Category: Alumni Spotlight

Alumni and Students Interact Via #SimonGlobal

The following blog post was written by Kelly Valente ’19S (MBA)

#SimonGlobal is a speaker series that connects Simon Business School alumni with current students to provide career insights and strategy. Prospective business students will also benefit from this insight, so I’ve provided a summary of the conversations with three of our recent speakers:

  • Kevin Elguer Viana ’17S (MBA), Management Associate, Thomson Reuters
  • Cesar Garcia Brena ’04S (MBA), Principal, Arthur D. Little
  • Rahul Gupta ’17S (MBA), Senior Pricing Analyst, Thermo Fisher Scientific

The Power of “Soft Skills”

All three speakers emphasized the importance of “soft skills” in their daily careers after leaving Simon. Cesar encouraged students not to underestimate the power of soft skills and went on to emphasize the importance of negotiations, leadership, and influencing abilities.

“At the end of the day, attitude and energy are what will set you apart,” he said.

Kevin noted that behavioral interviews can actually be more important than case interviews because if you lack a technical skill, you can be taught. Behavioral interviews target qualities that are more intangible and allow employers to answer the question: “Do I want to sit next to you for eight hours a day?”

Rahul Gupta '17S (MBA)

Rahul Gupta ’17S (MBA)

Rahul agreed, and he added that soft skills “have gotten me where I am in the first six months.” He believes three attributes in particular set him apart:

-People skills. The exposure to different functions in Simon’s MBA program enabled him to communicate effectively with people in different roles.
-Presentations. Rahul raved about the Market Research class at Simon, which taught him to create concise and informative presentations.
-Prioritization. He noted the time management skills he built at Simon are helpful to him every day on the job.

Job Search Best Practices

During business school, most students will engage with alumni at some point. The three speakers shared their advice for current students now that they have alumni perspective on the interactions. Cesar emphasized the importance of finding a relevant connection to an alum and expressing it during your initial interaction. Take the time to read about their background and interests to see if there is a commonality you can build off.

Rahul shared best practices, such as drafting emails at night but only sending them out during working hours and thinking of the job search in bite size pieces, allocating dedicated 15- and 30-minute windows to the process. Finally, he noted you need to be prepared to answer the question: “Give me five reasons I should hire you over x-y-z and pay you 50% more than them.” If you can make a confident case for yourself, you will be better prepared to communicate your value to employers.

Kevin Elguer '17S (MBA)

Kevin Elguer Viana ’17S (MBA)

Kevin emphasized the importance of company fit. He discouraged applying to all the firms in your area of interest and advised taking the time to find companies that have a culture that resonates with you. Kevin found research in the Simon library to be extremely helpful in this process. In an interview, be sure to understand the question being asked and answer it directly. He gave an example: “If I’m asking you why you like cereal, don’t tell me that you like waffles.” Know your answers to what he calls the “why questions” by heart: Why your school? Why this company? Why this role?

Advice for International Students

Each speaker also shared some specialized advice for international students, after reflecting on their own experiences. Rahul emphasized the importance of understanding your target position first and your path to get there second. He realized that if you can’t start out in your “dream job,” it’s okay to start somewhere else and work toward your eventual goal. What matters most is finding a place where you feel you can thrive, as he has at Thermo Fisher.

Cesar Garcia Brena '04S (MBA)

Cesar Garcia Brena ’04S (MBA)

Cesar encouraged students not to narrow their search to only US-based firms. In fact, his own firm is currently hiring for positions in Texas and Mexico. Additionally, he advised if English is not your first language or strength, work to polish it because it’s the first thing employers notice. Fortunately, the University of Rochester offers a language partners program to help international students further refine their English language skills. Additionally, Kevin recommended that everyone take moments of pause during an interview, but he noted if you have a heavy accent, speaking slowly will be key.

“It’s the journey that teaches you.”

That’s how Rahul summarized his insights from his time at Simon and how the lessons he learned here have benefited him. His final advice was to take advantage of the time in business school to discover what you’re good at and strengthen your weak points—you have all the resources you need to be successful.

If you’re interested in viewing the full videos for each speaker, including industry specific advice, they are accessible on our YouTube channel.

