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The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia was founded in 1954.
The following MBA essays were written by ARINGO MBA candidates who got accepted to University of Virginia Darden School of Business MBA program over the past few years. Read these free Darden MBA Essay Examples to get a sense of what they are looking for at the Darden MBA Program. Contact ARINGO MBA Admissions for help with your Darden MBA essays!
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Having an internet dating business, I was surprised to see that the recent global downturn actually boosted the growth of my website – the human need to communicate appears to increase at times of crisis. To provide support for over 13,000 users (up by almost 70% from 2008), I hired a team of five professionals. I had the opportunity to provide a better service to my customers and to give, even if only for a few people – jobs.

I’m also aware of the fact that many companies (including the one I’m working in), had to lay off workers or even declare bankruptcy. The crisis showed how the banking elite, who overreached when times were good, brought the world to the brink of another Great Depression. However, I believe it’s not about good or evil intentions, but about decision-making and ethics. Facing many dilemmas in my line of business, I know the significance of ethics in making business decisions. When does online flirting turn into harassment, requiring my intervention?

For me, the current crisis and its root causes have highlighted the importance of understanding business ethics in-depth. It showed me the importance of business standards based on creating value for customers and shareholders while taking responsibility for a company’s actions.

Inspired by Professor Freeman’s publications on business ethics, and taking ethics seriously, I pursue a Darden MBA to become a better leader, whose decisions are clear and who is accountable for these decisions.

The downturn also made me realize the importance of entrepreneurship, which contributes to economic growth by creating jobs, investing in community projects, and fostering technological innovation. My desire to launch my own technological company has only grown stronger.

My vision for such a company was formed through my volunteer work at a Children’s Hospital, where I see children suffering from painful injections. Identifying the need for a quick, non-invasive anesthesia solution, I started cooperating with Professor Vladimir Gotlib. We are currently working on a patent-pending electronic device for pain prevention, and negotiating funding with Mobile Capital Network Inc, a VC fund.

I believe that Darden will provide me with the best tools to understand and learn the lessons from recent events. This will enable me to establish a company based on sound ethical practices, and form a network with other like-minded students, together with whom I’ll seek to have a positive social impact.

During the global economic crisis, I was an observer, not a victim. I learned a great deal from being a spectator at a play about leadership, with the economic crisis as the backdrop.

When the crisis hit I was developing my own leadership style. From my first day as a military engineer, I was persuading people of different backgrounds, ages, and cultures to implement my managerial and technical solutions, not sitting alone in front of a computer. I quickly learned that to lead I needed confidence; learning about the situation before acting, “reading the market”, gave me that confidence. The more successes I accumulated, the more confident I become. I had not yet learned about the fine line where confidence takes on the prefix “over”, and becomes dangerous.

During the crisis, I purchased equipment from two family businesses – “Seller & Son”, an importer of leading manufacturers, and “Maker & Son”, a local manufacturer of similar equipment. “Seller & Son’s” business prospered during the crisis, adding an extra workday to keep up with demand. “Maker & Son” survived only as a component supplier, losing the basis of its reputation, its identity as a manufacturer.

Working during the global crisis with both of the leaders, and people who knew them for decades, clarified for me that making the effort to understand the situation, reading the market, is an essential part of leadership.

“Maker & Son” was established in the sixties. Emphasizing technologies and successfully selling systems for decades, its leader felt he didn’t need to focus on service. When customer concerns shifted, “Seller & Son” did its research, “read the market” and offered responsive service. “Maker & Son”, outwardly confident, did nothing to keep its market share. During the crisis it continued to have long response times, forcing clients to find solutions for themselves. “Seller & Son” was always willing to help without looking for an immediate profit, welcoming clients’ problems and providing immediate solutions. Those customers that still had the resources to buy during the crisis voted, with their wallets, for the company providing service.

During my latest project, I made the same mistake, while deciding which Sections would be responsible for the safety testing of newly purchased equipment.

I divided the responsibility between two units, without doing the research to find out who already had the necessary expertise. I re-invented the wheel with the new distribution. Only my reputation and good relationships with those involved in the project saved the new wheel from breaking because of the bumps in the road, the internal conflicts, I accidentally created.

Struggling to keep my new wheel turning, I remembered “Seller” and “Maker” during the crisis. As “Maker” had done, I assumed instead of checking. I was paying for the over-confidence borne of my past successes. When I admitted my mistake, the road became smoother. Now as I lead, I know that asking the right questions can help you succeed during hard times. It will not harm a leader’s image; it is over-confidence that can ruin it.

During my role as an Assistant Controller, the biggest task I faced was to lead the implementation of one of the biggest financing projects in Indonesia, the LNG train expansion project.

The project was worth about $4 billion and was wholly funded through borrowing. My role was to lead the operational stage by working closely with several parties, external and internal. The main objective of my project was to ensure that borrowing the funds would take minimum time and be utilized effectively; I also needed to align the process with the agreement and to find a viable option to lower the cost of borrowing.

