Category: Student Life (page 1 of 11)

Student Spotlight: Elsa Wright, MBA at Houston Class of 2021

When Texas McCombs MBA at Houston student, Elsa Wright, has a goal, she meets it. While working in the waste management and sustainability industry in Houston, Texas, her goal was senior leadership at her company. Like many professional women, Elsa wondered if she would be able to achieve all her career goals alongside her personal goal of having a family. Below, Elsa shares how she navigated these goals & priorities, overcame her struggle with imposter syndrome, and eventually enrolled in the MBA program. Juggling graduate degree work, motherhood, and marriage in the midst of a pandemic has definitely been a challenge, but Elsa has shown that determination and belief in oneself will ultimately lead you to success.

PHOTO: Elsa's Headshot. She has short brown hair and is wearing a red dress shirt with a black blazer.

Elsa Wright, Texas McCombs MBA ’21

Getting Her MBA

Elsa was eager to gain the foundational knowledge and skills needed to move into a leadership role in her career and knew an MBA from Texas McCombs could get her there. As a minority woman and mother, Elsa faced the realities of the world head-on.

“With recent events in the news, a lot of people have become more aware of the struggles that minorities face every day — struggles that stem into career growth,” she says. “I struggled with the idea that I had to achieve a master’s degree to be on the same playing field as many of my white male counterparts who hadn’t. Intelligence could be equally distributed among our society, but opportunities are not always.”

Elsa says she has struggled with imposter syndrome her entire life and her biggest piece of advice to anyone, especially women and mothers, considering an MBA is: “Just do it!”

“I have personally spent more time considering the idea and deciding to make the leap than I have spent actually getting my MBA,” Elsa says. “I felt that maybe I wasn’t ready, that I should wait for my son to get older, or that an MBA is just too competitive and I might not get in.”

Impostor syndrome— the false belief that others have overestimated your capabilities or that you’re not good enough— disproportionately affects women more than men — especially women of color. One of the direct factors contributing to impostor syndrome is the lack of women in organizational leadership, according to a 2019 Lean In study. The business world, including the realm of business education, has made strides in recent years, but there is still much work to be done toward equity and gender parity.

When narrowing down her prospective MBA schools, Texas McCombs appealed to her because of the prestige, atmosphere, and flexibility it offered.

PHOTO: Elsa standing in front of the University of Texas tower.

Elsa Wright standing in front of the UT tower at sunset.

“As I researched MBA programs, I found that Texas McCombs was the highest ranked in Texas. I attended the info sessions, and instantly felt what I like to call ‘the warm and fuzzy feeling.’ I felt welcomed with open arms, and could feel such a forward-thinking attitude that I could not resist being a part of.”

“The Working Professional program understands and respects that, as a working professional, we’re undergoing a journey,” she says. “The program didn’t require a specialization, but instead teaches you how to speak all languages of business, which allows me to explore where my career may take me instead of fixating on a specific career path.”

The moment she stepped on campus, Elsa knew that Texas McCombs would be her home for the next two years.

“I’ll never forget, it was our very first day of Austin Intensives and Assistant Dean, Joe Stephens, spoke in front of the entire Working Professional class of ’21: He said:

‘For those of you that may suffer from imposter syndrome and feel like you don’t belong here or deserve to be here, I am here to tell you that you do belong, and you do deserve it. We chose you because you have something to offer this program.’

To this day, those words resonate inside me and push me forward to make a difference.”

Pivoting to Online Learning

Elsa says her first year in the MBA at Houston program has been personally and professionally eye-opening. Now, she’s more open to possibility and career challenges, and has the confidence in technical business subjects that she never had before.

“During my MBA experience so far, I have grown both personally and professionally. It has opened my eyes to so many more possibilities in my career and given me a sense of confidence in business topics that I before was illiterate in.”

In her second and final year of the program, Elsa will be continuing her studies in the midst of a global pandemic. She now faces the challenge of online learning, working from home, and childcare.

PHOTO: Elsa, her son and husband.

Elsa’s family

“As a mother of a four-year-old, it became extra challenging since I can no longer rely on daycare during working hours. This means studying during lunch time and after work hours. While some people have caught up on Netflix shows while staying home, I’ve been forced to be even more efficient with my time, juggling motherhood, full-time work and my MBA coursework without the traditional resources I was accustomed to leaning on in the past.”

Throughout these difficult times of uncertainty, Elsa says she’s thankful for her partner, who’s also made sacrifices and has been there to support her through her MBA journey.

“Our fellow mom and dad classmates and I owe our better-halves tons of kudos for holding down the house for us to make this MBA happen.”

