in the class. Even about the time when I used to make boxes for a shoe factory in Caracas.  

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I’m an only child, but I have 32 first cousins from my mother’s side. We are a large family!  I also practice Olympic weightlifting. 

Post-MBA career interests:
Become independent! I have two personal hobbies that I’m leveraging HBS to accelerate their fortition. The first one is a startup idea related to Facial Recognition for Cows, and the second one is a challenge from an HBS alum to scale my project of building a pre-school in my grandmas old home in rural Peru and build 100 across the Andes. 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Editing and re-editing my essays. Don’t be afraid to start from zero again. I also purposefully didn’t look at any blog that was known to be toxic. You know which ones are those! It kept my mental sanity!  

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
Timebox the amount of time and resources you’ll spend in the GMAT. If you are not doing well in the GMAT that invest in the GRE.

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?

What is your initial impression of the HBS students/culture/community?
The diversity of opportunities in the community and generosity.

What is one thing you have learned about HBS that has surprised you?
So much reading! If the only reading you’ve done in your professional life is e-mail… like me… then HBS will be a surprise! You are constantly reading cases. The stories about the dreaded three case days are real. Nevertheless, there is hope! As one month has gone by, I can attest that you’ll become more efficient. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
The day I got my HBS admissions decision my favorite uncle, Gerardo Suarez, passed away from the complications of COVID-19 in Venezuela. Losing him before entering HBS was painful.

When I was six, he asked me to be his English tutor. At an early age he made me feel valuable in the family. Every day he would wake up early to open his store in the super mall. He owned a small jewelry shop on the first floor, next to the Christmas tree. He was a generous man that taught many how to progress economically. My first job was with him, confirming hundreds of checks on the phone during Christmas. He taught me how to be autonomous, humble, kind, generous with my attention, to constantly smile, and make sounds effects when happy. He always organized the holiday parties for our community of little shops in the mall. The whole business community respected him as a businessman and friend.    

He was such a great example and I miss him. However, I’m even more committed to my goals. I hope I can make a difference in the world, in the same way that my uncle had on mine and the communities that he belonged to.  

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
How do I become more efficient in completing my coursework to allow me to create time for my projects? 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Getting to work on my projects with the HBS community. I’m also eager to help anyone else achieve their own project and enable them to become more than they could’ve ever imagined! 

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.