We are continuing our Full-Time MBA Latin American student profile series with First Year Ines de Estrada (Class of 2024). de Estrada is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and prior to Darden worked for AB InBev in various Human Resources roles. Her experience and opportunities to travel between company headquarters allowed de Estrada to develop new perspectives and a growth mindset that made her realize she was ready for the next step — an MBA.

Ines de Estrada (Class of 2024)

View Q&A’s with Latin America students Nelly Huaman Sotomayor (Class of 2024) and Valentina Rizo (Class of 2023).

de Estrada is a self-professed animal lover, enjoys the outdoors and loves “a good Asado on the weekends.”

She recently shared insights into her First Year experience at Darden and in Charlottesville (so far!), what she’s passionate about, how she hopes to make an impact as a Latin America student, as well as advice for prospective students.

Q: What was your background before coming to Darden?

A: Before Darden, I worked for the last five years in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry at AB InBev in the Global Human Resources area in Argentina but working for the New York office HQ. I spent a couple of years working in the Talent Management space, running the Annual Performance Review process of the company, and later worked as People Analytics specialist and a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Many of my positions gave me the opportunity of traveling to the HQ offices in New York, which made me grow and see the world from a completely different mindset. I was sure then that I wanted to go to MBA school to acquire the business knowledge and skills set that I could see in many of my peers in New York.

Q: How did you end up at Darden?

A: As I started researching the different programs I could be interested in, Darden jumped out at me for many different things. First of all, I was hooked since I was looking for an academic rigorous school where I could learn all the business knowledge, I know I was missing. I wanted to be able to make conscious and thoughtful decisions that took into consideration all the different aspects of a business, and it felt that Darden could be the exact place I needed, especially with the case method being such a central part of the program. Secondly, I fell in love with Darden & Charlottesville in that first video of the area and how the University was part of this place. The views, the outdoors and the general vibes of this place felt like home to me – I knew I could find a special place at Darden and create a community at Charlottesville. And finally, talking with current students helped me see how collaborative, welcoming and the sense of community that was created here in Darden, and that I wanted to be a part of. So Darden became go to school, and I was part of the Early Round applicants for Darden. Back in September I had my application all filled out, my essays written out and I was prepping for that interview, excited, nervous, exhausted but ready to become part of the next class at Darden. The warmth and the openness of the admissions team and the current students to answer all my questions and clear my doubts cleared away any doubts I could have had: this seemed like the perfect fit.

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: Today, I’m focusing all my energy to that original objective: acquire that business knowledge and skillset that I was missing. And with only a couple of weeks of First Year classes, I can already feel how immersive and complete the case method has been for me to think about business from various perspectives. But I know I still want to continue down the path I had originally set out for myself: Human Resources is still my focus, but I want to be able to bring all my previous knowledge from the CPG industry and apply it in a different one. I want to keep on working on different policies that will help bring more women and more equal opportunities for people, regardless of who they are and where they come from. And I know that Darden is giving me the tools to become an impactful leader in the future. While at Darden, I want to learn, but I want to also form my community, my people. I see myself reflected in a lot of the people around me, and forming these connections is key for me to feel human and open my mind to the experience’s others have lived. At the same time, connecting with the different professors who are experts in their field is already something that is creating a lot of value in my education, and that I hope to be able to take advantage as much as possible of these world class teachers I’m surrounded by today.

Q: How would you like to impact Darden as a Latin American student?

A: As a Latin American woman, I’m excited to bring a diverse perspective into the classroom, even just by telling my peers about the different way of life and experiences I’ve had that have brought me to Darden. We are a big group, and every year there are more of us who realize that the community we create here at Darden feels like home, and that is why we choose it. I want to continue with the efforts of showcasing why Darden is a great place for Latin American students to choose to come to, and helping prospective students understand what makes Darden a great school. At Darden, I want to help bring diversity of ideas to the classroom, to the cases we discuss and to the overall community. I want to bring that Latin American perspective, and that warmth and sense of community to my peers and make long lasting connections with the people around me.

Q: What advice do you have for prospective students about to embark on the application process?

A: And for you, the applicant or prospective student, who is thinking about starting this long, hard, and sometimes frustrating process, let me tell you something: it will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. Even though it’s hard at times, and even though it takes a lot of work, once you see all your efforts transformed into a new life project you realize that every step of this process was worth it. My advice to you: talk with current students, connect with the admissions team, research all you can about Darden. I’m sure you will fall in love with Darden as much as I did when I first started my application process and look where I am now. It was hard to remember this objective while I was working on each application, but remember, this is the goal, this is the dream. And Darden is worth it.