December 1, 2023

Furniture Bank

Swing Your Furniture Bank

Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Al Corvah, Duke University (Fuqua)

“My friends call me “Cash Money Corvah” for my natural salesman’s flair and infectious energy.”

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Fun Fact About Yourself: I read a book independently for the first time at two years and four months of age: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University, Government

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: M&T Bank; Job Title: Vice President, Senior Branch Manager

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? Supportive Ambition for sure. Everyone who knows me knows I love competition. However, for me that passion for competing comes not from tearing people down but pushing those around me to be the best they can be. Naturally at a top school like Fuqua the ambitions of the student body will foster competition, but I chose this school because I know that many of my fellow students share my view of what competing is about and will always strive to lift others up while chasing their individual dreams.

I see part of my mandate to uphold this principle as helping other students who are recruiting for investment banking with their preparation and spreading information about certain banks or recruiting timelines that I believe would help my fellow finance-minded Fuquans so as many of us can land jobs in the field as possible. I also need to discuss with my classmates lessons I have learned in my previous line of work that may help everyone in their intended endeavors.

What has been your first impression of the Fuqua MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Fuqua story so far. I’ve been in Durham for three weeks and I already feel at home because of second-year students, alums and my classmates. My second-year mentor checked in with me regularly in the months before I got here and answered many of my questions about life at Fuqua; recent alums have given me their contact information and have sent me Duke-branded gifts to welcome me to the community.

Within my first three days in town, I was invited to a pool party by someone who I met at Blue Devil Weekend, the preview weekend for admitted students; since then, there have been numerous social gatherings at which I’ve gotten to know people. Everyone I’ve met is friendly and interesting and I can’t wait to grow with the class of 2024 during this journey.

My favorite Fuqua story thus far is from my first week in town when I was building furniture. When I explained to a friend of mine in my apartment that I potentially wasn’t going to make it to a party on a particular afternoon because I had to finish building some furniture, he offered to help me out right away so I could go to the party. Small but meaningful gestures like that make me a proud Fuquan.

Aside from your classmates and school culture, what was the key part of Duke Fuqua’s MBA curriculum programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The ability to get a Finance Certificate for excellence in finance-related courses is what intrigued me the most about Fuqua’s curriculum. As a former bank branch manager, I developed a lot of the leadership and persuasion skills that will make me a strong finance executive. With that being said, my past role was not as quantitative as I would have liked and I only received a surface-level education in accounting principles and corporate finance. When I learned about the strength of Fuqua’s finance classes and the ability to get a certificate in the field, I saw that as a way to improve my hard skills in financial services and signal to employers that I can handle the mathematical aspect of any finance role I may have.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Duke Fuqua? I look forward to taking a two-week trip to a Latin American country this winter via Fuqua’s Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) program. I have always been intrigued by Latin American culture and speak fluent Spanish. I attained fluency in the language during my first two years at M&T Bank using a combination of podcasts, keeping a Spanish diary, watching telenovelas, and listening to Spanish-language music so I could connect to my Spanish-speaking customers on a deeper level and better understand the cultures of the region. However, I have not been able to explore the commercial and political environment of a Latin American country since patenting my Spanish skills. I look forward to going to Latin America with people who are also curious about the business culture of the region and I can’t want to speak with the leaders we will meet in those countries and the public at large in my beloved second language.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment was winning the Business Excellence Award for business banking sales in 2021 during my first branch management assignment. Many of the businesses in the Baltimore neighborhood in which that branch was located had to close or significantly reduce operation due to the effects of the pandemic. Additionally, the branch had failed several operational audits before I got there and was known for poor customer service. Though both of those factors encumbered my ability to generate loan and credit card sales in business banking, I prevailed by earning the trust of my staff and learning about what motivates them to succeed. I would come in early and leave late every day to make sales calls and handle administrative work, and meet with business owners every Saturday to get new leads for sales and bring new business customers to M&T. By the end of June 2021, I had already surpassed my annual sales quotas for loans, business credit cards, credit card machines and business accounts, which led to my being given the Business Excellence award in my first year of eligibility.

I consider this my biggest accomplishment because I achieved a level of success that no one outside of myself and my team could have predicted because of all of the external and internal issues the branch faced in the months before I became the manager. This taught me the importance of a strong work ethic, finding ways to motivate your team as a leader, and building rapport with the business leaders of the community you serve.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I wanted to pursue an MBA at this point in my career because I believe I had maximized my development in my previous role. As I reflected on how to take my career to the next level, I reasoned that best path forward would be to join an elite program like Fuqua. This would help me transition to a financial services role that would allow me to leverage the skills I developed in leadership and persuasion while challenging me in new ways. Investment banking fits that description because I already have a strong base of managerial and client-oriented skills that will benefit me in the higher levels of that profession. At the same time, I have to work hard to become more technically proficient in corporate finance to be effective at the associate level. I made great strides in building those hard skills since last October, when I committed to Fuqua, and I look forward to the career development I will receive in that regard as an investment banking associate. Once I master the role of an associate, I can see myself performing at an even higher level on each step of the IB ladder given my background as a leader and salesman and the importance of those skills at the VP level and beyond. Thus, I hope to join an investment bank upon graduating from Fuqua.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I recommend the book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. We live in a world rife with distractions and reasons to be pessimistic. As future business leaders, prospective MBAs need to be prepared to maintain morale and productivity in such an environment. In this Stoic work, Aurelius makes the case that worldly possessions and annoyances are fleeting; true happiness comes from living a life in which you are devoted to principles that beget societal advancement. If the next generation of MBAs can adopt this tenet and leadership style to inspire others to devote themselves to noble ideas that make this world a better place, we will have the focus we need as a society to tackle the most complex issues of our time.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Duke Fuqua’s MBA program? Fuqua strives to create students who rank high on each of the three quotients we recognize: IQ, EQ, and DQ: the “Decency Quotient,” which in plain terms can be described as the intention to do good and foster a just world. To that end, I recommend all potential applicants use their essays to highlight ways in which they possess the three quotients: that is, demonstrate a high level of competence and knowledge in a particular field of work, an interest in learning about people and their backgrounds, and the will to serve others.

I would also advise prospective applicants to think about how they could see themselves contributing to the Fuqua community and being a resource to their fellow students. The “Team Fuqua” brand can only survive when the members of each class are committed to helping one another navigate the challenges of business school and sharing their passions for certain activities and/or industries. Thus, anyone who can point to being someone who is seen as a connector and energizer of people is someone who would fit well at Fuqua.