Alumni Spotlight: Sam Garcia and Dennis Thankachan

Sam Garcia and Dennis Thankachan Hero Image

Canfield BHP Alums Sam Garcia and Dennis Thankachan

 

Time and again, we hear from our students and alumni that one of the biggest reasons they decided to be part of our program is the community. That much is true not just while our students are in school but long past graduation too. We have amazing alumni that are always giving back to our community, changing the world for the better, and making impactful contributions to society. Our community makes the difference, just ask two of our alums who successfully closed a landmark deal recently.

Canfield BHP alums Sam Garcia and Dennis Thankachan teach us that the power of community is immense, keeping us involved in each other’s lives in more ways than one. Sam and Dennis recently came together and successfully closed what would be a landmark deal between their respective companies. Sam is a Senior Associate at a venture fund called Amplo, which is leading a $3M Seed investment into Lightyear, a company founded by fellow alum Dennis Thankachan. We caught up with them recently to get an update on their progress.

Sam describes his work with Dennis and tells us more about himself: 

“I am a Canfield BHP alum that graduated in 2016 and a current Senior Associate at a Venture fund called Amplo. After graduating from Canfield BHP, I went to Harvard Law School and then briefly worked at a law firm called Debevoise & Plimpton before coming to work at Amplo. Amplo is led by founder and CEO, Sheel Tyle, and includes the former Prime Minister of Australia, the National Security Advisor under Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, an NYT bestselling author, and the heads of various successful startups (like Robinhood, Bumble, and Andela). ” 

Dennis, a former Rising Star Award/George Mitchell Award winner, graduated with a degree in Canfield BHP/Finance and Computer Science. He then went on to work at Goldman Sachs and then later at a Hedge Fund. Sam explains how he discovered the opportunity to work with Dennis and gives us more information about Lightyear, a company currently doing incredible work in the IT space by building software to help enterprise IT teams operate more efficiently: 

“I came upon this deal as I was scrolling through Linkedin and saw that he was at a startup. Knowing that he was an all-star at McCombs, I figured that if he left a hedge fund, it was probably for something really big so I reached out to him. Once I spoke to him, I confirmed that he was working on something really special. Lightyear is largely in stealth mode right now, but I can reveal that they work in the IT space. Lightyear raised over $3M for this Seed round that Amplo will be leading. The Seed round was not only filled but massively oversubscribed (more commitments to the round than there was room for) with top venture funds from across the country. ” 

Dennis and Sam acknowledge their success is attributed to the skills and knowledge they gained during their time at Canfield BHP. Sam tells us which two classes helped him form the creative thinking necessary to succeed in the VC (Venture Capitalist) space: 

“Firstly, Managerial Accounting Honors with Brian Lendecky: His class taught me that numbers on a balance sheet or a P&L statement tell a story about the company. Carrying this over to VC, I look for stories that are told from the numbers reported by companies. Secondly, Corporate Social Responsibility with Brian Richter: This was my favorite class at UT for two reasons: 1. Brian Richter takes his time to be involved with every student and became a crucial part of my admission to Harvard Law School by being able to write a recommendation based on personal knowledge of me; 2. This class showed me that there are stories outside of the numbers that matter a whole lot for companies. A company’s relationship with multiple levels of government and their relationship to significant stakeholders really matters.” 

Dennis recalls Dr. Konana, who made an impact on him as a student, and fellow Canfield BHP alums who helped along the way: 

“Dr. Konana (MIS301H teacher) was a great influence and has stayed in touch over the years (wrote my recommendation letter for Stanford GSB, made customer intros for Lightyear). One of my first investors in my pre-seed round was Adam Blum, noted Canfield BHP alum, and several of my investors were introduced to me by Zuhair Khan, another Canfield BHP alum.” 

The Canfield BHP community is a vast network of amazing people that make impactful contributions around the world every day. Big things can happen when our community comes together as Sam and Dennis have demonstrated in their work. 

Visit Amplo to learn more about Sam’s work as a Senior Associate or read this WSJ article featuring Amplo and see who’s who on their Board. Interested in the IT space? Visit Lightyear to learn more about Dennis’ work. 

Alumni Spotlight: Hans Uy

Hans Uy posing in front of a rocket at SpaceX in LA

Hans Uy posing in front of a rocket at SpaceX headquarters in LA.

 

On May 31, 2020, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station, carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in a historic milestone for commercial spaceflight, the first manned launch from American soil in nearly a decade. Then on the morning of June 13, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 58 Starlink broadband satellites into space. This mission, called Starlink-8, is just one of dozens of planned launches aiming to provide high-speed satellite Internet (up to 1 gigabit/second) to rural areas both within the US and around the world!

