Jamal holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where his concentrations were finance and entrepreneurship. He is a 2011 Management Leadership for Tomorrow MBA Prep Fellow. At Chicago Booth, Jamal was a leading member of the Investment Management Club, the LGBT student group OUTreach, and Follies. He received a BBA from Howard University, where he majored in International Business, and minored in Finance and Japanese. Jamal has worked at Dimensional Fund Advisors, where he interned in portfolio management and worked full-time as a consultant to financial advisor clients. His roles included advising about asset allocation and strategic planning for business development. Prior to business school, Jamal worked in Investment Management at William Blair & Company, where he managed trade orders for all domestic mutual funds and helped launch the firm’s separately managed accounts business. He has also worked at the Northern Trust Company where he performed a daily calculation of net asset value for defined contribution and defined benefit plans. Jamal is a thirty-something Chicago native currently loving the weirdery of Austin, TX. After completing an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, he moved to Austin as an investment professional. Jamal is now pursuing entrepreneurship fulltime – when not reading the Economist, interrogating philosophies, or loving chai lattes.
Our Interview with Jamal
What schools did you attend for undergrad and grad school?
I attended Howard University in Washington DC, where I majored in International Business and minored in Finance. For graduate school, I attended the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where I obtained an MBA. While a student at Howard, I also studied the Japanese language for three years—which came in handy when I did a graduate-level study abroad exchange in Tokyo, Japan.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago’s westside (North Ave. & Laramie were the cross streets). I lived in Chicago until I went away to undergrad, and then I returned to Chicago for my first job out of college. I stayed in Chicago all the way through graduate school. My grad school internship happened to be in Austin, TX. Luckily, I received a full time job offer and moved to Austin, TX after grad school. I always jokingly point out that I moved from Austin (neighborhood) to Austin (city).
What was your career like before grad school and what is it like now?
Prior to grad school I worked in Investment Management, and spent most of my time operationally implementing investment ideas or valuing portfolios for client reporting. I decided that I wanted to go to business school to focus on becoming an equity analyst and portfolio manager. While in business school, I interned in portfolio management and discovered a deep love for the profession. However, I also realized that I had strong interpersonal skills that might be underutilized in portfolio management. Therefore, I accepted a client facing role in Investment Management, which allowed me to speak with investment advisors about portfolio theory, asset allocation, and strategies for building their businesses.
What influenced you to go to grad school?
In my early 30’s, I was a relatively older applicant to business school. This is because I did not apply to grad school until I was very clear about why I wanted to go. One main influence was that all of the portfolio managers and analysts I knew had MBAs from really awesome schools. That observation was a strong signal for me. In addition, I realized that there were certain spreadsheet modeling skills, competitive strategy skills, forensic accounting skills, etc. that I simply did not have in my toolkit. It was this “North Star” indicator from those that I admired, coupled with an understanding of my own business deficiencies, that influenced me to go to grad school.
What was the most challenging part of the application process for you?
The most challenging part of the process seemed as if it was going to be my GMAT. However, I quickly found an awesome tutor and overcame my GMAT struggles. Finding my voice to tell my story about who I am and where I wanted to go turned out to be the most challenging part of the application process. I have a deep respect for the iterative process necessary for many people to truly be able to articulate who they are, what they have learned by doing, and where they’d like to go with the help of graduate school. Essay writing is HARD!
Tell us one of your favorite memories from graduate school.
B-School reminds me of a really great roller coaster. You board the ride, get strapped in, and then quickly accelerate—right out of the gate. My favorite moment was a trip that I took to Brazil with 10 other students. The trip is called a “Random Walk” and happens before classes even begin. It was the very first time I met these 10 other students. Sao Paulo, Paraty, and Rio De Janeiro are awesome places to sit back, grab a drink, and then go on some adventures with new friends.
How long have you been with TAOA and what led you to join the team?
I have been with TAOA since summer 2016. I was inspired to join by knowing the founder, Kaneisha Grayson, personally. Her passion for helping others achieve their dreams through the help of graduate school is infectious. I know how grad school changed my life, and I remember the struggles I encountered while applying. The Art of Applying affords me an opportunity to help others in the way that I was helped. I simply could not pass up that opportunity to “pay it forward.”
Would you say you have any specialties when it comes to client work? If so, what are your specialties?
My specialties are drawing out one’s personal story and helping one realize aspects of their story that they may undervalue. I think I do a good job at walking clients through a process of self-discovery via essay writing. It is always interesting for me to observe what is written in those very first essays and what is shared in my very first conversations with a client. There is often a disconnect between the client’s true accomplishments and personalities versus how they present themselves in those first essays. My specialty is closing that gap by helping clients integrate all aspects of their personalities into their essays and applications.
What are three things you would want The Art of Applying’s clients and subscribers to know about you?
I’ve Been There: GMAT struggles; 5th re-writes of essays; overwhelmed by school choices; debating whether to use a vacation day for a campus visit. I’ve been there. Wondering if I should go to a part time vs. full-time program; apply via the Consortium or apply directly to the schools; to go into banking or consulting, entrepreneurship or corporate life. I’ve been there. The App Process Strengthens: If you can’t survive the application process, then you can’t survive business school. The process of applying strengthened me. It forced me to reach deep down inside and apply the same fortitude and rigor that I would find necessary to complete my coursework, to go out and party with my classmates, and then get up to take a midterm exam after a once-in-a-lifetime job interview. Your App is my App: I want you in the school of your dreams. Therefore, I’ll be over here grinding for YOU!!! I’ll be working with you, personally. Therefore, I take your journey personally. Let’s work together to get you where you need to be!
Anything else you want to add?
The last thing I’ll add is a bit of tough love: Stop making excuses—believe in yourself!