On August 31st 2011, current MIT Sloan MBA student Andrew Mairena’s world was turned upside down. Slap bang in the middle of the news was the cleantech start-up he worked for, Solyndra, filing for bankruptcy.
Andrew was one of the 1,100 employees laid off overnight, without severance pay. His close colleagues and technicians struggled to find jobs for months, even years.
Andrew knew he couldn’t find himself in that position, and so began his transition to the business world—his time at Solyndra had revolved around several engineering roles.
He says his experience at Solyndra made him question the ethical practices in high-growth companies. It was his mission to take his skills and develop into an ethical business leader within technology.
For the six years after Solyndra’s collapse, Andrew worked for two more tech companies, building the industry experience that would suit him well when he eventually went to business school. All the while, he was running the question, ‘Why the MBA?’, around his head.
“It's the main question that any MBA application asks, so I spent a lot of time thinking about my story, because I knew whatever answer I had it was not only going to get me into an MBA program, but [also] serve as a guide,” he explains.
So, Andrew had a starting point. But how to go from an engineer intent on attending business school, to a fully-fledged MBA student?
He began with MBA prep program, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), focused on equipping a new generation of diverse leaders—African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans—with the skills they need to advance their careers.
“Sure enough, I would not be here at MIT Sloan if it weren't for MLT,” he asserts.
The program gave him access to 300 peer MBA applicants across the US and a coach to guide him through the application process.
MLT provided a framework for approaching the process. In one exercise, participants ranked nine different values in order of personal importance as a way of aligning their values with those of potential MBAs.
Andrew's top three values were school culture, affinity towards (and strength in relation to) technology, and the quality and proximity of the alumni network to his home region, the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Looking at those three metrics, MIT Sloan was a clear winner,” he says.
For applicants in Andrew’s position applying to reputable MBA programs, he has one key piece of advice. It’s about program culture—all top-tier MBAs are highly regarded, Andrew says, you just have to ensure you personally fit the brand, the culture, and the classmates.
Andrew discovered this by speaking with current students and attending visit days at the campus. “I really got to know the Sloan values, which definitely aligned with mine,” he explains. “I love the humble, collaborative, purpose-driven culture at MIT Sloan.”
That research is paying off. Now a firm part of the MIT Sloan MBA community, Andrew is thriving in the collaborative, student-led atmosphere.
He is a part of the Sloan Product Management Club; the Sloan Senate, where he leads the Diversity and Inclusion Committee; and the Hispanic Business Club, for which he is the co-president.
In these roles, Andrew is able to focus on becoming a product manager—which furthers his professional goals—and he is able to explore ways of addressing the student body on key issues.
“Diversity and inclusion have always been important for me throughout my career,” he admits, “and I feel at Sloan they really provide a 'sandbox' to explore these types of topics.”
Andrew is also developing his coaching skills—“a key characteristic of a manager”—as part of Sloan’s 360 Leadership Program, the Peer-to-Peer Coach program, and the Pilot program, which pairs second-year students with first years to guide them through their first semester.
All of this has taken Andrew from an engineer to a technically-able business student building a skillset that sets him on the path to becoming an industry leader; a successful transition, then, from the tempest of uncertainty that began his journey to MIT Sloan.