2017 Best MBAs: Sally Lambert, MIT (Sloan)

Sally Lambert

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Kind, Collaborative, Compassionate, Determined, Competitive, Humble, Helpful, Reflective, Introverted, Enthusiastic, Positive, Curious, Silly.”

Age: 31

Hometown: I grew up in Concord, MA and now I live in Boulder, CO.

Fun fact about yourself: I play competitive ultimate frisbee.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Williams College, BA Art History

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? CLEAResult/Populus, Director

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? WhiteWave Foods, on the Supply Chain Transformation team

Where will you be working after graduation? I am moving back to Colorado and planning to work in the clean energy/environment sector. I am currently job searching.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Managing Director, MIT Clean Energy Prize, the largest student-run clean energy business plan competition in the US with a mission of accelerating energy entrepreneurship and innovation; fundraised $278,000
  • Vice President, Sloan Social Impact Fellowship, a program through the Sloan Net Impact Club and the Annual Fund that offers fellowships to Sloan students interning in social impact
  • Active member of the Sloan Net Impact Club, participating in events like Sloan Serves, a community service day in Boston
  • Active member of the Sloan Entrepreneurs in International Development club, where my team and I created a database of financing partners for solar photovoltaic installations in the Dominican Republic for a solar startup
  • MIT Graduate Student Leadership Institute, Spring 2017 Cohort. GSLI is a peer-led collaboration across all MIT graduate schools to further develop the leadership skills, experience, and network of outstanding MIT graduate students who have already exhibited strong leadership capacity.
  • Coach for two fellow students through the MIT Leadership Center Peer-to-Peer Coaching Program

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the 2016 MIT Clean Energy Prize. I co-led a team of ten students to plan and execute the nationwide business plan competition. Our team was comprised of accomplished, bright, capable people, and I was proud of my ability to flex my leadership style to provide them empowerment, ownership, and support. On the day of the final event, I was overwhelmed the incredible job our team had done, and how impactful and inspiring our program was for participants, stakeholders, and the community.

As a team, we faced many challenges throughout the year, and I embraced the challenges and problem-solved pragmatically. For instance, CEP lost its title sponsor and most of its funding in 2015. My co-leader and I fundraised determinedly, and we exceeded the dollar goal we had set for ourselves. Additionally, two months before the competition we learned of a contract clause that could prevent us from accessing one-third of our fundraised dollars. By asking questions about the interests of the involved parties, I discovered the clause was not intended to provide such a harsh constraint. I worked with our sponsors and faculty to resolve the situation and access the money.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Early in my career I was tasked with reforming a community’s struggling clean energy program. The program suffered from lack of communication, understaffing, and inconsistent processes and decision-making. To address these issues and others, I centralized program administration, hired and trained a team to integrate with the existing implementation firms, streamlined and aligned processes, and opened communication channels among my team, the existing firms, the client, and customers. Drawing from my experiences leading college sports teams and groups of students in the backcountry, I quickly learned that I had the instincts and skills to build a business team dedicated to doing a good job. To earn the support and respect of my staff, I first gave them my support and respect. Just as I used instruction, reinforcement, and practice to teach a student, I used phased training and ongoing support to implement organizational change.

Almost every element of the program needed a high-level process overhaul; the reward for improving one process was moving on to the next one. Challenged to take on more tasks and responsibilities than ever before, I relied on my problem solving, time management, and organizational skills to help me complete my job and improve my efficiency. Delegation was very difficult for me, yet I was forced to rely on my team, and I learned the value in delegating meaningful work. I was a leader who got things done, was eager to take on the next challenge, and successfully collaborated with clients, supervisors, peers, and direct reports. By next year, the program met its goals ahead of schedule and was named one of the top three programs of its kind nationwide.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Sloan for a few reasons. I liked its collaborative, entrepreneurial culture and diverse community. I liked MIT’s focus on entrepreneurship, clean energy, and sustainability, and Sloan’s connection to MIT’s engineering programs. I wanted to be in New England, where I was close to my parents and grandparents yet only a flight away from my home in Colorado. A scholarship helped as well.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I most enjoyed the people I have met. I have met caring, humble, passionate, impact-focused, diverse, brilliant people who are both genuinely interested in me and inspiring to get to know. I meet new Sloanies every week and look forward to getting to know them and what they care about. After my first semester, I started finding and creating small group settings to allow for deeper relationship building. I truly appreciate the community we build in our short time at Sloan.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I was surprised by how busy school was, and how challenging it was to stay focused on what was important to me. It was very important to me to create time and space for my personal relationships and my ultimate frisbee teams and training while in school, yet I found myself excited about all the different things that my classmates were passionate about. I felt that I wasn’t taking full advantage of the business school opportunity if I wasn’t fully present, yet I felt guilty when I prioritized my life outside of school. It wasn’t until fall of my second year when I found a better balance and was able to better align how I spent my time at school, home, and for my team. I hadn’t anticipated it would take me a year to find that balance.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself. Use the application process to ask yourself hard questions with complex, nuanced, honest and personal answers. Be reflective, and then succinctly and authentically tell stories to share who you are. Through being reflective and authentic, you give yourself the best shot of showing Admissions who you really are, and finding a program that is a good fit for you.

