Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Raya Stantcheva, University of Texas (McCombs)

“First-generation American, world traveler, former product manager and software business launcher, aspiring investor, MBA.”

Hometown: Somerset, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself: Even as a grownup, I still adore reading children’s literature and aspire to write a Newbery-winning children’s book someday.

Undergraduate School and Major: Brandeis University – Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Product Manager – Silicon Valley Insight

What makes Austin such a great place to earn an MBA? It is the fast-growing tech space, both from local startups as well as incoming tech giants such as Google, Apple, and Tesla.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Texas McCombs’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As a career switcher, it really appealed to me that at McCombs there are so many opportunities to gain relevant hands-on industry-specific and functional experience. Being able to add relevant experience to your resume, even before a summer internship, is incredibly valuable when you’re applying to do something new, as most MBAs are!

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Texas McCombs? The MBA Investment Fund, which selects McCombs MBAs to invest $17 million of AUM across several different public equities’ portfolio strategies. Few MBA programs give students this opportunity as well as responsibility, as the fund is part of the UT and McCombs endowments.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Designing, launching, and selling a new business line at my pre-MBA employer. I’m proud of this accomplishment because it not only impacted the company’s current and future sales, but it was an opportunity to take on more responsibility as a leader and impact the company directly.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general?

As an economist by training, it was fascinating (and terrifying) to see economic concepts play out in the real world during the past 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic made me grasp certain business and economic concepts on a visceral, rather than purely intellectual or academic, level.

Several lessons stand out:

  • The flow of [human] capital affects the economy both domestically and internationally. When people stay home, and borders close, the economy suffers.
  • ‘Expect the unexpected’: Don’t expect the future to look like the past, and don’t take things for granted
  • There was an explosive adoption of technology (Zoom, remote working)

It was scary and surreal at times, but lessons I won’t forget both in my personal life and career.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I felt that it was time for me to make a pivot in my industry and function, and I knew that pursuing an MBA would make a stronger candidate for what I want to do next.

Post-graduation, I want to pivot into an investing role, either in public equities or in private companies (VC). Put another way – I’d like to apply what I know about building and launching businesses to investing and funding them.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Texas McCombs’ MBA program? It sounds cliché but be yourself rather than presenting what you expect admissions wants to hear from a ‘stereotypical MBA’ candidate. I was impressed from the first day I met them with how diverse the class of 2023 is in terms of their backgrounds and future career aspirations.

Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Raya Stantcheva, University of Texas (McCombs)

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