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Real Humans of UVA Darden’s MBA Class of 2024

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Mikheil Nakashidze, UVA Darden MBA Class of 2024

Age: 28
Hometown: Batumi
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Vistula University, Economics
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6+ years, Corporate Investment Banking

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Back in Georgia, I was doing corporate investment banking at the largest bank in the country. What I loved the most about my job was being a trusted advisor to a client as they made transformational decisions for their companies, such as strategic asset purchases or, rarely, even M&As. I felt that the work I did impacted not only the organization but the entire country. So, I quickly decided that I wanted to focus on strategic advisory instead of debt origination, do it more often, and on a larger and more competitive scale with the most prominent companies in the world. As my career back in Georgia developed very quickly, making me the youngest person to be promoted to the Sector Head position, I quickly acquired transferable skills that would really help me pivot into Investment Banking in the US and pursue my dream. And now was the time.

Why did you choose UVA Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I was looking for schools that had good reputations among investment banks. I was accepted to multiple business schools, but chose Darden for several reasons:

1. Excellent track record for an investment banking career.

2. Case method – At the end of 2021, I was asked to judge several final rounds of the national case competition in Georgia, during which I realized how much of a difference case method makes in the classroom. I have to admit, sitting on the other side of the table was much easier.

3. I wanted a tight-knit community and an American college town experience – Charlottesville and Darden really deliver on these.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2024?
I come from a country that survived (barely) the wreckage of the USSR and totally transformed its economy. That translated into very fast development, which taught me how to do as much as possible with very little. I think that my perspective blended with my extensive international experience. I was a high school senior in Colorado and West Virginia at the US high school in years 2011,12; got my undergraduate degree in Warsaw, Poland, and worked for Citibank there; have been to various camps and programs in multiple countries, including Sweden, Portugal, Turkey, Ukraine, Hungary, etc. I think such global exposure makes me a particularly good fit for Darden’s international classroom and its really versatile program.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I did not include in my application the fact that I love to ski. That is because I learned how to ski after I submitted my application for Darden. My partner, who’s an avid skier, taught me how to, and I fell in love. It’s among my top favorite hobbies for sure. Now that I know how to ski, it’s my top favorite hobby, along with road trips with friends. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to explore the US with a car yet, but back in Georgia, we would visit the most remote and unexplored places via car or would hike if the road ended. Almost all our road trips were unplanned – the decision was made on spot according to our availability. And that made the whole thing even more beautiful and adventurous.

Post-MBA career interests:
Investment Banking

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I would start thinking about what message I wanted to convey to a business school as early as possible (even during preparing for GMAT/GRE) and would keep either a physical or a digital notebook to jot down the thoughts that would come to me during the day. That helped me craft my story. Without this, I would spend much more time on coming up with the story, and it might not have been of the same quality.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would start actually doing by writing. I spent much time thinking and reflecting, which is also necessary. But start writing your essays as soon as possible, because the creativity comes in when you’re in the middle of your job. Reflection happens when you’re finishing your fourth edit of the essay. Start thinking about the parts of your life, experiences, and qualities that you want to demonstrate in your application as soon as possible – do not wait until you’re done with your GMAT test.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I can’t think of anything that I would particularly not want to do again.

What is your initial impression of the Darden students/culture/community?
I’m surrounded by a lot of humble, smart, and extremely helpful people. I feel that I’m in a small place that feels very large – I have classmates from about 50 countries bringing in their amazing cultures. It feels like home to be at Darden. I’m pleasantly surprised that in addition to being brilliant, the faculty is very open-minded, friendly, and always open to meet and chat with us.

What is one thing you have learned about Darden that has surprised you?
I’ve always had high expectations from the case method. But the Darden classroom setting has exceeded them – there is so much I’m learning from my classmates all of whom have these incredible experiences at different top organizations of the world. I’ve had both lecture-based classroom experience and now the case method. I would say at the graduate-level business education, it’s extremely rewarding to learn from discussing the real problems that were faced by real companies in the real world to attempt to find the solutions. Case method also demonstrates that, as it very often happens in the real world, there are multiple solutions to one problem. If you and your classmate have different opinions and solutions for the same case, you both may have the correct ones, and most probably, you will.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
When the recruiting started, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to effectively balance my schedule. However, I learned and improved in the course of time and realized that by planning ahead yet being as flexible as possible, I would be able to successfully navigate both my academic and recruiting journeys. Overall, this experience was quite intense and new to me, but looking at it in retrospect, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I just finished recruiting for investment banking. That said, I’m extremely excited about my summer program with Moelis & Company. And, as soon as I have a little bit more time, I’m looking forward to exploring Charlottesville, Virginia, and other parts of the US.

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.