Joel Charalambakis- Owen (Vanderbilt)
Describe a typical day as a MBA student
I like to start my day digesting the news from a variety of sources. It’s a habit I’ve had for several years now and helps me ease into the new day. Throughout the morning and early afternoon most of the day is filled with classes and group meetings. The first semester is very heavy on group work so any break you have between classes usually gets filled up with a meeting in the library with peers to work on a homework project or prepare for a presentation. The evenings and nights tend to drift towards more individual work assignments: preparing for class the next day, attending a presentation made by recruiters or doing my own research for potential jobs.
Where did you work before enrolling in business school?
I worked as a natural gas consultant for an energy firm based out of Louisville, KY for three years. I managed the day-to-day natural needs of a portfolio of industrial companies, power plants, and municipalities including hedging, budgeting, forecasting and consumption analysis. From there I moved to work in an Analyst role for a small Registered Investment Advisor, generating research ideas and helping to manage investment portfolios.
Why did you choose this business school?
Initially I was researching schools for an MSF degree. I knew I wanted a career in finance and all my peers who had MBAs received a generalist education. While I valued the diverse exposure they got I didn’t see their programs offer a pathway towards developing a strength or skill in any one field. I visited Vanderbilt to interview with the director for their MSF program. Before the interview even started she told me the MSF degree wasn’t for me, that it wouldn’t take me as far as I would want to go. This was the fourth school I had visited but the first to give me that honest feedback. She went on to allay my concerns about not developing a skill while at Owen and put me in touch with others to hear their experiences for myself. The loyalty Owen showed me to my own interests stuck with me and it was the only school I truly considered after that.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school?
Be able to articulate what an MBA will do for you that you can’t get on your own time. Specifically, why and how will an MBA from Owen mesh with the vision for your life and career. No one expects you to have every point in your life mapped out by the time you apply or show up to campus, but knowing some plausible options and being able to testify to tangible steps you’ve taken to learn about what each path requires will go along way with admissions and the staff while you’re here.
What is/was the most enjoyable part about business school?
The people, hands down. I love my classmates. Owen does a tremendous job identifying talented individuals with high ambitions. Being around peers with big goals and dreams for their own lives and with interests beyond their immediate surroundings is extremely encouraging and something I lacked when I was in college. It provides a great deal of accountability, curiosity, and opportunity to explore any passing interest that you have.
What is/was the hardest part of business school?
Time management, especially during the first semester. You’re getting acclimated to a new environment, new people, attempting to develop a rhythm between classes and recruiting, etc. I was also working part-time as well during the year and studying for the CFA exam. The multiple elements can make life hectic some times.
Where will you be working after graduation?
I still have one year remaining at Owen so a full-time plan for work is still to be determined. For the summer I am serving as an inter with the Investments team at the Department of Treasury for the State of Tennessee, helping to manage the state’s pension assets.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career or at your school?
Winning the Investment Banking Case Competition with a couple of my classmates during the first semester of business school. We were given a prompt based on a recent M&A deal and asked to analyze the valuation, strategic fit between the parties, the structure of the deal, and more. Our team put in a lot of work and brought some unique insights to the bankers who served as judged for the competition. The recognition was extremely rewarding.
Favorite MBA Courses? Applied Investment Management
Fun fact about yourself: I have a Greek middle name, rather than an English one. I was born while my parents, both immigrants from Greece, were in the States for my father’s PhD. They had every intention of moving back after he finished so they thought it made the most sense for me to have a Greek name.