Formerly with Deloitte Consulting, Strategy & Operation
Why did you choose BU School of Management?
BU was the only well-established, highly ranked program that offered a dual degree (MS·MBA) in two years.
My undergraduate degree was in MIS and finance, and I’ve seen first hand the value of the MS degree in consulting. It’s an invaluable skill when you can speak to the IT organization as well as the business side.
And the school happens to be in one of my favorite cities.
What’s been your biggest gain since coming to the School?
First and foremost, my classmates. I’ve met some incredible thinkers who can be counted on to offer challenging points of view, as well as simply being wonderful human beings. Studying with classmates like this really make this material come alive, because at least one person can always relate the material to real life.
How is Boston itself an advantage?
Nowhere else in the country are there so many educated, interesting people all living in the same city; there’s 50 colleges here. It also provides great networking opportunities between schools. For instance, we just held the BU Grad Society event which gets all the grad schools at BU together to discuss networking, professional development, and social events. We partnered with MIT’s similar organization this weekend for a great event with over 450 people attending.
Great time, and only possible in Boston.
When Life Hands You Cashews…
It’s funny how things work out. Leslie Shages (GSM ’11) started out as a freshman majoring in anthropology. She moved from there to one unlikely place after another, somehow managing to follow a natural progression regardless, and ended up as a world traveler and a Boston University School of Management MBA student.
Leslie’s long-standing interest in cultures and people led her to study abroad as a junior in college in a rather unusual place: Madagascar.
It was in Madagascar where Leslie had her first try at small business development. One of her host families was a doctor who ran a holistic clinic and became a mentor to her. When it was time for Leslie to leave, she wanted to show her thanks with a gift, but he wouldn’t accept. So instead, she decided to sell photographs she took in Madagascar back in the US and donate the proceeds to the doctor’s clinic.
“I went about it totally the wrong way,” says Leslie. “I didn’t keep books, and I priced the cards based on cost only and not value. But my local shops and community back home were very supportive, and I actually sold all 1,000 of the photo cards I had originally produced—and then some. I sent Nat Quansah $1,500 for his clinic.”
After graduation, Leslie found a perfect job with a women’s cooperative called Women in Progress that was looking for a photographer to take pictures of their program in Ghana. Leslie immediately jumped at the chance.
“I fell in love with West Africa,” she says. “Everyone in Ghana just had a lot of pride in the way they carried themselves, regardless of how poor they were. There was always a lot of dancing and singing, and if you went to church, everyone would be clapping their hands and was very joyous. It is a very vibrant culture.”
Leslie’s next step was to work as a program assistant at a Watertown-based international development organization. But her heart was still in Africa. So she joined the Peace Corps and was stationed in the West African country Burkina Faso for two years as a health care educator. She arrived in September of 2006.
In December, Leslie received a care package from her dad. He had sent a bag of honey sesame cashews from Trader Joe’s.
“My first thought was, ‘Darn it,” she says. Of all the things I miss from America, he sends the one thing that uses the three ingredients they actually have here.
“But then I thought: ‘business opportunity.’ I wonder if we could make these here?”
This is the question Leslie posed to the president of a small women’s group in the village where she was stationed. And with that, they got started on perfecting a recipe; three days later they had a great-tasting product.
Leslie and some of the other women from the group traveled to the nearest city to hand out samples of their new honey sesame cashews. Most folks were not used to the sweet taste, and the women got a lukewarm response.
Or so they thought.
A week later one of their biggest naysayers called to rush-order 50 pounds of the cashews for a wedding. The women’s group immediately went to work. Once completed, Leslie made the delivery and collected the payment. They had been paid $80, and everyone in the group earned around $4, the equivalent of working four 10-hour days on someone’s field.
“You couldn’t even compare the two incomes,” Leslie recalls. “I don’t think any of the members had ever gotten that big of a chunk of money at any one time before, and they hadn’t had to do back-breaking work to earn it. When I handed out the money to the women they began clapping and doing dances. I was just on cloud 9; I remember that as the best day of my life. It meant so much to them; it was the most important $80 I could have ever gotten.
“That’s when I thought, business is the way to go—the best way to do development work. People don’t get that excited when you tell them about having to get checkups and expensive medicines. But at least they couldn’t tell me they didn’t have the money to do those things anymore. I realized how much business opens up the ability for development in other areas. The women were so happy and empowered.”
Now Leslie is an MBA candidate in the School’s Public & Nonprofit Management program, hoping to continue her development work after graduation.
And the women’s group she helped to start the cashew business? It’s thriving. The women, some of whom had never left their village before they met Leslie, now make regular deliveries and transactions completely on their own, and have even added some new clients to their roster since she left.
Success on both sides of the Atlantic.
By Alissa Mariello
Why did you choose BU School of Management?