What is the biggest myth about your school? When I was applying to Sloan, I heard the mantra “Sloanies helping Sloanies.” This mantra resonated with me, and I feel it accurately captures an important piece of Sloan culture. Sloanies helping Sloanies manifests in small to large ways – from a teammate bringing cookies to a late evening meeting, to multiple offers of places to stay for a week when my apartment had water damage, to classmates and alumni being eager to help me with a network-based job search even if all they know is that I am a fellow Sloanie.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many – this is one of the most fabulous things about the MBA program. Eva is a friend from college, and a fellow frisbee player, and she rises to the top because in the face of adversity in our core semester, she paused, reflected, and asked herself difficult and powerful questions to begin to uncover what truly mattered to her and why. She overcame that challenge and became stronger for it, and she shares these powerful questions, thoughtful reflection, and desire for continual learning with those around her. Also, despite the pressure to join consulting after school, she turned down an offer to pursue a path that is less certain path but one about which she is much more passionate. And to top it off, she’s brilliant, kind, and fun!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I decided that I wanted to pursue a masters-level education, and given my interest in management, business school was the most logical choice of program.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in clean energy in Colorado and more involved with community development for women’s ultimate frisbee.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?In teacher hiring and evaluation, I would prioritize teaching talent. MIT, a cutting-edge research institution, prioritizes research over teaching, and case discussions and class sometimes suffers as a result.

 What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?  I want to make a meaningful contribution to mitigating climate change, and do this while empowering, strengthening, and inspiring the people with whom I work.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my parents and my partner, Owen, for my success. My parents raised me with strong values of kindness, hard work, curiosity, helpfulness, and independence, and they fostered my deep love of nature and outdoor recreation. They provide me unconditional love and support, especially when I need it most. Owen picked up where my parents left off and we finished raising each other. He often believes in me more than I believe in myself. He also pushes me to be a better person – whether by providing counterpoints to make me think more critically, asking powerful questions to make me think about what truly matters to me, or helping me better understand the impact of my words and actions on others.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I am your classmate who chose to put life and family first, frisbee career second, and work career third, even coming out of business school, and I believe that is the right choice for me and that the right choice for any one person comes from deep reflection on what matters most to you and why.

Favorite book: There are so many! For the all-time classic, it’s Winnie-the-Pooh. For a more recent (and adult) read, Anthony Doerr’s novels and short stories.

Favorite movie or television show: I watch very few movies and TV shows, though I did enjoy the character development in The Wire.

Favorite musical performer: The same as it was when I was young – The Beatles

Favorite vacation spot: Also the same as when I was young – the Colorado Rockies

Hobbies?

  • Ultimate Frisbee – this is my second “job”. I’ve been playing and the national and international level since 2008. Now I play for the Colorado Women’s Club Team in the US, and I’ve played for the US National Women’s Masters Team in 2016 and 2017.
  • Outdoor Recreation – I love all manner of outdoor adventures, especially backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country and downhill skiing.
  • Cooking and baking – I love to cook food and host get-togethers around sharing time and food.

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

“Sally is genuinely a shining light in our MBA student body. I have had the pleasure and privilege of having her in two of my courses — one focused on Developing Leadership Capabilities and one on leading Systemic Change in areas of Sustainability (L-Lab). Sally stood out in both classes. She is smart, creative, and collaborative, bringing energy, enthusiasm, and competence to everything she does. And she does so with care, commitment and respect for everyone else — on her team, in the room, and within the broader system. She has the quiet confidence and warm interpersonal skills that make people listen and pay attention, and then be influenced by her ideas. I have no doubt that she will craft an interesting and innovative path for herself in the world, one that will make an important and positive difference to a range of social, economic and environmental outcomes.”

Wanda Orlikowski
Professor of Information Technologies and Organization Studies

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017