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 a second year MBA student at Chicago Booth, Valerie Angelkos…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Valerie: I am originally from Panama City, Panama, where I was born and raised. I studied Industrial Engineering at a local university in Panama, called Universidad Católica Santa María la Antigua. When I was 20 years old, during my second year of college, I decided to start working and I applied to Procter & Gamble and got my first full-time job as a Customer Team Financial Manager Intern for Ecuador and Bolivia and then Central America, for 2.5 years. When I graduated from college, I decided to switch careers into Brand Management, and I worked at L’Óreal managing La Roche-Posay brand for 9 countries in Latin America, for 3.5 years. I am married to an incredible Entrepreneur, Jorge, and have a two-year old daughter named Emma.
Accepted: If you could meet any famous person – past or present – who would it be and why?
Valerie: Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs built one of the most important brands in the world from scratch. His outstanding story of failures and successes, his drive to build the most user-centric technology product in the world, and his ability to inspire and motivate individuals into thinking big, going beyond what is expected from you, innovate, and always be exceptional — these are values and principles that I believe in and that I think are vital to become a leader in any field and function. As an aspiring marketer in technology, he is a role model for anyone who wants to build a world-class product and become a world-class leader.
Accepted: Where are you currently in b-school? What year?
Valerie: I am a second-year at The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business.
Accepted: Why did you choose Booth? What is your favorite thing about the program?
Valerie: I applied to business school interested in transitioning into Technology. As soon as I visited Booth for the first time, I fell in love with the program and the people. Booth offered the best combination of a flexible curriculum that is tailored to my needs and interests, a pay-it-forward culture that is present everywhere, and a heavy quant focus for areas outside of Finance, such as Strategy, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship, which were ideal to complement my previous job experience and to build for my future career interests. Booth opened the door for an industry that I was passionate about, but due to my geographical location, I hadn’t had much opportunity to explore. Booth’s network was vital in my goal of getting a job as a Product Marketer in Google after graduation. Finally, and most important, I came to Booth together with my husband and my 2-year old daughter. Booth has incredible support for partners, and even more outstanding support for mothers through Mothers at Booth, a student-led group. The combination of all of this plus amazing classmates and friends, made it my top choice and my dream school as soon as I truly got to know it.
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?
Valerie: Personally, my greatest challenge was not understanding the business school process and expectations from the very beginning. While I believed business school was the next step in my career, it is not that common for people from my country to go to business school in the United States for a variety of reasons, including the lack of financial support and the risk aversion of a huge debt. I did not network enough to truly pave my way into the programs I was interested in. Even though I applied without networking, and I did manage to get in through focusing on essays and GMAT, this is a fairly uncommon scenario for most people I know. Now that I’m on the other side of the table and have had the experience to guide many perspectives and incoming students, I realize that it is vital to network and talk to as many people as you can that are currently attending or have attended the business schools you are interested in. The only way of understanding the real differences among schools, and the fit you have with a business school, is through these people. Fit is the most important thing to evaluate when deciding to attend any business school, and it can define the difference between the best two years of your life or simply another checkpoint in your professional career.
Accepted: Lastly, how did you prepare for the GMAT? What are your top three tips for GMAT success?
Valerie: I prepared for the GMAT by creating a 4-month plan where I covered different topics each week, and worked on practicing 1-2 hours a day, either before or after work. My workload was incredibly huge during that time, and I traveled constantly, so I decided to do a bit each day. I also did the GMAT twice: I used the first time as a practice exam with real time pressure to feel more comfortable during the second time.
1. Take a practice exam to figure out where you’re at, and what areas you need to focus on. It is hard to balance time between work and studying for the GMAT, especially if you are not used to standardized tests. I found it really helpful to focus on specific areas and spend my time practicing these, instead of just going through the whole material. I also researched the percentage of questions for each topic covered and allocated my time to these areas based on that. For example, if you’ll only get one question of Permutation and Combinations, it doesn’t really make sense to focus weeks on the topic. It is all about strategy and managing time effectively.
2. Don’t be afraid of studying by yourself. Many people enroll in classes, but if you are disciplined and can structure a study plan without having to attend a class, go for it! If you are a consultant, or work in a job where you travel often, classes will be impossible and you will probably lose momentum. Cut two-three hours from Facebooking and Netflix and repurpose them into the GMAT.
3. Go beyond the books. I used the Official GMAT Guides and Manhattan GMAT Prep books to study. When I finished these, however, I kept practicing with question banks from BeattheGMAT.com. This was the best resource I had, and I keep recommending this website to everyone I know.
You can connect with Valerie on Linkedin, Twitter (@valangelkos) and Instagram (@valerieangelkos). Thank you Valerie for sharing your story with us – we wish you continued success!
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