Pivot from Peace Corps to Citibank

Whether bringing clean water to Indonesia or boosting operating efficiency at Citigroup in New York City, Blake Ingram (MBA16) saw for himself the difference deep knowledge of finance can make.

Read how an Iowa MBA positioned Blake to gain in-depth financial expertise, invaluable coaching, and the confidence to compete.

#1: Choose an MBA that lets you dive deep

While Blake was in the Peace Corps raising money for water management, it hit him: By applying business strategy to grant proposals, he could make a big difference in the number of schoolchildren with clean drinking water. That’s where an Iowa MBA came in. Tippie’s Finance Career Academy sold him on the opportunity to immerse himself in both technical expertise and real-world industry experience and connections.

“I liked having the deep dive compared to a snorkel view."

“I liked having the deep dive compared to a snorkel view,” Blake says. “Since Iowa has the career academies, I could immerse myself in finance with groups of people also interested in finance.”

#2: Check out that payoff

Blake interviewed at business schools in the Ivy League and the Big Ten. So what was the Iowa MBA advantage? “Honestly, it was the return on investment,” Blake says. “I looked at what I’d put into it compared to what I’d get out of it.” In 2015, the Financial Times ranked the Iowa MBA as #1 in the U.S. for value for the money, and Forbes ranked it as #6 for fastest payback.

“The Iowa MBA sling-shots you from where you were as an undergrad to someplace completely different—and to jobs you never would have been able to get before,” he says. “Your return on investment is not a slow, gradual transition, like when your employer says, ‘Next year you’ll get a 3 percent merit increase.’ With an MBA, you leap-frog ahead.”

#3: Go with the good name

“Brand does matter,” says Blake. He likes the name recognition that comes with a Big Ten university like Iowa. And the way the Financial Times ranked the finance program No. 1 in the world in 2016. And the great reputations of other Iowa MBAs. “Fortune 100 companies are hiring Iowans, and a number have senior positions,” he says. “They’re known for hard work, for being friendly, for being a good fit culturally.”

#4: Get personal

Blake deliberately chose a program with small classes and a welcoming atmosphere. When considering summer internships, he met one-on-one with professors, career services, and even alumni to define his ideal experience. Then he landed an internship at Citigroup.

"There’s a great group of alumni who are so willing to make time for any Iowa MBA doing the job search.”

“I could say to faculty, ‘Here’s what I’m looking at in financial services—what feedback do you have about how to frame my answers?’” Blake says. “And I could go to career services and say, ‘I’m reaching out to this employer—would I be a good fit for the culture there?’ And there’s a great group of alumni who are so willing to make time for any Iowa MBA doing the job search.”

#5: Get ready to run with the big dogs

During his internship, he competed with the best MBA candidates in the country. “I never thought I’d be working for one of the world’s biggest banks, but I was always confident I could compete,” Blake says. “I’d think back to what I’d done in Iowa City and think, ‘We talked about this! I know how to approach this!’” Blake had an offer from Citigroup waiting for him after his internship, and joined them after graduation.