2016 Best MBAs: Kirk Steele, Brigham Young University

Kirk Steele BYU

Kirk Steele


Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Management

“I’m sure that Kirk has been plagued through his youth with the ‘Man of Steele’ moniker. True story: as I was working to memorize student names before the start of the MBA 502 course last year, I used that moniker to remember Kirk’s name and I wondered if he would in fact prove out to be a superman. Well, he did.”

Age:  30

Hometown:  Farmington, Utah

Undergraduate School and Degree:  Brigham Young University, BS Business Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?  Hewlett-Packard – Sales & Marketing (2009-2011); Ford Motor Company – Sales & Marketing (2011-2014)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015?  Google – Manhattan, NY

Where will you be working after graduation?  Google as a Strategic Partner Manager in Austin, Texas

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • 2016 Hawes Scholar
    • The Hawes Scholar award is the highest distinction given to MBA students at the Brigham Young University Marriott School of Management.Students and faculty nominate and vote on each year’s Hawes Scholars. Final selection is made by the Hawes Scholar Committee and is based on academic performance, leadership maturity, and a commitment to high ethical standards.
  • BYU MBA Student Recruiting Manager
    • Responsible for managing the BYU MBA Student Ambassador Program (41 second-year students) in outreach efforts to prospective and admitted students.
    • Responsible for planning and executing on-campus information sessions for prospective students.
    • Responsible for planning and executing Admit Weekend for admitted students.
  • VP of MBA Brand – BYU MBA Marketing Association
    • Responsible for building the BYU MBA and Marketing track brand.
  • BYU MBA Sherpa
    • Responsible for mentoring four first-year MBA students (“climbers”) in their internship search and professional development activities. Includes meeting weekly with each student to do in-depth resume reviews, mock interviews, company research, and recruiting strategy formulation.
    • Helped my climbers successfully land internships at Adobe, Amazon, Dell, and Facebook (this is the first time a BYU MBA has landed an internship or full-time at Facebook).
  • Millennial Marketer Panel Member at Adobe Summit 2015
    • Roundtable session with Adobe executives at Adobe’s annual customer conference on the value that millennial marketers bring to established marketing organizations.
  • Student Interview Panel for BYU MBA Director of Career Services
    • One of 4 MBA students selected to interview and provide feedback on the final candidates for the BYU MBA Director of Career Services position.
  • Teaching Assistant for core MBA Marketing class

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  BYU is not currently ranked as a top-20 MBA school and we’re one of a handful of top-40 MBA schools that isn’t within a two-hour drive of a major metro (e.g. Dallas, Chicago, LA, etc.), so we have to be really scrappy and hustle. Coming into school, my dream was to go to work for Google. When I told people that they thought I was crazy. Google has never hired anyone for an internship or full-time from BYU’s MBA program before. I networked like crazy and hustled my rear-end off and I was able to land an internship with Google. It was gratifying to show that hard work and determination pay off. What has been even more gratifying is to help others do the same thing. One of the first-year students that I have been responsible for mentoring in his internship search was able to be the first BYU MBA to land an internship or full-time offer with Facebook.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  When I left HP to accept a position at Ford, I knew I was taking a big risk switching to a brand new industry. I was basically starting over from scratch having to learn new industry vocabulary and entirely different set of skills. To be honest, initially I really struggled. My role involved consulting with 13 Ford dealers on how to improve their marketing and sales. As you can imagine, dealership owners with decades of experience in the industry weren’t very eager to take business advice from an industry outsider. It was very discouraging. But I persisted and focused on my strengths rather than what I lacked. Rather than try to become an expert on the auto industry, I decided to become an expert on the data for each dealership. As a result I was able to uncover growth opportunities that helped my dealers to produce a 13% increase in sales and an 11% increase in profitability in 2013. But more importantly I was able to develop some great friendships with the dealers that I worked with.

