This Harvard MBA Quit Bain To Embrace #VanLife

Van life. Courtesy photo


And then came the Ghosts of Yellowstone and Stroeer’s eventual resignation. Her Chevy Astro van had about 200,000 miles on it when Stroeer purchased it in November 2015. “I was like holy shit, what am I doing? This is the worst idea I’ve ever had,” Stroeer recalls. Despite the horrible long hours at Bain, Stroeer had become accustomed to “the finer things in life,” she says — things like nice rental cars. Not old, run-down Chevy vans. After a brief panic, Stroeer got her “act together” and tricked out the Astro van, adding a bed and stove.

When the end of 2015 came around, Stroeer set off. Her first stop was Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. The park spans more than 800,000 acres along the Mexican border, an Stroeer planned to spend New Year’s alone in the wilderness. But on the way there it was cold, raining, with gusting winds. Still, Stroeer arrived “in the middle of nowhere,” climbed to the top of the Astro van, put on a down coat and sipped on a half-bottle of champagne. She was cold and celebrating New Year’s alone.

“I slept so incredibly well,” Stroeer remembers of her first night on the road. When she woke, she also realized that for the first time in recent memory she had absolutely nothing to do. For the foreseeable future, there were no calendar invites or meetings scheduled. “That was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever had,” she says.

Stroeer climbing. Courtesy photo


Stroeer kept her days simple. Rise with the sun, coffee, breakfast. If the weather was nice, she’d go for a run or climb. If it wasn’t, she’d fine the place where it was. She roamed the American Southwest but enjoyed the area around Moab, Utah most.

Around the same time Stroeer left her job at Bain, she started getting into serious mountaineering. Right before setting off in her van, she summited Aconcagua in Argentina, which is the nearly 23,000 feet high and the highest peak in the world outside of Asia. Stroeer has also summited some iconic U.S. peaks like the Grand Teton in Wyoming and California’s Mount Shasta. But it was her trip back to Aconcagua last January that brought Stroeer some fame. On January 23, she left the Plaza de Mulas base camp, some 8,501 feet below the summit of Aconcagua, and exactly eight hours and 47 minutes later she topped out. — 29 minutes faster than any other woman had ever done.

On the trip were four other women. “We were out there doing just what I think mountaineers should be doing, which is getting out and getting after it without guides or being sherpa’d up the mountain,” Stroeer says of the Aconcagua trip.

The company is what she is now focused on. “I spent a lot of time growing up wondering what gender equality should actually mean,” says Stroeer, noting she grew up in a family with strong female role models and went to an all-girl school. She noticed good efforts towards gender equality at HBS and Bain, but also noticed many spaces where inequalities still existed. She also noticed it in mountaineering and ultra-running—both possibly some of the bro-y-est communities still in existence.

“I looked around and it seemed to me there were very few women compared to what I was expecting,” Stroeer says of some of her first races and summits.


Stroeer also noticed many moments of “backhanded discrimination” and assumptions made based on her gender. Now she’s on a mission to change that. With a home base in Boulder, Colorado, Stroeer is running an expedition business for women, and in October she will lead a three-week climb up Mera Peak near Mount Everest. In December, she’ll lead another Aconcagua trip. And for the immediate future, Stroeer plans to stay on the road, which is just fine with her — and her parents, too.

As for going back to Bain anytime soon? Don’t count on it.

“The rat race is just that. It’s a rat race,” Stroeer says. “You can always make more money, but you don’t get more days in your life — it doesn’t matter how hard you try.”


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