Whitman at Work: The Many Interests of Oriana Fuentes
Oriana Fuentes ’12
Syracuse was a great place for somebody who has a lot of different interests and wants to combine them in a very flexible way.
The name for a person with multiple interests and talents used to be a Renaissance man/woman/person. These days, they might be called multipassionate or multipotentialite.
No matter the word, Oriana Fuentes ’12 is such a person.
Fuentes was a dual major at Syracuse University, with a finance degree from the Whitman School and an economics degree from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and worked for one of the largest banks in the United States. A coder since age 12, she also holds a master’s degree in computer science. Born in the United States, she attended secondary school in Peru.
Today, Fuentes is the CEO of an early stage health tech startup seeking to address challenges in the U.S. health care infrastructure. This is her second startup.
No Two Days the Same
Fuentes’ days are just about as varied as her interests. She begins the day on a call with her team discussing their projects and challenges for the day ahead. After that, she spends time speaking with potential investors or users of her company’s product. The afternoon might include conversations with the company’s lawyers, running the financials or working on prototypes.
It’s not surprising that one of the things Fuentes appreciates about Syracuse is the opportunity for cross-disciplinary activity. "Syracuse was a great place for somebody who has a lot of different interests and wants to combine them in a very flexible way," she says.
Fuentes started out as a chemistry major because of her strong aptitude for the subject. She soon realized she didn’t want a career in that field and changed her majors to economics and finance.
Beginning in her second year, Fuentes worked with the Orange Value Fund led by Professor Fernando Diz, a private hedge fund incorporated into a two-year course in which students were taught value investing principles. “I went from not really knowing anything about markets and finance to really being prepared significantly to go onto Wall Street,” says Fuentes of the program.
After graduation, Fuentes took a position with J.P. Morgan, where she had interned as a student. Working for a large financial institution gave her a solid understanding of how major institutions support businesses.
While she was at J.P. Morgan, Fuentes went back to school, earning a computer science degree from Columbia University with a focus on machine learning. When she completed the program, staying with a large organization no longer felt like a good fit for her.
Pursuing Creativity, Solving Problems
“I left after developing the strong sense that at a big institution, I wasn’t building equity in my time, and by that I mean building equity in myself, my creativity, the ability to do things in a more interesting way,” Fuentes recalls.
Instead, a friend she met while attending secondary school in Lima, Peru, had just created a startup. Fuentes came on board as a co-founder in 2016. The startup, Emptor, provides automated background checks to companies, including Uber, and has been profitable nearly from the beginning.
In 2022, as the effects of COVID-19 continued to roil the U.S. health care system, Fuentes left Emptor to found her current startup. While it is still in early stages, the company is seeking to solve issues arising from an outdated health care infrastructure.
Of course, someone with Fuentes’ many interests also has a side hustle. Hers is Women in Healthtech, which hosts monthly events for founders and investors. She started the organization to tackle significant discrepancies in venture capital fundraising between all-female teams and other founders in health tech.
“There’s a lot of women building things in cardiac health, cancer research, rare blood diseases, menopause, fertility and electronic health records interconnectivity,” she says. “There’s a lot of amazing things being built, and I want to make sure that those things have a fair chance.”
An active Whitman alumna, Fuentes is a member of the Young Whitman Advisory Council and the chair of its Mentorship and Student Engagement Committee. She also frequently gives her time to speak on panels and judge the Orange Tank pitch competition, as well as give advice more informally to students. Among her advice for students interested in following in her footsteps as a founder: work in a field you’re excited about.
With her varied passions, there will likely be many opportunities for Fuentes to successfully take her own advice.