Accepted.com is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Here’s a talk with Amara Aigbedion, a student from Houston who is loving living in Berkeley and throwing herself into all sorts of new experiences at UC Berkeley Haas. Thank you Amara for sharing your thoughts with us! P.S. Amara used to take a helicopter to work…read on for more details!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Amara: I was born in Texas and grew up in Houston. I went to high school and college in Houston (University of Houston). In undergrad I majored in Mechanical Engineering. I’ve always had an urge to be hands-on and had a knack for math and science. In my career I’ve been drawn to technology and energy. As a child I wanted to be an astronaut at NASA and was able to attain internships working on Space Shuttle Discovery during undergrad. Ultimately, I ended up working in the petroleum industry, which is the other industry that Houston is known for.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend Haas?
Amara: The environment both physically and academically attracted me to Haas. As an aspiring entrepreneur I wanted to be in an environment that fostered creativity and openness. Haas also has strong networks within the companies in Silicon Valley. Some of the brightest minds in technology are out here and I wanted to be as close as possible to them.
Accepted: What are some of your favorite things about living in the Bay Area? Least favorite?
Amara: Best things are the proximity to great outdoor activities. Out here within my first semester, I’ve learned to surf, been hiking and rock climbing at several locations, visited Yosemite National Park, skied for the first time in Lake Tahoe, and took golfing lessons at Tilden Park Golf Course which is a few miles from campus. All of these activities are a short driving distance away. Being able to open myself to these activities has enriched my MBA experience.
The only negative thing about the area is that there are so many things to do that it is actually difficult to choose sometimes.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Amara: So far I’ve only taken my core classes but my favorite class has been finance. Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to take a business course in undergrad. However, I believe that regardless of one’s background, he should have a basic understanding of how projects and investments are evaluated. Understanding the fundamentals of finance has put a lot of things into perspective from my previous job to making purchase decisions. I now know how to go about determining the value of a company or asset as well as how to invest in the stock market.
Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up for next year? If so, what role did Haas play in helping you secure that position?
Amara: I don’t have a job set in stone yet but I have some offers that were afforded me through the Consortium. In the summer, prior to coming to school, Consortium students attend a conference and career fair (OP Orientation Program) where they have the opportunity to interview with top companies in advance of their classmates. The career coaches at Haas helped me update my resume, set up mock interviews with alums, and helped me with other preparation activities that prepared me for the Consortium OP Conference. This made my life a lot easier when I got on campus.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your job at BP?
Amara: My job at BP was a great learning experience. I started as a subsea engineer in deep-water Gulf of Mexico. In that role I was able to ride to work on helicopters and organize offshore campaigns performed by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). I worked on several small and large projects from appraisal to operations. The oil and gas industry is very hands-on and requires expertise from a variety of disciplines. I was fortunate to meet interesting people of all walks of life from the rig hands in the field to the executives in the boardroom. I was able to learn the importance of various perspectives and how they contribute to the overall company objectives.
Accepted: That sounds like an exciting job! Haas is known as one of the more diverse business schools in the U.S. – was that an important criterion in your b-school search? How is that diversity enhancing your MBA education?
Amara: When I applied to Berkeley I was looking at the school’s reputation, the people, and environment. I have found that the people who choose to come to Haas are very down to earth and collaborative. Also, the proximity to outdoor activities, good weather, Silicon Valley and the Consortium fellowship were huge draws. It has helped to create a balanced life experience. I would have to say being in this environment has afforded me the opportunity to open myself up to having brand new adventures and acquiring friends from all backgrounds and ethnicities. I’ve been able to travel internationally with my colleagues, which has helped me to understand diverse markets and perspectives when it comes to assessing opportunities.
Accepted: What attracted you to the Consortium program? Is the program living up to your expectations?
Amara: I initially heard about the program from a friend three years ago. She informed me of the fellowship opportunity as well as some of the other benefits of the program. Namely that there was a common application that allowed one to apply to up to six top business programs in the nation, full and partial fellowship opportunities, and a summer career conference prior to one’s first year. I was intrigued and immediately began researching the Consortium
The Consortium has turned out to be a tremendously valuable organization in my life without which, I may not have decided to pursue my MBA at this time. The common application, fellowships, and strong network are only a few of the benefits that I have realized.
Even beginning in the application phase, the organization took a very hands-on approach to recruiting by hosting info sessions across the country and webinars. I attended one in Houston where I was able to connect with former alumni and obtain information about the member schools. The opportunity to be a part of this network of talented, like-minded, and genuinely warm-hearted people has a value beyond measure.
Accepted: Can you share some application tips for other students applying to business school through the Consortium?
Amara: Approach the application holistically. Admissions will be looking at four key components: resume, test scores, essays, and recommendations. Every piece tells a portion of the story about who the applicant is. The resume will tell them about his/her work history, the test scores let admissions know that the applicant can handle the course load, and the essays will speak towards what shaped the applicant’s future goals. The applicant should not neglect his recommendations because they serve to fill in the stories untold by the resume and essays. They speak towards the types of relationships and lasting impact that the applicant has made within an organization.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to Haas?
Amara: Haas has four defining principles that are very important to student life and help to differentiate us: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Beyond Yourself, and Students Always. Take time to reflect on these principles within your own life experiences. Then think about how you can effectively contribute to strengthening the Haas brand while at school and within your other future endeavors.
Please visit our Haas B-School Zone and Consortium Zone for more Haas- and Consortium-specific advice. Still haven’t decided which b-school are best for you? Download our FREE special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Choosing the Right One for You, to help you narrow down your choices and begin your application efforts out on the right foot.