We had three different pools of lenders that each had a specific loan agreement with us. In one of the loan agreements, I found that it provides a flexible way of how to choose the interest payment period-either 1, 3 or 6-month cycle.

I called a meeting and raised this point to the board; in the meeting there were different opinions. The implementation of a 1-month cycle surely would reduce the cost of borrowing, but on the other hand increase the administration and manual process, because the notice to borrow the funds would need to be prepared every month.

The Jakarta office wanted the 6-month cycle because they prepared the administration process. On the other hand, the global team in Singapore was keen to elect the 1-month cycle as they were interested in lowering the cost of borrowing.

The decision had to be made before the first loan drawdown or it would automatically pick the 6-month cycle as the default. As I was based in Jakarta and could witness the workload of the team, it was easy for me to support the Jakarta position.

Regardless of that, the first step was to find the common ground, which all agreed was to create value for the company. I calculated how much capital the company will save if we decided to pursue the 1 monthly cycle of interest payment.

At the same time, we analyzed the additional effort that the team had to do; we also took into consideration the learning curve of the team and the time to optimize the additional process. The other aspect that I assessed was the availability of additional support during the learning period so that the transition process would be comfortable.

After I looked further, I understood that opting for the 1-month cycle resulted in significant savings. The Jakarta team also agreed with me after I presented these findings.

To help with the implementation of this option, I volunteered to provide support during the transition period by calculating the fund to be borrowed and ensuring the notice of borrowing aligns with the agreement, before the team in Jakarta could process it further.

In the end, the decision to take the 1 monthly interest period saved about $800K for the first year of the financing period and was estimated to save around $5 million by 2020.

Calling the meeting and discussing the different options while listening to the opinions of the different parties turned out to be a very successful move for the company.

I am confident that I will use this strategy in Darden to impact my classmates in group learnings and projects.

Upon first meeting, my learning team may be a little puzzled: a native Southern California private-equity professional, who is also an avid pilot, outdoorsman, and non-profit advocate, has traveled across the country for an MBA. The best explanation for this conundrum is that I am naturally curious. Curiosity has driven my career path, which spans a unique mix of sell-side and buy-side M&A transactions, and also board participation with an aviation-focused non-profit. Further, my team will find I am an inviting team player, whose reliability and resourcefulness are matched only by a contagious enthusiasm for the Darden MBA experience.

Largely influenced by my college athletic career, my leadership style consists of both the coaching and democratic styles. Training with my coach, I recognized that I develop best under an apprentice-like approach, where I can learn directly from the “master”. Naturally, this has influenced my leadership style. For example, I often coached my investment banking interns to their first full-time offers. Operating an “open door” policy, I encouraged my interns to ask any question and would often stay late to explain key concepts, provide resume critiques, and perform mock interviews. I often reconnect with prior interns and am encouraged when many tell me how important my coaching was to landing their first full-time offers.

I move to a democratic style of leadership with my peers. Rather than dominating group projects, I promote equal participation so that we can arrive at the best ideas possible. Similar to the track team, where each athlete has a specific focus, an open working environment allows for individuals to contribute their best specialties. I look forward to the collaborative environment unique to Darden where a democratic style will be necessary to absorb the most the program has to offer.

In 2015, I combined my passion for aviation and philanthropy by joining the Finance Committee of _______. At the time, the financial needs of this non-profit were shifting due to a large gift. The committee was seeking to invest the excess funds and I saw how my finance background could make a meaningful impact.

With exposure to college endowments, I began socializing the idea of an endowment model. However, endowments were unfamiliar to the board members that did not share my background. In response, I communicated the benefits by sharing the books and research papers I studied during undergrad. As the thesis gained traction, I leveraged my network to recommend an investment adviser with non-profit experience. This expanded the Board’s search and they ultimately found a global firm with more assets under management. The official endowment policy was approved in December.

______ has been a phenomenal opportunity to learn about non-profit corporate governance, work with a more diverse group, and use my professional experience for a positive impact. At Darden, I will seek ways to continue adding value at ______, be it through the Net Impact conference, IBiS, or the other social impact resources unique to UVA.

My post-MBA career goal is to join a growing private equity firm as a vice president. The Darden MBA degree will yield the management skills and business acumen to succeed in that role over the long term. For example, immersive case studies will provide me with a fuller picture of operations, so that I can successfully identify budding investment opportunities and add value to portfolio company strategy. Darden’s team-based activities in and out of the classroom will impart the leadership skills necessary to earn a partnership with a PE firm or a c-suite position within one of its portfolio companies. This represents my ideal career goal as I will be empowered to positively impact the world economy by funding new innovations and optimizing portfolio company operations to generate more profitable businesses. With success in business, I can expand my contribution to Angel Flight West and other non-profits that improve the community.

As a kid, I used electronic devices, including a VCR, tape recorder, and gramophone, for more than just entertainment. I would dismantle them to learn how all their different components worked when put together. My childhood fascination for learning how things were made soon turned into a passion for creating things from scratch.  I followed this passion by learning how to produce electronic music and by becoming a software engineer. Professionally, I love starting projects from a blank sheet and finishing with a working feature. I now aspire to work in Product Management in preparation to create my own venture.