Without a doubt, these are incredible feats and there are many more ahead. However, without the proper financing to make these projects possible, they may not have happened at all. Luckily for us, we have an insider in the SpaceX Finance department who can help us better understand the importance of finance in the New Space Age.

San Antonio native and 2018 Canfield BHP alum Hans Uy caught up with us a few days after the historic commercial mission to the ISS and shared some great insights and advice. Hans shows us how to shoot for the stars as he turns his passions and dreams into real-world success.

Shortly after graduating, Hans moved to New York to pursue a career in investment banking with Evercore for just over a year and a half, focusing on healthcare mergers and acquisitions. While busy with his Wall Street career, Hans found the time to write for his blog Astronomical Returns, a website dedicated to all things outer space from a finance major’s perspective. Now having landed his dream job with the SpaceX Finance team, Hans currently finds himself in sunny LA:

“My background and all of my education were in finance, but ever since I was a little kid, my life passion has always been space. Growing up, my room was totally decorated with artworks of rocketships and all the planets in the solar system. Somehow, I’ve amassed a ton of random knowledge and fun facts about space, and I wanted to blend my two interests: space and finance. I first did that by starting ‘Astronomical Returns’, and now I do it at SpaceX. Space exploration is such an important pursuit, one worth dedicating my career to. It’s been quite the journey, but it’s fantastic.”

Though we find rocket launches to space fascinating, one of the most interesting parts about them is the cutting-edge technology that is developed and produced to make these rockets work. We reap the benefits of these technological advancements every day in our modern lives (remember Teflon?). Hans explains why this is an important field of investment:

“So much of our computer technology, our communication systems, our understanding of our physiology comes from research and exploration done from the space program. I think it’s something that people don’t pay nearly enough attention to and that they should. That’s the base part of why I like space.”  

Hans elaborates further and explains where his interests in finance and space intersect:

“On the flip side of that is the finance aspect. When people think of space exploration, they often think of the Apollo moon landings or rocket launches on YouTube. But I think the interesting part is where the finance industry comes in and how space companies are doing more of the innovation, filling in a role traditionally held by governments. It’s a burgeoning field of disruptors like SpaceX and many others as well, and I’m so excited to see whether these companies can make money out and about the cosmos. The fusion of the two fields is super interesting for me, it’s something I wish more people knew about. As I like to say, the best rocket fuel is cash”.

Down here on Earth, Hans’ duties at SpaceX Finance resemble a corporate finance position where financial planning and analysis are the main drivers of the job, a big change from the duties Hans performed at Evercore. 

“Though they’re both finance, Evercore involved capital markets and mergers and acquisitions, whereas what I do at SpaceX is highly operations-focused and cost analysis heavy. Every engineering division at SpaceX is covered by someone on the Finance team, and for the divisions I’m responsible for, each month I analyze their expenditures, perform all the accounting and operational forecasting behind them, and report that spend to the relevant parties—whether that be the engineering heads or the people in the purchasing and supply chain teams.”

Hans understands that his skills developed during his time at Canfield BHP contributed to his current success, and there is one class that particularly stood out for him:

“MIS301 with Professor Konana, no doubt about it. He was one of the best professors I had during my time at UT. Everything that he taught me five years ago, I’m using now constantly. At SpaceX, I live and die by pivot tables and database queries, so I’m quite glad I paid attention in his class. Beyond that, I liked how vocal and opinionated Professor Konana wasI vividly remember him telling us ‘a lot of people want to go into finance, but finance is nothing without operations, right? Society needs real innovation to drive economic growth.’ That’s part of the reason why I was excited to move from Wall Street to SpaceX, to hopefully be a part of the innovation in an industry I care about. His words have certainly rung true”.

Hans had these words of advice for our underclassmen: “the sooner you realize what your passion is and what you want to dedicate your career to, the better. That way, you can set yourself on the right path”. To that end, he encouraged McCombs students to branch outside of the business school to meet students in other fields like engineering or liberal arts and broaden their horizons. Hans explained that finding fulfillment in your career isn’t about chasing the most “prestigious” field or the biggest paycheck. “Instead, I think that people will be much happier and better served pursuing a career where they can offer a unique contribution to the world.”

