There is a doctor in the house, and her name is Iris Lopes.
Iris (MBA ’23), who has a medical degree from Brazil, enrolled in Zicklin’s Full-Time MBA program last fall. She sat down for an interview with Zicklin News about why she changed careers.
Zicklin News: Tell us your story. Why did you give up a medical career?
Iris Lopes: In Brazil, medical school is at the undergraduate level, not graduate as it is here, so you enroll after high school. It’s a safe career — you know you’ll have a job and be well paid. I had always been a very good student and at the time I wanted to challenge myself to take the most difficult college entrance exam, which was for medical school. So I did, and I was accepted into a good school. But I soon figured out my interests lay elsewhere.
ZN: Tell us more about that.
Iris: My semiotics professor in medical school also owned an English-language school. I didn’t speak a word of English at the time, so about halfway through medical school I decided to sign up for some English classes. I was very disappointed to discover that my professor’s language school was on the brink of bankruptcy. I volunteered as an administrator to help out, and discovered I had a knack for it.
ZN: What happened next?
Iris: In my first semester volunteering there, I did a bit of everything: I worked in marketing, finance, human resources, and even designed courses and syllabi. The complete restructuring of the business was successful and the school made a profit for the first time in four years and they were able to pay me. I realized I could have the same earnings as a doctor but doing a job I enjoyed much more and that enabled me to have a better quality of life. After I graduated from medical school, I decided to go to business school. I was sure I wanted to be an administrator!
ZN: Why did you decide to go for an MBA degree?
Iris: After nine years as a general manager, I was able to expand the school across Brazil and overseas. Although I was successful, I still lacked formal knowledge or training, and I wanted to learn more. Also, I felt that my job at the school was done. I wanted to explore new career opportunities that would enable me to leverage my medical training and my business experience. In the MBA program, I’m gaining insights into different industries and how the business world works in general. It helps me understand better what I want to do.
ZN: Why did you choose the Zicklin School of Business?
Iris: I knew I wanted to do an MBA in New York. I had visited here and loved the city, plus it’s the financial center of the world! I only applied to schools in New York, and I was lucky enough to get accepted at all of them. I was in a very privileged position to choose which business school I wanted to attend.
ZN: How did you choose?
Iris: There were three main factors. I asked people I knew from New York who had not gone to business school what their impressions of the Zicklin School were. They said the students were very smart and had high academic standards, and that’s the image I would like to convey. Second, I was offered a very good scholarship, so I felt Zicklin would provide the best return on investment. And third, in the meetings we had with Zicklin academic advisors and people from the Graduate Career Management Center before deciding to enroll, I felt they really went out of their way to help us.
ZN: So you moved to New York and enrolled in the Full-Time MBA program. What was your experience like?
Iris: It was very challenging. I quit my job at the language school, sold my apartment in Brazil, and moved here. I had to find a place to live, adapt to a new culture, and learn to write at an academic level in a foreign language. I also learned the importance of getting a summer internship and how it can be hard for international students to get one, so I started my search early. My career advisor, Lindsey Plewa, helped me rewrite my resume, guided me to make my internship search more effective, and coached me on how to better communicate the value I could bring to the companies.
ZN: Did you get a summer internship?
Iris: Actually, something unexpected happened. I was aiming for a summer internship, but got a full-time job offer from a company which is now sponsoring a working visa (H1B) for me. International students know how hard it is to get this visa and I felt so lucky when I got the offer! I’ll start working as a talent strategy coordinator for Mirimus, a biotech company that, among other activities, provides RNA PCR tests for schools in New York and New Jersey. As you can imagine, the company has grown tremendously in Covid times. Two years ago they had only 27 employees. Now they have almost 200 and are still growing. I’m going to be working in human resources, helping them make sure they hire the right people.
ZN: What’s been your biggest takeaway from your Zicklin experience?
Iris: That as challenging as it’s been to get an MBA as a foreign student — adapting to a new culture, a new routine, and so forth — it’s all worth it. Not only because of the knowledge you’ll gain, but because you’ll grow as a person and be better able to face any challenge life might bring. Having to present papers in English in front of my classmates, go on job interviews, answer questions — all of those uncomfortable situations made me grow and showed me I’m capable of doing pretty much whatever I want.