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2017 Best MBAs: Claire Lee, Yale SOM

Claire Lee

Yale School of Management

“Infinitely curious and delighted by the interconnectedness of the world and people (and likely overly caffeinated).”

Age: 30

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun fact about yourself: I once battled Ben Folds in an impromptu piano duel and won… on a technicality (he broke a piano string mid-way). It totally counts, right?

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Washington, Foster School of Business; B.A. in Business Administration with concentrations in Accounting and Marketing

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Deloitte Consulting LLP, Consultant in Strategy & Operations

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Nike, Inc. (Beaverton, OR)

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte Consulting LLP, Senior Consultant in Strategy & Operations

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Class of 2017 Student Life Chair (elected position in Student Government)
  • Class of 2017 Student Fundraising Chair for SOM Internship Fund (annual student-led campaign to raise funds for classmates pursuing social sector summer internships – an SOM tradition nearly 40 years running)
  • Executive board member and co-founder of Rainier Athletes, a Seattle-based non-profit group serving at-risk youth with sports programs

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my contributions to the Class of 2017 Internship Fund team. An SOM tradition nearly 40 years in the running, the Internship Fund raises money primarily from students – with some help from faculty, alumni, and staff – to help classmates that pursue social sector internships in the summer. In just four days, I led a school-wide fundraising campaign, along with a team of 30+ student volunteers, to raise over $36,000 that directly benefitted over 10% of our classmates last summer with 96% students giving in our class. Additionally, in our fundraising auction, we raised over $35,000 towards the cause. I’m incredibly humbled and proud to be part of a community that answers the call to serve each other and our world – our classmates are truly extraordinary.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? As part of my work for the Gates Foundation, I am most proud of helping develop the strategy and implementation for CHAMPS – a health partnership network that builds knowledge to save children’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. While I couldn’t spell epidemiology prior to the project, I left the project humbled and emboldened by a team of brilliant experts across many fields – philanthropy, public health, and pharmaceuticals – with proof that the best of business can be the linchpin in bringing data and knowledge into action.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Behavioral Economics. Humans are often not rational – in fact, most embrace the irrational when making decisions, whether buying products, investing financially, or forming habits based on psychological and behavioral cues. Understanding the observed delta between what rational people ought to do versus what people actually do carries real opportunities for leaders in all sectors, particularly in marketing, management, and public policy.

Why did you choose this business school? This one is easy! I fell in love with SOM’s mission to educate leaders for business and society. I wanted to spend two years learning from, and with, brilliantly diverse and talented people from all walks of life that just get it – they understand, or want to be convinced, that business and society are mutually reinforcing (and rewarding) arenas and goals, rather than opposing forces that must be reconciled.

There’s something magical in the air in Evans Hall. When I walked in for the first time during my campus visit, I immediately felt at home – yet at the same time, it buzzed with this intense dynamism and tension between perspectives and opinions that I hadn’t encountered at other b-schools. Plus, it’s Yale – coming to SOM meant that I got to channel my inner Rory Gilmore!

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? How insanely busy school days can get! I’d been warned before by students, but you’re constantly pulled into different directions in b-school and the FOMO is very real – it’s hard to say no to anything! It’s taught me a lot about making real tradeoffs with your time, so you can remember to squeeze in some sleep while you go to classes, hang out with friends, recruit, do extracurricular stuff, exercise, and, oh yeah, maintain relationships with family and friends in your outside life!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Talk to current students – and take the time to really get to know us! One of the best parts of SOM is our collective diversity and our individual experiences look very differently from one person to another. Students are truly empowered here at SOM and we often create our own adventures based on our unique goals and backgrounds. That’s why it’s so important to get to know many of us – you’ll never be able to pick up on all of the varied experiences online!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Time to debunk the myth here – not everyone from SOM goes into the non-profit sector! In fact, it’s neat to see how friends coming from the social sector help merge the best of business and society across diverse roles and industries they enter post-SOM. Many classmates are also entrepreneurs, creating products, services, or investments that work across sectors for social impact with real returns.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not playing hockey with the SOM Hockey team! We just had Gartska Cup – our annual hockey game between first years / MAMs and second years – and experienced serious FOMO watching classmates crush it on the ice. By the way, the second years won 3-0!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tarini Mohan. As a survivor of a serious accident that caused traumatic brain injury while working abroad in Uganda, Tarini exemplifies grace, grit, and extraordinary positivity – a combination that I admire infinitely.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I talked to my friends returning to Deloitte from business school. They came back entirely transformed in a more well-rounded, dynamic way – plus, their worldwide travel stories alone were enough to get me to apply!”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an astronaut. Okay, more realistically, I would be pursuing an advanced degree in neuroscience or psychology.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate long-term professional goal is to lead or create a financial services company that helps increase financial literacy and access for all. My goal is to use the best of the various disciplines that I’ve enjoyed most at SOM, including design, behavioral economics, and data science, and create personal financial products and services that are clear, easy to understand, and encourage better choices for financial health.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank Professors Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut for opening my eyes to the intersection of design and business. Beautifully designed things, words, and services compel people to act – thanks to them, I now understand the power of beauty and simplicity in the experience of everything. They helped me realize that designing and building these experiences in business is exactly what I want to do when I grow up – plus, they helped me develop a thicker skin during those open critiques!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Always happy to see you and hopelessly dedicated to deepening connections between classmates and community.

Favorite book: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Favorite movie or television show: Westworld (HBO)

Favorite musical performer: Iron & Wine

Favorite vacation spot: Bali, Indonesia

Hobbies? Skiing, distance running, and flying lessons (I’m about 10 flight hours in towards my private pilot license!)

What made Claire such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Claire Lee is the Student Life Chair for Student Government, overseeing multiple subcommittees and organizing all of the student programs for the entire student body at Yale SOM. She has transformed this role with her level of professionalism and detail increasing awareness and communication around the school.  Claire is the author of a weekly electronic student newsletter that keeps everyone informed of upcoming initiatives and opportunities available to them in a timely manner. She is dedicated to every project she is involved with and manages expectations and deliverables flawlessly. Claire is a true leader at Yale SOM and inspires her classmates and community repeatedly with her keen insight, thoughtful execution, and collaborative work style. Claire will be returning to Deloitte Consulting after graduation.”

Rebecca Udler
Director of Academic Affairs and Student Life

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017