Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Joel Theodros

Class of 2014

Joel Theodros

"As a career switcher, I can't stress how helpful it's been to have classmates with a background in my career interest share their experiences with me. You also see this in the dedication of our alumni who commute from all over the world to Fuqua for recruiting and corporate presentations. It's hard to describe, let alone quantify, how impactful this has been on my MBA experience, but I believe we have something special at Fuqua, and I would encourage everyone to come and experience it for themselves."

My Background

I am Ethiopian, but was born in Italy and grew up in America. I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 5 and later went to the University of Southern California. After college, I went to work at The Boeing Company where I contributed to some pretty exciting programs such as the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, and the C-17 airplane program. Afterwards, I went to work at AT&T where I helped launch a new TV service, called U-Verse, in the L.A. area. My last job before coming to Fuqua was at DIRECTV as a program manager where I executed several nationwide sales and marketing campaigns.
 
One of my favorite things to do back home in L.A. is cruise the Pacific Coast Highway in my vintage Jeep Wrangler. One of the benefits of living in L.A. is the great weather and scenic beaches, which made driving around with the top down all the more fun.

I also enjoy working out and running. As a matter of fact, I completed the 2008 Los Angeles Marathon without any training (I was counting on my Ethiopian genes to pull me through the race). Even though I completed the marathon, I highly recommend training, even if you happen to be Ethiopian.

In addition to following Duke and USC sports, I'm also an avid Lakers and soccer fan. In fact, I plan to attend the next World Cup in Brazil, and hopefully many more in the future.

Why I Chose Fuqua

My global perspective and strong sense of team and community are principles that correlate well with Duke's culture of diversity and collaboration. I chose Fuqua because it not only embraces these values, it embodies them. In fact, over 40 percent of Fuqua's student body comes from outside the U.S., and the richness of the conversations inside and outside the classroom has made my MBA experience all the more invaluable.

When I was deciding on which business school to attend, I knew the concepts taught inside the classroom would essentially be the same across many top MBA programs. I also knew the real differentiator among these programs would be the insights shared by professors and students, and the culture and fit of the program. With this in mind, I chose Fuqua because its faculty has consistently ranked at the top of all business school programs, and their blend of real world experience and cutting edge research would provide me with insight that goes beyond words in a text book.

The school's culture also made an impact on my decision to attend Fuqua. Fuqua's philosophy of collaboration permeates throughout its halls and extends to the alumni community. As a career switcher, I can't stress how helpful it's been to have classmates with a background in my career interest share their experiences with me. You also see this in the dedication of our alumni who commute from all over the world to Fuqua for recruiting and corporate presentations. It's hard to describe, let alone quantify, how impactful this has been on my MBA experience, but I believe we have something special at Fuqua, and I would encourage everyone to come and experience it for themselves.

Leadership Attribute: Service

Beyond the purely professional experiences that have forged my identity, my feelings of greatest satisfaction and achievement have come from my non-profit work. When I joined Boeing, I was introduced to PATA, an organization that exposes underserved communities in the U.S. and Africa to science and technology. Our goal of promoting math and science grew from what we saw as a need for more diversity in the aerospace field. After joining the organization, I was approached with the idea of starting a book drive for school children in Ethiopia. As project manager, I developed and coordinated marketing efforts throughout the U.S. as well as the collection of monetary and book donations. I worked with a team of dedicated coworkers and friends, and we exceeded our initial goal of 3,000 books over three-fold. We successfully delivered 10,000 books to school children in Ethiopia. While I didn't have the opportunity to deliver the books myself, I am grateful to have been a part of this effort, and to have made a positive impact on the lives of children thousands of miles away. This book drive was an indelible personal experience and inspired me to continue to strive to be a positive force for change and help improve living conditions in my ancestral home, Ethiopia.

Five Random Things about Me

  1. Even though I'm flat-footed, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon without training…and finished!
  2. My first job was working the concession stand at a movie theatre. It was pretty fun because I got to watch all the movies I wanted for free. I think my record was 4 movies in one day.
  3. When people ask me where I was born, I tell them Torino, Italy, and they often say they've never heard of that city. But once I explain it's where Nutella chocolate comes from they smile and all of a sudden completely understand where Torino is. I'm telling you, nothing brings people together like Nutella chocolate.
  4. I was around 6 years old when I went to Disneyland for the first time, and while we were waiting in line for snacks we ran into Mike Tyson. He said, "Hi" to me and my younger brother, bought us ice cream, and then walked away with his entourage. I didn't know who he was at the time, but it was still pretty surreal.
  5. One of my favorite shows is Anthony Bourdain: No Reservation. I like to see where he travels to, and I try to recreate some of the international dishes from the show.

The Impact of Team Fuqua

Fuqua's culture has made a positive impact on my business school experience in many ways, but one experience that sticks out has been the amazing support I have received from classmates, alumni, and staff during my career search. Like most students, I applied to business school in large part so I could transition to a new career. While the prospects of a career in a new field excited me, I was also concerned about how successful I would be in the recruiting process and who would be there to answer my questions.

What I discovered when I arrived here was a community that banded together to support my career endeavors. Fellow students with a background in my industry of interest (financial services) shared their experiences as well as what the job search would entail. Executive Director of Fuqua's Center for Financial Excellence, John Buley, and the Career Management Center's Finance Sector Director, Ben Thomason, talked with me about their experiences in the field and shared valuable insights. The ability to have a conversation with senior management at your company would be very difficult in most corporate settings, but at Fuqua, students have access to accomplished industry practitioners and thought leaders who are more than happy to sit down and talk with students. These conversations have, in turn, helped me to have more honest conversations with myself about what I hope to get out of my business school experience and professional career.