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Getting to Know

Sophie Waskow Rifkin, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business

I am most passionate about… Using the power of business to drive sustainable impact in the world!

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Use your time in school to explore – ask tough questions, speak to as many people as you can, attend lectures and events and broaden your mind. There is no perfect job, but developing the tools and skills to think critically about what is important to you and what impact you want to have on the world will help you assess roles and opportunities coming out of school and into the future.

The best advice I ever got was… Think of the components of your life as a circle that can only be divided into a few wedges. For example, your wedges might be career, community, family, and self. Over time, those wedges will change in size, some will get larger, and smaller, but they are always there and always complete the circle. I have found this advice very helpful to navigate competing priorities, and helping to figure out what’s most important to focus on at any given stage of my career.

Which profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? I studied classical ballet very seriously for many years, but never danced professionally. While a grueling profession, I would have loved to be a ballet dancer, or at the very least, to perform for one night.

Siarra Williams, Career Coach, NYU Career Center for Working Professionals

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? Tell me about yourself. I love that this is an open ended question where the interviewee selects a few life experiences to highlight and share. This gives me a bit of insight into the person’s history, passion, and personal values.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? My undergraduate college experience was the most transformative experience of my life. As a Spelman woman, I learned so much about myself and about how to navigate this world as a black woman. I developed leadership qualities, intellectual curiosity, dedication to service, and a deeper understanding of my own identity through course discussions of the African American experience (both past and present). In those four short years, I discovered key components of myself that I would not have developed at any other institution. It is this experience that fuels my desire to help others and challenge the normative views of today’s society. Furthermore, the Spelman community has given me more than classmates; I have a wide network of sisters that I can call on to encourage me, support me, and challenge me. I am immensely proud of my institution and thankful for my years of education.

I want to be remembered by my friends & family for… Being present. There are so many moments in people’s life and whether it’s a birthday, a graduation, or simply a gloomy day, I want to be there to celebrate or cheer up the person. Intimate connections are an important aspect of my life and I want those close to me to know that I cherish our bond and I will always be someone that they can count on.

The best advice I ever got was… “Stay ready so you never have to get ready”. – Representative Michael Smith. I received this advice during a short term post-graduate internship with the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. As Representative Smith’s intern, I was involved in multiple projects ranging from legislation research to constituent outreach to event planning. On a daily basis, I had no idea what sort of project or task would arise, but with these wise words I was always prepared to engage in anything. This adage remains an essential part of my professional philosophy, and as a result, I am able to prepare, plan and maintain my composure through most unforeseen situations.

Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison, Professor & Vice Dean of Faculty, NYU Stern

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? Tell me about a time when you failed at work. What happened and how did you respond?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Deciding to get a PhD and to pursue an academic career where I could make a difference through my research and teaching.

I want to be remembered by my friends & family for…  Compassion and empathy.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Raising two unique and wonderful sons while also building my career.

Emily Cangie, COO, Flavor Paper LTD

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? What has been the most humbling moment of your career and how has it changed your behavior?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Being the child of a small business owner allowed me to develop an empathy for the amount of work and dedication it takes to run a business and to be the lifeline for all of the people who work for you. It cultivated in me a sense of loyalty and responsibility that I don’t think I would otherwise have had.

I want to be remembered by my friends & family for…  Being a person always willing to do the right thing, even when it’s hard or unpopular.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Try as many things as possible during the time you are in school and don’t be afraid to cross things off your list of possibilities. …don’t waste people’s time when they have granted it to you, be prepared, timely, and courteous. …some of the best experience can come in the least sexy packages. …if you don’t know where your going, any road will get you there, so always have a near term goal and just know that you can always tweak it as you go – you always know more later.

Suranga Samarakoon, Associate, AlixPartners

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? Give me an example of a time you failed and what you learned from that experience.

I want to be remembered by my friends & family for… Perseverance, ambition, and empathy.

What is your proudest accomplishment? I’ve traveled to all continents except for Antarctica. I think of this as an accomplishment because it’s exposed me to many different cultures and and has given me the willingness to relate to people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds conditions.

The best advice I ever got was… Your life will have peaks and valleys, make sure to remember the valleys to appreciate the peaks.

