2017 Best EMBAs: Jamila Abston, Yale SOM

Jamila Abston

Yale School of Management

“I am an energetic leader with big dreams for the finance sector and the non-profit world.”  

Age: 35

Hometown: Mobile, AL

Family Members:  Dr. Nathaniel Abston (Father), Elverna Abston (Mother), Khalid Abston (Brother), Teaira Abston (Sister-in-law)

Fun fact about yourself: I have played the piano since I was three years old. I was also a Girl Scout for my entire life through high school!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Florida A&M University – B.S. in Accounting, 2003

University of Virginia – M.S. in Accounting, 2004

Where are you currently working? Ernst and Young, LLP (Partner in the Financial Services Risk Management – Wealth and Asset Management practice)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Yale University EMBA Asset Management Class Advisor

AICPA Forensic and Valuation Standing Ovation Award

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman’s Award

National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) – Atlanta Chapter President

NABA National Rising Star Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being elected as the 2017 EMBA Asset Management Class Advisor by my classmates was an honor. I regard it as a privilege to serve as the Asset Management representative and help develop ideas and learning solutions for the next generation of Yale EMBA students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of becoming a Partner at Ernst and Young LLP (EY). In the financial services industry with so few minorities and women, I am humbled to be a part of the community of EY leadership.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? David Bach. Both his “State and Society” and “The Executive “courses challenged me to consider the effects of non-market strategies on corporate responsibility, business opportunities and financial success.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Professor William Goetzmann’s “Alternatives Portfolios” class is more relevant now than ever – as investors continue to chase yield in a fluid regulatory regime and a changing interest rate environment. This curriculum reviewed the major asset classes of alternatives – from real estate to art to private equity and ESG funds. Very insightful and engaging classes!    

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I find the integrated class approach – with the first “core” year being a combination of my Healthcare, Asset Management, and Sustainability classmates all taking the same classes. In the second year, students take classes within their perspective focus area. Taking classes and learning from others like cardiologists, engineers, midwives, and scientists ignited excitement and interest in learning in the Yale SOM community!

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed the learning environment, and the challenge of learning material in class and making it useful the very next week at work. But most importantly, I enjoyed the networking opportunities and gaining new friends from this shared experience.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? During last November, I re-joined Ernst and Young as a Partner and moved to New York City! The adjustments of moving from Atlanta to New York and the SEC to EY were challenging – and on top of that, I was in the second year of the EMBA program! This was probably the most difficult time to achieve balance, but the long nights are worth it. By establishing priorities and work boundaries, I was able to succeed during this time.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program? Applicants should know and be clear on what they want to gain from the EMBA experience. Yale is a very special community in which students self-select to be among the brightest in the country. In the Yale program, we are all aiming to uphold the “business and society” creed and purposes. Be purposeful!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The myth is that going back to school is all work and no play at the Executive Level – but that’s not true! I attended fun social outings and developed great memories from my time at Yale.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t have many regrets, but I wish I had spent more time with faculty and professors. Given work and school commitments, there never seems to be enough time for networking during our class weekends.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many amazing students in my class!  I admire Paul Nouri and his passion for helping others through his very generous financial and time contributions. Particularly, Paul plans to launch some business endeavors to aid the Syrian refugees seeking asylum in America. Paul currently runs his own hedge fund, but is still selfless in his willingness to spend less energy with the fund and more with creating business opportunities for those in need. Paul’s passion for those hurting, abused, and repressed is very admirable.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I attended my first on-campus Yale weekend, observed several classes, and met other current EMBA students.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still wondering if I should go!”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? This is tough! I like what Amazon is doing because their online shopping platform seems to have changed the face of how people interact with their shopping experience.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? I would aim to increase the EMBA’s footprint in the local New Haven community in a more structured way.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal is to obtain a senior leadership position at EY and to launch my own nonprofit to improve financial literacy and finance exposure for women and young girls.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I’d like to thank my parents Dr. Nathaniel and Elverna Abston. They sacrificed so much and provided excellent examples of kindness, intelligence, confidence, and persistence.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as one who cared for others and was passionate about advancing women leadership in finance and financial literacy programs for all.

Favorite book: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Favorite movie or television show: The Shawshank Redemption

Favorite musical performer: Beyonce (who else is there?)

Favorite vacation spot: Capetown, South Africa or anywhere with a beautiful beach

Hobbies? Volunteering, reading, working out and travelling to foreign countries

What made Jamila such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Jamila Abston is an exemplar of the SOMEMBA program in Asset Management. She is passionate, purposeful and committed to the mission of finance for the broader benefit of society.  Her experience in the public and private sectors has given her a special perspective on how finance touches people’s lives. She is brilliant, enthusiastic and inquisitive in the classroom and a natural leader outside of it.”

William N. Goetzmann

Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management Studies

Director of the International Center for Finance


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.