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.

A Big Thank You!

If you haven’t already noticed, Canfield BHP’s social media presence has been refreshed and updated constantly. We’ve made an effort to provide our students, parents, alumni, and readership the best and most engaging content possible. To accomplish this, we often source fresh ideas from you, our students! However, many times we brainstorm and generate content as a team. By we, I mean the Canfield BHP Student Marketing Team.

Madison Mohns Headshot

Canfield BHP Senior and Social Media Assistant, Madison Mohns

Although we’ve been at it for what feels like a very long time, it’s only been a year since I came along and started working with this incredible team of creative and ingenious people. But the person who kick-started this effort deserves all the praise in the world. That person is, of course, Madison Mohns. She’s a senior this year and will be graduating this month.

I speak for the rest of the staff when I say that Madison has been an amazing Social Media Assistant. The work and effort she has put into making our online presence what it is today has been incredible. It’s her proactive and creative ideas that keep our audience wanting more and engaging with us always. During Madison’s time here we’ve seen our presence increase dramatically. Through her efforts, Madison helped us achieve our goal of over 1000 followers on Instagram before the end of her tenure with us, an achievement we’re very proud of. Madison has been a big part of the team from the very beginning and though we’re sad to see her leave, we know she’ll do great no matter where she goes! 

As Canfield BHP Staff Director Shelley Nix put it, “Madison has been an integral part of building the Canfield BHP social media presence and she has taken it to a new level with her fresh and innovative ideas. I am so grateful for her contributions to the program and the Canfield BHP team.” 

Canfield BHP Director of Academic Services, Paul Pritchett, who has known Madison since the day she started on the Student Marketing Team, had this to say, “I remember when Madison was hired by our office as a freshman in the spring of 2017 to lead our social media team and be a peer advisor. We didn’t have an Instagram account and our overall social media presence needed quite a bit of work. Madison quickly jumped in and made a huge impact in our office, on social media, and of course in our program. Madison has been instrumental in helping Canfield BHP increase our out-of-state reach. Madison’s creativity, hard work, and passion for helping current and prospective students have helped to shape Canfield BHP into one of the top programs in the nation. I had the unique pleasure of being Madison’s supervisor, co-worker, advisor, and friend. I can’t thank her enough and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for her!” 

We can’t thank Madison enough for all that she has done for the program and our social media. We wish her the very best in all of her future endeavors but we know she will go on to do some amazing things. Any place would be lucky to have her. Thank you, Madison! We wish you all the best and more! 

 

Student Spotlight: Katherine Z. Chen

Katherine Chen Headshot

Katherine Z. Chen


Katherine Z. Chen

Class: Junior

Topics of Interest: Finance, Impact Investing, Entrepreneurship, International Development, Non-governmental Organizations

Studied Abroad: In Spain, 2020 Spring Semester  

One of the best ways to make society better as a whole is by giving back. Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Therefore, it makes sense that finance and community service would find synergy in non-governmental organizations like ‘Caritas Madrid,’ where fellow Canfield BHPeer Katherine Chen volunteered her time to help refugees in need during her time studying abroad in Spain. 

We caught up with Katherine recently and heard about her interests in finance and impact investing, working with NGOs around the world, and how that has shaped her worldview.  

Why Finance?  

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what major I wanted to pursue coming into college. I decided to choose finance because it seemed like a major that would be difficult to learn on my own. Over time, I’ve found an interest in impact investing and using finance as a means to help traditionally underserved communities.   

The field that I’m most passionate about right now is international development. This is where I see the greatest intersection between business and social impact but on a global scale. The summer before junior year, I interned at an international development organization called the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, which is a program of the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. As an intern, I worked with various NGOs, institutions, and foundations to figure out how to support local entrepreneurs in developing countries. Much of my time was spent researching how financial inclusion can help spur economic growth, and I felt like this was an area where I could continue to utilize my skills and channel my passion.  

I also spent my first year of college volunteering at a nonprofit called Manos de Cristo, where I taught fifteen low-income, Spanish-speaking adults fundamental computer skills. Many of these students were able to use these skills to build resumes and find jobs online, and three of them ended up securing jobs in Austin. It was very rewarding and by far one of the most memorable aspects of the job. Working directly with communities is something I want to continue to do in the future.  

Katherine posing in front of a castle in MadridTell us about your Study Abroad experience in Madrid.  

This spring semester, I studied abroad in Madrid at Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I took three business classes and one Spanish class at the local university. One of my favorite classes was my international finance class because it was interesting to learn about the global economy from the perspective of the Eurozone, rather than the U.S. We had a lot of interesting discussions about current events, such as Brexit, the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, and towards the end of the semester, the impact of coronavirus on the global economy. Through these classes, I learned how interconnected and interdependent the world really is. On a personal level, my business courses were very impactful because I want to work internationally in the future, and it was helpful to learn from professors who have had careers all over the world.  

