We had an e-coffee with admissions consultant Andy Mondino to learn about his history, his Chicago Booth admissions insights, and how he can help students in the MBA admissions process.
Raised in Argentina, where he lived until he was 14 years old, Andy Mondino is an admissions consultant here at Merchant Gmat & Admissions. He started his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2020.Â
Although Andy moved with his family from Argentina to Connecticut when he was a teenager, part of his heart stayed in Argentina. This showed throughout the interview when he passionately spoke about soccer. His decision to go into finance was also affected by his upbringing in Argentina and the financial crises he experienced.
â€śI was always interested in being on the innovation side of things, how do we include everyone in the financial system? How do we innovate the financial markets to make them more robust so economic crises donâ€™t hit countries like they have in Argentinaâ€ť, he says. â€śItâ€™s in my DNA reallyâ€ť.
The reason Iâ€™ve become a consultant is actually related to Boothâ€™s slogan, â€śPay it forwardâ€ť. Iâ€™ve always been interested in helping the next generation, and sharing my story. Iâ€™ve done the entire process and I see how that can be helpful for other students. Iâ€™ve always been interested in helping people succeed.
The second reason is to build a network and learn from other people. This process, I think, is not just about our clientsÂ learning from me and my experience. Itâ€™s also about me learning from them. Itâ€™s something that I really want to be a part of. Something I can bring to the table in general is having the American experience already, living half my life in the US and half my life in Argentina. Iâ€™m comfortable enough with speaking to either kind of candidate and connecting with them. Working in the US in a big company like MasterCard gives me the knowledge to help people who want to get into that space and people who want to transition out of that space to banking or consulting.
I know how to build a compelling profile for each school and I think I can bring in some best practices on my end that helped me on career planning and how to tell your story. I can help identify best school fits for each client and help them efficiently use their time.
Lastly, Iâ€™ve gone through the extremely competitive recruitment process for investment banking and tech tracks. I can give great insight into what that process is like.
I went to Amherst College in Massachusetts for my undergrad. At Amherst I was really interested in consulting. In 2014 – 2015 when I was graduating college, I realized I wanted to be in fintech but I wanted to do it from the consulting angle. The perfect opportunity appeared at MasterCard, a leader in fintech and payments, within their management consulting team.
I joined an internal consulting function for about 2 years. I really enjoyed how I got to know the industry from the inside and I got to work with a lot of banks, merchants, clients and so on. Then, I realized I wanted to have a bigger impact in the organization, so I moved to the Corporate Strategy team and later to the Business Development team, which was my last role before coming to Booth for my MBA.
I was really interested in fintech and financial services and I wanted to expand my network. I had been at MasterCard for 5 years so my whole professional network was pretty much in fintech. I wanted to grow outside of that. I also wanted to have a global network, which was something I had in my personal life but not in my professional life.
The academic title would also be valuable. Iâ€™ve always been very curious and always tried to pursue a lifestyle of learning.
Booth in that sense was perfect for me because it has a flexible curriculum. It also has a robust Latin American network and, most importantly, it is really strong in the technical field–finance and technology.
Lastly, I was looking to be in a big city since I had done my undergrad in western Massachusetts and did not want to be too remote for my MBA.
What can you tell us about your life in Chicago?
I come from New York City where I lived for 5 years. Itâ€™s really difficult to grade or review Chicago during the covid pandemic just because people are not going out that much and a big part of the city is currently closed. Despite this, however, it is evident that Chicago is a wonderful city. Itâ€™s the third biggest city in the country so itâ€™s got everything you may need and more for any kind of purpose or interest.
The one thing Iâ€™ll say–and Iâ€™m not alone here–is that walking across a Chicago avenue can be brutal during a windy day. While Iâ€™ve lived in the Northeast and have experienced cold weather, the wind in Chicago adds another dimension to the Winters. Despite the weather, however, itâ€™s a very walkable city and really clean. You can enjoy the lake during the Spring and Summer and have year-round access to an amazing gastronomical scene.