Elsa is no stranger to challenges and is looking forward to taking her upcoming and final year at Texas McCombs to the next level to meet her goal of accelerating her career.

“I’m amazed with how much I have grown both as a person and as a professional. Today, I’m able to apply so much of what I’ve learned to my daily work to improve my understanding of my current role, and to understand my company on a micro and macro scale.”

“As a full-time professional and mother, I know that the next year will be a challenge for me to juggle, especially with the continued challenges COVID-19 poses. However, I’m also hopeful that the remaining journey, even though difficult, will prepare me for the world and the challenges to come in the future. I’m confident that this experience will be more than worth the time and effort.”

The Road Ahead

Elsa is most fond of and proud of the moments spent bonding with the women in the program because of their unique perspectives and perseverance.

“Women still generally make up a minority in both business and business education, but that minority is strong and relentless. We make sure to get together, make time and lend an ear to each other.”

“It’s important for women to lift each other up. We make an unwavering, lasting impact in each other’s lives.”

Elsa is currently the Major Manufacturing & Industrial Account Manager at Waste Management in Houston, where she has worked for ten years. She started at the company working for customer service and says she’s been blessed to have mentors who have provided her with constructive criticism and advice to expand her professional growth. In the future, she plans to apply all the skills and expertise she’s acquired through her MBA to go further in her career than she’s ever imagined.

Elsa holding a trophy.

Elsa Wright holding the 2019 Big Eagle Circle of Excellence Award at Waste Management.

In 2019, Elsa was awarded the Big Eagle Circle of Excellence at Waste Management—  an elite, company-wide recognition of the 75 top-performing employees out of the 45,000+ company-wide.  After she won, she was asked to make a speech about what led to her success, to which Elsa replied that there is not just one thing that ever leads to success.

“You can’t sum up success with one award, recognition or promotion. Success is infinite and immeasurable; it’s the culmination of hours, days and years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice – emphasize on sacrifice,” she says. “I have been at WM for over ten years, that is over 20,000 hours of work. Success never arrives overnight.”

Elsa’s top tip for success is to not just work hard, but learn.

“I’ve witnessed countless individuals just focus on work, but never make an effort to actually learn. You can always learn something new. I attribute my success to my eagerness to learn and not just understand my role, but the role above mine and the one above that. If I can retain what I learn and teach it to someone else effectively, and possibly dissect the process and create a better one, not only have I become a better asset for my company, but also a better version of myself.”


Visit Texas McCombs MBA to find out more about all our programs, events, and community, or take a peek into student life on Instagram.

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Women at Texas McCombs

Today, Texas McCombs celebrates Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting some women the right to vote 100 years ago in 1920. The Texas McCombs MBA program is proud to have made strides to increase the number of women in our programs, but in both business and business education, we acknowledge there is still much progress to made toward gender parity.  Meet some of our Texas McCombs women who are already leading the way below.

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eQual MBAs #Pride Stories

As Pride Month comes to an end, Texas McCombs would like to highlight how our Engaged Queer & Ally (eQual) MBAs organization has continued to support the McCombs and Austin communities, share resources and organize exclusively in a digital platform to celebrate Pride this year. Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic, McCombs students continue to stay engaged, as world-changing leaders committed to serving our many diverse communities.

Equal MBA team photo

eQual MBA students at Texas McCombs

Who are eQual MBAs?

Engaged Queer & Ally (eQual) MBAs, McCombs’ LGBTQ+ affinity group, is dedicated to promoting diversity & inclusion in the @utexasmba program & community at large. Every year, they’re committed to recruiting more LGBTQ+ prospective students, organizing regular events, connecting to alumni, and building relationships with allies and sponsors. Furthermore, through their efforts, eQual MBAs bring forth educational discussions to McCombs about gender and sexuality, advocate for allyship and inclusion, and connect members to the larger Austin LQBTQ+ community. Overall, the group is divided into three different pillars: allyship, alumni, and service.

Aside from being full-time MBA students, everyone involved in the organization has faced additional challenges throughout their eQual MBA journey. Despite being the smallest affinity group at Texas McCombs, they continue to grow. Currently, they hold 14 LGBTQ+ members — a record high for the club – along with many allies as members. 2020-2021 co-presidents Andie Parazo and Matt Mason look forward to continuing to grow membership and offering support and resources to the LGBTQ+ and ally community at McCombs.

The eQual MBAs organization, to me, means having a community that will always be there to support me. The members of eQual are not only the people that I rely on to help organize events for the advancement of queer and all underrepresented people’s rights, but they are also some of my closest friends in the MBA program.