If you’d like to learn more about the intersection of finance and space exploration, feel free to visit Hans’ blog, Astronomical Returns. There you’ll find a wealth of space knowledge as well as fun facts like how Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon and a UT alum, turned down the offer to fly the Space Shuttle and retired from NASA because he wanted to pursue his own life passion: painting! He felt that as the only artist to have ever visited the moon, he owed it to the world to depict what he saw on the lunar landscape. Hans cites Bean as an inspirational role model for his own career path.

Spotlight: Omar Ochoa, Former UT Student Body President & Canfield BHP Alum

After coming to UT as a Canfield Business Honors student and becoming the first Mexican-American student to serve as student body president, Omar Ochoa continues to make waves as an alumnus by running his own law firm in his hometown of Edinburg, Texas. 

Omar graduated from UT Austin in 2007 with a Canfield Business Honors undergraduate degree and a Master’s in Professional Accounting (MPA). He later earned his JD from the UT School of Law, where he became the first Latino to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Texas Law Review. Looking back on his experiences at UT, Omar considers his time priceless.

“I always say that some of my fondest memories are from UT,” he said. “The campus life is second to none, the city of Austin is such a great place to be, and the university an enclave within Austin that’s very culturally diverse. Having such a big research university with a great athletic program, great student involvement, and lots of organizations to be a part of is just a very dynamic place where you can really learn who you are and find yourself.”

While serving as the UT student body president in 2005 and 2006, Omar spearheaded a campaign to add another space on campus for students to convene. 

“At the time the student union was the only student space on campus and there really wasn’t a whole lot of spaces for students to build community,” he said, “So we organized a campaign to convince students that (adding a student space) was something that needed to be done and, luckily, they voted for it. Then came the student activity center.”

After earning his undergraduate degree, Omar went on to work for General Motors. He knew, however, that he wanted to be a lawyer, and came back to the forty acres a year later to earn his JD. 

“I had an internship with the general motors in Detroit, Michigan, and it was one of those internships ships that I took on not necessarily because I was looking for a longterm career with General Motors, but it was a great option that came up and I decided to try it out,” he said. “In the process of doing that job I got to know a lot of people there at GM and they offered me a full-time job upon graduation. So, I deferred my admission to UT Law for a year so that I could go work for General Motors. I did that with the idea that maybe I’d forego a legal career in favor of an accounting career and it was a really great job, but I knew I wasn’t going to get rid of the law school bug and that I would regret it if I didn’t go back, so I did and I loved UT Law.”

Omar said his business background from Canfield Business Honors helped him greatly when it came to law school and while practicing. 

“Every time I take on a new corporate client or every time I start a lawsuit where we’re suing a corporate entity, I have to learn all about that business, backward and forwards, financial statements, operations, you name it,” he said. “Being able to have a deep level of business understanding helps me to develop a good strategy for what I’m doing and ultimately serve my client. If I didn’t have that very solid business background from (Canfield) BHP I would not be as good of a lawyer as I am today.”

After law school, Omar went on to work for federal judges and at law firms in various cities, including Kentucky, Dallas, and Houston. Eventually, he found his way back home to the Rio Grande Valley, where he now runs his own practice with offices in Edinburg and McAllen. 

“I have a very special connection to the Rio Grande Valley. I was born and raised here, public school, right. All along the way. My family was very civically involved (growing up) and (they) are still down here,” he said.” I love the Valley and it is a very kind of deep part of my personality and it always has been. So I knew I would make it back here at some point in my career. I just didn’t know when or how.”

Professor Spotlight: Dr. Shefali Patil (MAN 336H)

For both online and in-person classes, Dr. Shefali Patil takes the Canfield Business Honors management curriculum to the next level. Dr. Patil teaches Organizational Behavior (MAN 336H) where she employs her research on decision making and operating in high-risk environments. Her passion for research stemmed from her own honors program at NYU Stern, where she pursued research in her senior year.

After graduating from Stern, Dr. Patil earned her PhD at Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Patil said she wanted to continue her work at a research-driven university. 

“I wanted to start off my junior faculty years at a very strong research-based institution,” she said. “UT was definitely on my list and, luckily for me, they offered me a job.”

Throughout her six years at UT, Dr. Patil has examined various behavioral questions by working with over 15 U.S. law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Army, and emergency medical rescue/healthcare organizations. For the past three years, she has been a professor for Canfield BHP. While introductory management courses are often critiqued for being overly theory-driven, Dr. Patil goes above and beyond in her curriculum development.

“I’ve designed my entire course mostly on cognition and thinking skills and I challenge them to see always the opposite viewpoint– to see both angles and complexify the problem,” she said. (The class) is very much geared towards practicality, whereas I think a lot of research-based professors stick more to research in theory. For me, I just feel that undergrads are going onto different career paths, not necessarily research, so (pure research) is not what they need right now.” 