MS Job Preview: Wyatt Buerkle joins PwC

Wyatt Buerkle is a member of Simon’s MS in Accountancy Class of 2017. He recently answered some questions about his new role as audit associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

What is your job? What is your title and what are your anticipated responsibilities?
My job is in midtown Manhattan as an audit associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. My first responsibility will be to immerse myself into the rigors of my role with PwC. I have no previous practical financial accounting experience, so everything will be new to me. My anticipated job responsibilities include key quantitative tasks, such as testing various aspects of the financial statements, and key qualitative demands, such as working towards team goals with my group and building a strong relationship with the client.

WyattHow did you find this position?
I found the position online through the Simon Career Management Center’s career portal, Simon Works.

What Career Management Center (CMC) resources did you use to help you prepare for the interview process or any of the job responsibilities?
To prepare for the interview I used multiple CMC resources, including: the VMock résumé builder, the MS Accounting Fast Track program, Got Mock? interview preparation, practice sessions with the accountancy student career advisor, Jackie, Simon Works, and multiple meetings and phone calls with my dedicated career advisor, Heidi Ames.

What are you most looking forward to about your new role?
I look most forward to receiving and getting acquainted with my client, meeting my team members, getting the opportunity to explore the NYC area, and of course, my paycheck!

What do you think will be the most challenging aspect of your role?
I expect the most challenging aspect of my role will be busy season, especially because I have no previous practical financial accounting experience.

Are you relocating? If so, what are you looking forward to exploring in your new home?
I will be relocating from Rochester to the NYC area, though I’m not exactly sure where yet. I look forward to exploring the New York food scene and the City’s parks and historical sites, and I hope to find a local soccer league I can join. Most importantly though, I am a diehard New York Red Bulls fan, so I look forward to buying season tickets and supporting my team!

Women in Business Q&A: Michelle Moore ’98 MBA, Head of Digital Banking, Bank of America

This article was written by Laura Emily Dunn (Twitter: @lauraemilyd) and originally appeared in The Huffington Post. It was repurposed with permission for the Simon Admissions Blog.

Michelle Moore is Head of Digital Banking for Bank of America. In this role, she is responsible for developing and executing Bank of America’s mobile and online strategy, roadmap and transformation. She is focused on making banking more convenient for customers by delivering innovative products and services across mobile devices and online platforms. Bank of America is a leader in Mobile and Online Banking with 33.8 million digital customers including 21.6 million Mobile Banking app users. Moore is also responsible for ATM, Preferred and Small Business Call Centers, and Financial Centers and Market Growth Strategy.

Michelle Moore '98 MBA, head of digital banking for Bank of America.

Michelle Moore ’98 MBA, head of digital banking for Bank of America.

Since joining Bank of America in 2003, Moore has held a number of leadership positions, including chief operating officer for Global Commercial Banking (GCB) and Finance executive for GCB Middle Markets, Bank of America Business Capital and Dealer Financial Services. Additionally, she served as the Finance executive for Corporate Workplace. Moore also has experience in the Consumer Banking business, having held positions as Strategy and Planning executive, as well as Checking Products executive.

Moore serves as the Executive Sponsor for the Leadership Advantage Program. She also serves on the board of Hope Haven, Inc.

Moore holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from Cornell University and a Master of Business Administration in finance from the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School. She resides in Charlotte with her husband and two sons.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I am the oldest of five siblings, with four younger brothers. We grew up in a small town in Western NY with humble beginnings, where early on we learned the values of working hard to accomplish great things; that whatever you set your mind to you can achieve; to never give up; to have faith and integrity; and to always trust in each other. I was always encouraged to be curious, have thirst for knowledge and to step out of my comfort zone. As the oldest, I encouraged my brothers to do the same and I still pass this on to my team today.

