2017 MBAs To Watch: Ramzi Assaf, University of Chicago (Booth)

Ramzi Assaf

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

“Energetic, Passionate, Ambitious, Believer, Perseverant, Risk-taker, Sociable, Selfless, Helpful.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Beirut, Lebanon

Fun fact about yourself: I am a licensed skydiver, a bungee jumper and an intense traveler. I do a lot of crazy activities related to flying and throwing myself from cliffs and planes.

Undergraduate School and Degree: American University of Beirut (AUB), BE in Mechanical Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? My company, Portefini, in Chicago

Where will you be working after graduation? My company, Portefini, as a CEO

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Entrepreneurship mentor and adviser to students and colleagues interested in entrepreneurship.
  • Motivational speaker about life, culture, and other personal/life topics at Booth and the University of Chicago.
  • Social events (aka parties) organizer for the MBA body.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being an engineer and a management consultant gave me great management, strategy and operations skills. However my marketing and entrepreneurship skills were inferior to what I wanted. Deciding to focus my classes on marketing and entrepreneurship was the best academic decision I took at Booth. I graduate with:

  • Much better skills in Marketing strategy, techniques, consumer behavior and digital marketing
  • A great grasp of entrepreneurship frameworks, tools, concepts and confidence

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? No matter how impossible, unachievable and ‘crazy’ my plans and goals were to the people around me, I have always believed in my vision and put so much effort and hard work to prove people wrong and achieve my plans at every stage of life.

Here are some selected examples of so-called impossible goals that became possible:

  • Getting an internship in Airbus (France) from my college in Lebanon – it was a big deal for a Lebanese student!
  • Getting a job at BCG with only eight days to practice for cases, going to the interview with no tie and BCG not having recruited from my school for years
  • Becoming a top performer at BCG after a rough start of being the lowest performer in the office and being placed on probation.
  • Getting accepted to Booth at a young age and with a very low GMAT score.
  • Starting up my company with all constraints and temptations (people around me getting great, very-well paid jobs at top corporations while I’m grinding on my startup and rejecting coffee chats and interviews).

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dan Bartels, professor of Consumer Behavior.

He has such great charisma, picks great relatable real-life examples, and performs in-class experiments to convey and anchor class concepts in our minds.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Consumer Behavior. The biggest insight I gained is how much the way we consume products is manipulated by smart marketing techniques that play on psychological behaviors and biases.

Why did you choose this business school? Flexible curriculum, located in a top US city, down-to-earth people, great class offering breadth and top entrepreneurship initiatives.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? It might sound cliché, but the PEOPLE. I would definitely pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet and become friends with my current awesome friends.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? How much access one can have using the Booth resources, contacts, alumni, friends or just the Booth name.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be genuine, personable and down to earth in your application. Be yourself! They want to see the deep real side of you, not necessarily the typical business-y side of you that you think they want to see.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Booth is known to be a very finance-heavy school. Since I do not really like finance, I took all my classes on marketing, behavioral leadership and entrepreneurship. Booth offers great breadth of classes outside of finance that were very deep and interesting.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not spending more one-on-one time with MBA friends to get to know them better at a deeper level

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Kevin Marvinac, for working hard and trying to work in many startups until the opportunity came to join a team that ended up raising money.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I thought of how business school can be my jumping platform to full-time entrepreneurship in the US.“

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying to start up a company in the Middle East with less resources and knowledge of how to go about it than now.“

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Making the MBA experience deeper in terms of personal connections by organizing more mixers events, dinners and personal story sharing talks among students.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?

1) Build a multinational company that has leverage to change & advance an industry.

2) Open a large social organization in which I would put most of my money in to improve the lives of people in need.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents for believing in me and believing that I can stand out not only in the tiny country I am from, Lebanon, but in the world.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?

The loving, caring, helpful, fun and extreme and crazy person who is always there for them, no matter the situation, the distance and the time.

Favorite book: The 48 Laws of Power

Favorite movie or television show: A Beautiful Mind

Favorite musical performer: Carlos Santana

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Town (South Africa)

Hobbies? Skydiving, bungee jumping, extreme sports, traveling, adventures (hitch hiking, camping, etc.), helping others (it truly is a hobby)

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

“An entrepreneur with an uncanny ability to evolve and adapt his venture to the market, Ramzi is viewed as Booth’s entrepreneur-to-watch. Having worked in France, Lebanon, and the UAE, Ramzi has a keen sense for customers and the ability to engage audiences that is enviable. Ramzi is optimistic, a believer and a hard worker who motivates students around him. He has traveled to scores of countries and brings a diverse life experience and global perspective to the classroom.”

Stacey Kole

Deputy Dean, Alumni & Corporate Relations, and Full-time MBA Programs

University of Chicago Booth School of Business



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