2016 MBAs To Watch: Greg Sheldon, Rochester (Simon)

Gregory Sheldon-Rochester-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Gregory Sheldon

University of Rochester, Simon Business School

Age: 29

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California Santa Cruz – B.A. Modern Literature

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? ELS Educational Services Inc. – Instructor, Executive Programs. The core business of ELS was teaching English to students who wanted to do an undergraduate or graduate degree in the U.S., but when I started working there they were getting a lot of requests for customized, individual, intensive programs for professionals, managers, and executives from Fortune Global 500 companies. These clients needed services that combined elements of language instruction with executive coaching and MBA-type curricula. I developed the capacity of their Boston branch to meet these requests, building and administering programs, training new instructors, and developing client relationships so that by the time I left there it was a substantial source of revenue for the branch.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? City of Rochester, Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives

Where will you be working after graduation? City of Rochester, Mayor’s Office of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives, as a Research Fellow. This will be a continuation of my internship work, which has been focused on developing new approaches to the problems of poverty and joblessness in Rochester (which has one of the highest poverty rates among U.S. cities, with one third of residents and half of children below the poverty line). Mostly, the work has been research and planning up to this point and now it’s moving into piloting and implementation, with a focus on solutions that are data-driven, sustainable, and scalable.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: SimonVision Consulting – President; James N. and Donald R. Goodenough Memorial Scholarship; Merit Scholarship; Simon Games Management Simulation Competition Scholarship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’ve been working a great deal on creating more opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning and get more involved in the local business, government, and nonprofit sectors. I’ve gone from working directly on projects as a consultant or project manager to overseeing our SimonVision Consulting student group, which now engages a couple hundred students on several dozen projects every year. I’m in the process of handing that role off to the next generation. I recently found myself becoming a more active source of projects and resources for the school more generally, which is making a push to expand and integrate this type of experiential learning. It’s fantastic, in particular, to see Simon and its students getting more involved in the local community through projects with government and nonprofit entities, and I’ll be continuing to help create more opportunities for students interested in social enterprise and entrepreneurship.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Starting last summer, I’ve been doing some consulting work with an organization called FoodLink on their Curbside Market program, which is a mobile grocery store that provides access to affordable fresh produce in what are popularly referred to as “food deserts” in the greater Rochester area. Curbside is only a few years old as a program and has been very successful. However, it needs a real strategic growth plan to scale up and run sustainably. In developing a growth plan for Curbside, I’ve had to apply nearly all my learning from Simon, create some very fancy pricing, site selection and financial models, and am now finally getting to work on the implementation of it. It’s very gratifying to use what I’ve learned at school to improve and develop a program that provides such a valuable service for those in need.

Who is your favorite professor? Professors Vera and David Tilson, whose Advanced Business Modeling and Consulting Practicum courses I took, respectively. They are both fantastic pedagogically and helped me develop a robust foundation of skills that I use every day in my work. Furthermore, they are deeply involved in and committed to the school, serving as an inspiration and model for driving institutional change that will benefit countless current and future students.

Favorite MBA Courses? Intro to and Advanced Business Analytics, Economics of Competitive Strategy, Marketing Research, Advanced Business Modeling, Consulting Practicum

Why did you choose this business school? It was a good fit for several reasons. I felt like I needed to prove that, despite a background in the humanities, I could pass muster on quantitative skills, and the curriculum has a reputation as quite rigorous with an emphasis on economics, finance, and analytics. The culture of the school appealed to me, with an intimate, supportive environment, high levels of student engagement, and a diverse mix of domestic and international matriculants. Last (and quite importantly), my wife had been accepted to the MD program at the University of Rochester, so we would be able to go to school together.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Simon’s full-time program is small yet diverse. This offered the opportunity to collaborate and develop strong relationships with my amazing peers. There are few things more enjoyable than working with fantastic people on a wide range of difficult, interesting problems and projects — together savoring victories, learning from failures, and having more fun than I could have imagined.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Having the right answer or a great idea is usually a lot easier and less useful than figuring out how to communicate and execute it.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? It was how difficult and enjoyable it’s been at the same time. I never imagined that I would be able to learn so much in such a short time, that I’d be able to keep so many balls in the air without dropping them, that I’d be able to take on so many opportunities to make a meaningful impact, and that I’d love spending so much time pushing my limits.

