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Real Humans of Merck: Erick De Jesus Loyo, UMD Smith MBA ’20, Associate Director

Image for Real Humans of Merck: Erick De Jesus Loyo, UMD Smith MBA ’20, Associate Director

In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, we hear from Erick De Jesus Loyo, whose MBA program at UMD Smith led him to his goal of a new career in the pharmaceutical industry at Merck. Loyo was drawn to business school by the need to improve his skillset and fill knowledge gaps to advance his professional and personal growth. Smith provided a strategic combination of community, student-to-professor ratio, location, and cost, and a curriculum that increased both his business acumen as well as his creative and problem-solving abilities. Read his story here.

Erick De Jesus Loyo, UMD Smith MBA ’20, Associate Director at Merck

Age: 36
Hometown: Union City, NJ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Montclair State University, B.Sc. in Finance
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Robert H. Smith School of Business, 2020 MBA – Finance Track
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Financial Analyst – Global Markets, Bank of New York Mellon, 2013 – 2014, Investment Banking; Associate – Corporate Investment Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase, 2014 – 2015, Investment Banking; Assistant Vice President – Corporate Investment Bank, Deutsche Bank, 2016 – 2018, Investment Banking
Post-MBA Work Experience: Associate Director – Manufacturing Finance, Biologics, Merck 2020 – Present, Pharmaceutical

Why did you choose to attend business school?
Throughout our professional careers, we are always looking to fill certain gaps. Whether it is technical knowledge, EQ, analytical & strategic thinking, effective collaboration methods or team building, we are consistently searching for skillsets that will set us apart. Recognizing that I had gaps in all those areas, and perhaps others, is what motivated me to attend business school. At least in the beginning. However, as I began to picture myself in a full-time MBA program, I remembered that during my undergraduate career, as a commuter student, I never had the chance to build, develop and experience a sense of community on campus. I never had the opportunity to immerse myself in after-school activities and programs or attend a sporting event. And the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that business school would be the perfect conduit for achieving both professional and personal development. It sure was and it sure did!

Why UMD Smith? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
It was several of them, but I will list the most important ones:
1. The quality of people at Smith. You will hear everyone mention this about their own programs but that does not make it any less true for the others. We all are attracted to the places where the people make us feel respected, appreciated, and comfortable. Smith had all those qualities for me.
2. Cost of attendance. It is not a secret that business school has a remarkably high price tag and having the choice to attend can be seen as a privilege. However, I wanted to be strategic with my choice so that I did not spend several years post-graduation paying back student loans. In hindsight, it was the perfect choice.
3. Professor-to-Student Ratio. Due to our smaller cohort size, professors, very often, have the bandwidth to meet, speak and get to know every student in the class. As a result, the friendships you have the opportunity to develop with your professors will become an invaluable source of knowledge, mentorship, and guidance for decades after graduation.
4. Location. I wanted to put this as an honorable mention, but it is really not. Washington D.C. is 30 minutes away on the metro and the number of opportunities for professional recruitment as well as other social activities cannot be understated.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career at Merck?
In my experience, everything that you do throughout your MBA career prepares you for your professional role upon graduation. And while that might sound cliche, all you need to do is read a few job requisitions. Every company is looking for three major competencies in their employees – the ability to work collaboratively in cross-functional teams in a variety of projects and tasks, the ability to think strategically on a broad range of topics, both macro and micro, affecting business operations and future growth and creative and analytical thinking to problem-solving for the present and the future. I refined each of those skillsets throughout my time at Smith.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice of Merck?
I interned with the Treasury Division of Merck & Co. to help manage and improve their revenue hedge program. Personally, I had already made the decision to switch into the pharmaceutical industry prior to starting my MBA so the internship just helped reinforce my desire to continue to pursue my goal of working in the industry. It will be different for others. Some may realize that a specific function or role is not as attractive once they are going through their internships. Others might be satisfied with the role but still decide they want to explore another field post-graduation. Those options are perfectly fine and highly encouraged. I am just more linear when it comes to decision-making.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Network – My internship allowed me numerous opportunities to build connections and credibility with managers and other senior leaders in the organization.

Time of full-time offer – The company turned around an offer letter within two months. Negotiations happened fast and were approached fairly, and communication was never put on hold for more than a few days. I could tell immediately that the organization valued my work and wanted me to be part of the team.

Location – I grew up in NJ. My family is in NJ. My friends are in NJ. I had to come back to NJ.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Attend the MBA recruitment conferences. During my time, I focused on the Prospanica and NBMBA conferences but there are many others that students can take advantage of. Companies spend tens of thousands of dollars to fly several of their current managers and directors to meet with the talent at these events and not taking advantage of the critical mass assembled can be a significant missed opportunity. If you do decide to attend, however, make sure that you are not only preparing but over-preparing.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
The only thing I would probably do differently is widen the scope of my search. Since I knew I wanted to be in the pharmaceutical industry, I rarely explored other areas that might have also been options for me, if not right away perhaps in the future. Casting a wider net is always better than sticking to one or two industries. It worked out for me, but others might not have the same experience if they are too narrow in their search.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
 I would not call it a surprise since MBAs have to know how to walk someone through a simple DCF analysis but in my second interview, I was asked to write down and walk through a DCF analysis on an experimental treatment they had given me data on. Again, I don’t find this terribly unusual, especially for a finance interview, but it highlights the need for being overly prepared.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
One thing I wish someone had emphasized for me was to not stretch myself too thin. The full-time MBA curriculum is extremely challenging and time consuming as it is, but it can become almost impossible to manage if several other activities are added to the list of responsibilities. We all have to be strategic when deciding how much additional responsibility we can manage while not losing sight of the things we have to do for our personal health and care. Striking that balance intelligently can go a long way in making the MBA experience more memorable without much added stress.

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.