I think the most distinctive thing about Booth is the breadth of backgrounds from the student body. Booth has a reputation for being very â€śfinance-yâ€ť or economics-driven and thatâ€™s something that the school has actively tried to get away from a branding perspective. Obviously, the school is still a leader in those fields, but there are many other business tracks that the school excels in. And Booth incorporates its students in this journey.
There are a lot of research centers where you can work with students from every background and industry, not to mention you can also work with PhD or undergrad students. I think what makes Booth different from other schools is how student driven it is. The Polsky (entrepreneurship) Center, the Kilts (marketing) Center, etc.–all of them incorporate the studentsâ€™ different backgrounds. You can also take part in any of the clubs or research centers regardless of your background too. I could be part of the Marketing Center even if I donâ€™t have marketing experience.
As for the school culture, being in a great city and having a robustÂ international base adds a vibrant culture. For example, students who have never been to the US really want to take advantage of all the things the city has to offer. Chicago is a very American city, a mid-western kind of style. Itâ€™s a huge city with lots of students who are always trying to find a new activity to do, and I donâ€™t know if thatâ€™s the case in other cities. Itâ€™s a very energetic campus.
I want to remain in the fintech and financial services industry, but I want to try a new role. I donâ€™t want to say that I was comfortable in my previous role, but I got to know the space pretty well and felt like I could continue growing elsewhere.
I built my network. So now I want to do something that challenges me in a different way. Iâ€™m going to do investment banking at Lazard for the summer. I hope that I like it and I can stay for a more permanent role coming out of Booth. So thatâ€™s the switch that I plan on doing and thatâ€™s why Booth made a lot of sense for me.
Absolutely, I think that one of the things that I want to do in the next 5, 10, 15 years is to build a strong hold here in the US, build my network, grow within my career here and then see how I can use that to scale it to Latin America, hopefully Argentina.
Iâ€™d like to be able to work in terms of making the financial market/services more robust, as I mentioned before. If I can do my part, Iâ€™d be proud of my career. The country and the culture are very close to my heart and Iâ€™m certainly not planning on leaving that behind.
There are 2 main challenges that I had as a student. Getting over the GMAT hump was the first one. Being comfortable with the score that I had was a challenge. Towards the end of the process, the timelines of my GMAT studying and my essay writing overlapped, which was a concern for me because I wanted to separate the two processes. The second concern had to do with once I submitted my applications: I was always trying to think about what else I could do to best position myself.
I had visited every campus, I had tried to meet as many contacts as possible and learn about the programs. So I wondered, was there anything else I could do? Is there anyone else I can contact to learn about my specific career path? Are there events that I can attend to signal my interest in the school?
Being able to manage my anxiety during those 2, 3 months was something that I wasnâ€™t expecting would be a challenge. But it was something that was difficult for me to manage at the time.
Really structure your timeline! Plan out the application cycle. Most people canâ€™t do it in just 6 months or even in 9 months. Think 12-18 months as a reasonable amount of time to approach the MBA application. Put aside about 6 to 9 months for the GMAT. If you are an international student, also set aside time for the TOEFL or any other exam you may need to take. Iâ€™d suggest taking care of that before you start the admissions process, but you can always work on it concurrently.
At the end of the day the whole experience is very introspective: learning about your profile and what you can bring to the table, understanding what the school can provide for you, and seeing how you think you are different from the other candidates.
A general piece of advice Iâ€™d give to applicants is to stick with it. There are going to be bumps in the road and obstacles that can demotivate you: a bad GMAT score, a bad call with a current student, etc. Just stick with it and it will work out at the end. If you are serious about pursuing an MBA, really plan your next 12-18 months around it–thatâ€™s my advice!
First, I wish I had a good perspective for how random and unpredictable the process was going to be for me. From GMAT studying to school selection to enrollment, I wish I was more aware of this so as to forgive myself when things did not go as planned and to plan better to limit randomness as much as possible. Second, I wish I knew going into the application process how my profile would be perceived by different AdComs. That is very important. Something I struggled with was how to build a profile that is most compelling for Booth in particular while also marketing myself to HBS. Even though they have similarities, they are two very different schools with different and their AdComs reflect this in their decision-making.
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