Category: Guest Blogs

How I Chose My MBA “Village”

The following blog post was written by Gavin Hall, a rising second-year MBA student interning at Cognizant as a summer associate for CDB Digital Strategy. He is an MLT Professional Development Fellow and is president of Simon Consulting Club and managing director of Simon Vision Consultants. This post originally appeared on the MLT Blog.

Gavin_diversity conference“It takes a village to raise a child.” That is a traditional proverb about how one’s community aids in their development and readiness for success. While the sentiment pertains to children, it has proved to hold true throughout my early career. I like to think that the community around me created a nurturing environment that guided me to the place I am now.

Thus, the main criteria I used to assess MBA programs during the application process was the culture of the community and my fit into it. It was important to me not only because you engage with your classmates six to seven days a week for up to 10–12 hours some days, but these individuals will be forever connected to you through the name of the institution on your résumé, for better or worse. I wanted to ensure that I surrounded myself with people I could forge meaningful, lasting, and diverse relationships with in an environment that allowed me to be the best version of myself.

Gavin_habitat for humanity_cropFor this reason, Simon Business School at the University of Rochester was my first choice, and it has been the most rewarding experience I could have imagined. The diversity at Simon is unmatched: the School is among the top 10 US MBAs for diversity and top 15 US MBAs for women. However, numbers are nothing without context. Business school teaches us to become leaders in the management ranks, which will become increasingly diverse, and Simon has cultivated an environment to experience that paradigm shift now.

The majority of the incoming members of the Simon Graduate Business Council are underrepresented minorities or international students (including the president, who originates from Ethiopia), and half are women. In addition, Simon’s Consortium fellows hold numerous leadership positions throughout the school. This is vital because we are in the conversations that matter and ignite change students want to see in faculty, staff, and alumni. Simon is not a place where you are Student No. 9,156; your voice is heard. And for an African American kid from Brooklyn, the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life in graduate school has been invaluable.

The minute I stepped on campus in Rochester, something about the program at Simon felt comfortable, like this is where I should be. This was the village that was going to raise me to the next level.

If you’re an MLT Fellow attending Summer Seminar this weekend, Andrew Brayda, senior associate director of admissions, would love to speak with you! He’ll be offering application tips during the “Demystifying the Application Process” panels tomorrow, and you can also find him at Simon’s table during the fair from 9-10 a.m. on Sunday.

Three Most-Asked Questions about Simon’s MS in Business Analytics Program

The following blog post was written by Jen Park, MS in Business Analytics Class of 2018

Choosing a graduate program is as hard a decision as choosing the right b-school. Thus, I want to address the three most-asked questions I receive as an MS in Business Analytics student at Simon.

  1. Do you need programming background? No! In fact, I didn’t have programming experience before coming to Simon. However, as you might have guessed from our admission process, which does not require you to take computer science or tech-related classes, our program is designed to train students from “ground zero” to professional level by the time of graduation. During our first term, we took classes on R programming, stats, economics, and marketing. Once we became more familiar with programming, we were ready to tackle the next introductory classes on business analytics. Essentially, our classes build upon each other, and in winter and spring, we will work on a project with professors and companies to apply the skills we acquired in classes to real-world business situations.
  2. Do you nJen Parkeed an undergraduate degree in business? Some prospective students worry that they are unqualified to apply because they do not have an undergraduate business major, such as economics or marketing. Rest assured that you do not need a business major in order to apply. My classmates come from various academic backgrounds, including physics, biology, mathematics, and engineering. And, similar to my previous answer, there are introductory business classes in the program to help all students get on the same page. The most important thing is not where you are coming from, but your passion for data analytics!
  3. What do you like about your business analytics classes? First off, Simon has always been big on data, even before it became a trend – Simon professors are very knowledgeable and experienced working in this area. Secondly, I like how we are learning the most important skills to become a data analyst: R, Python, SQL, and Tableau. They are not only interesting subjects to learn, but also the most wanted skills in the industry. Lastly, taking business classes is advantageous. Since Simon is a business school, we have the advantage of taking both data analytics classes and business classes! The majority of my classmates will be looking for full-time work after graduation so understanding the business landscape is another crucial asset.

If you’re considering applying to Simon’s MS in Business Analytics program, I hope you found this blog post helpful! Please feel free to contact the Admission Office or a Simon Admissions Ambassador if you have questions.

Taking Risks and Reaping Rewards

The following blog post was written by Koji Takagi, MBA Class of 2019

I recently took a big risk. I left my comfortable job. I left a familiar place. Most difficult of all, I moved 6 hours and 36 minutes away (by plane) from my wife. I did these things so I could further develop myself by earning an MBA at Simon. Several times a week, I mutter to myself: “why in the world did I do this? My life was so comfortable.” True, my life was comfortable, but that does not mean that I was living up to my potential.

To remind myself that this risk was worthwhile, I want to take some time to number several of the rewards that have resulted from taking this risk:

Koji1) I gained a network of brilliant, kind individuals. I haven’t met someone yet who would not be willing to help me. I have a classmate who took the time to teach me some calculus just because he wanted to help. I have a classmate who, hopefully, will become a business partner someday. I have also met a number of alumni who have taken the time to get to know me and have shared their experiences. These interactions have helped me realize that what I am doing will help me get to where I want to go.

2) I am learning so much. Simon wants everyone to be aware of its reputation: a program that is unabashedly analytical. I can vouch for this 100 percent. Every class takes an analytical approach to learning, which is shoring up my skills in this area. Simon also has world-class faculty. Lectures are engaging, even subjects that I am indifferent to, like accounting.