I couldn’t pass up the chance to get an MSIS and an MBA in the same two-year period.
I also really like being in a cohorted program. I wanted to be able to form lasting relationships with my classmates.
What’s been your greatest MBA take away?
As intense as it was, the Integrated Project really showed me how much every aspect of my education here would come into play in the real world: how managers have to consider financial, marketing, and strategic options in their decision making.
Why did you choose Boston University?
Because of the unique student body composition. The School’s special programs like the MS·MBA, Public & Nonprofit, and Health Sector Management attract a different type of student body than you would find at any other school. The mix of students creates an unmatched and highly varied environment, which really fosters stimulating discussions. The students are also more focused on learning through collaboration, rather than a cutthroat, “everyone-is-on-their-own” mentality.
What’s been your biggest gain since coming to the School?
The West Coast Networking Club focuses on helping students with an interest in career opportunities on the west coast, network with companies located in California. I participated in the annual Technology Trek, which allowed me to meet with hiring managers from companies like Apple, Adobe, CBS, Electronic-Arts, and Chevron. Ultimately, this led to securing my MBA summer internship at Chevron Headquarters.
Please comment on your MS·MBA experience.
The MS·MBA program has been great so far. It has allowed me to take a closer look at how technology enables companies to be more efficient. Now when I see a problem within an organization, I have many additional problem solving tools that I can use. MS·MBA students come from a wide range of backgrounds, and so prior technical experience is definitely not necessary to benefit from the program.
Senior Vikas Pisipati’s very first volunteer experience as a junior in high school was prompted by an interest in the medical field. So he raised some money himself, left his Wexford, Penn., home for the summer, and made his way to Guatemala City, where he worked as a volunteer at an orphanage for mentally and physically challenged children.
“There were about 25 kids at the orphanage,” Vik says, “and only three nuns to take care of all of them, so they relied heavily on volunteers for help. I hadn’t had much prior experience working with children at the time, especially those with such challenges. Many of them weren’t able to speak or walk. It felt really great to know that I had helped to make their lives a little happier.”
Thus, an interest in medicine evolved into a passion for volunteering.
When he got back to the states, Vik threw himself into fundraising for nonprofits. He started a club at his high school and constantly brainstormed new entrepreneurial ways to fundraise, just waiting for his next chance to go abroad and help in person.
He finally got it his sophomore year at the School of Management, where he majors in operations and technology management.
“I had read an article that said that the state of India where my family is originally from has the highest number of HIV and AIDS cases,” says Vik. “That really intrigued me, and I wanted to find out why.”
So he did what any 19-year-old would do. He connected with a group called the Center for World Solidarity and traveled to India to help educate the community about HIV. He visited several villages with a high number of HIV cases, teaching them about the risks. He also developed pamphlets on AIDS specifically targeted toward the high-risk demographic of 12-20-year-olds, a group that previously had little to no access to prevention information.
This sparked another idea. Vik thought that if he could write literature to educate people about HIV prevention, why couldn’t he do the same thing for a topic like accounting?
So when he returned from India, Vik started writing pamphlets about accounting with three friends and personally translating them into Spanish. The group had hoped to distribute them to poor regions in Latin American countries that could benefit from access to this type of information, and had even made connections with organizations that could distribute them. But unfortunately, it stopped there.
“It really became a question of resources and time,” says Vik. “We didn’t want to make promises to organizations that we couldn’t keep, because that would be worse than never offering our help in the first place. But all the materials are written, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to put them to good use.”
For the short-term, Vik is focused on a career in international business, ideally in supply chains. He hopes to travel more (he’s already been to 22 countries) and learn about new places and people.
“The exposure I’ve gotten to other cultures through volunteer work has really helped to prepare me for my future work in business. It’s helped me to understand how to deal with all types of people and has set me up to create better business relationships around the world. I hope to gain some practical experience, then eventually start my own nonprofit and really make an impact.”
Tess Waresmith (SMG ’10) has stood at the edge more times than she can count.
The edge of a diving board, that is.
Growing up in Dover, Mass., she started diving at the age of 11. With considerable talent and a lot of practice, by the age of 15, Tess had a promising future as a diver.
Things don’t always go as planned, though, and an ankle injury cut her diving career short.
After transferring in 2007 to Boston University School of Management from the University of Miami, she had all but given up on her dream. But with the encouragement of BU’s diving Head Coach Agnes Miller, Tess found herself once again on the edge of a diving board. In fact, by 2008, she was the captain of her team as well as the first Boston University diver in 20 years to make it to the women’s NCAA championship—and with a past injury no less.
“Injuring my ankle was really awful, but everything happens for a reason. “I came back to the Northeast, which isn’t known for its diving, but was happier, and more successful,” says Tess. “I was enjoying school a lot more and training just the right amount.”