Katie Ressmeyer, Marketing Manager, L'Oreal

I am most passionate about… Traveling to explore new cultures and learn different perspectives.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Moving 3,000 miles from home to look for a job in NYC.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Take time to explore, but keep an eye on the prize. Don’t let your peers sway you away from your end goals.

The best advice I ever got was… Communicate what you want. Help other people help you by being open about your goals.

Cydnee DeToy, Managing Associate, Next Street

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? What makes you most excited about this position?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? My parents – both have worked for non-profits in the healthcare and science industries and demonstrated how important it was to have passion for your work and to be in a role in which you can create impact.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Don’t be afraid to say no – be intentional about the activities and commitments you take on. Make sure you’re doing things that you’re energized about and will benefit you professionally or personally.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Living and working in Cape Town, South Africa for two years before business school. I felt challenged on a daily basis by living so far from my family and friends and working in such a different context. It gave me a sense of self-reliance that I’ll carry with me for a long time.

Michael Jung, Assistant Professor

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? I’m here today because of many individuals who helped me at pivotal points in my career. A friend who opened my eyes to studying business in the first place. A coworker who led me to a headhunter who got me my dream job on Wall Street. A young up-and-coming professor who took a chance on me and helped me get into the best PhD program. My PhD advisors who guided me, even until today. My colleagues who help me in my research, teaching, and service. My wife who supports everything I do. I could not have gotten to where I am today, or get to where I want to go, without selfless support from others. I can only try to pay it forward by helping others when I can.

I want to be remembered by my friends & family for… I think I had a chip on my shoulder when I was an MBA student. I wanted to prove to anyone who mattered that I could do the work as well as anyone else and that they were making a mistake by not giving me an offer. So I guess my advice is assume you are the best or one of the best in any cohort and that there is nothing you can’t learn or do.

Which profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? I’ve already had careers in engineering, information technology, consulting, and equity research prior to being a business school professor. I don’t plan on trying any more professions. But if I can squeeze in a side job, I would be a professional poker player.

Sonia Anand, Senior Manager, American Express

I am most passionate about… Making people feel loved and special.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Having two working immigrant parents.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Take advantage of getting to know one another. Your classmates will become lifelong resources and friends.

The best advice I ever got was… Treat others how you would like to be treated.

Paul Hardart, Clinical Professor

I am most passionate about… Teaching and story telling.

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? Why’d you choose to do that?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Growing up in a big, close family.

I want to be remembered by my friends & family for… Caring and being involved in their lives.

Molly Kern, Associate Professor

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? What are you reading, why did you choose this, and what have you learned?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? A professor took the time to understand me, and then helped me to better understand myself.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Listen and be curious.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Every student who has been able to better advocate for themselves and others (and my family…I love the family my spouse and I have built).

Lynn O'Connell, Associate Director, Office of Student Engagement

I am most passionate about… Soccer! I love to play, watch, and coach. Soccer has helped me celebrate happy times, cope with bad news, make new friends, and push my limits.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Honestly, my high school. It really brought me out of my shell and taught me to be comfortable in my own skin, embrace new experiences, and what it means to be a good person. Through my high school, I started volunteering at a camp for deaf kids which changed the course of my life.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Get to know your classmates, administrative staff, security, etc. We are lucky to be part of this group of amazing and inspiring people – take advantage!

What is your proudest accomplishment? After college, I volunteered in a home for teenage girls in Chile. I often held math workshops for them because their skill level was years behind where it should have been. On my last day working there, one of the girls recited the entire multiplication table by heart for me. She had been practicing every night before bed because she wanted to learn for me. That was probably the best gift I’ve ever received in my life. I was so proud to have helped her care enough to learn.

Richard M Hendler, Clinical Associate Professor of Law in Business

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today?

A pivotal point in my life was deciding to leave a six-year program at RPI/UPenn in the first week of my freshman year, solely because I knew right away that I was unhappy with the path I had started. Believing in that intuition led me to my wife, to following in my father’s footsteps to become an attorney, and to teaching. Life is imperfect, and I didn’t do these things knowing it would ʺwork outʺ — I was deeply afraid none of it would work out at all. But finding the courage to embrace life’s imperfection despite uncertainty is crucial to adaptation, and adaptation is essential to forging one’s path.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… an unwavering love for the people around me and for what I do and a sense of grounded optimism in the face of life’s challenges.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Remember to search for and find passion in your life. I usually elaborate that the goal is to find someone with whom you can share passion and something you can be passionate about professionally.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Some years ago, I stopped by my eldest daughter’s apartment to surprise her with a visit. But I was instead surprised to find all four of my children were there — not for any particular occasion, just simply to hang out together. This is a moment I think of often because it really does fill me with such pride. I am happy that my children have grown to be good and hard-working individuals, but I am thrilled that they have such strong relationships with each other.

