This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Amir Zur…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Amir: I was born and raised in Herzeliya, Israel, a suburb 15 minutes away from Tel-Aviv. When I turned 18, I was recruited to the Israeli Intelligence Force and served as a Project Manager for three years. For undergrad, I studied Computer Science at the Interdisciplinary Center, a private college in my home town. Before business school, I was working for a startup company as a senior product manager.
Accepted: If you could describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Amir: Innovator, problem-solver, modest.
Accepted: If you could meet any famous person – past or present – who would it be and why?
Amir: It will sound like a cliché but I would want to meet Michael Jordan. I grew up playing basketball and obviously, MJ was my idol. Not only because his performance on the court but also because his attitude off the court. MJ recently received the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award for exceptional meritorious service in the US, and there are countless reasons why.
Accepted: Where are you currently in b-school? What year?
Amir: I am a second year student at Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business.
Accepted: Why did you choose that program? How were you a good fit?
Amir: For me, I was looking for a school that combines the following: collaborative culture, strong network and quality education. When I traveled to the US before applying, I visited several campuses and Fuqua just clicked for me. The students, with support for the admissions team, planned a two-day itinerary filled with activities on and off campus which included a tour, networking with students and professors, visiting class and getting to know the greater Duke community. I know that most schools are collaborative, but Fuqua stood out for me because of how much of the school’s operations is led by students. Everything at Fuqua, from interviewing the next entering class, to clubs and conducting thorough recruiting plans for first year students, is led by the students. This, in my eyes, creates an entrepreneurial environment where anything is possible – and this is exactly what I felt when I first visited campus.
In addition, I was amazed by how responsive Fuqua alums were when I reached out to them. If I remember correctly, I reached out to approximately 15 alums before applying to Fuqua. All of them responded relatively quickly and were willing to spend as much time as needed to answer all my questions. Speaking with them fortified my belief that Fuqua is the right place for me, and that has proven itself a year later when I was recruiting for an off-campus product manager role.
Accepted: What are some of your most rewarding extracurricular activities (both before entering Duke and current activities)? How have those activities helped shape your career?
Amir: At Fuqua, I took on several leadership roles and I participate in several extracurricular activities:
1. Jewish Business Association president – leading the JBA was a goal of mine even before arriving to Fuqua as I really wanted to expose my classmates to the Jewish culture and Israel – a startup nation. This leads me to my second point.
2. Last year, as a JBA cabinet member, I led the Startup Nation 2016 Conference. Every year the JBA hosts a “Fuqua Startup Nation Conference” to expose the Duke academic and business community to the unique Israeli business environment, to promote Israeli companies, and to incubate business relations between Duke MBA students and Israeli companies. We had a successful conference with over 150 attendees.
3. iTrek leader – This year during spring break I will be co-leading 90 students to Israel for a 10 day trip. The iTrek is known to be among the best trips at Fuqua.
4. Fuqua Blogger – I love to write, so when I arrived at Fuqua, I volunteered to write for the Fuqua Blog team.
5. Venture scholar for G51-Amplify, a research/VC firm from Austin, TX. Fuqua offers several opportunities to get involved and help different organizations solve real-life problems. I chose the mentored study program where students are paired with startups or VCs to gain more working experience. My long-term goal is to start my own company, and looking at things from the VC perspective was something that I wanted to learn. Therefore, I started working with G51, where I evaluate early-stage startup companies and deliver my recommendations to the venture partners.
All these experiences have helped me grow on both personal and professional levels, as I had to constantly challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone and prioritize my time efficiently. I’ve become more culturally aware and gradually strengthened my communication, critical-thinking and leadership skills.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise other applicants who may be experiencing similar challenges?
Amir: For me, these aspects were most challenging:
1. Researching the program that is right for me and understanding the differences between MBA programs
2. Connecting my background and story to the programs and differentiating myself from others
In my eyes, research is fundamental for almost anything. Most MBA programs use similar value propositions and offer the same curriculum, so how can one choose the right school for him/her? To overcome that, I started networking with current students and alums. Even if I didn’t have any connections in a certain program, I emailed the admissions committee and they connected me with students and alums. Hearing about their experiences firsthand was invaluable, and I highly suggest any candidate to speak to as many students/alums as possible.
Next, understanding the values of each school and how to connect one’s background is important. There are thousands of applicants that apply to each program every single year. Why should they pick you? Why are you special? Telling your story is easy, but telling it with the right context is hard. Each candidate should ask himself how the school’s values fit with his/hers background. How can I give back to the program and surrounding community? And most importantly, will this program help me to find my dream job post-graduation?
Accepted: Lastly, can you share your top three GMAT tips for MBA applicants?
1. Practice makes perfect, the more questions you solve the better you’ll be.
2. Be mentally strong. A lot of students are stressed before/during the exam which directly impacts their total score and confidence (don’t be afraid to take the GMAT more than once).
3. Remember, the GMAT is just one part of the application, and admission teams are looking for diverse candidates with unique backgrounds and fit.
You can connect with Amir via LinkedIn. Thank you Amir for sharing your story with us. We wish you much success!
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