Student Voice: Mario Salamanca

An MBA through the eyes of a Lawyer

When Mario Salamanca, MBA ’19, first switched from law to business, he found himself literally swamped by the experience. “I walked in one morning and the whole office was flooded with six inches of water,” he says. “The building hadn’t been roofed so the rain just came straight in. I had to run around stacking computers up on tables to avoid them being ruined.”

The start-up tech company created by his engineering friend had other problems. The business had 14 million pesos of debt, and a CTO using company funds to pay his personal expenses. Still, Mario says despite the difficulties, it was a positive experience. “It gave me a lot of insight into what I wanted to do,” he explains. “And when I went to work for someone I trusted [in a top-tier law firm], it made me realize what good management really was.”

We sat down with this lawyer from Mexico City to discuss his experience so far at the HEC Paris MBA.

Why an MBA?

A partner at a law firm I worked for had an MBA. The broadness of the education he received through an MBA, especially compared to a LLM (Master of Laws), helped him progress much faster to that level in the firm.

Also, I remember being told by one of our client’s top executives that a lawyer with an MBA is like “a shark with wings.” Who wouldn’t want that?

What’s it like to be a student again?

As a lawyer, I have a completely different background from the majority of people here who are very numerically based. Because of this, I had to spend the first couple of weeks doing some extra work to make sure that I kept up. Prioritizing my time has become very important for me to keep on top of the program. I’m still working to achieve the right work-life balance.

What’s it like being a lawyer in an MBA program? 

Debating and delivering presentations are my strengths. I’ve brought those skills to my MBA working group.  I want to help by contributing my transferable skills to other students within the group. I’m turning what I saw as a disadvantage into an advantage.

What are your career goals?

I intended to move into the finance world after my MBA, most likely into private equity. However, I joined the MBA’s Tech Club my first week here. The club got me a ticket to the Lendit Fintech conference in London. I was there for two days in October and the whole experience completely blew my mind. Fintech is a bit like being at the start of the .com era. No one knows what is going to happen but everyone can agree big change is coming.

Have you had any big takeaways from your classes so far?

Professor Jeremy Ghez spent the first month of our managerial economics course trying to change our mindset. He emphasized that we will have to be entrepreneurial no matter where we work. If we want to be ready for the challenges ahead, we’ll have to create our own jobs. His point was reinforced at Lendit, when I heard top executives from financial giants expressing their concern about the opportunities being created by Fintech start-ups. I suddenly realized just how valuable the things I’m learning at HEC Paris really are.