Poonam, founder and president of MER (myEssayReview), is publishing interviews of her recent successful students as well as first year and second year students. This is the latest in the series. Here is a chat with Pablo, a first-year student at Ross.
In a candid video conversation with Poonam, Pablo shares his application experience, the challenges he faced during the process, his amazing experiences at Ross, and his valuable advice for the prospective applicants regarding application process, goals, campus life, and recruitment.
And now presenting Pablo, first year student at Ross Michigan.
Poonam: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What do you do now?
Pablo: Sure. I am originally from Santiago, Chile, and I graduated as an Industrial Engineer from the Catholic University of Chile. My experience prior to Ross is in the Financial Services industry. I started working as a financial analyst with a local bank, and then I worked in corporate development with a diversified conglomerate in Latin America.
Poonam: When did you start thinking about MBA? Why now?
Pablo: The idea was long ago in my mind. From my first job, I got exposed to managers that had attended business schools in the US. They told me how good their experiences had been from both personal and professional perspective, and I learned how valuable the MBA had been for them in developing the leadership skills needed to succeed in their roles. For personal reasons, I waited too long to start the journey to my full-time MBA. After seven years, I realized that I really wanted to make a career switch from my finance-related experience to another job where I could be exposed to both a broader range of business problems and different industries. Although it demanded a lot of time and effort, the MBA was the best choice for me to pursue that transition.
Poonam: What are your career goals?
Pablo: After MBA I want to be a management consultant. During this one year at the program, I have learned about the consulting industry more in depth and I’ve taken advantage of the many opportunities provided by the Career Development Office to network with the leading firms in the industry.
Poonam: You were accepted to Ross with full scholarship. How is Ross the best school for you? How are you a good fit?
Pablo: I did apply to some other schools , but I focused heavily on my application to Ross because it was my top choice. I like Ross for several reasons. First, being in the same continent, it was my natural interest to come to the USA for MBA and job. Secondly, When I started considering and evaluating my options, I realized that the Ross had unique combination of features that you cannot easily find in other top schools. Though I believe all the top schools have very strong programs, what stood out for me was that Ross has a unique offer of experiential learning opportunities, such as the MAP Project. I like the idea of Ross providing its students opportunities to work in the fields to gain some hands-on experience through the MAP project. Being exposed to real world experience like that resonated with me more than any other feature of an MBA program. Putting myself in a situation where I had to give impactful recommendations to the C-level executives of a big company is such a great way to develop the skills to do thoughtful business analysis as well as manage projects, teams, and clients.
That is not all. The university is starting with a new project (REAL)with the real businesses that they have been creating during the last few years. For incoming students, there are opportunities to work in real businesses being run by students, and this is a completely different kind of experiential learning opportunity. It helps you gain management skills , an exposure to different type of businesses, and an opportunity to work with people from different countries.
Furthermore, the school has a very interesting focus on a certain type of leadership which they call Positive Leadership. It is something very important and unique at Ross. The school places a lot of emphasis in developing positive leadership skills in the students. The idea is that you should not only be able to manage teams and coordinate with people, but also become a leader that can inspire others. It is something that I want to have in myself.
Poonam: Looking back, when did you start preparing for your applications? Could you please share your application strategy, planning and preparation with our readers?
Pablo: The first thing is preparing for the two tests- GMAT and TOFEL . As a non-native English speaker, it was a long process. I spent close to one year preparing and taking both- TOEFL and GMAT. I started with the TOFEL which I think is the natural path because once you develop the verbal component, you can also use that for the GMAT. I prepared for five months for TOFEL and probably 6 to 8 months for the GMAT. Being a non-native English speaker, it was very important to have enough time to prepare to get a good score, especially given the fact that the business schools are giving more and more importance to the GMAT score, and average GMAT score of every school is going up every year. For native speakers, business schools expect even higher score, but for non-native, plus 720 should be good enough.
After clearing TOFEL and GMAT, I spent another half a year doing research about schools, attending networking events, and reaching out to people who could talk to me about the schools. Once I had a clear view about the options, I started working on the essays without any support. When the deadlines were approaching, I changed my mind and decided to look for advice. There was a still a lot to improve in my applications. I had to work hard but was lucky to find in Poonam a 100% commitment and extremely fast response. That was key to making a successful application.