The best advice I ever got was…people change when ʺthe pain of the pain is greater than the pain of the change.ʺ

Sheri Holt, LDP Class of 2018

What are you most passionate about? Storytelling

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What do you expect of your manager?

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… recognizing everyone as an individual

What is your proudest accomplishment? I am proudest of my relationship with my sister, my best friend, greatest ally and greatest example of perseverance.

The best advice I ever got was…people change when ʺthe pain of the pain is greater than the pain of the change.ʺ

Nate Pettit, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Having a very blue-collar upbringing with strong white-collar aspiration, and never feeling completely comfortable with either

What is your proudest accomplishment? Having children who laugh (although they’re only 4 and 6, so I can’t take too much credit yet)

The best advice I ever got was… stop looking to others for advice/guidance and start listening to yourself

Cameron McClure, LDP Class of 2018

What are you most passionate about? People. I find humans endlessly fascinating.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? I always want to know what people would change about their organization and what their greatest frustration is.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Growing up with the Special Olympics shaped my value system. My older brother started playing basketball when I was five. Over that decade, my brothers teammates and their families became my extended family. In addition to giving me an appreciation for sports – I still get more excited at my brother’s games than any professional event – Special Olympics gave me a community based on acceptance, kindness, and valuing people for their character rather than their skills. I took these values for granted well into my twenties, but have slowly come to appreciate how much the Special Olympics community helped instill these values in me.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Stern is such a wonderful community. The more ways you can find to engage, the more you’ll get out of these two years.

The best advice I ever got was…when you speak, it’s so the other person understands rather than so you can get the words out. That seems painfully obvious, but was fairly important for me in learning how to slow down, project, and improve the clarity of my language.

Connie Kim, Director of LDP

What are you most passionate about? Learning, yoga, nature

What is your favorite interview question to ask? If you could do anything or be anyone, with no hindrances (i.e., money, prestige, success, etc.), what would you do or be?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? While there have been a few life events that have helped shape who I am today, the one “big” one occurred when I took 15 months off between two leverage finance jobs. I had always wanted to learn Spanish, so moved to Antigua, Guatemala for a few months to learn this beautiful language. During my time there, I volunteered at a children’s hospital, casually taught some yoga and woke up every day at 6am, thoroughly energized and deeply content. This “me” time helped my sort out a number of personal challenges I had going on, while helping me reconnect with my true passions and shed some “edgy” layers.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… being honest, loving and generous

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Exhibiting humbleness and willingness to learn are traits that can take you far in your life.

What is your proudest accomplishment? By far, it is having my two children…and still working. I have found that raising my children has pushed me beyond many measures – I’ve discovered the incredible depth of how much I can love (infinite), the outer boundaries of my level of patience (it is NOT infinite), the extent of my how deep my fears are for them (like the black hole), the incredible willingness to always be silly (Trolls), and more. It is such an honor to be given the opportunity to mold these little beans.

The best advice I ever got was…Treat everyone the same and stay in touch with people you meet … CEO, assistant, janitorial staff, etc. You never know where it can take you.

Batia Wiesenfeld, Chair, Management and Organizations Department

What are you most passionate about? Learning – through my research, teaching, travel, and from my husband and children who I respect and admire so much.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What are you proudest of?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Ironically, the support of several men in my life who believed in me and made me believe in myself is what enabled me to blaze a path that is entirely different from what I was brought up to think a woman’s role could be.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… creating opportunities and support for them to achieve, because then their achievements are, in part, my own.

What is your proudest accomplishment? My family.

Ariel Phipps Segal, NYU Stern Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Using analytical skills to advance creativity and innovation.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? Do you have any questions for me? (smart, thoughtful questions can be just as important as the answers!)

