2016 Best MBAs: Sarah Wang, Stanford

Sarah Wang Stanford

Sarah Wang


Stanford Graduate School of Business

Age: 27

“The question that the GSB asks us to ask ourselves first quarter is, why would someone follow you? I didn’t know how to answer that for the 25 years prior to business school, but over the last five quarters, I’ve developed the confidence to lead and to answer this question with a keen awareness of both my strengths and flaws as a leader.”

Hometown: Lake Bluff, IL

Undergraduate School and Degree: Harvard, Economics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The Boston Consulting Group, Consultant in the San Francisco office

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? DCM Ventures, Menlo Park

Where will you be working after graduation? To Be Decided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

2016 Siebel Scholar

Co-President Women in Management

Co-President Venture Capital Club

Co-President Epicureans at the GSB (E@T) Club

Arbuckle Leadership Fellow

Financial Women of San Francisco Scholarship Winner

Teaching Assistant for Leadership in Entertainment

Impact Labs Investing Associate

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Planning the 160-women Women in Management (WIM) Retreat this past fall. The first quarter of business school can be incredibly daunting – you feel like you don’t fit in socially, academically, and even professionally. When I was an MBA1, the WIM Retreat changed everything for me. It was the first place that I realized I truly belonged to a community and could be myself at the GSB because there were people rooting for me and feeling the same way. Being one of the leaders of the Retreat this year gave me the opportunity to help build this community for the new MBA1s and also start to lay the groundwork for managing difficult conversations around gender, community and professional development. It was a powerful weekend and an unparalleled hands-on lesson in leadership.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At BCG, I had the opportunity to work on a bioinformatics computing case in which our team, comprised primarily of PhDs and MDs, were tasked with creating project and funding roadmaps to help achieve the moonshot of using computing power to improve human health. What made me proud of this work was that we successfully found incredible partners for our client, developed an exciting and ambitious roadmap, and created a path to funding (which has since been achieved) while cultivating the best internal team culture and relationship with the main client. Despite the steep learning curve, I also personally discovered my passion for the intersection of health care, data and technology. The manager that I worked for is still a friend to this day, and I will always strive to achieve the culture that we fostered during that intense and fast-paced yet fun project on future teams.

Favorite MBA Courses? I have loved my academic experience at the GSB. A few of my favorite courses include: Investment Management and Entrepreneurial Finance, Interpersonal Dynamics, Innovation and Non-Founder CEOs, The Industrialist’s Dilemma, Formation of New Ventures, Leadership Perspectives, Rethinking Purpose, Food Innovation, Global Operations, Global Financial Reporting, and HR For Start-Ups.

Why did you choose this business school? I came to business school not only to learn about particular subjects, but also to develop my personal leadership skills. I felt that Stanford GSB uniquely emphasized both and the last five quarter have confirmed this for me. In addition, I grew up in Chicago, went to school in Boston, and worked in New York before moving to San Francisco. The Bay area, with its diversity of people, ideas and possibilities, is the place that I feel most at home and Stanford is an institution that lies at the heart of what makes the Bay so amazing.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The people. I love that you can sit down with any classmate or professor on campus and have an interesting conversation and find both commonalities and differences that help each other learn more. The openness and willingness to help anyone affiliated with the GSB is also incredible. Many of my closest friends are now people that I met during business school.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I’m surprised by how much I’ve loved the experience and why. Before starting, I was really nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. However, business school is one of the most diverse environments I’ve ever been in—there is no such thing as “fitting in.” Classmates come from so many different countries, professions and stages of life. In spite of all these differences, the GSB community is cohesive and welcoming. Friendships go beyond surface-level similarities and are more values-based, which I believe makes them stronger.

What was the hardest part of business school? The hardest part of business school has been finding the right balance of social, academic, professional and health-related priorities. One of my personal goals has been to better determine what is essential and to focus my time and energy on that rather than everything at once.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Before you start, create a list of what is important to you. Then cross out every item except one. You can change your priority as time goes on, but make sure you don’t lose sight of what you believe is most important. And it’s okay to say no sometimes so that you have room for spontaneity.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that many of the investors that I admired had gone to business school and they discussed the network and education being pivotal to their careers. My parents have always emphasized the doors that education opens, so my initial interest started even earlier.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying my best to gain the experience and skills to be the best investor I could be.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I’d like to start my own investment fund focused on healthy and sustainable living one day.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents and my brother Brian are the reason for any success I’ve ever achieved. My parents never pushed me, but instead provided examples for the type of person I want to be: disciplined, kind and humble. They came to this country in the 1980s with $50 they borrowed and no English, but they are living proof of what they’ve always told me and my brother: we can achieve anything we put our minds to if we work hard and are kind to the people around us. To this day, they are the people I go to with any problem, big or small. My brother is my best friend and keeps me grounded.

Fun fact about yourself: I am addicted to self-improvement books and Korean dramas.

Favorite book: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Favorite movie: Whiplash, Lord of the Rings III

Favorite musical performer: Beyonce

Favorite television show: House of Cards (currently)

Favorite vacation spot: Carmel/Big Sur

Hobbies? Photography, running, event planning, virtual reality

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

“Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of working with and advising Sarah through the various leadership roles she has taken on during her time at the GSB. As co-president of Women in Management (WIM), the Venture Capital Club, and Epicureans at the GSB, Sarah has demonstrated her commitment and dedication to the GSB, her peers, and her own values and interests. I have been most impressed by the impact Sarah has made through her leadership role with WIM. From seamlessly executing a retreat for over 150 women last fall to compiling a weekly club newsletter highlighting relevant articles and events on campus, Sarah has been essential in making WIM one of the most vibrant and influential student organizations at the GSB. In addition, she has organized numerous opportunities for her classmates to hear and learn from top female and male executives as they have discussed issues around gender equality and women’s advocacy in the workplace. By facilitating these discussions, Sarah has created a safe-space for her classmates to engage openly in these topics and, in turn, has promoted a more open and inclusive GSB culture.

Outside of her extracurricular accomplishments, I admire Sarah’s intellectual curiosity and determination to make the GSB not only the best and most rewarding experience for herself, but for her classmates as well. Well-respected by her peers, Sarah continuously leads with empathy, compassion, and drive. Her humble approach to leadership and her caring nature are hallmarks of her character and have allowed her to influence others to achieve greatness and treat each other with respect and grace. Sarah is truly a one-of-a-kind individual, and while her impact at the GSB has been undeniably remarkable, I know she will continue to inspire and lead for many years to come.”

Laura Hobson

Assistant Director, Student Activities

Stanford Graduate School of Business


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.