2016 Best MBAs: Paul Jacobs, Duke

Paul Jacobs Duke Fuqua

Paul Jacobs


Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Paul stands out as an authentic leader with strong integrity and values. He is an Air Force veteran and his classmates quickly identified him as a leader. One student nominated him for an award in his first year and provided the conclusion, “Paul’s passion is people and he always makes whoever he is talking with feel like they are the focus of his attention regardless of how many other things he has going on.”

Age: 31

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri


University of Notre Dame, BS Aerospace Engineering

Naval Postgraduate School, MS Systems Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

United States Air Force, Space and Missile System Center, Lieutenant, Astronautical Developmental Engineer, 2007-2011

NASA, Jet Propulsion Lab, Lieutenant, Astronautical Developmental Engineer, 2008-2009

National Reconnaissance Office, Captain, Program Manager, 2011-2012

United States Air Force, The Pentagon F-35 Program Office, Captain, Program Manager, 2012-2013

NATO, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Captain, Chief Engineer, 2013-2014

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Google Inc., Mountain View, California

Where will you be working after graduation? Google Inc., Product Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School Elected Student Body Co-President 2015-2016, Elected Section President 2014-2015, Academic Fellow for Economics, Corporate Outreach Chair of Design + Innovation Club, Recipient of Team Fuqua Award “Uncompromising Integrity” (Jan 2015), Selected to participate in Google Student Veterans Summit (July 2014), Dean’s List, Recipient of the Fuqua Class of 1988 Endowed Scholarship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being elected to represent my school as Co-President of the student body. Not only have I had the opportunity to act on the concerns of my classmates and speak on their behalf, but I was also able to coordinate strategic initiatives with my incredible executive team. We worked with the administration to completely revamp second year orientation, taking the entire class to the National Whitewater Center and Camp Carolina instead of staying on campus to facilitate team building. We transitioned our club database to a new online platform, built a new internship experience database, and are in the process of building a new series of events that will allow students to share their stories with fellow classmates, similar to TED talks. Finally, my position afforded me the opportunity to be a steward of the supportive and collaborative culture that makes Fuqua so unique and I could not be more proud to see that tradition continue.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Just prior to coming to Fuqua, I served as the NATO Chief Engineer at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. My team and I were responsible for the infrastructure, utilities, and repairs of a base of 22,000 soldiers and contractors. I was responsible for leading the engineering plan to drawdown the base to 6,000 members. While it was difficult being away from friends and family, every day I knew that my work was not only keeping American and international service members operationally efficient, but more importantly safe.

Favorite MBA Courses?  I loved Strategy Implementation, Managerial Accounting, and Marketing Strategy, but Gavan Fitzsimons’ Consumer Behavior class was unlike any class I had ever taken before. Instead of being case-based, each class was a discussion of Gavan’s most recent research into the mind of the consumer. From his work on unconscious bias and restricted choice to new theories on the consumer need for structure and justice, each class was engaging and thought-provoking. I felt like I was reading a Dan Brown novel in that I couldn’t wait for each new class.

Why did you choose this business school? It simply comes down to the people and culture at Fuqua. I’ve heard it countless times and I couldn’t agree with it more, “we take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously.” The people that decide to come to Fuqua are those that pull together to take on projects, can poke fun at themselves, and at the end of the day know how to cut loose and enjoy each other’s company.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I loved being surrounded by such motivated and passionate people. Outside of classes, Fuqua is almost entirely student-led. If there was a project or initiative, whether that be a club conference, recruiting prep, or an international group trip, there were students that were ready to lead or pitch in to help. The administration has found the perfect balance of when to offer support and when to let students take the reigns to get things done.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? To this day, I am still surprised by the diverse backgrounds of my fellow students. I’m friends with a former glass blower, a male ballerina, and an analyst for an art trading company (and that’s only within my 75-person section).

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of business school was trying to decide where to spend my limited free time. With so many clubs, initiatives, and social events, I had to be purposeful in my pursuits and learn to schedule time for myself, otherwise I would have been completely overwhelmed.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Be sincere about who you are and don’t try to be something you’re not. If you can show that you know yourself and you’re comfortable in your own skin, you will demonstrate your ability to relate to others, which is something that Fuqua prides itself on.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I could deliver innovative products faster and at a lower cost by being in the private sector.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…co-founder of my own micro-brewery with my buddy from college.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I hope to be a leader in the movement to commercialize space by starting my own company. If I’m successful, I hope to build the first space elevator, which will allow for a 100x reduction to transportation costs to low earth orbit.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I wouldn’t be anywhere without my family’s love and support. My parents always pushed me to try my hardest in all of my pursuits while also teaching me that life is more than just work. They emphasized the importance of building relationships and that nobody makes it to where they are in life without the help of others. It’s those lessons that made me the man I am today and I will never be able to thank them enough.

Fun fact about yourself: My summer job in high school and college was as a DJ for weddings, birthday parties, and proms.

Favorite book: The Martian by Andy Weir

Favorite movie: Top Gun

Favorite musical performer: The Beatles and Billy Joel

Favorite television show: Arrested Development

Favorite vacation spot: Cartagena, Colombia

Hobbies? Playing piano and guitar, home-brewing beer, competitive sailing (Farr 40’ Class), and hiking the outdoors

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

“I have gotten to know Paul Jacobs very well the past two years, first through his role as a section representative and later, as one of our student government co-presidents.  Paul stands out as an authentic leader with strong integrity and values. He is an Air Force veteran and his classmates quickly identified him as a leader. One student nominated him for an award in his first year and provided the conclusion, “Paul’s passion is people and he always makes whoever he is talking with feel like they are the focus of his attention regardless of how many other things he has going on.”

I can attest that Paul always has a lot going on. As one of our co-presidents, he dedicated the last year to creating the best experience possible for his classmates.  The result has been a class that has had a number of activities focused on greater inclusiveness within the community and one that has followed his lead in and out of the classroom.  One of Paul’s most significant contributions has been his day in and day out positive, infectious attitude. He is a role model for others and I know has made others not only feel more comfortable at Fuqua but more excited to engage and get the most out of their experience. He will carry that attitude to Google after graduation and I am confident will do great things there as well.” — Russ Morgan, Associate Dean, The Duke MBA – Daytime and Master of Management Studies, Professor of the Practice of Marketing, Duke University, Fuqua School of Business


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