As I continued to grow, I also learned that no matter what your role is, you can always make a larger impact and help others. Having been at the bank for nearly 15 years, and serving in positions across Global Commercial Banking, Finance and leading operations for the bank’s consumer call centers and ATM network, I’ve learned that one of the best ways to help others is by listening. In fact, listening is a cornerstone to effective leadership. I still spend time in the call centers, in the financial centers and reading customer feedback almost daily. I know to ultimately lead my team to success, I need to understand our customer’s day-to-day and end goals to help them get there. The same is true for my team; I have to understand their career goals in order to help them achieve them.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Bank of America?
As mentioned, I have been with Bank of America for most my career and worked in numerous areas that have been essential experiences to prepare me for the role I have today. I chose a diverse career path, leading businesses, working in support functions like finance and spearheading client-facing organizations in both consumer and business banking, to be the most effective leader I can with the size of an organization like Bank of America.

I’d like to think my greatest strength acquired through my experience here has been my ability to relate and empathize. This skillset is integral to lead my team of nearly 5,600 employees, and then ultimately to deliver our more than 65 million clients the best customer experience.

We recognize our success is based fundamentally on the relationships we have with our clients, which is why I’m a firm believer in a customer-first approach to innovation. We regularly conduct surveys and convene focus groups to communicate with customers one-on-one and better understand what they want and need. My team listens to customers directly and indirectly, paying close attention to their feedback through social media and in the app store. In fact, I still read every review of Bank of America’s mobile app to help drive future innovations. The impact of relatability cannot be understated.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Bank of America?
Throughout my time at Bank of America, I’ve been witness to and a participant in many highlights and challenges in our industry and economic landscape. One of the greatest challenges we faced was during the financial crisis, where our perception and satisfaction among industry consumers dropped along with the economy. That was very difficult, not only as a leader, but as a consumer as well.

Turning the corner and climbing back from that drop though, has been both challenging and satisfying. We have been there, partnered with our customers through some of their most trying then rewarding times, and have become a simpler, more straightforward, stronger and better company for it.

I couldn’t be more pleased that our customer satisfaction today is at its highest ratings yet. That said, I don’t ever take it for granted. We should never rest on our laurels, always continue to improve, listen and practice – again, apply week to week what we learned in the previous. This is why I love our foundational strategy: driving responsible growth is all about doing what’s right for our clients, and the rest will follow.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Be present and seize opportunities to contribute and drive results. Think to yourself, ’how did I add value today?’ Your answer should never be circumstantial of your gender, but a focus on your passion, exuded effort, results and ability to find confidence in your success, and growth in your mistakes or failures.

At Bank of America, we set a standard of women in the workforce. Being diverse and inclusive makes us strong. It’s essential to our ability to meet the needs of our clients, communities and internal teams. We invest in women making meaningful contributions within the company, recognize the significant role women play in advancing thriving economies, and ensure tools and resources are available and utilized to do so.

For as long as I can remember, we have continued to grow the roles of women throughout all levels of our organization. We continue to focus on recruiting female talent to the company, developing our employees and supporting the economic empowerment of women around the world.

For those seeking a career in this industry, find somewhere that supports your passion and ambition to be the best at what you do, breaking barriers, shattering ceilings, and conquering success through practices of integrity, tenacity and focus.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
A quote from technology pioneer Steve Jobs comes to mind, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” As the head of digital banking at such a large company, it’s the job of my team and myself to anticipate customers’ ever-evolving needs and make their financial lives better. To ultimately not confine ourselves to four walls and what our industry is doing, but to continue to innovate without boundaries.

Despite record successes this year, my team will continue to go above in beyond in 2017 to deliver experiences customer never imagined were possible. And this mindset can be applied to any industry as long as you stay true to yourself, know what you want to accomplish and know what you want to give.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
For me there’s no question – family comes first, which makes me a more effective leader. I am a proud mother to two sons, who will always remain my number one priority. I will never miss their birthdays; I plan around school activities and sports the best that I can and I usually get it right 90 percent of the time, which I’m sure most working parents can relate to.

I am lucky to work at a company that offers a variety of benefits and programs to support employees with the challenges of work, personal life and family obligations, and I instill those values across my teams. I’ve had supportive leaders throughout my career who understand the importance of family, including my current managers who ‘walk the walk’ and ‘talk and talk’ to ultimately create a culture conducive to achieving the ideal work/life balance.

I also strongly believe that no leader is effective without taking take time for themselves, too. Personally, running is my outlet. It helps me clear my mind and relieve stress while I get my exercise, but for everyone it’s different. It’s integral that everyone takes the time to figure out what it is for them, and then take the action to actually carve out the time.