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? My college internship at a print magazine in Washington DC, building the brand’s digital presence from the ground up.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… being curious, thoughtful, diligent, and generous.

The best advice I ever got was… Every morning growing up, my dad left for work with the parting words, “be good, get smart.” These two directives guided me throughout my childhood and continue to guide me to this day. For me, being “good” means showing integrity, generosity, and empathy. My dad is incredibly charitable and taught me the value of devoting time and energy to help others. I am also defined by my tireless desire to “get smart”—to learn, analyze, and problem-solve. I aim to continually improve, and the process of learning itself excites me.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Painting (my grandfather has become a painter in his retirement)

Niki Taylor, NYU Stern Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Helping others. I love to volunteer, especially in local communities where we can both learn from each other.

What is your proudest accomplishment? My proudest accomplishment is summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This organization has been close to my heart, and the summit was both emotionally and physically challenging.

The best advice I ever got was… Don’t worry, be happy.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Singing! I’ve always dreamed of being a singer on stage. Adele is my idol.

Charles Mangiardi, NYU Stern Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Helping effective socially-driven organizations access the capital they need to grow.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What failure have you learned the most from?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Seeing my family members struggle with addiction and mental health challenges.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… Incorporating intentionality into my life and living my values.

What is your proudest accomplishment? It’s hard to pick one specific student, but my collective work mentoring students toward huge gains either academically or in their careers. On a resume basis, it would be seeing politicians and think tanks pick up the language and proposals my team created that reflected our experiences with those same students.

The best advice I ever got was… Stop worrying about life and career planning. Focus on what’s next: pick a cause and an organization you’re passionate about and will work hard for in a way that draws upon yours skills, and work as hard as you can. The rest will take care of itself.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Coaching football

Joao Lourenco, NYU Stern Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Traveling

What is your favorite interview question to ask? Where are you going on your next vacation?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Studying abroad for a year in college.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… Always being there for them.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Get an offer anywhere. Then explore, expand, experiment. But get that offer before. Then think about what else you can do with your MBA, knowing there’s something for you to fall back on.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Marrying the woman I love.

The best advice I ever got was… Never threaten anyone unless you’re willing/able to follow through with it.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Investment banking

Nancy Van Way, LDP Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Community

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What is your ideal job description?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Working with a small Hawaiian community for 2.5 years.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for… Inspiring them to be the best that they could be.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Talk to people outside your usual group.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Establishing an exchange program at my college with a think tank in Ghana.

The best advice I ever got was… If you don’t understand everything, make sure you write it down.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Someone that gets to read lots of fiction books, I guess an editor.

Kyle Boutin, LDP Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Healthcare, biotechnology, and helping others through these fields.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What do you do outside of work?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? My relationships with my brothers.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for…Always being there for them and never giving up.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Just relax, there isn’t enough time to do everything you want to do and that’s okay.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Being published in a peer reviewed journal and being named an inventor on a patent.

The best advice I ever got was…Keep an open mind. You never know what someone else is thinking or what someone else is going through. Given the same circumstances, you might be acting the same way. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes can be eye opening and lead to new ways of thinking.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? A surgeon.

Eric DeFeo, LDP Class of 2017

What are you most passionate about? Solving natural problems.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What is your proudest accomplishment? (seriously).

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? College, it was challenging.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for…Being honest.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Don’t forget to ask yourself why you want that job so badly. Be truthful to yourself.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Selling my first consulting project and receiving extremely positive feedback from the client’s whole organization.

The best advice I ever got was…All of the big good ideas have been thought of, and you are not interested in small good ideas and definitely not small bad ideas. So, I suggest that you figure out how to make the big bad ideas work.”

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Shipmate or woodsman.

Natasha Go, LDP Class of 2016

What are you most passionate about? Diversity and inclusion efforts and food.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What haven’t we asked you that you wish we had?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? My freshman year pre-orientation event that focused on the “-isms”

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for…Being real.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Be authentic.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Being a terrific boss.

The best advice I ever got was…Don’t be the person other people want you to be.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Cake decorator.

Dolly Chugh, Associate Professor of Management and Organizations, NYU Stern

What are you most passionate about? Reading, Learning, Hamilton on Broadway.

What is your favorite interview question to ask? What do you wish I had asked you?