Poonam: What was the most challenging aspect of the school admissions process? How did you overcome that Challenger ? What would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges?
Pablo: I think the entire application process is challenging. First, the tests are hard for a non-native speaker because we don’t process English as fast as our own language. You need to practice a lot and familiarize with the format of the test to become fast at answering the questions. Then getting to know the schools is also challenging in the sense that you are probably busy, and you may not be able to invest a lot of time talking to people. In my case it was helpful talking with alumni clubs in my country. Once I narrowed my options, I also visited some schools to see by myself what was it like to be there. I would strongly recommend talking to current students. In my experience, people that are passionate about their schools are the ones that provide the most insights. The last part is the application itself, which includes the essays and the interviews. I’ll make it easy here. Reach out to an advisor as early as possible because you are already busy with your job and the advisor will streamline the process for you.
Poonam: What is your favorite thing about your program? Could you please share your best experiences both in and outside of the class room that have helped shape your career?
Pablo: The best experience so far has been my MAP project. Currently, I’m working in a two-months long consulting project with a leading fintech company in China. I had the opportunity to visit Shanghai for one week, and I absolutely enjoyed it. My team and I interviewed several departments on-site and ended up presenting our findings before the COO of the company in the same week. I have learned a lot about how to structure and analyze a business problem without the need of previous knowledge. Also, in the process ,I have developed my leadership skills to help my team maintain a positive energy and to advance decisively towards an impactful set of recommendations for our client.
Outside of the academic duties, I enjoyed going to the football game here in Ann Arbor. The energy in Ann Arbor is amazing every game day. People travel from all over the state to Ann Arbor, they do their tailgates with barbecue and have fun. Students have a special price and their own area in the stadium to attend house games. The energy there feels like being in the world cup for the people familiar with soccer.
Poonam: Is there anything about Ross that you would like to change?
Pablo: That’s a very hard question, because I realize how everything that happens in the program is interconnected to maximize the learning experience, and I feel that works great. One thing I would suggest is increasing the interactions with other business schools. Ross is already large, but I would love to interact with people from other nearby schools as well.
Poonam: What did you wish you had known before you started and what was a challenge? Can you share some advice to incoming students, to help make their adjustment to b-school, specifically Ross, easier?
Pablo: One thing that I learned is not to be overly focused on the tasks, even when you get together to work. You always need to spend time to get to know each person in your teams. After all, one of the greatest values of business school is the people you work with. So, my advice is come to classes and group meetings with a mindset to do the hard work, but also make sure to spend time to get to know people at a more personal level. My initial mindset was too much focused on academics. But I soon realized that I should spend time in interacting with class mates and develop leadership skills through this process. In team meetings, spend the first 5-10 minutes to get to know your class mates Also, you will need to invest your time interacting with companies. You will find many companies on campus, so invest your time with them just like you would invest your money.
Poonam: I would like to know how involved you are in the activities at Ross. Can you share a little about your outside of class activities?
Pablo: I am involved with the General Management Club at Ross as Vice President of Finance. As a member of the board of the club, I can give back to my community by helping students connect with companies recruiting MBAs for General Management roles such as the Leadership Development Programs that are offered by many of the largest firms in the USA and abroad. It is an extremely fulfilling experience.
Poonam: Lastly, is there anything you would like to share that I haven’t asked?
Pablo: I would like to highlight to all applicants the importance of having clear career goals. There might be exceptions, but in my case coming to the MBA with a clear career goal has helped me focus my time and energy throughout the recruiting process. I wanted to do consulting and I have already got internship at Bain & Co.
Poonam: Congratulations! This was your goal. Thank you, Pablo, for sharing your story with us. It was a pleasure chatting with you. I am sure the prospective applicants to Ross will benefit from your valuable experience. Good luck on your second year at Ross and your post Ross career. We wish you continued success!
Pablo: Thank you! It was nice chatting with you.
Link to Video Interview with Pablo:
Note: You can connect with Pablo via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/pablo-troncoso-3790111a/
For questions, email Poonam at firstname.lastname@example.org