— Matt Mason, eQqual MBAs Co-President, MBA Class of 2021

Allyship, Intersectionality and the Importance of Showing Up

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Student Spotlight: Rafael Flores, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth Class of 2021

Rafael Flores Headshot

Rafael Flores, MBA Candidate, Class of 2021

Rafael Flores was 15 years into his career when he decided it was time to go back to school and pursue his MBA.

After graduating in 2005 from the University of Rochester with a degree in Economics, Rafael began his career in the finance and banking sector with Chase Bank and Northwestern Mutual. Eventually, he found his way to Allstate, where he’s worked for almost ten years.

 

“As I continued to develop in my career through various roles, I regretted not diving further in understanding the finance subject matter and strategy discussions from an executive level,” he says. “I found myself with enough work experience to where my MBA coursework can be directly applied to my job, such as challenging myself to take on broader roles and lead a larger scope of employees.”

Despite having a successful career with Allstate, Rafael kept looking back at his undergraduate experience wishing he could’ve done more as a student. Funding was in the way of a lot of his potential endeavors, and so he made it his mission to get his MBA as soon as he finished paying off his student loans.

This past year, he finally did.

Picture of McCombs sign on Rafael's first day with a caption saying "It's official. Day 1 of getting my MBA started. #mba #mccombs

Why McCombs?

While researching graduate business schools to attend, Rafael met with Dave Jackson, Senior Admissions Officer for the Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth program, and was impressed with both the network and recruitment opportunities at McCombs. He also appreciated the flexibility that the Working Professional program offers its students.

“I [chose] McCombs due to its strong network culture, career development resources and credibility as a top business school in the country,” Rafael says. “When I considered those factors alongside the benefits of being able to take advantage of everything as a working professional without having to leave my job or move away from the Dallas-Forth Worth Area, I realized McCombs was going to be my home.”

From Corporate to Campus

Rafael had to learn to navigate being a non-traditional student by deciding to get his MBA after ten years of working at a corporate level. Rafael learned more about time management and organization but says the biggest lesson that helped him overcome challenges was relying on his peers.

“There has to be a time for family, work, and most importantly yourself (not necessarily in that order at times). I still struggle at times to get everything done; however, my UT friends, study group, classmates are all a part of my extended family now, and we make it work,” he says. “I just keep remembering to adapt to changes and continue to move forward.”

Aside from his schoolwork, Rafael considers his position as McCombs Ambassador Committee (MAC) Chair Member as amazing to his overall MBA journey.

“My own admission process is what inspired me to get involved. I had a lot of questions and uncertainties about starting my MBA. The admissions process didn’t just walk me through how to showcase my personality and academic ability; it also introduced me to the structure and culture of McCombs, which I fell in love with.”

Group of people posing with Hook Em sign

Rafael and fellow MBA students at a McCombs event

Since the MBA schoolwork relies heavily on collaboration, Rafael says he is balancing out his work and student organization responsibilities a lot smoother. As MAC Chair, Rafael has maintained strong connections with his classmates and  UT friends.

“The experience I hope to gain is already becoming a reality. I wanted to make sure the future incoming candidates experience the culture of McCombs and fall in love with the program. Personally, I wanted to get involved in as many networking opportunities amongst the McCombs family.”

Look for a Boss, Not a Job

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Finding Love at Texas McCombs

This Valentine’s Day, we revisit some of our favorite MBA love stories! Current MBA students and alumni who found love during their time at McCombs share their sweet stories below.

An Impromptu First Date 

Aneesh and Abhisikta on their wedding dayAbhisikta Dasgupta and Aneesh Bansal, current 2nd year MBA students, met at an improv team-building activity during MBA Orientation. Two free tickets to the Hideout Theatre were taped between their seats and thus became their first official date.

“We started going out immediately after orientation and love happened gradually. It’s nice to have a partner who knows what you are going through and is there to support you,” says Abhisikta. “It is definitely more rewarding than challenging. Getting your MBA can be very stressful, so we give each other space when needed.”

Abhisikta and Aneesh got married in January 2020 in Delhi, India.

“We both have Indian parents and Indian weddings can be crazy,” says Abhisikta. “We passed on most of the planning to Aneesh’s parents but still spent many sleepless nights trying to find the right balance of both cultures. Finally, we did manage to collapse a week worth of madness into a single day of events. It was a fun, happy day.”

Abhisikta and Aneesh Wedding Photos

Abhisikta and Aneesh during their wedding celebration.

