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Real Humans of the UMD Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA Class of 2025

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Yaye Sene, UMD Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA Class of 2025

Hometown: Senegal
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Biology, chemistry, and geosciences, Graduate degree in Hydrogeology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (role, company, years): Project manager, 6 years

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I started my career as an intern in the first sanitation market development in Senegal and, after 3 years, went from intern to consultant to head of department to manage all water-related activities in the project. 

This experience allowed me to explore and learn, but also to evolve while learning about my own abilities. I’ve developed a passion for project management, marketing, finance, and, above all, the sciences of social behavior or customer behavior analysis. I decided to do an MBA, to follow this new passion, validate my new skills, and expand my network in a supportive environment outside my comfort zone to challenge myself and grow.

Why did you choose UMD Smith? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I chose the University of Maryland because of its diversity. I thrive on interactions with diverse groups of people and in an environment that offers plenty of hands-on academic activities as well as extracurricular activities such as case studies, various clubs and social activities. UMD meets all these criteria and more.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA Class of 2025?
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked as a project manager in various sectors ranging from science and engineering to edutainment, digital marketing and research and development. I’ve had the chance to work with different people, with different backgrounds, and in different cultural and social contexts. Throughout the program, I hope to share these enriching experiences and my dynamism and desire to learn with my classmates and learn from their experiences.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
There are 14 regions in my country, and I visited them all before I moved to the US to make sure I have learned as much as possible about my own country before exploring another. 

Post-MBA career interests:
Tech industry; Marketing and Finance

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
One thing I would do again is start my application early. Planning this MBA and starting the application process early really benefited me and I would absolutely do it again because it gave me the time to choose what fitted me the best and prepare well for this new adventure.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Honestly, the visa. The stress of knowing that you’ve done everything in time to achieve this goal and that what happens next no longer depends on you. However, it’s a necessary and important process, and starting an application early helps you to be ready for it and put all the chances on your side.

What is your initial impression of the UMD Smith students/culture/community?
I was very impressed by the quality of the students in my cohort. Very sharp minds, a close-knit group with backgrounds in so many areas. We have people from military backgrounds, engineering backgrounds, sales, marketing, managers, finance… which makes the experience even more valuable. Plus, as promised, there are so many activities and clubs, and the career support system is incredible. Social activities throughout the university also give a myriad of options to network personally and professionally, whether you want to find like-minded people or simply hang out and have fun.

What is one thing you have learned about UMD Smith that has surprised you?
When it comes to career support, whether it’s advice or simply choosing a career path, the Smith Office of Career Services is simply wonderful. They don’t spare effort when it comes students’ careers. Even on weekends, they are always ready to help bring back your confidence and prepare you for that next step interview. But above all, everyone at Smith is involved in your career pursuits. The program office, the admission offices, and the professors have been a great resource as well. They will walk you through each class and the outcome you would expect professionally and help you connect with people outside of the university as needed. 

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
By far, Term A. The first term has been very quantitative heavy even though it made sense as pieces got together with the qualitative, it was a heavy marathon. However, the support from the students in my class, the teachers, and also the second years have been consistent and made me feel very much like a community and supported. Another thing that also kept me going was one of my discussions with Maria from the admission office about how hard classes can be sometimes, she said to me, “if it is hard, it is because you are learning new things. Because if it was all easy for you, then maybe doing this MBA was not a good added value for you”. That was a great reminder of why I started this MBA in the first place.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
For this first year, I’m very excited about participating in social activities, case studies, career conferences, and interviews, including preparation and landing that internship in my dream company, but above all, I’m excited about strengthening the bonds created with my cohort, alumni, university and this new professional network and large family that I just joined.

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.