2018 Best EMBAs: Erlinda Arriola, Yale SOM

Erlinda Arriola      

Yale School of Management

Living a life filled of global adventures and lively conversations with leaders and fellow students!”

Hometown: Batangas, Philippines

Family Members: None

Fun fact about yourself: Former top junior golfer of the Philippines and leader of the inaugural overseas voting audit team for 2004 Philippine presidential election. Aspiring to work for a political campaign someday!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Asia and the Pacific, Liberal Arts

Where are you currently working? Synchrony, VP-Business Strategy and Strategic Investments

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Mentor and golf coach at The First Tee, Buckley fellow, member in various student clubs such as Kasama Club at Yale, Yale Law and Business Society, PE/VC Club, Women in Management, CEID.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of being actively involved in various school events and organizations (beyond SOM) in CEID, Yale Law School, and Yale College. It enriched my learning experience through friendships and intellectual discussions with students of different disciplines from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, Yale events enabled me to meet and engage with business and government leaders such as Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Frank Luntz, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Jeffrey Garten. Their advice helped me navigate challenges for women in venture capital industry and career strategies during this period of disruptive innovation. Through my involvement in the Yale community, I learned that being a leader has a bigger purpose than achieving investors’ targets; it involves empowering and unlocking the potential of a team.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proud of being part of the team that formed the corporate venture capital division and also introduced the GNAM program of Yale SOM to our company. The financial services industry is undergoing threats from disruptive innovation technology, and forming the corporate ventures team will enable the company to diversify its strategy and compete with the best fintech startups globally. Additionally, introducing the GNAM program of Yale SOM will strengthen our company’s partnership with the university and learn insights from visiting GNAM participants.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Stephen C. Daffron. He taught a fintech class that covered investment everything from due diligence in private equity to Python coding. Aside from his credentials, he has a proven track record in investment banking and private equity. I’m lucky to be his student!

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Competitive Strategy. The biggest insight I learned from it is that strategy and tactics are both critical to ensure a company’s competitive advantage and sustain value creation. The frameworks in competitive strategy can also be applied to career strategy and planning our priorities in life.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the EMBA program because I want to integrate my learnings in the classroom and have an immediate impact in my work in corporate venture deals. The classes on Entrepreneurial Finance, Fintech, Corporate Finance, and PE/VC enabled me to have an impact in the organization through engaging in fintech partnerships and securing strategic investments successfully.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed joining student clubs and being around the smartest and most down-to-earth professionals and professors, who continue to educate me with new perspectives in their industries and enrich my leadership philosophy on integrating business and society.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Juggling work, education, and community commitments is tough. There isn’t one story that clearly stands out, but one thing I focused on is fulfilling all my requirements for school. I’m certain that if I prioritize school, my work and life will flow through as I can use my learnings in the classroom at work. I think I got into the rhythm of a stressful day during deal transactions, and having a list of priorities keep me composed. Having quadrants of priorities enabled me to be at ease when things didn’t go well and reminded me of what matters most. Scheduling time to reflect (daily) and hike with my closest friends (at least quarterly) helped me overcome challenging times during this program.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My advice is to identify what you want to learn in the MBA program and goals after business school. The MBA is not for everyone, but the integrative curriculum at Yale allowed me to grow in leadership roles and take risks in career opportunities.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? Given my prior work experience and network in venture capital, some mentors discouraged me from going back to school because they thought that two years of school would not bring positive ROI to my career. On the contrary, doing the MBA at Yale is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It brought out the best in me—it gave me opportunities to meet renowned leaders in various industries, and taught me to be humble in different aspects of life. The MBA encouraged me to continue being intellectually curious and resilient. Additionally, I overcame my fears of meeting new friends and engaging with business leaders. There’s so much to learn just being around the Yale campus! Everyone in the Yale community, including the personnel, contributed to my personal growth. For me, personal growth in character and leadership exceeds my ROI expectations.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My regrets are not spending enough time with my classmates during social events and not taking classes at Yale Law School.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate Amy Maples, because she’s not only brilliant and hardworking but has real integrity. I worked with her in various team projects and she never failed to live up to her values. She’s the true MVP of our class! I have tremendous respect for her.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when I realized that I want to excel and become successful in venture capital while expanding my network in government and the public sector.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working at a fintech startup founded by PayPal mafia while studying at Stanford or working in a consulting firm in Dallas, TX.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to become a general partner at a top venture capital firm in Silicon Valley and make it to the Midas list.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as the classmate who is their lifelong friend, listening adviser, and reliable teammate.

Favorite book: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Favorite movie or television show: Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright is my favorite movie. Downton Abbey is my favorite television show.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Becoming a delegate to the World Economic Forum at Davos and flying aboard Air Force One for a diplomatic meeting.

What made Erlinda such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

Erlinda Arriola is an example of SOM’s mission to educate leaders for business and society. She is an intellectually curious student, a female leader in the venture capital space, an accomplished athlete and a dedicated mentor. She is also the first person to volunteer to give back to the Yale community. After attending a Global Network Week in Geneva last June, she stepped up to provide the best possible experience for incoming students from schools around the world coming to Yale. Erlinda hosted a large group of international students at her company, Synchrony Financial, which was the highlight of their week. We are delighted and fortunate to have her as our student.”

Silvia McCallister-Castillo

Assistant Dean for the Executive MBA, Yale School of Management


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