Abhisikta & Aneesh Wedding

Abhisikta says her best memories with Aneesh include getting lost while hiking and Aneesh’s cooking.

“We got lost while hiking on the Crystal Mountain (near Mount Rainier), roamed around for hours, thought we would be eaten by wild animals (it was getting dark), said our good-byes and love yous, but then spotted a lake and a bunch of tents and found a trail and are still alive to tell the tale!”

“Aneesh loves cooking for me and then he waits eagerly for feedback,” says Abhisikta. “I sometimes forget and he makes a very sad puppy face.”

Abhisikta and Aneesh are both joining Amazon after graduation in Seattle, where they plan to adopt two dogs and take full advantage of Amazon’s dog-friendly office policy.

Interviewing Your Future Husband 

When Caitlin Ellinwood, MBA ’19, was doing research for a start-up while in school, little did she know it would lead to the first conversation with her future husband, Jonathan Powell, MBA ’20.

“I was working for a robotics start-up founded by a McCombs alum and I needed to interview people related to the aerospace industry,” says Caitlin. “Jon had just started at McCombs a few weeks prior and I found out he was previously a helicopter pilot. I ended up interviewing him about his time as a maintenance manager for Apache Helicopters [in the U.S. Army].” 

Caitlyn and Jon wedding photoPhoto by Creatrix Photography.

Caitlin and Jon took a trip together to New Orleans after he completed his first semester of school to celebrate, which became a pivotal point in their relationship. The couple married in February 2020 in a “flash-mob style” wedding at the Mopac bridge alongside 50 of their closest friends and family members. 

“We chose Mopac bridge because Jon LOVES bridges! During our first trip together in New Orleans he dragged me across the entire French Quarter to see a bridge in the middle of the day while we were out with friends,” says Caitlin. “I complained at the time, but it has become one of our fondest memories. We’d visited the Mopac bridge a few times and thought it was a beautiful opportunity to show our guests Austin’s beauty and get to have fun on a bridge!”

Caitlyn and Jon on their wedding day
Photo by Creatrix Photography.

“Before we told people we were dating, we used to fist bump on campus when we saw each other. It has stuck as an inside joke between us and we still do it to this day,” Caitlin said. “It’s definitely a bit awkward at the beginning – it would be like dating a coworker. But once you’re settled in it’s great to have someone you can talk to you about classes, career goals etc.” 

Caitlin and Jon wedding photo.
Photo by Creatrix Photography.

They plan to lay low this Valentine’s Day and catch up on some alone time after the busy holiday season. 

Summer Love Turned Forever

Launa and John Bilal, both MBA ’17s, met at the  Consortium Orientation Program (OP) in 2015. John was much quieter than Launa, and his first impression of her was, “she’s a handful.”

Laura and John at graduation.

In 2016, they both moved to Dallas for their MBA summer internships and decided to live together. During that time, they fell in love.

“Being able to have a partner who is just as ambitious and understands the challenges and pressures of being in business school as well as the subsequent careers that we accept is important,” says Launa. “There is never a need to explain our frustrations, fears, or exhaustion during business school or with our work because we are sharing very similar experiences. In the same vein, we know how important it is to celebrate when either of us had milestones in business school or in our careers because we understand the challenges first-hand.”

launa and john

During their last semester of business school, Launa and John studied abroad in Switzerland and traveled together across Europe.

“One of our favorite places was Barcelona – we took a paella cooking class, marveled at La Sagrada Familia, walked through Casa Batlló, went to an ancient bath spa, and just otherwise enjoyed the culture and beauty of Barcelona,” says Launa. “It was a wonderful few days of being together, enjoying each other, and not thinking about school, work, or anything in between.”

Launa and John on their wedding day.

Launa and John both travel for work, and so this will be the first Valentine’s Day they will be spending together since getting married. They will be celebrating with a night out in Dallas.

“The primary objectives of going to business school should be to elevate yourself, learn about yourself, and explore areas that you otherwise would not have the opportunity to do in your previous careers,” says Launa. If you happen to meet someone who you feel you could also grow with and grow to love, that is a plus! Do what you set out to do – grow and challenge yourself – and the rest will fall in place.

#FultonFloresMerger

Cassie Fulton and David Flores are proud members of the Evening MBA Class of 2016 and even gave a nod to their b-school background at their wedding last year with a creative hashtag: #FultonFloresMerger.

“We met during the first orientation weekend of the program,” says Cassie. “David spotted me walking down the stairs and we ended up walking to dinner at the stadium together. At the end of the weekend, he ended up asking for my number so we could grab lunch — and the rest is history!”

