2017 Best MBAs: Aaron Silver, Michigan Ross

Aaron Silver

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Texas born, Jersey raised, Rutgers schooled, Army trained, world traveled, Ross educated, management readied.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Vineland, N.J.

Fun fact about yourself: I ran with the bulls during the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Rutgers University, BA American Studies.

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

U.S. Army, Field Artillery Officer, 2008 – 2012.

Best Buy, Logistics, 2012 – 2014.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Deloitte Consulting, McLean, VA.

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte Consulting, Senior Consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President, Armed Forces Association at Ross.

President, Toastmasters at Ross.

Vice President, Ski Club.

Admissions Interviewer.

Peer Coach, Ross Career Services.

Student Ambassador.

MTrek trip Leader – Led 15 MBA1s to Bolivia as part of the Ross orientation experience.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I launched a new Veterans Day event at Ross, called VETx. The Armed Forces Association (AFA) at Ross has run it for two years in row with tremendous success. The premise was simple: The AFA wanted to share our military leadership experiences, the lessons learned from them, and how they could be translated to business. I imagined the combination of military stories and leadership lessons learned would be appealing to business students. The forum we chose was storytelling. The feedback following VETx has been universally positive. MBA students in attendance were captivated by the power and sincerity of the stories shared by the Ross veterans. VETx has already grown in its short existence with new partnerships. This year we added heavy corporate sponsorship, sponsorship by the Sanger Leadership Center, and an introduction by Dean Scott DeRue. It is my sincere hope that it becomes an enduring tradition at Ross. I know that next year’s Armed Forces Association at Ross executive board is excited about running VETx again.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? This is a tough one. I was fortunate to have had exposure to many challenges that have led to professional growth during my five years in the U.S. Army and my nearly two years with Best Buy logistics. If I had to pick one, I would say my graduation from U.S. Army Ranger School is the achievement that I am most proud of. Ranger School is the Army’s premier small-unit leadership training. As an artillery officer, I had to compete for five months just to get a spot in the school. Once there, I was exposed to so many elements that tested my resolve – from malnutrition, sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, physical overexertion, critical thinking and mission planning, to peer leadership. This environment pushed me to learn through adversity, operate in a team-based environment, and overcome any self-perceived limitations. Ranger School has something like a 50-60 percent attrition rate; and there are three, three-week phases that if failed must be repeated. Following graduation, I felt transformed with a newfound grit and approach to leadership that would allow me to be a successful Army platoon leader. I have taken many of the lessons that I learned at Ranger School with me beyond the Army.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? One of the core courses at Ross called The World Economy is still my favorite. It’s a strategy course that covers such topics as international trade, currencies, inflation and deflation, trade deficits and surpluses, and so forth. I really enjoyed the big-picture view of how global socio-political economics works. I vividly remember reading the Wall Street Journal after that class concluded and having a much deeper understanding of the intricacies of global business.

