2017 MBAs To Watch: Adam Walters, University of Maryland (Smith)

Adam Walters

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Patient, level-headed, compassionate, loyal, reliable, affable, analytical, and ambitious.”   

Age: 27

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Fun fact about yourself: I was born on Christmas.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Maryland, College Park

B.S., Supply Chain Management and Economics (Double Major)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school: Censeo Consulting Group, Consultant

I was lucky enough to be sponsored by Censeo while completing the full time MBA program, with mutual agreement that I return to work for them for at least 2 years.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Censeo Consulting Group

Where will you be working after graduation? Censeo Consulting Group, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Portfolio Manager, Mayer Fund
    • Fund consists of $4M in equity holdings for the Smith School’s Endowment, actively managed by 11 select MBA students (2 Portfolio Managers, 9 Sector Analysts)
    • Under my team’s management, the fund has earned a total return of 16% over 10 months, amounting to more than $500K in dividends and capital appreciation
    • Personally, my role was to monitor global economic trends, interpret how those trends should impact our investment decisions, and act as a key resource to sector analysts as they developed their stock pitches
    • Also, I organized and led two-day trip to Wall Street for current fund members to visit alumni who have served on the fund and learn about their careers
  • Founder, MBA Wall Street Journal Discussions – Organized weekly, informal discussions of current events for both students and faculty members
  • Global Consulting Project in South Africa – Developed expansion strategy for tech startup (more detail below)
  • Admissions Ambassador – Hosted and led tours for prospective MBA students when they visited campus

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This past winter break, I participated in a study abroad program in South Africa where I worked with a team on a consulting project to benefit a local business. Our client was OurHood, the tech company behind a social media application focused on neighborhood safety and community building. The company had successfully established a user base in higher income neighborhoods but felt that their platform could be even more useful for residents in lower income areas. They had a particular neighborhood in mind for expansion and wanted our help to develop a three-month entrance strategy.

Ordinarily, bringing resources to lower income areas would already be a project of strong interest for me. But this project demanded understanding of South Africa’s apartheid system and the resulting social infrastructures left behind. This became more than a strictly business-focused consulting project, but one that required I consider the history, culture, and unique experiences endured by the neighborhood’s inhabitants.

After conducting extensive research and multiple skype meetings, our team developed recommendations and presented them to the company’s leaders face-to-face in Cape Town. The CEO welcomed our ideas warmly and thanked us for our hard work. However, having never actually met a resident from the target neighborhood in our study, I felt a bit removed and unsure about the prospects for implementation. Despite all of the knowledge I had acquired, it was difficult to imagine how our ideas might actually impact people’s lives in the real world.

The next day, on a long drive from our hotel for a tourist excursion, I struck up a conversation with the van driver and realized that he had lived his whole life in the exact neighborhood we had researched. Not only that, but he also served on a number of community safety and watch groups. In other words, he was an ideal user of OurHood and could contribute to its successful rollout. As soon as I explained the idea to him, the driver was ecstatic about the app and our recommendations. At the end of the drive, he gave me his business card and asked me to put him in contact with a representative from OurHood, which I did. That experience helped to demonstrate the human impact of our work, and I recognized how important the platform could be for this man’s community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After roughly two years working for Censeo Consulting Group, I was staffed on a brand new project with a large public university as our client. This opportunity offered a significant challenge and potential for personal growth. It was my first time working with a client in the higher-education sector, formally supervising other analysts, and working on a project with heavy travel requirements.

Over the next 10 weeks, I led more than 30 stakeholder interviews, analyzed more than 15 diverse datasets, oversaw construction of three complex cost models to identify savings levers for the university, and presented recommendations to the senior vice presidents of administration and academic affairs. Ultimately, my team identified more than $3M in annual savings opportunities that would not sacrifice service quality.

In the final days of the project, I received an email from one of our clients who had been a skeptic of our company’s work when we kicked off the project. He cc’d my manager and explained that while he had expected us to be “know-it-all” consultants who would prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution, he had been pleasantly surprised by our dedication to understanding the intricacies of the situation and our creativity in crafting recommendations that aligned the university’s vision. He welcomed the opportunity to work with us again and even became instrumental in hiring my company back for additional projects in the future.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Charles Olson teaches “The Global Economic Environment” at Smith. With multiple decades of teaching experience, he strikes the perfect balance of demanding high standards while also providing a safe space for students to build their critical thinking and communication skills. Each session starts off with a detailed student-led discussion of current events, followed by an analysis of case studies on how global leaders have handled various types of economic crises throughout history.

In this setting, Olson taught me how to communicate emphatically and concisely. He encouraged me to take a clear stand on issues, and avoid the go-to MBA answer of “it depends.” Ultimately, he explained, ‘business decisions require definitive answers.’ When my classmates and I go on to lead real-world organizations facing real-world challenges, responding with “it depends” will rarely suffice. I enjoyed the class so thoroughly that I asked him if he would join me in facilitating of weekly current events discussion for all students in the MBA program and he graciously accepted.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course, “Financial Strategy for Corporations” taught by Professor Mike Faulkender, we delved into a wide variety of financial tactics that I had read about in the news for years but never quite understood. For instance, how does a company decide whether to fund a new project with debt or equity? Why do some companies stockpile cash rather than reinvest it back into the business or pay it out to shareholders? What is “hedging” and when is it appropriate or inappropriate?

I found the selected case studies to be particularly challenging (in a good way). They required a great deal of investigation, patience, and attention to detail in order to distinguish the crux of why the company had chosen to make a particular financial decision. Professor Faulkender’s poignant and animated lectures helped bring the cases to life. As a result, my financial literacy grew more than I could have imagined.