Divers have to achieve a certain score during the regular season just to qualify for the NCAA’s zone meet, where they then compete to qualify for the NCAAs. Coming from the Northeast zone, Tess had to place in the top three to make it into the championship. Not only did she place in the top three, but she went on to finish 23 out of 42 in the NCAAs themselves.
“After my ankle injury, I had to reevaluate my goals. The Olympics weren’t going to happen, but it felt really good to make it to the NCAA championships,” she says.
Now, having exhausted her NCAA eligibility, Waresmith is leading the Boston University women’s diving team as the assistant coach. Her collegiate diving career may be over, but she hopes that the sport remains in her life in one form or another. As she moves forward with her business career, she knows that the lessons she learned will come in handy: One, the importance of precision. Two, the willingness to change and be flexible. Three, risk management. And four, plain determination and guts.
“A lot of times you’ve been doing something one way for so long that when someone tells you to do it differently, it can be scary. But you have to be willing to make the change and realize that at first it might not be as good. A lot of times when you make changes in diving, you take three steps back. But then, eventually, you take five steps forward. I think this is an important lesson in business too.”
Jesse Talarico has been interested in business ever since he was a young boy, when, at a garage sale, his stepfather told him he would buy a collar for his dog if Jesse could negotiate 50 percent off.
“That’s when my business savvy really started,” says Jesse, a self-starter from Duluth, Minn. “Getting that collar for half price was easier that I thought. It all just seemed to fall into place after that. Later, I negotiated the price of a few vehicles before I was even driving age.”
Now he’s a senior at the Boston University School of Management majoring in finance and graduating in May. But that isn’t even the half of it.
In between, he bought and sold cars and antiques (“My motto was buy low, sell high”); ran an eBay consignment business; learned Spanish, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese to various levels of proficiency; studied abroad in Madrid, Spain; passed the Chartered Financial Analysis (CFA) Level 1 exam (quite an accomplishment for an undergraduate); and developed an interest in Islamic finance and microfinance, pioneered in Bangladesh by Muhammad Yunus, in addition to traditional finance.
“I have always liked business because I feel strongly that you can change a lot about people’s behavior, or fix problems you see in the world, by influencing the flow of money. In that way, as a business leader, you can really create some kind of real change.
“I hold more respect for Muhammad Yunus as a businessman than even Warren Buffet,” Jesse says. “I think Yunus’ idea of loaning small amounts of money to impoverished people without requiring collateral or charging interest is one of the answers to society’s problems.”
Jesse has already effected positive change of his own around the School of Management. Recognizing a gap in the curriculum, he recently conceptualized and developed advanced workshops for Excel and Mathematica, then began teaching some of the undergrads and MBAs at the School.
“I didn’t have much IT savvy when I first came to college. But when I started looking at job descriptions for financial positions at places like hedge funds and trading firms, I was surprised to see the criteria for them. They aren’t looking for people with just business or financial backgrounds, but rather those with IT backgrounds—programmers and math majors. I realized I needed to learn Excel on a whole different level.”
So he picked up book after book and taught himself what he needed to know.
“Jesse conceptualized the idea of peer-to-peer workshops, then developed the curriculum as well,” says Greg DeFronzo, Information Technology Services (ITS) director at the School. “His content and delivery style were so polished that he was invited to develop an Excel overview workshop for incoming Executive MBA (EMBA) students. This workshop has now become a part of EMBA’s standard orientation program. In less than a year, Jesse has had a major and lasting impact on our ITS services.”
With so many accomplishments already under his belt, what does Jesse plan to do next?
“I want to be in a position to support startups and people who have great ideas, either financially or as a mentor. Capital is often the biggest obstacle to good ideas.”
This summer Jesse will start working for a small venture capital firm in New York. “I feel blessed to have such an opportunity, especially this early in my career.”
In this video series, Gary Bergmann, an assistant director at SMG’s Feld Career Center, gives advice about how to shape your personal brand, including tips on how to draft compelling and effective résumés and cover letters.
Part 8: Gary Bergmann on Q Cover Letters.
What is the purpose of the simple ‘Q’ or ‘T’ cover letter? Gary Bergmann explains how this unique, yet incredibly effective cover letter, will make you stand out.
- The Conventional Wisdom is Wrong
- You’re on Your Own
- Set Realistic Goals
- The Safest Investment is T.I.P.S.
- BU Will Be the First to Offer It
- I Love the Stock Market
- Don’t Trust Anyone
- Stay in the Labor Force
- I Hate Losing
- Three Crucial Tips
- Zvi Bodie discusses the “Hurricane on Wall Street: Managing Large-Scale Financial Crises“
Hamani Franklin, MS∙MBA ’11, discusses his background in the Navy, his goals for the future, and how the exceptional reputation of the Feld Career Center helped seal his decision to come to Boston University School of Management.