Why did you choose this business school? I was at a crossroads in my career. I had just left the military and was trying my hand at operations management in logistics. I decided that I needed to enhance my business acumen and get some exposure to other industry opportunities. Coming out of a liberal-arts education and a military career, I knew that there was a lot about business that I just didn’t know.  After visiting Ross, I was convinced that it had an environment that would allow me to thrive and flourish. Of course, the academics and career opportunities are world class, but more than that – I just loved the culture. Rossers are positive, collaborative, and embody servant leadership. That sealed the deal for me. On top of that, the premier business school facilities, the town of Ann Arbor, and Michigan football were big selling points.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I love the combination of academic, professional, and student-life opportunities that we have available and the freedom to be the architect of our own journey at business school. At business school you can customize your experience to meet your goals. Those goals might include focusing explicitly on a single academic emphasis, landing your dream job, starting a business, embracing the MBA social scene and growing your professional network, sampling a little bit of everything, or delving into any of the other myriad opportunities available. Business school affords you the ability to choose your own adventure and achieve success according to your own goals.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Business school life operates at an accelerated tempo. Two years may sound like a lot on the front end, but it goes by so much faster than you might expect. The combination of academics, career, student life, and extracurricular obligations have you so busy that it can be disorienting at times. Like many others I eventually overcame FOMO and learned to master the art of business school time management. Still, the two years here at Ross have gone by in the blink of an eye.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I would encourage applicants to visit Ross. Come to Ann Arbor and get to know this magical town. Do a Visit in Person tour and see our world class facilities. Meet current students and engage them with tough questions and meaningful conversations. This is the best way to learn about our unique culture and everything that Ross has to offer.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Mikaela Rodkin. She has one of those personalities that just energizes the people around her and makes them better. Mikaela exudes optimism, enthusiasm, and passion. She is very active in a number of student-life activities, is committed to furthering sustainability through her membership in the Erb Institute, started a business while at graduate school, is completing a dual degree at Michigan, and is a Navy veteran. We have worked together closely on two occasions. The first time, we were both recruiting for consulting. As MBA1s,  we partnered up as casing buddies for a few months leading up to consulting interviews. I still remember her thorough and pertinent feedback. I am convinced that she was pivotal in helping me achieve success during consulting recruiting. The second occasion was as board members in the Armed Forces Association. Mikaela ran our veteran recruiting efforts very successfully. She coordinated two military preview days for both round 1 and round 2 admissions. Her organizational and management skills were evident. Both events were well-run and made a deep positive impression on the prospective military candidates. Because of her efforts, we are already well on track to have a strong veteran class at Ross for the 2019 academic year that includes a tripling of our female veteran representation among our MBA population. Additionally, as a board member in the club, I could always count on Mikaela for sound advice, active participation, and energy around driving many of our initiatives. I have no doubt that Mikaela will continue to be a rock star in her career after graduating from Ross.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I witnessed my peers transitioning out of the Army and finding fulfilling careers through top MBA programs.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…likely be working in retail logistics and probably still not understanding what management consultants actually do for a living.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? This is pie in the sky, but I would love for free parking for full-time MBA students at Ross.  All kidding aside, I think that Ross has an incredible dean right now. Dean Scott DeRue has just taken over the helm at Ross and I’m convinced that he is the right leader for the job. I have participated in two of his town halls and walked away thoroughly impressed with his vision for Ross. My only regret is that I will be long gone when his innovations for Action Based Learning 2.0 kick off. Ross is going in a great direction right now.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’m taking the one-year-at-a-time approach. Currently, I will be joining Deloitte Consulting upon graduation. I want to stay there for as long as I am happy and able to contribute in a meaningful way. If my summer internship is an indicator of what to expect, I could envision myself being at Deloitte for a long time. Regardless of where I will be working in 5, 10, or 20 years, I want to be in an environment where I get to work with high-performing teams, have exciting and varying projects and challenges, and am able to learn something new every day.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? It may be a cliché, but I would thank my father.  He has achieved professional success through a tireless work ethic, perseverance, and a commitment to long-term planning and delayed gratification.  My dad is a great role model and moral compass. He instilled in me the values that serve as my motivation.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my MBA peers to remember me for building a forum for dialogue and a platform for sharing leadership experiences between the MBA veterans and the greater Ross community.

Favorite book: Currently reading The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey and thoroughly enjoying it.

Favorite movie or television show: Game of Thrones.

Favorite musical performer: Depends on the mood. I’m on a modern rock kick right now.

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with great ski slopes.

Hobbies? Riding my Harley, walking my dogs, weight training, spending time with my wife, skiing, visiting museums.

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

“Aaron Silver possesses a perfect combination of strong leadership skills, rigorous analytic skills, and a true sense of generosity, which fuels my optimism about his potential to make a positive difference in the business world.  During his time as a student at Ross, he has cemented a legacy that will continue to benefit the Ross community for many years to come. In 2015, Aaron organized and hosted a new event called VETx, which provides a public platform for military veterans at Ross to share their unique leadership experiences and openly discuss difficult decisions they had to make in the face of ambiguity. Aaron’s ability to recognize the value in having students share leadership experiences and, more importantly, his call to action directly testifies to his ability to make a positive difference for any organization with which he is affiliates.

I had the honor of moderating the second annual VETx in 2016, which gave me a chance to work closely with Aaron. I quickly realized the enormity of his potential as a business leader. He was extremely thorough in planning every detail of the event, yet simultaneously empowered his volunteer organizers by placing complete faith in them to make decisions on his behalf.  In my opinion, this is the hallmark of a great leader and Aaron is a perfect example.”

Ryan Ball
Assistant Professor of Accounting and Ernst & Young Faculty Fellow
Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

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