Meet The MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2019

Daniel Shaffer 

MIT, Sloan School of Management 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:  Passionate Army veteran committed to making a difference in the world.

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself:  While serving as the Captain of West Point’s (Army) Men’s Tennis Team, my team and I were preparing for the ultimate showdown in the Army v. Navy Tennis Match. Words cannot describe how competition heightens during any Army v. Navy sporting event. Looking for any competitive edge possible, I leveraged my mediocre bagpiping abilities to play Scotland the Brave as my team entered the match. We went on to win the match and clinch a conference title. I like to think this had an impact, but probably just gave the crowd something to laugh at.

Undergraduate School and Major:  United States Military Academy at West Point, Engineering Management

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:  I served in the Army as an Infantry Officer. I spent nearly three years as a Platoon Leader in charge of teams of up to 40 Infantrymen, both at Ft. Campbell, KY and Afghanistan. I then served as an Executive Officer, where I managed all resources and equipment maintenance for an 80 soldier organization. Following that, I served as an Operations Officer for a 2,500 soldier organization where my team and I resourced and managed all of the unit’s operations.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My greatest professional accomplishment occurred during my time as an operations officer for a 2,500 Soldier organization. During my time in this role, my team and I were expected to manage all resources to ensure our organization maintained a high level of readiness. This was my first position in which I really discovered the difference between managing small teams and managing organizations.

While serving in this position, I was consistently placed in front of senior military leaders and quickly came to realize that every word I spoke potentially impacted thousands of lives. I was typically the most junior soldier in every room and I believe that my greatest accomplishments were representing my organization in a manner that maintained credibility and ensuring that my subordinate organizations were able to achieve a high level of readiness and maximize value and resources in all training events.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Authenticity is key. As a prospective student, I continued to fall into the trap of trying to portray myself in a manner that I assumed would appeal to an admissions committee. I had a very close group of friends, both in and out of the military, who reviewed my essays and would always provide candid feedback and ensure I remained true to my passions. Their critiques helped me articulate and frame my story in a way that was unique to me. Identifying individuals who you trust to provide honest feedback will not only provide peace of mind but also keep you focused throughout the process.

Crafting, rehearsing, and adhering to your story will minimize stress throughout the process, so I highly recommend this begins early with constant refinement along the way. This will greatly aid in essays creation and interview success. It is much easier said than done, but each applicant must have faith in the process and identify the unique qualities they bring. Those are the qualities to highlight, regardless of what is written in the multitude of blogs and forums.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Hands-on learning has always been the most effective method for me. This is the prevailing technique throughout the community and I was amazed to hear how quickly first year students were developing in a matter of months. Many with whom I spoke cited the learning-through-action pedagogy as the catalyst to their development. MIT consistently places students in positions where they are able to apply lessons learned in the classroom to real-world problems. This environment, bolstered by the incredibly experienced Sloan community, places each student in a position where he or she can feel comfortable taking risks to creatively identify solutions to some of the most complex problems. The ability to experiment with a support network of highly accomplished individuals is a rare opportunity and I believe it is the premier environment in which I can develop.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  Coming from a non-traditional background, I have had little exposure to the technical concepts that will be covered throughout the curriculum. I will consider my first year a success if I can expand my knowledge base through collaboration with educators and classmates. Additionally, I hope that I can leverage the lessons I’ve learned through military service to contribute to the MIT community.

Related Stories In Our Meet The Class of 2019 Series: 

The Pioneering MBAs In The Class of 2019

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business

Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Management

London Business School

University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business

Notre Dame University Mendoza College of Business

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

New York University Stern School of Business

University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business

University of Michigan Ross School of Business

Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business

MIT Sloan School of Management


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