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ASU Thunderbird alum credits Global Challenge Lab experience for career opportunity

A woman with long dark hair wearing a yellow dress poses for a portrait in front of grey-brown background.

Kelly Molera

April 14, 2023

Kelly Molera, a graduate of the Master of Global Management program at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, has landed a full-time position at Aalto Capital, an investment banking and private equity firm. Molera, a Phoenix native, had her sights set on this industry even before completing her studies at Thunderbird. 

Molera's Thunderbird Global Challenge Lab project played a crucial role in leading her to Aalto Capital. During the consulting project, she worked at the company's London office for three weeks, gaining valuable exposure to the analysts' day-to-day activities. Upon completing her project, she was thrilled to receive a full-time job offer. 

"Seeing the dynamic nature of Aalto's work and positive company culture, as well as exploring London as a whole, made the decision to work for Aalto easy," Molera said.

The London office of Aalto Capital was co-founded in 2019 by John McRoberts, another Thunderbird alum (class of ’87), who is originally from Harare, Zimbabwe. With his extensive experience in investing capital and managing the growth process of several companies, McRoberts embodies the school's spirit of global innovation and entrepreneurship. 

"Kelly has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities, despite being the youngest member of our team. Her adeptness in managing teams and expertly overseeing the delivery of work streams is a testament to her remarkable skills. Following her internship, we were compelled to offer her a full-time position, and she has since been an invaluable asset to our organization," McRoberts said.

Molera also had high praise for McRoberts, describing him as a “people person” who fosters a fun yet hardworking workplace. 

“The relatively flat hierarchy at Aalto Capital entrusts analysts with several responsibilities, affording them a high level of autonomy, not often afforded at bigger banks. I am grateful to experience such varied, client-facing exposure at every stage of transactions, from client acquisition to deal closing. John offers employees high levels of autonomy, but he is as hands-on as managing partners get,” Molera said. 

Molera feels well prepared for her current role, building on the broad-based training and cross-cultural approach of Thunderbird's curriculum in her career. Molera, who has a background in economics and math, credits Thunderbird's case study teaching method with developing her critical and creative thinking skills, enabling her to consider the impacts of all stakeholders in business decisions. She believes that Thunderbird's teaching in cross-cultural communication, negotiation, leadership and management, corporate social responsibility and geopolitics have prepared her well.

McRoberts, who has always been impressed with Thunderbird students, offers the following advice to those interested in investment banking: "The most important attributes for success are to be hardworking, a good listener, thorough in all that you do, have exceptional attention to details, humility while being confident and to always go the extra mile."

Molera and McRoberts share more below about their experiences at the school.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who has just graduated from Thunderbird and is looking to start their career?

Molera: Before finding a job, leverage the alumni network as much as possible. T-birds are always willing to help. Informational interviews are beneficial for making connections that help you land a job and learn about various industries and job functions. Equipping yourself with as much knowledge as possible about what you want from a career will narrow your scope and help you tailor your resume and job search.

Question: How did the training you received at Thunderbird help you in your career? 

McRoberts: I was fortunate to be offered a job out of school in finance at an international merchant bank in London. The courses I took at Thunderbird prepared me well for the job’s analytical work, and as I traveled extensively, they helped me integrate into different cultures. Most importantly, when I traveled, I often met up with fellow Thunderbirds in each city I visited. Having these contacts made it easier to navigate the business world and helped when meeting clients and colleagues in different geographies.

Question: Which of your personal traits and professional skills help you the most?

Molera: Investment banking, like any industry, requires technical and people skills. I like to demonstrate both, but my top strength is my detail-oriented nature. I have fallen into the “office editor” role and appreciate my attention to detail and pride in each piece of work I put out. I may have Professor (Kannan) Ramaswamy’s or Professor (Michael) Moffett’s case briefs to partly thank for this.

Question: What’s your favorite memory from your time at Thunderbird?

McRoberts: The camaraderie among the students, group projects, rugby games, international dinners/parties most weekends, and of course, pub nights. I was proud to have been the first Zimbabwean to attend Thunderbird and was responsible for providing the first Zimbabwean flag to be flown from the school’s flagpole.

Question: What’s your favorite story from your time at Thunderbird?

Molera: It is hard to choose just one, but Thunderbird's Grand Opening and 75th Anniversary Global Reunion was a week I will never forget. My father was born in Nogales, Arizona, near the border with Mexico. He identifies with his Latin roots, but I hadn't much until coming to Thunderbird. I brought him to Latin America Regional Night during anniversary week. It was extremely special to share Thunderbird with him while experiencing some of his culture.

Question: What’s something you learned while at Thunderbird — in the classroom or otherwise — that has helped you excel in your career?

McRoberts: Thunderbird was a wonderful experience for me. The most outstanding thing about the school was the students. I applied to the school due to its international focus and was impressed with the curriculum and the level of education offered. The diversity of the student body made Thunderbird a unique environment and provided me with a perspective I would not have received from other institutions. It made me feel that anything was possible in any geography in the world and fostered my entrepreneurial qualities.

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