When I was hired at a young startup company, I learned to work with a limited amount of manpower and an oversized workload. At first, each project was allocated for a sole software engineer. As the company grew, bigger projects required more than a single engineer to finish them within a reasonable timeframe. However, because each engineer had developed his own work methodology, many conflicts arose among team members, and projects consequently took longer to finish than expected.

It was apparent to me that this problem would prevent our growth, so I researched and concluded that we, as a company, must adapt the Agile development Method, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration, which fits growing development teams like ours. I presented the problem and solution to our management. I volunteered and received their support to lead the change within the organization. I succeeded in showing my teammates the benefits of this work methodology and soon they followed my lead.

Since then, our company has used the Agile Method and even asks candidates during job interviews if they are familiar with it. I helped my company gain the ability to manage and deliver large-scale features and strengthened my own leadership skills.

My short-term career goal is to join a global tech corporation, like Amazon or Microsoft, as a product manager. This role will enable me to leverage my software engineering experience with my newly acquired business management experience and know-how from Darden.

I was first introduced to product management while co-founding a startup. This role reflects my interest in working in an environment that requires an understanding of technology and business. Additionally, I am passionate about creating things. Throughout my professional experience as a software engineer, I started projects from scratch, finishing with working features. It was fulfilling to get positive feedback from users confirming that my products or features succeeded in meeting their needs. As an aspiring product manager, I envision leading the development of self-designed products.

My short-term goal is a vital step in achieving my future aim of building my own venture, creating something new on a large scale.

My preferred location is India. Besides its beauty, I appreciate India for being a technology-oriented country that encourages entrepreneurship. While at IBM, I worked regularly with software engineers from Bangalore, India, whose drive inspired me. I also believe that India will overtake China as the world’s center of production.

During my professional career, I have had several meaningful impacts, but the one I am most proud of happened in my extracurricular.

I volunteered in an association that develops leadership in teens from low-socio-economic backgrounds. Most participants I met dropped out of high school and some, unfortunately, turned to crime. I helped those who wanted to integrate into society by preparing them for their obligatory army service and exposing them to potential professions after the army.

While attending the annual two-day orienteering exercise that intensively teaches participants army navigation, I worked with a teenager whose father and older brother were in jail; his mom was the sole supporter of the six-member family. To help his mom, this 15-year-old stopped attending school to work. Aiming to boost his self-esteem, I practiced with him before giving him special responsibility to teach half of the group, which helped him gain confidence and leadership skills.  He led his team to victory in the final competition and told me that by my letting him lead for the first time in his life, he felt capable of taking control of other areas of his life, too. He subsequently found a way to simultaneously work and study, and later he not only got his high school diploma but also joined the same unit I served in.

In Spring 2020, as part of our planning cycle at XXX, I led the planning and implementation of a budget for a large-scale business case for the Wholesale Payments Technology Team. The business case focuses on application modernization to move off end-of-life data centers and on to new strategic data centers as well as adopting cloud solutions where possible across the team’s various applications and deliverables. Throughout this process, I collaborated with senior-level technology leaders to drive forward an efficient planning process. In addition to coordinating data collection from various teams, I also built the model from the ground up and prepared several presentations used to explain the cost and benefits of the program to the businesses funding the effort and to the teams that will be executing the deliverables. Additionally, I showcased my analytical skills by building several visuals and performing detailed analysis to help drive budget prioritization decisions and to shape the messaging around what was prioritized. I also worked closely with several peers and helped them improve their data analysis skills further. This project allowed me the opportunity to showcase my leadership, teamwork, and analytical skills, which I hope to contribute to and further develop at Darden.

At an early age, I traveled to Thailand and experienced firsthand how gaining a different life perspective improved my thought process and ultimately led to improved decision-making. I was able to see what life was like in a country different from my own. Interacting with several locals and learning about the Thai culture-expanded my worldview and inspired me to want to learn more about different cultures. During this trip, I explored many Buddhist Temples and markets throughout the country, engaging with locals to understand more about their culture and how Buddhism positively impacted their ways of thinking. By learning the history of Buddhism, I gained a better appreciation for different ways of thinking.

This was a life-changing experience. It inspired me to seek additional opportunities during my undergraduate education to learn about other cultures and religions. I took courses, such as Islam and Intro to Sociology, and socialized with peers and professors to gain more awareness about different cultures I previously did not understand. Today, I continually seek out diverse cultural experiences to open my mind to different perspectives. I look forward to doing so at Darden by interacting with peers from about 40 different countries.

I come from a tight-knit family with many traditions. One quirky tradition is frosting each other’s noses on birthdays. It started one birthday when my aunt put a dollop of frosting on my nose after I blew out the candles; I returned the favor on her birthday. It then became a family tradition. Another tradition is cooking, which is my favorite hobby. My grandmother taught me how to cook. Today, I enjoy cooking for family and friends. I look forward to starting and participating in fun, quirky traditions with my learning team, and making delicious meals for late-night study sessions.

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