Poets & Quants Highlights Members of the Full-Time Class of 2021 and How Experience-Based Learning is Foundational at Katz

In its annual “Meet the Class” series, Poets & Quants featured 12 members of the newest class of full-time MBA students at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. P+Q also highlighted a few of the many reasons why students choose Katz.

“Employers notice a difference in Katz graduates—they are well-versed in the fundamentals with an aptitude for in-demand soft skills,” said Arjang A. Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean.

These soft skills are directly linked to Katz’s emphasis on experience-based learning. P+Q explains that with deliberately small class sizes, the Katz MBA is known for its outputs—high job placement and ROI. Why? “MBA students are constantly teaming up and assuming different roles. Together, they dissect ideas, develop strategies, and execute deliverables.”

Experience-based learning is deployed at every business school, but it is foundational here at Katz.

“Many students are thrown by those kinds of environments; they’re not familiar with being challenged to take a question where they don’t exactly know what the question might mean or what is the best way to translate that question into a knowledge base that they can draw upon,” said Assad in a Q&A with P+Q. “With experiential learning, you’re exposed to a variety of challenges that are given to you… Over time, you develop this additional capability of being able to roll with the punches.”

That’s the Katz difference.

P+Q also included a Q&A with Laura Oknefski, director of MBA programs. Oknefski talked about a few of the new developments at Katz this year, including the launch of the Center for Sustainable Business and the Certificate in Sustainability for MBA students.

Learn more about the talented Katz MBAs featured in P+Q’s “Meet the Class of 2021” in their own words:

Nijat Behbudov – Baku, Azerbaijan

“Communicative, quadrilingual, American and French-educated, Azerbaijani IDP student passionate about business & technology.”

What led you to Katz? “You can read all the books you want and listen to all the lectures you can get, but if the “real deal” isn’t there, what good does it do? I am able to take classes that are fundamentally based on real-world problems, work closely with the career management team, and book a mock interview to have an advisory session with experienced executives in our school, and leverage such a huge alumni network all over the nation – these are the qualities that really put the Katz Graduate School of Business on my priority radar.”

Min Cai - Jingdezhen, China

“A motivated and committed human resource professional who believes success is earned, and not given.”

What qualities best describe your MBA classmates? “Diverse and Curious. My MBA classmates are from different countries and have different expertise. They are open to sharing their experiences and listening to different perspectives. They show great passion in their lives and always explore new ideas.”

Tyler Guerriero – Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

“Military since 18, worked in more than fifty countries, fantasy football champion.”

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? “After making the switch from the Marine Corps Reserves to Air Force Reserves, I went to Charleston, SC for a three-month temporary duty assignment. It was there that another service member mentored me and got me back on track. I started working on my undergraduate degree again, reworked my resume, and began applying for new jobs that eventually led me to my last position. Within a year, I went from never leaving the country to working at a job that I was at a different country every week.”

Clare Koneval – Pound Ridge, New York

“An adventurous, responsible, and smart individual who enjoys exploring new cultures in any possible way.”

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? “I mainly have recruiting experience and wanted to change my career path into a core HR focus. I feel that in order to be the best HR manager, you need to have a core business foundation which is why I decided to pursue an MBA.”

Raunaq Lala – Bhopal, India

“Social butterfly, avid foodie, and world traveler with a passion for organizing and team building.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years? “In ten years, I see myself making decisions that not only impact one or two products or clients but many businesses and products. I hope to bring disruptive, or at least innovative, solutions to client problems. However, I fully acknowledge that I can only do so in the long term. I envision bringing business knowledge in my day-to-day life, adding on my technical expertise, where I would be responsible for making decisions and figuring solutions and impacting products in the short term – in a more holistic manner – so as to accomplish my vision.”

Molly Lindway – Cleveland, Ohio

“Biomedical engineer devoted to using skillsets to be the difference in the medical device industry.”

What led you to Katz?  “I chose Katz in order to build a bridge across business and engineering disciplines with hands-on experience.”

Bianca Payton – Detroit, Michigan

“Black, queer woman following her passion in technology to better the world.”

How did you determine your fit at various schools? “The factors that drove my decision for choosing an MBA program were scholarship money, graduate courses, and travel abroad opportunities. Katz met all my requirements. I fell in love with the course catalog because of the large number of elective courses offered. While visiting the school, I met with alumni and current students. Their success stories gave me a confidence boost that I will be choosing the right school. Meeting alumni who were in positions that I wanted to be in solidified that the same could be done for me.”

Anil Mathew Roy – Trivandrum, India

“Goal-oriented, fun-loving motorbike rider and marathon runner with a passion for traveling and facing challenges.”

What qualities best describe your MBA classmates? “They are all ambitious and cooperative in nature. Everyone has been open in sharing their experiences and arranging meetups to network with each other. Many of us share the excitement of doing an MBA from a globally recognized school. That instills a cheerful team spirit among us and forms stronger bonds.”

John Sopko – Kent, Ohio

“Travel enthusiast with the desire to learn, explore, and experience the world.”

What led you to Katz? “Experience-based learning was the key factor in choosing Katz. I have always thought the best way to learn is by doing. The classroom is a great place to discuss ideas and philosophies, but nothing will substitute the knowledge gained from real-world experiences.”

Siddharth Srivastava – Bangalore, India

“A seasoned financial technology professional with an adaptive personality and cross-cultural upbringing.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years from now, I envision myself evolving into a thought leader in the FinTech domain, consulting public sector bodies and industry seniors in devising and implementing efficient and effective FinTech solutions through effective sharing of managerial perspectives and strategic decision-making crucial to cohesive growth.

Shen Tian – Beijing, China

“A logical thinker with persistent passion in history and improving environmental quality in developing countries.”

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: “In 2019, I led a diverse team selected as one of the six finalists in Covestro’s startup challenge among over 230 participants. Our team aimed to design and deploy a low-cost drinking water filtration system using polyurethane foam and data science techniques. Our team is the first and only U.S.-based team in this company-wide, global competition.”

Zach Weinberg – Chicago, Illinois

“National security professional by day; punk musician, cat lover, and historic homes junkie by night.”

What led you to Katz? “Katz’s joint MBA and MPIA in Security and Intelligence with the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs made this program the right fit for me. The threat landscape society currently faces is one not only focused on post-9/11 trends like terrorism and violent extremism but now includes cyber threats, infrastructure security, supply-chain vulnerabilities, emerging technologies, international financing, etc. – key issues that overlap both business and security realms. By offering this joint program, Pitt is on the forefront regarding the future security challenges confronting the world.”