Dr. Patil said that she often implements significant group work and in-class activities to accomplish this application-based learning. As such, one would imagine that the recent pandemic would complicate things for her. Not one to be discouraged, Dr. Patil has actually used the pandemic to enhance her class. 

“I was actually pleasantly surprised because Zoom has amazing capabilities, especially it’s breakout groups. I have centralized my sheets and activities for students to download and then I’ve pre-assigned their breakout groups for (Zoom) classes,” she said. “Despite (everything) that’s going on with coronavirus, the exciting part is that students are relating everything that I’ve taught them in class to what’s going on in the real world.”

Five Ways to Prioritize Mental Health During Finals Season

Most students would agree that the end of a semester is a particularly hard time. Between last-minute assignments, final exams, and group project deadlines, it’s hard to stay sane, especially when coupled with quarantine. However, summer is just around the corner, and many Canfield BHP students have found ways to prioritize their mental health and stay motivated during finals season. Try out a few (or all!) of these tips and tricks to make the last couple weeks of school just a bit easier to manage.

1. Set a Schedule for Yourself
Many students have found that, because of quarantine, their routines and schedules have flown out the window. Now, more than ever, it’s difficult to focus on schoolwork and maintain the study habits that might be present while on campus. Canfield BHP junior Will Acheampong has found that structuring his days to be more like campus-life

“I know for myself it’s been tough to stay focused and on top of my work just because I’m at home with my parents and there are so many opportunities to not stay focused and really put in my best effort,” Will said. “I’ve been trying to structure my days in that I have certain hours I block off for classes and schoolwork and then other hours I have to do whatever I need to do for myself personally. By (doing this) I’ve been able to structure my life as I would if I had been at school.”

2. Prioritize Your Health and Wellness
This goes hand-in-hand with setting a schedule for yourself. Good nutrition and exercise habits are crucial for health, especially in times when the immune system might need to fight something. Canfield BHP junior Katelyn Anderson said a regular eating and exercise schedule has helped her manage life in quarantine.

“When this whole thing first started (during extended Spring Break), I kind of treated it as a big vacation.. there was no normalcy, no schedule,” she said. “I try to exercise and eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the times where those should be eaten to make each day seem similar to the schedule that I had back when I was on campus.”

3. Know When To Take a Break
Finals season is about more than taking exams. It’s also about taking care of yourself– be sure to take some time to yourself and continue to do the things that make you happiest. Canfield BHP freshman Rajit Garg says he’s been staying motivated by making sure he finds time to do things that make him happy as well.

“I try and stay motivated in a few different ways,” he said, “The first one is just by producing music, one of my biggest hobbies. (Music is) something I know I can rely on to take me away from school and work and stuff like that.”

Rajit says he also has been going on runs and spending extra time with his family when he’s feeling stressed. Doing these little things has helped him focus on schoolwork when he needs to, so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed. After all, study breaks are just as important as the grind.

4. Phone a Few Friends
While we might not be able to hang out on campus anymore, it only takes a second to scroll through your contacts and find a few friends to chat with during a much-needed study break. Canfield BHP sophomore Eri Adepoju said she tries to call a few friends a day, so she can keep up with them. She considers connecting with friends just as important as maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“The transition to having classes online has not been easy for me, but I have been making sure to keep my physical, mental, and emotional health as a priority,” she said. “I make sure I eat three times a day, exercise or dance or move around at least once a day, and text or call my friends at least once a day, just so I’m not isolated.”

5. Take a Minute to Reflect
Of course, these tips might not be for everybody– every student is different, so it’s important to self-reflect and think about what might motivate you personally. Kisara Dang, a Canfield BHP freshman, said her self reflection has helped her manage the feeling of being cooped up at home. For Kisara, she found that using her Google Calendar and running have been the two best ways to stay motivated.

“I’ve been reflecting a lot on what motivates me personally,” she said. “I know if I schedule something in my Google Calendar I’m more likely to get it done, so I’ve been scheduling both work and workouts in my calendar… Running has been really helpful for my mental health. It’s been an escape for me to be able to run instead of sitting inside all day.”

Whether it’s using the G-Cal, going for a quick jog, chatting with a friend, or grabbing a bite to eat between assignments, remember to prioritize your mental health during this time of year and reflect on what motivates you to get through it all. Although it may feel like it, finals won’t last forever!