Martin Fernandez- Harvard Business School
Name: Martin Fernandez
Hometown: Randolph, NJ
Education: University of Rochester
Current MBA program: Harvard Business School
Bio: Martin Fernandez is a recent graduate of Harvard Business School and will be joining the Financial Planning and Analysis Group at United Airlines in Chicago. Prior to starting at HBS, Mr. Fernandez was a Program Manager for Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in New York City. In this role, he was responsible for recruiting and training 85 analysts for summer internships at top-tier investment banks. Before joining SEO in 2012, he was a senior analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) in the Latin America Debt Capital Markets group, where he was involved with originating and executing debt transactions for corporations, governments, and government-owned entities across all of Latin America. Before working at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, he was in the Fixed Income Research team at Barclays Capital for two years covering U.S. companies in the Consumer sector.
Describe a typical day as a MBA student
7:00 AM: Alarm rings, you hit snooze for another 20 minutes
7:20 AM: You finally roll out of bed feeling guilty that your classmate from West Point already worked out at 5:30 AM. You get coffee – if it’s a three-case day, you double the dosage.
8:00 AM: You meet with your discussion group to go over the cases for the day.
9:10 AM: Class begins with a cold call. You spend the first five minutes feeling relieved that it wasn’t you. You then spend the next 75 minutes listening to the viewpoints and insights of the discussion, and hope that you can contribute on the same level as your classmates from all over the world. The best discussions are the ones where your professor probes deeper into your comments.
10:30 AM: Check e-mail in between classes. How are people sending e-mails at all hours of the night?
12:30 PM: Grab lunch with your classmates; catch up.
1:25 PM: Grab afternoon coffee and skim the Wall Street Journal. Gear up for a busy afternoon.
2:00 PM: Coffee chat with a recruiter or an alum. You did your homework, prepared some solid questions and had a great conversation.
2:45 PM: Executive board meeting for a club planning a conference next month. You had no idea that so much went into planning these conferences.
3:15 PM: You have to decide between three interesting events to attend: a Retail/Fashion Industry panel discussion, a talk by Jack Welsh, or a MyTake session where a classmate talks about her personal life. You choose to attend the MyTake and learn so much about your friend – you walk out completely inspired.
4:15 PM: Head to the library to start prepping cases for the following day. You kick yourself for not having done more during the weekend.
5:30 PM: Make your way to the gym. Do a few reps before getting distracted in conversation by your friend who is starting his own business. You pretend to know what he’s talking about by saying, “Oh, so it’s like Uber for [fill in the blank]”.
6:30 PM: Run home to your on-campus apartment to spend some time with your significant other before heading to the recruiting dinner in Harvard Square.
7:30 PM: Attend recruiting dinner. You get a good sense of the firm, but you’re still unsure if you’re going to interview with them in January.
9:30 PM: Read more cases.
11:00 PM: Through GroupMe you find out that your sectionmates are at the local dive bar. You convince yourself that one drink can’t do much harm.
12:30 AM: You’re singing 90’s songs at Karaoke night after two scorpion bowls at the Kong. You realize it’s time to call it a night.
Where did you work before enrolling in business school?
I worked at a non-profit in New York City called Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO). The organization focuses on professional development for underrepresented undergraduate students of color. As program manager of the investment banking program, I recruited, trained, and placed students in internships in investment banking and private equity. Prior to SEO, I worked at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Investment Banking and at Barclays in Investment Research.
Why did you choose this business school?
I’d be lying if I said that the name of the school didn’t have a huge impact on my decision to attend. However, I’d also be lying if I said that I didn’t have some hesitation when I enrolled. When I researched business schools, I was attracted to smaller programs where everyone seemed to know each other and there was a strong sense of community. I was worried that at HBS, with its 950-person class, I would get lost in the masses. However, the Section experience at HBS created a sense of community with 90 other people since you take the same mandatory classes together the entire year. You go on retreats, outings, organized events, and parties with your sectionmates. Some of my best friends today at HBS are in my section.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school?
Do your research! Some people take the simplistic approach of applying to the “top” three or five programs with the hopes of getting in. The reality is that not all programs are a good fit for everyone, and this is especially true at HBS. When applying, make sure that you demonstrate a solid understanding of your field, even if you’ve only worked there for two or three years. Because the case method depends so heavily on the insight from students, you need to demonstrate that you can eloquently explain ideas to others.
What is/was the most enjoyable part about business school?
For me it was getting to know people from such a diverse set of backgrounds. In one Section, you find teachers, doctors, soldiers, lawyers, engineers and folks from all walks of life. The school does a great job in generating a culture where it’s safe to share your perspective without judgement or consequences, so you end up with lively discussions both outside and inside of the classroom.
What is/was the hardest part of business school?
The hardest part about business school is that in the first few months, everyone tries to create the illusion that they have it all together and that they’re breezing through everything. You feel that you’re the only one struggling to get through the endless cases, figuring out your future career, and feeling insecure about your capabilities. After I grew comfortable with my classmates, I began sharing more of myself with them and realized that most people were going through the same struggles. In fact, I began reaching out for help when I needed it and admitting when I felt overwhelmed, which is rare for me because I typically tend to be a very private person. This was a huge breakthrough for me and made the MBA experience a lot manageable.
Where will you be working after graduation?
I will be working in Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) at United Airlines in Chicago. If you had told me before business school that upon graduation, I’d be moving to the mid-west to work for an airline, I would have thought you were crazy. But this is the beauty of taking two years to explore career interests and pursue opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. When deciding to intern for United, I leveraged my classmates and the alumni network to better understand what working in the industry entails. I have to admit it wasn’t easy because there is such a negative perception in the media, among consumers, and even within business school around airlines. However, I found the industry to be a complex and fascinating place to start my post-MBA career.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career or at your school?
When I worked at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, I got to mentor a group of 85 students through challenging internships in investment banking and private equity. I kept in touch with many of them even after leaving SEO. My proudest accomplishment is seeing them grow into young professionals. Every time I hear about their successes, it motivates me to continue mentoring and taking the time to help open doors of opportunity for others. I am forever grateful that I took two years away from my traditional Finance career in order to work in non-profit.
Favorite MBA Courses?
My favorite class was Business, Government, and the International Economy (BGIE) during my first year. Although the cases are really long, each one talks about a different country so you end up learning about their history, political system, and economy. The cold calls are legendary; they last about 10-15 minutes and they really dig in on the topic. My professor was amazing at drawing insight from the students and I ended up walking away with more questions than answers after the class.
Fun fact about yourself:
One of the coolest perks when working for an airline as an MBA is the flight benefits. My fiancée and I had standby privileges with United, which means we had the ability to fly anywhere in the U.S. and internationally for close to nothing, as long as there were open seats on the airplane. Needless to say, we took advantage of those privileges to fly all over the world.