Cassie famously told her brother she was getting her MBA not her “MRS”, but came away with both. Cassie and David tied the knot in February 2019 in Austin, Texas and reserved a whole table just for their “McCombies.”

Cassie & David WeddingCassie and David posing with their McCombies at their wedding.

“We started our relationship by taking the Myers-Briggs [personality assessment] with our classmates — this was VERY helpful,” says Cassie. “Being in class together and trying to navigate being a couple, trying to make friends or network with peers, and also be professional in the class environment was tricky. Being McCombies together, we made great friends in the program and built a great network. We also have similar motivations and language when discussing life and our careers.”

Cassie & David Wedding Photo

After business school, David’s job moved them to Minneapolis, MN and then to Raleigh, NC. They just moved back to Austin and don’t plan to leave again. Cassie is VP of Global Product Marketing at CPA Global and David is a Senior Customer Support & Engagement Manager at Collins Aerospace.

Out of the Friend-Zone 

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh graduated from the Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth program in 2018. They first met a pre-MBA happy hour and their story is a little different from the other MBAs.

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh

“I know what you’re thinking: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, love at first sight. That’s precisely the opposite,” Kinza says. “We friend-zoned immediately and continued as platonic group mates. Suffice it so say that this friendship extended beyond graduation, especially since we’d seen each other at our highest and lowest points while at McCombs.”

“Our classmates were akin to VC firms, seeing our relationship’s potential much before the original founders,” she says. “Even at the insistence of many friends, we were obstinate to external advice and continued to remain friends.”

A year after graduating from McCombs, Kinza decided to move to Denver. But before moving, she wanted to close all open chapters in Dallas – subtly dropping hints to Nishanth about a potential relationship. The target audience did not receive the intended message; Nishanth invited other McCombs friends to all of Kinza’s attempts at a “real date.” Finally, Kinza point blank asked him out and he enthusiastically agreed.

“Our first date consisted of a Brandi Carlile concert, a cozy sushi spot, and the realization that all of our classmates were right,” says Kinza. “Love was a matter of weeks, a shared home came next at 6 months, an engagement at month 8, and a wedding-to-be in October 2020!”

Nishanth wanted the proposal to be fun and include their friends, at a place special to both of them – the climbing gym. Kinza enjoys competing in bodybuilding and trains to peak for photoshoots, so Nishanth coordinated a faux photoshoot of Kinza climbing at the local gym and she didn’t suspect a thing. But then, Kinza started getting suspicious, especially when Nishanth asked her to take the tape off her fingers before the next route.

“As she was being lowered from her last climb, the rope turned and she saw all of our friends gathered at the bottom, smiling and cheering,” Nishanth says. “The rope was still tied in to both of us, highlighting how she’d been trapped…oops, connected for life when she said ‘yes.'”

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh surrounded by their friends after the proposal.

Kinza and Nishanth surrounded by their fellow MBA at DFW classmates after the proposal.

Dave Jackson, Senior MBA Admissions Officer in Dallas, who admitted both of them into the program, was one of the many spectators there to witness the proposal.

“Not only is it great to have two of my favorite people meet in the program and become engaged, but the fact that so many of their classmates were there when Nishanth proposed also testifies to the culture of the program and the relationships you form.” says Dave.

Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh

This Valentine’s Day, Kinza and Nishanth are staying true to their nature of valuing adventurous experiences and plan to go shoot zombies in a virtual reality arcade, followed by a romantic dinner.

“Our advice would be to keep doing you, make friends, experience new adventures, and let your feelings guide your life,” says Kinza.

An Adventure in Love

Lis Reed and Peter Mamone, MBA ’15s, first met on the McCombs Adventure Program (MAP) tubing trip right before orientation. They became “fast friends” after learning about each other’s military background and officially started dating that spring of their first year at McCombs. They knew they loved each other after spending a summer apart. 

Lis Reed and Peter Mahome

“We did our first year internships in different places: I was in the Bay Area with Apple; Pete was in Dallas with Deloitte. We knew it was love when we really missed each other over the summer,” says Lis. “These days we’re both at Google here in Austin.”

One of their favorite memories at McCombs was traveling to Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines with classmates for a Global Connections MBA Study Tour. 

“It was a once in a lifetime experience and awesome to share it with each other! It was really nice to be with someone who understood how chaotic business school schedules can get and who values their career.” 

Lis Reed and Peter Mahome

This Valentine’s Day weekend the couple will be heading to Nashville to celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary.

Best wishes to all our McCombs couples! ❤️

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