Favorite MBA Courses?  Razor’s Edge – this course focused on thriving personally and professionally. We studied the latest research on happiness, motivation, and engagement and then applied it by taking a two-day camping trip to Southern Utah where we went hiking and mountain biking amongst the red rock cliffs. This class was a defining moment of my MBA experience and has really set the trajectory for my life after MBA school.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose BYU for several reasons. First, one-third of all BYU MBA grads go to work in the tech industry, which is where I wanted to go. Second, BYU’s alumni network is extremely strong and alumni will work very hard to help you get into their company. Third, BYU’s MBA program is the most family friendly MBA program in the country. BYU’s MBA Spouses Association has been a huge asset in helping my family to adjust to life in MBA school. Fourth, BYU MBA students graduate with $21K less debt on average compared to students at other MBA schools.

What did you enjoy most about business school?  Engaging and thought-provoking discussion with very bright classmates and professors. I love the back-and-forth during case study discussions and how it brings out some of your best thinking. I’ve also loved the club trips that we’ve taken and the opportunities they’ve provided to bond with classmates outside of the classroom.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school?  To be intentional about my personal and professional life. To identify what goals and values are important to me and what deliberate actions I need to take in order to become the type of businessperson, husband, and father I want to be at the end of my life.

What was the most surprising thing about business school?  How fast it goes by. It literally feels like I just started my MBA and yet the two years are almost done.

What was the hardest part of business school?  Finding time to work out and stay in shape. Between the studying, recruiting, and social activities, it is really hard to find time to exercise – and all the free food at info sessions and events doesn’t help.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school?  BYU’s motto is “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” Really think about how you are going to take the education you receive at BYU and use it to serve those around you and in your community.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was a junior in high school.  One of my mentors, Dan Liljenquist, that I really looked up to had an MBA and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working on a political campaign.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire Jon Huntsman, Sr. I admire his humility and generosity. Early in his career when he and his wife were on a shoestring budget he was still extremely generous and that never changed when he became wealthy.

What are your long-term professional goals?  I would like to run the strategic alliances or business development function for a tech company. If I’m lucky enough, my dream would be to retire at age 50 and run for the U.S. Senate.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?  My wife and 3 kids. I wouldn’t have been able to make it through MBA school without the support of my wife. She has been amazing. Getting an MBA has required a lot of long hours and late nights and she has been so supportive. Just before second semester finals, our youngest daughter was born and then shortly after I had to leave for my summer internship in New York while she stayed in Utah with our newborn, a two year old, and five year old. For the three months I was gone, she held down the fort at home in addition to working part-time herself. Any success that I have achieved in my career and in MBA school is largely attributable to the support that my wife has provided me. My kids have also been amazing. Nothing beats coming home after a long day at school to my kids running up to give me hugs and kisses.

Fun fact about yourself: In high school I played the bagpipes in a band called the “Crooked Pipers Society.”

Favorite book: How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen

Favorite movie: The Count of Monte Cristo

Favorite musical performer: Imagine Dragons

Favorite television show: Sherlock on BBC

Favorite vacation spot: Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Hobbies?  My favorite thing to do is camping and hiking with my wife and three kids. I am also a political junkie. The way that some people watch Monday Night Football is the same way that I watch all of the primary and general election political debates on TV.

What made Kirk such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“I’m sure that Kirk has been plagued through his youth with the ‘Man of Steele’ moniker. True story: as I was working to memorize student names before the start of the MBA 502 course last year, I used that moniker to remember Kirk’s name and I wondered if he would in fact prove out to be a superman. Well, he did. I can report that he absolutely tore up my class. His deliverables and his classroom comments were always insightful and spot on. But, and this is so very important, Kirk never bullied the classroom. He came prepared and he graciously supported the work we did together as a class without taking charge. He listened to others and helped flesh out comments and questions to keep the whole class moving forward. That kind of quiet excellence and selfless leadership represents the best qualities of a BYU MBA professional. And to that end, Kirk is not so much an obvious ‘Superman’ as he is the more subtle and more effective ‘Clark Kent.’” — Monte R. Swain, Deloitte Professor of Accountancy, Brigham Young University, Marriott School of Management


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