Charlie Mangiardi (Stern, ’17) spent five years in the Non-Profit world before moving with his wife to New York and starting at NYU Stern in August. While he thought he was going to have to play catch-up due to his non-traditional background, he’s learned he was more prepared than he gave himself credit for. Check out what else Charlie’s learned in his first semester at Stern.
MBASchooled: You’ve been in business school now for a few months. What was the transition like and how does it feel to be back in school?
Charlie: The initial transition was tough for me. I loved my job, loved living in San Francisco, and had just gotten married. Just on a personal level, it probably took 3 months (I started in early July) to truly settle in. For me, it was a very different experience than moving away to college was; I had a life in California that I really enjoyed that I had to step away from, and I was dragging my wife along with me.
At the same time, being back in school has been extremely liberating for me. Probably unlike some of my classmates, I’m not very stressed out by the recruiting process; I feel truly blessed to have incredible companies coming to campus to ask me to apply, and I’m pretty confident that no matter what happens, I’ll be in a stronger place in my career in two years than I otherwise would have been. Unlike in my old job, if I mess up, I’ll be the only one that suffers for it – and I know that the worst case scenario coming out of school really isn’t that bad. That’s empowered me to explore lots of different things, to dive into classes on subjects I had no background in, and to really embrace the learning that graduate school can provide – academically, professionally, and socially.
MBASchooled: What’s an assumption you had about business school that you were right about?
Charlie: I assumed coming in that I’d be surrounded by people who were incredibly smart and who thought about the world very differently than I do; I worked at a nonprofit before coming here, and most of my classmates have somewhat traditional business school backgrounds and long-term goals. That’s been challenging at times, but it’s also the exact reason I came here; to be challenged by great people and to learn as much as I can from and with them.
What’s been amazing for me is that while most people here have different professional backgrounds than me, they also have different backgrounds from each other. There’s nothing more fascinating that sitting in a strategy class and having class discussions with consultants, bankers, techies, marketers, veterans, aspiring doctors, and an untold number of other experts. It really makes you think through business and organizational challenges in a way that you just cannot be exposed to without coming to a place like this.
MBASchooled: What’s an assumption you had about business school that you were wrong about?
Charlie: I think I assumed that everyone here would “have it all figured out,” that for them Stern would be part of a 15 year plan they mapped out back in high school. There are actually people like that here, but what I’ve found way more often are intellectually curious people who are getting their MBA to switch industries or gain expertise they felt they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, or very often just figure out what they want to do next. I think I underestimated how effective the admissions offices are at building a well-rounded class of people who are figuring it out together.
MBASchooled: It’s only been a few months, but have you learned anything interesting or gained additional knowledge that you didn’t previously know?
Charlie: Way more than I can capture here. I’ll put it in a nutshell: I think of myself as an intellectually curious person. I’ve always read the news every day, and I have a pretty strong understanding of how the world works. I’ve probably learned more in the last five months about the underpinnings of the American economy than I did in the five years prior – which is saying a lot, since my old job basically required me to be an expert on the domestic labor market.
At the same time, I’d say I’ve also learned to be more confident; I know more about economics and business than I gave myself credit for before I came here. I think I expected to find that I’d be playing catch up all the time because of my non-business background, but what I’ve found instead is that there are pieces of my background – my knowledge of labor markets, social policy, education, and corporate social responsibility – that have served me extremely well in school and have allowed me to contribute to really interesting conversations.
MBASchooled: How would you describe Stern to others?
Charlie: It’s a place full of ambitious, hardworking, supportive, and collaborative people. To be blunt, I think Stern has a reputation of being a cutthroat Wall Street pipeline that’s at minimum outdated and was probably never true at all. I almost didn’t apply because of it, but once I started doing my research I found that the reputation is a myth. Dean Peter Henry has really gone out of his way to build a culture that emphasizes the intersection of business and society and the paramount importance of mutual support among classmates. We’re known as a finance school, but this is as good a place as any to launch a startup or become an expert on marketing, strategy, or operations, and they have incredible courses and programming in place to make that happen. The school also does an incredible job of leveraging our location in Manhattan to help students take advantage of our proximity to leading companies.
MBASchooled: What’s been your favorite class so far?
Charlie: Probably Statistics, because it stretched me in ways that made me really uncomfortable and also confirmed for me that getting an MBA was the right decision. I actually tried taking stats in college and dropped it after 4 days; I didn’t need it as a history major and realized I had no interest. After working for five years, though, it became much easier for me to understand how the basic tenets of statistics would apply to the real world. Knowing how to build a basic regression model is already paying dividends in my other classes, and I know it’s something I’ll take with me back into the working world.
MBASchooled: What has been the most enjoyable aspect of business school?
Charlie: Beer Blast! Every Thursday night, all of Stern comes together on campus for a party, which our clubs take turns hosting. I’ve had some of my best conversations of school – about classes, recruiting, or our “real lives” – with classmates on Thursday nights, sometimes with folks I barely knew beforehand.
MBASchooled: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to deal with so far in business school?
Charlie: Being married, which has also been my biggest safety net. There’s definitely some people here who are thrilled to relive certain aspects of college, while those of us with partners are more likely to head home at 10pm and keep somewhat normal hours during the week. There are times I’d love to be out until 1am with everyone else, and I do sometimes wonder if I’m missing out.
There are obviously many benefits of being married that far outweigh that challenge, but one that is directly related to business school is that my wife helps me keep a sense of perspective amid the craziness of recruiting season. Being married keeps me motivated, and simultaneously helps me not to sweat the small stuff – which I think also helps me to be comfortable with myself in a place where we’re all naturally figuring out how we want to fit in.
MBASchooled: What opportunities ahead are you most excited about?
Charlie: I’m excited get on the other side of the recruiting process and our core classes. I can’t wait for my internship next summer; wherever I end up, I know I’ll be challenged and will have a chance to learn a ton if I put in the work (which happens to be the best aspect of school so far). Relatedly, I’m also really eager to begin diving into my academic specializations. I’ve only scratched the surface of business school so far and am very excited for what lies ahead.