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 Maximiliano Grass…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Maximiliano: I am originally from Santiago, Chile. I majored in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in the University of Chile, which is the oldest public university in the country. It is also the most diverse one in terms of the socioeconomic background of is students, which I thought was an essential part of the college experience, as one does not only attend university for its courses, but also to broaden one’s view of the world and understanding of reality. During my undergrad I also had the chance to do a one semester exchange at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where I first experienced case based classes and realized how much more I enjoyed them that just plain lectures. This was what got me thinking about eventually doing an MBA in the US.
Accepted: Can you share three fun facts about yourself?
1. When I was in fourth grade we were asked to do a research project on an animal and for a reason still beyond my understanding, I chose the rat.
2. In junior year of high-school I joined a young firefighters brigade.
3. I have a dog named Orwell after George Orwell and a fish named Huxley (after Aldous). I guess you can see the pattern.
Accepted: Where are you currently attending b-school? What year?
Maximiliano: Harvard Business School. I’m currently in my second year.
Accepted: Why did you choose that program? What is your favorite thing about it?
Maximiliano: HBS’s MBA program has the attributes I was looking for: a general management focus as the key to exploring ever-changing business, society and policy challenges, cutting edge speakers and professors, and amazing opportunities to drive change through collaborative relationships among a very diverse student body. I also greatly appreciated that the case method was the preferred teaching format, as it allows us to put ourselves in close to 500 real situations decision makers faced and train ourselves to think methodically what would we have done. The fact that the school has decided to complement this with the FIELD classes, where we get the change to go from thinking like case protagonists to actually being decision makers ourselves, has also been a rewarding and useful experience. Last but not least. the school’s mission, “to educate leaders that make a difference in the world,” resonates with me. And my favorite thing about the program so far? The first year section experience! Getting to share a whole year with the same classmates is a pretty effective way of building friendships that last a lifetime.
Accepted: What are some of your most rewarding extracurricular activities (both before entering HBS and current activities)? How have those activities helped shape your career?
Maximiliano: Back home and before starting at HBS I was actively involved in the leadership of Chile’s Jewish Community. I was one of the Chilean Jewish Student Union’s founders and its first president, giving the organization its focus on representing Jewish students across university campuses but also increasing their engagement in civil rights and other social issues. While in charge of the union I had the opportunity to lead its participation in the Civil Rights movement that united multiple minorities (e.g LGBT groups, native Indians, immigrants) in the demand for an Anti-Discrimination law that my country lacked. Through protests and lobbying efforts, we finally got Congress to approve a law in 2012 which is something I am really proud of. That role shaped my career by helping me believe that I could align people behind a vision and by allowing me to realize that I care passionately about civil rights and other social issues, and would therefore be incapable of working in a company that didn’t allow me to freely speak my mind on those issues. At HBS I am now one of the co-presidents of the Jewish Student Association, role through which I hope to keep contributing to my community and enhancing its engagement with other affinity groups and relevant causes.
Accepted: How was the MBA application process for you? Did you find anything in the process particularly challenging?
Maximiliano: I treated the MBA process as a unique chance for reflecting upon what I had done so far and what my goals were. What was most challenging was looking backwards and trying to make sense of the life choices that I had made so far in a way that allowed me to explain them as a pattern, as having a leitmotif. It’s not that they didn’t relate to each other, they certainly did, but rather that I had not previously given myself the time to stop and think about what connected the dots. And I think this holds true for many applicants, which is what makes the reflection process interesting. Once you identify what the guiding principles on your decision making have been, and if you think that they still hold true, then it is easier to frame what your future goals are. Once you have those two things, explaining why you want to do an MBA is not hard. In this sense, my thought process was first reflecting what my previous decisions said about what things I cared deeply about in life, second interpreting how this related to what I thought I wanted to do with my future, third explaining why an MBA made sense as a next step, and finally identifying what school was a better fit for me in terms of its culture and program.
Accepted: What are your plans after graduation?
Maximiliano: I will be joining McKinsey & Company’s Atlanta office. I had done consulting in my previous life but in a boutique firm that only had a presence in my home country, and therefore wanted to experience what working for a global, world-class consulting firm would be like. McKinsey gave me that chance during the summer and I really enjoyed it, to the point where I signed my offer on the spot. Several things informed that decision: The kinds of problems McKinsey solves are just incredibly interesting and impactful, the sheer size of clients we worked with was impressive, people at the firm were amazing and truly cared about each other’s development, and finally the amount of resources the firm puts at your disposal to do great work is almost endless. I am thrilled to be going back to the firm once I graduate.
Accepted: Lastly, can you share a couple of your top tips for those currently going through the MBA application process?
Maximiliano: My first advice would be to treat the process like an opportunity for valuable self-reflection. That will make it much more rewarding. In line with that, conduct all the due diligence possible, not only on yourself but also on the programs you are considering, as the fit has to be mutual. In terms of the application itself, think of your CV as the skeleton to which you add flesh and soul with the essay and interview. Don’t shy away from communicating your impact in your CV: share all the numbers you can which will help admissions have a point of reference for what you did, people you got onboard, savings you achieved, whatever number you can get your hands on.
If possible use the essay to explain what has been the driving force behind your decision making (i.e your passion), and don’t forget to explain why you need an MBA (and why from that school) to go where you want to get. Finally, if you get invited to an interview, be ready to focus on the why’s and how’s of your life: Why you chose your major/college/job, how you led/executed that project or extracurricular, etc. And whatever you do, don’t waste time preparing oddball interview questions, as the chances of you getting one you read online are slim and in any case they are usually only meant to see if you can be spontaneous and think on your feet when asked something you didn’t expect.
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