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Real Humans of MBA Students: The Wharton School MBA Class of 2023

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wharton mba class 2023Andres Ramirez, Wharton MBA Class of 2023

Age: 29
Hometown: Born in Cali, Colombia but calls Minneapolis, MN homebase
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Dartmouth College, Environmental Studies
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Target HQ; 7 years; Strategic Planning, Intelligence, and Implementation

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Since graduating from Dartmouth, I knew I always wanted to pursue an MBA. Coming from a liberal arts background, I got a taste of business coursework but never fully immersed myself in the curriculum. Naïve, 22 year old me once thought he’d work at Target for 2-3 years and then apply to business school. Fortunately, I ended up falling in love with my work and my teams, which inherently delayed my application timeline. A few years ago, I realized that a majority of my peers and the leaders within my function all had their MBAs and the idea of re-pursuing higher education became more enticing. I knew I didn’t need an MBA to continue progressing at Target, but once I began to have candid conversations around the impact the MBA experience had on my colleagues, I was convinced that this was the right path for me. As I began the process, I reconnected with a friend who had recently completed Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) as an MBA Prep Fellow and who was hearing back from all of their top choice programs. I figured “why not me” and gave the MLT application cycle a try. I knew that if I didn’t work towards joining the Class of 2023, the comfort of a secure salary would preclude me from ever applying in the future. I was also ready to finally pursue a role in my dream industry I was too scared to in undergrad: Media & Entertainment.

Why did you choose The Wharton School? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
When I started the application process, I needed to make sure the MBA program I chose accommodated for both my professional aspirations and convenience for my then-partner to transfer consulting offices. I was prioritizing location (major cities), flexible curriculums, and placed a high emphasis on partner integration within the MBA community. Unfortunately, right before submissions were due, my partner and I split. I began to have a mini-existential crisis on what I valued in a program and began rethinking what “fit” meant regarding my MBA experience. I began to place higher emphasis on a fully immersive student-led experience, one that was in a smaller city but still had a sizable campus. I still wanted flexibility in the curriculum, but started focusing more on types of available programming and the ability to study abroad. As I researched schools, Wharton jumped to the top of my list. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, I could not have asked for a better outcome.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
From a professional standpoint, my breadth of experience in retail, supply chain, and brand launches. Given only 1-2% of the Class of 2023 came from the retail industry, I’ve been able to provide unique and necessary perspectives during in-class discussions. From a more fun standpoint, I’m a social butterfly and love connecting and planning social events for groups of people to come together. It’s probably how I became VP of Social for my cohort!

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I’m an amateur DJ! I’d always wanted to learn but never found the time until lockdown. Many of my friends had self-taught themselves to DJ over the years and I figured I could do the same (alongside tips from them over Facetime). Now I DJ on-campus events at least once a month! Genres of choice: disco-house, deep-house, Latin-house, and top 40 remixes. My goal for next year is to DJ and sell out a popular bar (Woody’s are you hiring?)

Post-MBA career interests:
Product Management/ Marketing within the intersection of Tech and Entertainment

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Applying to and completing MLT’s MBA Prep program has been an invaluable experience and anyone who is eligible should apply! The program is designed to provide Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals with personalized guidance and effective tools to successfully navigate the business school application process. The program introduced me to hundreds of amazing individuals, some of whom I consider my best friends here at Wharton. Not only were the coaches amazing in helping me navigate the logistics of business school applications, but they were instrumental in helping me understand my purpose and narrow in on the drivers of my career aspirations. Because of the work I put in during MBA Prep, I was able to come to Wharton with a clearer set of priorities as soon as I stepped foot on campus. But don’t be fooled – it was a lot of work.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I’d probably get a tutor for the GMAT. Although I was happy with my score in the end, it did take me 3 tries and 8 months of studying. One of my biggest hesitations was the money, but looking back, I would have preferred to invest in tutoring if that meant shaving off months of sleep deprivation. Had I finished sooner, I would have had more time to focus on school research, essay writing, and honestly, sleep.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
As I mentioned before, studying for the GMAT was a long journey that almost broke me throughout the year. After seeing marginal improvements on my second attempt despite studying for an additional three months, I wanted to give up. Covid-19 had significantly ramped up projects at Target that led to less free time in my day. That meant falling behind on MLT assignments, slowly failing to make time and navigating a long-distance relationship, and decreasing my already limited human interactions to blow off steam. No one tells you how lonely this process is until you’re in the thick of it. It’s especially hard when you can’t talk about your struggles openly at work and your immediate group of friends don’t understand why you are putting yourself through so much undue stress. It was the community I built with MLT and other friends going through the application process that helped me get through it. Once I was able to vent to people who understood the struggle, it became easier to leverage those same people to help motivate me across the finish line. My biggest advice is to find someone – be it a friend, mentor, or colleague – who understands the intensity of the MBA application process so that you have someone to talk to and vent. Someone you can leverage as a point person of accountability when the motivation is sparse. These individuals who kept me sane are why I’m at Wharton today.

What is your initial impression of The Wharton School students/culture/community?
I’m honestly impressed at how resilient our student body has been in recreating a “normal” year given the virtual nature of the previous two years. The Class of 2023 is the first to experience in-person activities since the onset of the pandemic, which means plenty of institutional memory was lost during that time frame. Our student leaders, especially those in the 1Y class, have been tirelessly planning and executing activities, bringing back the liveliness of the MBA student experience. My positive first semester is a testament to their efforts and I’m so grateful to be a part of this amazing group of people.

What is one thing you have learned about The Wharton School that has surprised you?
I remembered Dartmouth feeling like a bubble within the town of Hanover. But I never imagined Wharton being a bubble within the University of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia! Our program is so large, we have successfully been able to create communities and resources that are run for and by Wharton students. I’m honestly amazed at the sheer amount of things to do on any given day, and you’d probably need at least 4-6 more hours in a day to do all the things that you want! But alas, one must prioritize.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
The biggest effect the pandemic had on my application process was not having an outlet to decompress after a long day or week of studying. I was taking the GMAT during the height of lockdown, which meant minimal socialization outside of my small bubble and limited open options (vaccines were not out yet). I’m hopeful that this is not the experience of the Class of 2024!

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Making a mistake regarding which internship offer to accept. There are so many enticing options and so many more popping up everyday, it’s hard to navigate companies when you aren’t able to interact with them fully in-person.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Travel! In my first semester alone, I’ve visited three countries and have plans for 2 more by the end of the year. I’m hoping to take full advantage of the various international programs Wharton has to offer: including a Leadership Venture in Chile, a cultural trek in Europe or Asia, and a global immersion program in Asia or Africa.

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.