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Growing up as the child of very hard-working immigrant parents – I both love America and can view it from insider and outsider perspectives.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for…Compassion, strength and drive.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Be revolutionary, every day (advice courtesy of Silas House).

What is your proudest accomplishment? Career: Navigating my way from my first career in business to a second career in academia. Family: Waiting for the right life partner, which I found in the amazing CJ Singh. Together, we just keep figuring stuff out as a team.

The best advice I ever got was…Do the right thing and don’t worry about the outcome (my parents’ version).

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? I am in my dream job! (maybe talk show host?)

Samantha Thiel, LDP Class of 2016

What are you most passionate about? Learning and intellectual curiosity. And also the social impact space – making it easier for organizations with social missions to achieve those goals!

What is your favorite interview question to ask? Tell me about a situation in which you demonstrated great resilience, and describe to me what resilience means to you.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Having a supportive family that pushed me to grow, to take on new challenges, and to help pick me up when I failed.

I want to be remembered by my family and friends for…Compassion, strength and drive.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Know yourself! Take the time you need to be introspective, to experiment with what you enjoy, to explore new opportunities. There is no better time to try new opportunities, so take advantage and see where it leads you. It will help you discover where you can have the most impact and what you would most like to pursue long-term.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Attending Stern as one of the inaugural Berkley Scholarship winners, and landing my dream job!

The best advice I ever got was…Failure is rarely fatal. Making mistakes or not reaching an intended goal is not the end of the world, and so you should not treat it as such. Don’t be overcome by the emotionality of failure. Instead, take advantage of the potential benefit the opportunity provides. Recognize failure, gather feedback, be disciplined, and experiment with pluralism. Get over your ego and try again with a smarter and better approach, or try something new and commit to what works.

What profession other than your own, would you like to attempt? Being a professional chef.

Roxanne Hori, Associate Dean, NYU Stern Corporate Relations and Career Services

What are you most passionate about? People doing what they love and baking.

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? The Civil Rights Movement. All that happened in the 60s and 70s shaped my world view on social justice and tolerance. 

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Listen to your inner voice and don’t fall prey to joining the herd. Embrace your choices and don’t be afraid to follow your dream.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Mother to two strong, successful daughters.

The best advice I ever got was…Treat others with dignity and respect.

Andre Solano da Rocha Pereira, LDP Class of 2016

What are you most passionate about? My wife, family and friends and being able to work on something that takes me out of my “comfort zone.”

What is your favorite interview question to ask? “Why do you want this job?” and “Why should I give you this job?”

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? When I found out at 15 years old that I had diabetes, and would have food restriction and would need to take insulin injections several times a day, everyday, for the rest of my life. It gave me a good sense of how we deal with real problems without letting them turn me down.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Take these 2 years to explore the numerous career possibilities at Stern. Sometimes what you were expecting when you joined the MBA program ends up not being your career choice. And that is ok. Try to use the numerous resources that the school offers in this research and, in the end, everything is going to be alright.

The best advice I ever got was…My father used to say to me when I was a kid: “Life is usually very hard and has no mercy if you feel weak. So be strong!”

Kate Gregory, Director, NYU Stern Corporate Relations

What’s your favorite interview question to ask? A la Malcolm Gladwell’s theory, “What would we find in your trash?” (that has shown to be more revealing than a series of interviews).

Looking back, what life event/situation helped shape who you are today? Attending an all women’s school.

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Meet as many people as you can during your time at Stern.

What is your proudest accomplishment? Completing the “Team in Training” NYC Triathlon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

The best advice I ever got was… In fair weather, prepare for foul!

Dan DeVece, LDP Class of 2015, Assistant Brand Manager at Colgate Palmolive

What advice would you want to share with current MBA students? Be a sponge! Do your research, ask questions and learn as much as possible. You still have so much to learn once you get your MBA. You’re only at the tip of your knowledge iceberg.

What is your proudest accomplishment? My proudest accomplishment is graduating from Stern. Stern allowed me to prepare for a career in marketing, form bonds with great friends and travel the world to get a broader perspective of consumers. Getting into Stern was challenging and the day I got my acceptance letters still remains one of my most cherished memories.

The best advice I ever got was … A friend once told me, “I don’t want to be right, I want my way.” She later explained it’s more important to keep the long-term vision and work collaboratively, which may mean loosing some of the battles to win the war.