What was the hardest part of business school? Definitely time management: I came in with a lot to prove and got involved in a lot of projects and activities to do so. By the time I was in my second year of the program, I had taken advantage of too many great opportunities and found myself with every hour of my days booked out for weeks, wondering how necessary sleep might really be.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Be smart and ambitious, yet humble and earnest. Simon does a great job of looking at the whole person when screening applicants and will take chances on those overlooked by similarly ranked schools (often with very generous scholarship offers), but the strength of your character needs to be apparent for them to know that you’ll not waste the opportunity.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I realized that the social issues about which I am passionate were starting to be addressed in really interesting ways by new types of entities and strategies that blend aspects of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. This relatively new concept of social enterprise seemed extremely promising to me and an MBA the best way to learn how to manage a social enterprise.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… running my own business (and probably not doing that great a job without an MBA). I was actually in the very early stages of starting a boutique, for-profit education business with the same types of services and clients that I had been working with at my last job when I got a very generous offer from Simon (and wisely decided to go back to school instead).”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Muhammed Yunus. He was the first, in my mind, to indisputably demonstrate the potential of social entrepreneurship. By approaching the lives of the poor with empathy and respect, he was able to arrive at the insights necessary to create modern microfinance.

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to start my own social enterprise. I’ve worked and have a long-standing interest in education, so starting a business that expands access to learning opportunities for those in poverty is certainly one possibility. However, I’ve also become rather obsessed with food and nutrition through my work with FoodLink NY and my participation in the Hult Prize competition (my team’s pitch at the regional finals in London was a business that would offer improved food access at lower cost for families living in urban poverty).

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife and family. They’ve been immensely supportive and patient toward me and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to do the same for them.

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a published poet. When I was in fourth grade or so, a poem I wrote got selected for inclusion in an anthology of student poetry. I haven’t looked at it in a long time and am not sure I want to because it’s probably embarrassingly corny, but I’m pretty sure my parents still have a copy or two of the anthology stashed somewhere.

Favorite book: How could I choose just one when there are so many? Most recently I’ve been enamored with Haruki Murakami, who I somehow managed to avoid reading during undergrad. I read the Wind Up Bird Chronicle for the first time a couple months ago and have been trying to convince everyone I know to read it since so that I can talk about it with them.

Favorite movie: Lately I’ve found myself returning to Baraka, the sheer visual beauty of which is still hypnotic almost 25 years later.

Favorite musical performer: Kendrick Lamar, whose greatness probably requires no explanation at this point now that he’s winning Grammy Awards left and right.

Favorite television show: HBO has put out a lot of great original series over the years, but my favorite is “The Wire.” It’s so thorough in examining the complex issues and dynamics surrounding inner-city poverty that there are probably entire sociology courses based on it.

Favorite vacation spot: After five long winters in the Northeast, I really appreciate going back down to San Diego where there is no shortage of sunny days, sandy beaches, and spicy tacos.

Hobbies? My B.A. was in literature, so reading probably comes as no surprise. I love music as well and spend a lot of my free time listening to and (badly) playing it.

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

“Greg has been an incredible role model for those considering graduate degree programs, a career success story, and a positive example of the benefits of being in an MBA program.

“Greg is one of the most effective student leaders with whom I have ever worked. He is mature, hard-working, demanding of himself and others, and a positive influence on the school, his classmates, faculty, and administration. He is a highly organized thinker and can visualize where we need to be and how to get there. Part of what makes him so successful is the ability to focus, understand, and communicate priorities before successful implementation.

“Greg has been president of our VISION Partnership Program. VISION connects Simon students with real-world business opportunities with companies of all sizes and local nonprofit organizations. It’s a unique opportunity for students to work on a multi-disciplinary team, tackling real-world problems and challenges. Additionally, Greg and his team were recently finalists in the 2016 Hult Prize ‘Presidential Challenge.’

“I’ve interacted with Greg regularly and I’ve always been impressed by his calm and thoughtful demeanor while advocating for positive and realistic change. He does it in such a way that I’ve been inspired to work with him while personally striving to emulate his style and approach to problem-solving. He is excellent at building relationships and partnerships.”

Karen Dowd

Assistant Dean, Career Management & Corporate Engagement

Simon Business School, University of Rochester