3) I am having new experiences. I did a ropes course and I went zip lining during Orientation, two things that I would never have done before. By the way, I probably won’t do either again. But, I am happy I tried. I went to New York City for networking events and Philadelphia for a networking conference. So much happens during an MBA.

This list could easily go on for a while, but I think you get the idea. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. A wild ride and some unexpected rewards are likely waiting for you.


Alumni Answers: Su Zhou, ’15 MS in Business Analytics

Meet Su Zhou, experience associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City, and a 2015 graduate of Simon’s MS in Business Analytics program.

Su Zhou at UR Simon Weekend

Su recently came back to campus for UR Simon Weekend, where she lent Simon insight to admitted students during a variety of sessions and networking opportunities.

Tell me a little about you and your career since you left Simon.

Before Simon, I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York but in a different function: risk assurance. After I attended Simon, I returned to the same firm in a different department: core assurance. I’m currently an auditor in the alternative investment practice mainly doing auditing work for hedge fund and private equity firms. I think at PwC you have opportunities to be exposed to all types of projects. You could be with the same client for years or just a few months before you switch to the next project. Each project has its own unique aspects, different people, different personalities, and different types of problems you need to solve. It never gets boring. You are constantly challenged, and every day you are learning something new and meeting exciting people.

How did you know Simon was right for you?

The people in the Admissions Office really made a difference for me. They are just the most wonderful people I’ve ever worked with at any school I attended. You know how people say the first impression really matters? When I came for the interview day, everything was very properly arranged, and everyone was super helpful giving me guidance. The current student who showed me around campus had lots of great feedback about the school, so I instantly felt like this is really a place where everyone takes an interest in your development, and everybody is working super hard to make sure you succeed after school. This sort of personal connection is very important to me. I actually was able to work with the Admissions Office as a graduate assistant when I was here, and that further confirmed my belief that it’s a group of very wonderful people.

Who impacted you the most while you were at Simon, and why?

The two people I worked closest with in the Admissions Office, Andrew (Brayda) and Julie (Sadwick). They gave me a lot of support. While I was here, I actually worked full-time for four months with PwC in New York City during the busy season. So from December-March I was commuting twice a week between the two cities, taking three classes, passing the last part of my CPA exam, and still working 5-10 hours per week at the Admissions Office. It was a really challenging time for me, and the fact that I got strong support from the two people I worked closest with meant a lot to me. They constantly encouraged me and told me “you can do this.” They were very flexible with arranging my grad assistant schedule so I could do my best at my job. They were with me every step of the way. From the beginning, and every time I’ve visited since, I always feel like a part of the Simon family.

Fill in the blank: While you’re in Rochester, you absolutely have to __________.

Well I think you absolutely have to use the tunnels in winter! Everybody talks about the weather here, but if you’re prepared for it, it’s not intimidating. There are lots of fun things to do in the winter. I love skiing, and I actually learned to ski while I was at Simon. Some students come from tropical locations and they may never have seen snow before. It can be a very interesting experience—just get a nice collection of snow boots!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I actually thrive when I’m busy—whenever I have too much free time I go into panic mode, so I try to stay busy. I ran the New York City Marathon a few years ago, and my next goal is to do the New York City Triathlon, so I have been going to the gym 5 or 6 times per week for the past 8 months. I also recently applied to become a tour guide volunteer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. They have a two-year program when you receive systematic training on how to narrate the art in the entire museum, so hopefully I’ll be accepted and will do that on the weekends. There are many fun things to do in New York. Simon actually has a huge alumni base in New York City, and we regularly keep in touch. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us!

Do you remember where you were when you received your Simon acceptance? How did it feel?

I was coming out of the gym in Grand Central Station and I walked outside to check my phone. I had a missed call and then I saw an email from Julie with my acceptance. I started jumping and screaming which drew a few stares! Then I started calling everyone I knew to share the news about going to Simon.

What was your most memorable Simon experience?

The winter when I was working. I had evening classes, so I remember getting off the shuttle to walk the five blocks home carrying my textbooks, my CPA book, and two laptops. While walking in the snow, I thought about how I had to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning to fly to New York City. That is sort of a “whoa” story for my colleagues at PwC as well—I think that’s why they wanted me back! What Simon taught me was not to set limits and that if you want something, you need to go after it with your best effort. I see that same spirit in my classmates as well, and it pays off for our careers after Simon.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

I think my best advice would be to make sure you come to Simon! Simon only recruits the best and brightest students, so most of the admitted students have multiple offers, but I believe Simon has many unique characteristics that you won’t find in other places. I’m really proud of Experience Simon Weekend, UR Simon Weekend (for admitted students), and the Day One programming. Those are things I talk about so frequently when people ask me questions about choosing a business school. I have friends who have offers from other schools and the last communication they receive before they start classes is “make sure you pay your deposit.” They don’t hear from them after that. At Simon, the programming sets you up for success two or three months before you begin classes. It sets the right tone and makes sure students are well-prepared to begin business school.

It’s only been about 10 months since I left Simon, but even with that little time, principles and strategies I learned at Simon come up in my daily work. When I’m presented with a challenge on the job, I find myself drawing upon how Prof. Tilson taught us to use Excel to solve case problems, and I truly appreciate how practical and applicable my education at Simon was. It’s a great investment to make in yourself and one that you’ll benefit from throughout your entire career.