Why did you choose this business school? An incredibly tight-knit and inclusive community, innovative Centers of Excellence, and tangible experience opportunities through applied learning in “Smith-X [experiential]” programs drew me to Smith. After researching and visiting several MBA programs, Smith’s gave me the strongest sense of camaraderie, authenticity, and true care for one-another. I left my first visit with a huge smile and immediately called my fiancé (now wife) to tell her that I had found the right fit. There’s no other place that I would rather invest my time and energy to make long-lasting connections with peers, faculty and staff.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Most enjoyable, without a doubt, has been the opportunity to get to know my classmates and professors. I chose Smith for a very specific reason. The level of mutual support and sincere respect each member of the Smith community has for one another is easy to recognize in a matter of minutes. I also loved such “Smith X” applied learning programs as the Mayer Fund and Global Consulting, which brought the concepts I had learned in class to life.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I have been pleasantly surprised by the faculty’s level of community engagement outside of class. I love to see professors at our Thursday socials, community lunches, and other cultural events. The extra time they put into building relationships with the students definitely adds to the strong inclusive culture that can be felt here.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? With so much emphasis on networking throughout the MBA experience, you should strive to join a program where interacting with your peers feels natural and fun, rather than forced or transactional. If possible, try visiting the school for a day and get a sense of the community. After all, your classmates will probably become your most significant career network in the future!

Also, try not to worry too much about the GMAT. MBA admission teams are very different from those in undergraduate colleges and really try to take the whole person into account. Your interactions with students, faculty, and staff throughout the application process can go a long way in building a genuine relationship with the school rather than be seen as a set of numbers. All of the application materials are certainly important, but if you can show that you’ll be an engaged member of the community, that will go a long way.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I don’t know of any myths about my school in particular, but I think there is a myth about business school in general that it is a big party and that half of your time in school will be spent drinking or playing golf. I wish that were true! The reality is that it’s hard, but rewarding, work. There were certain academic terms where my time commitments exceeded anything I had experienced in my career beforehand. The majority of my classes have been very intellectually demanding, particularly for those in which I chose to push myself out of my comfort zone. Ultimately, I believe that if you choose to take on more challenges, you will have a more rewarding experience!

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had signed up for even more of the applied learning programs. For instance, there is a Smith-X course called “mQUEST” in which students use design thinking to complete innovative consulting projects for real companies. Coming from a more traditional management consulting background, I think it would have been very valuable to participate in mQUEST and push the boundaries of my creativity under the tutelage of the legendary faculty advisor, Professor Joe Bailey.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Andres Gonzales. I have immense respect and admiration for international students who leave their home countries to take classes in a foreign language. Andres is a dual degree student (MBA and MS in Information Systems) from Bogota, Colombia.

What strikes me most about Andres is incredible balancing of class, family, clubs, friendships, and his career search. Despite all of his various time commitments, he manages to remain one of the nicest people I have ever met. When I see him, I feel like he is living in the moment and genuinely paying attention to those around him in a way that many busy people are unable to achieve. He’s exceptionally smart, humble, hard-working and compassionate. He’s exactly the type of person I could see myself calling upon to help me start a new business in a few years.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized the incredible diversity of opportunities it would unlock for the rest of my career. Every organization (private, public, or non-profit) needs great business leaders!”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working towards a narrower goal from a much lower rung on a shorter ladder. Business school absolutely gave me the crucial education I needed to reach new goals across multiple industries.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would love to incorporate more community service activities into the MBA program. Some individual clubs do a great job of giving back. In general, I think we could boost our efforts to connect with people who are economically disadvantaged in the surrounding area. Our students and faculty members could team up to offer a variety of services such as financial literacy training or serving food to those in need at designated times throughout the year.

 What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal is to use my business acumen to change the world for the better. I would love to serve in the CEO or CFO role for a company with a strong social impact component to the goods and services that they sell. I could also see myself applying my investment expertise to the world of venture capital for a fund focused on startups who are tackling the world’s education, poverty, or hunger challenges.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my wife and my parents. I married my wife during spring break of my first year of business school. She has been incredibly patient, kind, and supportive no matter how many times I’ve called her to say I need to stay late for an event, group meeting, or case competition.

From a very young age, my parents instilled in me a balance of ambition, patience, and kind-heartedness. I try to make sure I am exhibiting all three of those things at all times.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a genuine friend and a valuable teammate who was unafraid to take on new challenges.

Favorite book: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Favorite movie or television show: The Wire

Favorite musical performer: A Tribe Called Quest

Favorite vacation spot: Somewhere I’ve never been before, preferably with a beach, good food, and neighborhoods/parks to explore. My favorite destinations so far have been Costa Rica, Spain, South Africa, Italy, and Greece.

Hobbies? Exploring new and old hip hop music; playing guitar; cooking; talking politics

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

“Adam has been an outstanding leader at Smith. A portfolio manager of the Smith graduate-student operated, $4 million Mayer Fund, he is recognized for leading the fund with great success this year. Additionally, he initiated, with one of his professors, a weekly Wall Street Journal Discussion Group and has found ways to continue these discussions outside of the classroom. Adam’s strong quantitative skills have repeatedly been demonstrated through his outstanding performance in the classroom. That combined with his stellar communication skills have made him one of the most respected voices in the classroom, as well as one of the most sought-after teaching assistants by the faculty. Adam further demonstrates a great ability to integrate information and analysis from a variety of sources and think strategically about problems. Working last summer for Censeo Consulting Group, he led product development for a new web-based data tool that helps users explore the $1.9 trillion in federal government contract spending that occurred over the past 4 years. It’s of no surprise that he is well-liked and respected by his classmates. He will do extremely well in whatever he pursues in the future.”

Michael Faulkender

Associate Dean for Masters Programs

Robert H. Smith School of Business



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