Maintaining a true work/life balance helps me be a more effective mom, leader and ultimately a better person. While it’s not always easy, it’s essential to growth.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Ultimately, I think it all comes down to opportunity, which applies not only to women, but everyone. As a leader at Bank of America, I am accountable for creating an environment where everyone can be heard and contribute their individual talents to the end goal. It’s about building a culture and belief that diverse perspectives are essential to make the best decisions.

Having my team grow and thrive, and in turn the customer, is my true marker of success and I believe the more institutions that adopt the mindset, the better off they will be.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
To echo my point from above, mentorship is one of the most important roles in your career. When you’re young, you need people to impart wisdom on you, help you on your journey and to get you on a path. Then as you progress in your career, you have to pay it forward and you have to lead by example.

In fact, I still have many mentors here at Bank of America that I consult on a regular basis. To make decisions that truly make an impact, you oftentimes need an outside perspective – those that aren’t living and breathing the decisions day in and day out. I am immensely appreciative for all of the counsel and insight I seek from these individuals, and hope I’m able to pay it forward to my team.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
It’s nearly impossible to just pick one individual because I there are too many names that come to mind. What I admire is women who not only excel in their fields, but those who do it with grace, integrity, grit and focus.

Everyone faces challenges, everyone has different life experiences, but capitalizing on them, learning from them, and constantly striving to be a better person is the true marker of a role model. Pioneers like Megyn Kelly, Sheryl Sandberg, Tory Burch, Condoleeza Rice, and Meg Whitman come to mind; and all the women on our management team who show the strength within to drive change and I couldn’t be more appreciative to call them colleagues. They inspire me every day, and have played an integral role in shaping me into the leader I am today.

What do you want Bank of America Digital Banking to accomplish in the next year?
I’m excited to usher in a new era of high-touch, high-tech banking this year. This effort includes industry-leading developments in the emerging payments and artificial intelligence spaces, and forging partnerships with technology companies, academics and Silicon Valley leaders to better anticipant our customers’ ever-changing needs and expectations.

I have set my team’s sights high to solidify our leadership not only in banking, but also technology. And while running at the pace of innovation is a challenge for virtually all organizations in today’s world, if we remain connected with our purpose – to make financial lives better for our customers – we are sure to succeed.

Fielding Fellows and Scholars Meet Ronald H. Fielding, ’73 (MA), ’76S (MBA)

The following blog post was written by Rebekah Lewin, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid

One of the highlights of my Simon Business School career occurred this week. I had the opportunity to attend a dinner at Dean Ainslie’s home to celebrate the generosity and support of one of our distinguished alumni, Ronald H. Fielding ’73 (MA) and ’76S (MBA).

Ron is the retired chief strategist and senior vice president of the Rochester division of Oppenheimer Funds Inc., one of the nation’s largest asset management companies. He managed its Rochester municipal bond funds and their predecessors, The Rochester Funds, for more than 25 years. Under his leadership, Oppenheimer’s municipal group grew from $4 billion to $35 billion in total assets before his retirement in 2009. After making his mark as a leader in the municipal bond market, he has become our most generous supporter of student scholarships.

This week’s dinner allowed our current students who are designated as Fielding Leadership Fellows and Fielding Scholars to meet Ron and his wife Susan over dinner. We heard stories of our current MBA students’ career highlights to date, including recently completed and future secured internships at a number of prestigious companies including, Barclays, Google, the NBA, Thomson Reuters, and UBS. And if that wasn’t enough, these students have been involved at Simon in various ways, including the Venture Capital Fund, the Graduate Business Council, and mentoring first-year students while enrolled in the Full-Time MBA program.

More than one student stated that without the Fielding scholarship support they would not have been able to attend Simon. We even had two alumni who are former Fielding Fellows travel from outside of Rochester to join us at the dinner.  Mr. Fielding encouraged each student and alumnus to work diligently to achieve success and to plan to “pay it forward” to the next generation of Simon talent.

I encourage you to apply for admission to the Simon MBA program. After you submit an application, you will be considered for Simon scholarships, as well as other available financial aid. If you have questions, please contact the Full-Time Admissions Office at or 1 (585) 275-3533.