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Student Success

Coming Full Circle

With mentors all along the way, UTSA M.B.A. student lands her dream job

At the young age of six, Hafsa Ali and her family packed their bags and moved from Pakistan to Queens, New York, in pursuit of the American dream. Her father supported their family as a cab driver, taking passengers around the city to some of the nation’s tallest buildings, always wondering what took place inside. After driving people across the Big Apple for over a decade, her father decided the family needed more opportunities, and while Ali was in high school, they moved to Texas to make San Antonio their home.

Growing up, Ali focused her energy on how she could achieve success. As the oldest child in her family, she felt it was important to set a good example for her younger brother and make her family’s sacrifice of leaving their home in Pakistan worthwhile.

With her family’s closest relatives living halfway across the world, she decided to stay close to home after graduating high school and attend UTSA’s Carlos Alvarez College of Business.

“UTSA has a very family feel and 45% of students here are first-generation. So that really lured me in, knowing I would be around people that, like me, are also trying to find their way,” Ali explains. “I knew that I could find access to resources to guide me that I wasn’t able to get from my family.”

As an undergrad, she made it a point to seek out avenues that would help her succeed and joined several on-campus professional organizations, sought out support from mentors, and even took advantage of study abroad opportunities in a business immersion program in Spain.

“Everything I learned about professionalism, recruiting and job opportunities was through UTSA’s resources. I wrote my first resume at the Career Center, learned how to dress professionally through the professional development classes offered at the business school, and utilized the Handshake app and UTSA job fairs to secure my professional positions,” Ali says.

“During my undergrad years, I worked as a steak and shrimp salesman, a baker in a bakery, a preschool teacher, a cashier at Walgreens, and a UTSA brand ambassador for Amazon — anything I could find to support myself.”

“Through the resources available at UTSA, I was able to land an undergrad internship in risk management. I was the youngest manager in my department, but I was able to be successful through the advice of mentors, even as I made mistakes along the way. I want students to know that they don’t have to figure it out alone. All they have to do is ask and tons of people will be willing to help them,” Ali says.

Hafsa Ali '18
UTSA M.B.A. student

After graduating in 2018, Ali decided that she wanted to return to UTSA to receive her master’s degree in the Alvarez College of Business.

“I finally got the letter — an admission into the UTSA M.B.A. program. My family and I were so excited, and I immediately went on a mission to apply for as many scholarships as I possibly could,” Ali says. “I told myself that if I couldn’t afford school now, my plan was to continue saving my money until I could. And then I got an email from the UTSA Alumni Association saying that I’d been awarded a scholarship. That was the moment that I decided to sign up for classes and fully start grad school.”

During her first year of graduate school, Ali joined the National Black MBA Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the enhancement and development of educational and economic empowerment for African American students and other minority groups. She applied for and was selected to attend their 2022 annual conference in Chicago.

“While I was at the conference, I had some self-doubt, and our program lead, Danielle Gawronski, got coffee with me and inspired me to not settle for anything less than exactly what I dreamed of for my career. And I’m so thankful for that,” Ali says.

As a result of that conference and the mentorship she received along the way, Ali solidified her professional goal of working in product management, leading to an internship opportunity in summer 2022 with a renowned technology company.

“I worked hard and long hours to ensure that my work was done to perfection,” she says. “I read books, I did online courses. I asked questions and learned from anyone that I could find to teach me how to find success in this role.”

Her hard work paid off, and at the end of the summer, Ali received a full-time job offer from the company as a product manager in their New York City office, which will begin after she graduates.

In the meantime, Ali will be supporting and inspiring first-generation students and those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds by speaking and advocating for them at events in hopes that she will be able to help students like her achieve success. She is passionate about the importance of mentorships and hopes that her words of advice can help them reach out to get help along the way.

As a continuation of her seeking guidance along her path, Ali has been honored with the opportunity to work as a mentee to Harvey Najim, a prominent philanthropist who founded The Najim Charitable Foundation and The Najim Center for Innovation and Career Advancement at UTSA. Ali looks forward to learning from Najim and assisting him with his charitable foundation’s work to support underserved and homeless children in the Greater San Antonio region.

In August 2023, when Ali heads to New York City, she will be working in one of those giant New York City buildings her father once wondered about as he drove taxis to support his family. 

“It’s just one of those very beautiful things that’s happened in my life. Everything has come full circle and my dad was over the moon for me,” Ali says. “The opportunities I got from UTSA are the reason that I’ll be where I want to be in my life and that I’ll be able to change the trajectory of my family’s life — because it’s not just about me. It’s my little brother and other students from low income and immigrant backgrounds that are just trying to make it. They now get to see me go from an immigrant child with no direction to a college graduate with my dream job.”

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