Student Spotlight – Meet the Gersons!
For the latest Student Spotlight, I chatted with First Year Full Time MBA students and happily married couple, Alex and Gabe Gerson! I hope you enjoy getting to know the Gersons!
Me: Thanks Alex and Gabe for being here for our latest Student Spotlight! Can you please start by telling us about yourselves?
Alex: Sure! I’m from Rhode Island, and actually went to CMU for Undergrad where I majored in Chemical Engineering. I worked for 6 years in R&D and Operations for Johnson & Johnson in a variety of roles including as a shop floor supervisor in a union manufacturing plant. Gabe and I are both boomerangs to CMU.
Gabe: Yup, as Alex mentioned, we are both boomerangs, and I went to CMU for Undergrad as well where I majored in Materials Science and Engineering. I’m a proud native of Pittsburgh (Yinzer) and worked for 7 years in the Steel & Aerospace industries. I wanted to enter a more strategic role, hence I decided to come back to business school to pursue consulting.
Me: Can you share how you both met?
Alex: We met in Undergrad, and we started dating at Wine Night at Shady Grove on Walnut Street.
Me: Wow, they had Wine Night back then?
Gabe: Yes indeed! I literally walked in and played hard to get, blew her off and then she was following me around the rest of the night.
Alex: Just to set the record straight, Gabe was in pursuit for at least 2 months prior to that! Only then did he play hard to get. The rest is history. We were long distance for a few years after school, and have been married for just under 2 years now!
Me: Way to be “smooth” Gabe. So, what’s it like being back at CMU, this time as a grad student?
Alex: I see it in a different light. The Grad school way of approaching business problems differs from my experience in Undergrad. The CMU Community is so strong and it’s great to see that carry through, especially in Grad school. Tepper does a really good job of cultivating that community.
Gabe: The Graduate experience has been very different. Coming back as a 30-year-old, having work experience and being able to directly relate to the case studies we talk about in class – it clicks a lot quicker. As an Undergrad at times you aren’t sure about some concepts you’re exposed to in the classroom; what you are learning in Grad school is very practical and things you will use in your post-MBA career starting day one.
Me: Can you describe Tepper in a few words?
Alex: Empowering. Close knit. Rigorous. Supportive.
Me: How’s your MBA experience been as a couple? Any advice for prospective couples looking to apply to business school?
Alex: It’s been really positive. Despite the fact that it’s a small class, we have the space to be our own people. There was a friend of ours in the same class that didn’t know we were married until November! The fear we had was we were going to be all up in each other’s business. We came in wanting to have our own experience.
Gabe: At the beginning, we didn’t sit together in class. We switched out of a few classes to make sure we had differing schedules, and I’ll add the school has been super supportive.
Alex: I’d also say it has been helpful to have your partner in the program as they understand what you are going through in the MBA.
Me: Great! How about one of your most exciting moments so far during your 1st year?
Alex: Getting an internship! Slightly kidding, but outside of that, just having the ability to join a club like Alpha Asset Management. It’s something I am interested in, learning how people put stock pitches together. Sitting in on these events and learning from people on a deep level allows you to satisfy your overall curiosity.
Gabe: The McKinsey Case Competition. We left school at 2:30 am, presented at 8 am, and we made it to the final round! It made us realize what life as a consultant could be as we worked under time pressure and only had 36 hours from the time we received the prompt to the time we had to submit our deck. The time pressure, coming up with a finalist worthy idea, presenting to a room full of consultants, and bonding with classmates was a great feeling.
Me: What are you involved in outside of the classroom at Tepper?
Alex: I’m on the Tepper Women in Business (TWIB) board where we are in the process of founding a Men as Allies program on campus.
Gabe: Anything and everything. I personally enjoy taking advantage of our class Whatsapp group, where as a result we’ve gone bowling, ice skating, went to a Pirates game, tailgated a Steeler game, and attended free student concerts. Alex and I were just elected to the Tepper Consulting Club board, and we are ready to start putting programming together for the incoming class!
Me: What advice would you have for prospective students as they look to interact with Tepper or other business schools?
Alex: Trust your gut. It’s very important to visit campuses and meet people. The community shines through from students, and not from a presentation. Trust how the fit feels as that could be your deciding factor. You are jumping off a cliff, so at least being somewhere supportive is going to be helpful.
Me: What do you like to do outside of your busy MBA life?
Alex: Traveling – we took a road trip from Seattle to San Diego to Sedona before school! We got our rental car stuck in a redwood tree!
Me: Really?! How did you get out?
Gabe: We’re in an SUV and drive right under a Redwood. Right mirror got crushed inside the tree. I’ve got it all on video, and it was super embarrassing with everyone in the Park looking at us.
Me: I don’t even want to know what happened when you returned that rental car.
Alex: Luckily everything was okay! Outside of the classroom, I also enjoy cooking Italian food such as braised meat sauces and homemade pasta. We took a cooking class in Italy on our honeymoon – after having gnocchi in Italy on your honeymoon, we can never have it again because it’s not the same!
Gabe: Agreed on the gnocchi – I could go some for some of that right now. I also enjoy staying in shape and lifting weights.
Me: Yeah, I’ve seen you in the gym Gabe – the man puts up big weight!
Me: What’s your favorite part of CMU?
Alex: Traditions. Things like CMU’s Carnival with its Booths and Buggy races; it’s time where all aspects of the school such as Design, Engineering, and Drama come together.
Gabe: The world class programming across every discipline. Did you know Leslie Odom Jr., who sang “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl, is a CMU alumnus?
Me: I had no idea – that was such a beautiful rendition. What’s your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?
Alex: The spirit of Pittsburgh; it’s such a big little town that rallies around sports, but also so much more than that. We watched the Penguins in a Steeler bar in Rome at 5AM on our Honeymoon. This was not normal! Pittsburgh pride is worldwide.
Gabe: Pittsburgh is a city that honors its past, but is reinventing itself for the future with its resurgence in technology that is buoyed by CMU, surrounding universities, and the community.
Me: One last thing we may not know about you?
Gabe: I had hair down to my shoulder blades in high school. Now not so much!
Alex: I loved Star Wars growing up. When I was in 2nd grade, I had a Star Wars birthday cake and none of the girls would eat it. Sad times. Also, I played ice hockey in high school.
Me: There you have it, the man that once had hair and an ex ice hockey player! Thanks Alex and Gabe!