Reach across the table. Sam Atari did.
At a crossroads in his life, Sam went back to his home in Jordan after graduating with his law degree and got a job at a top law firm. He saw both the legal and financial sides of the firm, but was always curious about the other side.
“We’d be working on a deal and there would be the client at the head of the table, the banking team on one side, and the legal team on the other,” he says. “I always thought that side would be more interesting.”
He had been interested in finance since taking a corporations class in law school. While he wanted to try out finance, he didn’t have the right background to get a finance job.
After seeing both sides of the table, Sam made the decision to reach across and learn about the world of finance at the Iowa MBA Program.
Hone your skills to get ahead
While the Iowa MBA gave him a head start on getting a financial skill set, the Henry Fund was what took his learning to the next level.
“Henry Fund is intense, it’s rigorous, and it’s very consuming,” says Sam. “Having the Henry Fund experience lessened the learning curve a lot, so I was able to jump right in and contribute much faster.”
Henry Fund was the perfect way to become a well-rounded student, giving Sam the tools to improve his writing, research, and presentation skills, along with improving the technical skills like financial modeling. By presenting case studies in front of a panel of professionals in the finance field every semester, he can learn by doing.
“These are high level, very successful professionals who know their stuff, and they will grill you and they will push you on all of your assumptions, and you will have to defend them.”
By being part of the Henry Fund, Sam understands what it takes to be successful, which he used to get through a rigorous interview for an internship, which lasted an entire day, interviewing with six different people for almost an hour a piece. His secret weapon for making it through: “I had a really easy ice-breaker.”
The day before, Sam missed his connecting flight and had to stay in the hotel airport then get up early the next morning, running on very little sleep.
“Right away the first thing they asked was ‘How was your trip?’” he says. “Right off the bat, it creates a level of comfort because everyone has travel troubles.”
After the interviews he had to sit next to his competitors in a panel discussion, answering any questions thrown his way. He stood out from the crowd by bringing up a question he had about a story he ripped out in a newspaper article at a coffee shop right before he left for the interview.
“I came really prepared,” he says. “I had done my homework.”
Go the extra mile
Grad school is all about time management, and Sam has it all figured out. In between working on projects for the Henry Fund, finding internships and possible jobs, he’s made a niche within the University of Iowa community by getting involved.
Sam was elected as the MBA Association president, and he now acts as the liaison between the MBA student body and the faculty, staff, and administrators. He helps to communicate disputes of the student body so everyone’s voice can be heard.
He didn’t stop there, either. After becoming the MBAA president, he was also nominated to be part of the Graduate Professional Student Government of the University of Iowa. There, he works on the governmental relations committee, which has recently worked on legislation to encourage graduate students to stay in Iowa.
Being part of the extracurriculars keeps him busy, but Sam wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I came to the program with the idea that you get out what you put in, so if I give everything I have for this program for two years, it will be that much more transformative,” says Sam. “I’ve loved every minute of it. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
Find your community
When Sam was looking at grad programs, the Iowa MBA program really stuck out to him. He came to the University of Iowa for his undergraduate degree, but the more he looked into the Iowa MBA, the more he was impressed with the quality of the program.
So he visited Iowa to see what the program was all about.
“Everyone was really warm and welcoming. After I applied, the scholarships and the curriculum are what made it a no-brainer in terms of accepting the offer.”
Sam was also excited to get back into the Iowa City community again.
“You go downtown on a Friday evening, you’ll see on the ped mall every type of person there, eating and shopping,” Sam says. “Regardless of background or socioeconomic status there’s a strong cohesion within the city. That’s one of my favorite parts for sure.”