During my time in Madrid, I volunteered at a local NGO called ‘Caritas Madrid’ that supports refugees coming into Spain. I also volunteered with a group of students at my local university to teach Spanish to refugees through a program called ‘Proyecto Hospitalidad’. It was such a cool experience, especially since there has been a major influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa into Spain in recent years. Although my time was cut short there, I’ve thankfully been able to continue the research project that I had started in Madrid, which focuses on the ethics and transparency of refugee-related NGOs. It’s been great being able to continue that work back at home.  

The best part of studying abroad is by far the people. I had five roommates — three from the United States, one from Switzerland, and one from Spain — who quickly became my family. I also made friends with other U.S. and international students, for instance, one from Morocco who I still keep in touch with today. We’ve all promised to visit each other and return one day, especially since things ended so soon.

Katherine rides a camelWhat interests you about working with global NGOs?  

I think I’m privileged to have the type of education that Canfield BHP offers. A lot of people around the world don’t have access to the same quality of education, experiences, or opportunities to make an impact in their own way. On a personal level, I want to extend my resources to people who need it. And on a cultural level, I want to learn from people who come from backgrounds that are vastly different than mine, yet still play a unique role in our global community. It’s challenged my assumptions, for sure.


What is your advice to students interested in a similar path?
 

My path has been a bit more non-traditional, which comes to show that one of the greatest things about Canfield BHP is that it’s so flexible. There are so many ways to broaden your education outside of the business school, especially through minors or certificates in other colleges at UT. There are also so many unique opportunities outside of the classroom to explore other interests, such as doing a more non-traditional internship or volunteering in the community. I think by pursuing your individual passions alongside business, you’re able to find fulfillment in your own way. Plus, we can all benefit from a more diverse community.

I would also encourage everyone to study abroad, if possible. Studying abroad has definitely been the most fulfilling experience of my college career.

Student Spotlight: Jada Davis

Jada Davis poses for a professional headshot

Jada Davis

Jada Davis

Class: Junior

Internship: Launch Intern at EY

Topics of Interest: iMPA, Accounting

Houston native, Jada Davis is a junior at UT and Canfield BHP. She is currently in her 3rd year as an iMPA student pursuing her master’s degree in accounting. Jada is a member of the Black Business Student Association and a member of the Master in Professional Accounting Council. Her motivations for becoming part of UT and Canfield BHP centered on Jada’s passion for business, math, and working with numbers. Ultimately, her interactions with upperclassmen at Discover Canfield BHP helped her make the final decision to be part of our program.

Jada’s passion for business and numbers doesn’t end there. Her interest in mentoring and helping her peers along their academic journey developed during her time as a camp counselor at the annual McCombs DYNAMC program. The week-long program features world-renowned faculty and keynote speakers, networking opportunities, a case competition, and much more. It’s made possible thanks to the support provided by fellow partners at EY, formerly known as Ernst and Young. The acronym stands for ‘Discover Yourself iN Accounting Majors and Careers’ and helps introduce students to the opportunities offered with a degree in accounting. Jada recalls when she participated in the program as a high school student.

“I was a part of the program when I was in high school, and I enjoyed being able to return and give back to those students. I remember how much of an impact it had on me in deciding what I wanted to do after I graduated from high school. I gained more exposure to all of the possibilities available.”

Jada and DYNAMC Camp Counselors posing for a picture at the stadium

Jada and DYNAMC Camp Counselors

As a camp counselor, Jada enjoyed advising high school students and answering questions about her first-year college experience as she assisted them with their projects. Her advice to high school students prepping for college is to get used to reading informational texts more.

“When I first got to UT, there was much more reading than I was used to. Even after taking AP and dual credit classes in high school, there was more material that had to be absorbed in a shorter amount of time. Another huge piece of advice is to go to office hours. Every semester, I encourage my friends to go because professors really want to help you succeed and understand the material. Being able to learn the material and see it more than once, in different ways, makes a huge difference.”

Through DYNAMC, Jada cultivated several key relationships as she networked with EY representatives during her time as a camp counselor. Overtime, Jada continued to work on those relationships she made and was eventually presented with internship opportunities with EY. Jada credits the resume building and networking skills she developed at McCombs and Canfield BHP for her early success.

“The classes like BA101H that we took early on had an impact on how I viewed myself professionally, helped me provide recruiters with what they were looking for, and enabled me to add my personal touch on things. There are so many opportunities here at McCombs. The advisors and career coaches at Canfield BHP are super invested in you and have played an influential role in my success.”

As Jada pursues her Masters in Professional Accounting through the McCombs iMPA program, she is preparing herself for an auditing track as her career of choice while maintaining a steady list of internships to develop experience along the way.

Jada and fellow EY Interns posing for a picture

Jada and fellow EY Interns

“Fortunately, this summer I’ll be interning with Phillips 66 to get a taste of what internal accounting roles look like. I’m hoping my experience gives me a little more clarity on how to move forward as far as my career decision so that I’ll be able to decide what I want to do once I get my master’s degree.”

Her advice to current Canfield BHP students, and those following an iMPA path, is to stay focused and learn good study habits early in your college career.

“Once you find what works for you early on, things will get much smoother. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers, academic advisors, professors, or even staff. Canfield BHP does a great job focusing on each student. The way we get to interact with our advisors and professors is awesome. All the resources they’re able to provide to students shows that they care.”