2018 Best MBAs: Bennet Hayes, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Bennet Hayes

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Calculated risk-taker eager to work with new teams in different environments.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Hingham, Mass.

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve had pop-a-shot (arcade basketball) training with Ricardo Reyes, who has defeated LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgetown University, B.A. Economics, Northwestern University, MSJ (Journalism)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I was a professional poker player for six years, playing both online and live events (like the World Series of Poker). I spent a year as a marketer for Chicago startup ‘Rent Like A Champion’ in the year leading up to school.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? The Boston Consulting Group, Atlanta office, Summer Consultant

Where will you be working after graduation? The Boston Consulting Group, Atlanta office, Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Admissions Campus Visit Coordinator, CMC Recruiter Host, Co-lead for Learning and Development for OSCC, Peer Coach, Dean’s Case Competition Chair

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of the case preparation series I ran with classmate Philip Hathorn for the Owen Strategy and Consulting Club first year members this fall. Early in the fall, we ran Sunday night sessions that aimed to deliver the basics of running a successful case, and then our roles transformed into more one-on-one casing with first years as the semester progressed. There’s no understating the importance of case preparation for consulting interviews, and I am hopeful we gave the first-years going through consulting recruiting as much of a head start as possible. I have run approximately 150 cases this year for my classmates.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Setting my own definition for success as a professional poker player and sustaining consistent success in a volatile industry for six years. I think it’s easy as a poker player to let pure financial results define success and failure, but I tried as much as possible to focus on what I could control and understand that good process would eventually lead to long term success, if not short terms wins. This can be difficult to do when the poker public naturally celebrates the big results with little awareness of the process that created them. Avoiding the trap of being results-oriented was a huge catalyst for me in sustaining an emotional levelness over those six years.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Owen because I felt like the small class size and supportive community would allow me to build meaningful relationships at school, at no sacrifice to my future career outcome. My undergraduate experience at Georgetown was amazing, but I felt like the size of the school almost ensured students a level of anonymity that I hoped to avoid in my MBA experience. The dynamic has been very reversed at Owen; the small class size fosters a close community where everyone knows their entire class, faculty, and staff. Finding this type of connectedness was really important in choosing my MBA program, as was the fact that Owen had the resources to enable any career outcome a student would want to pursue.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be as self-aware and honest with your own story as possible. It took me a long time and a lot of applications to get to the point where I felt like I had a clear understanding of how my past and present connected to my future aspirations, but I thought having that grasp of my story was extremely valuable once obtained. It helps you produce better applications, better interviews, and ultimately a much better sense of fit between you and the programs to which you apply. To be more Owen-specific, I think being able to talk about how you work on teams – whether that’s through the application or your interview – is something the admissions team clearly values. Culture is so important at Owen, and you are working in groups ALL the time, so it’s important to be able to speak about the roles you have played on teams in the past and how you see your work style fitting into the larger context of a group. Do that task well and it makes it a lot easier for the admissions team to consider how you would fit as a future Owen student.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? So many classmates come to mind, but Michael Warburton (Class of 2018) stands out for me. His tangible contributions to Owen touch almost every part of the community, but in my opinion, it’s his unique ability to balance fun and personal development that has added the most benefit to our class. He’s just as likely to ask the probing question that transforms a classroom discussion as he is to make the self-deprecating joke that has the same classroom laughing hysterically. Those who have worked with him on teams know that productivity and fun go hand-in-hand. While he may be prone to mis-reciting facts from podcasts, Michael’s humility and approach to collaboration is emblematic of what makes Owen so special.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in b-school? For me, it was my collection of friends when I was getting my MSJ at Northwestern. Two of my best friends just happened to be getting their MBAs at Kellogg at the same time, and they were generous enough to share as much of their experience with me as possible (short of me actually attending school). That visibility into the value of the MBA experience and degree made it a no-brainer for me to pursue my own.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in sports media.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Dean Johnson does an amazing job at Owen, and I speak for our class in saying we feel lucky to have had him be so involved with our life at school over the past two years. The structure of business school makes my proposed change inherently difficult, but I think it would be great to find more ways to build overlap between first- and second-year classes. The speed with which a year of business school passes makes this so difficult, but sharing the business school experience across classes as much as possible is a worthy goal for any program.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Running the Boston Marathon and traveling around New Zealand.

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

As someone who was grateful for the relationships and experiences that two years at Owen provided.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne’s journey exemplifies the value of a strong internal network.

What would your theme song be? “Dirty Water” by The Standells

Favorite vacation spot: Glacier National Park in Montana


Basketball, running, pop-a-shot, new restaurants, traveling.

What made Benet such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“As a faculty member, it might seem most natural for me to comment on Bennet’s intellectual qualities. And, I could certainly do that pretty easily. He is a deep and agile thinker who excelled in the classroom. But, what strikes me even more about Bennet are the broad and meaningful contributions he has been able to make to the larger Owen community while maintaining an outstanding academic record. As one of the VPs of the Owen Strategy and Consulting Club, he led the club’s most important function of helping prepare students for case interviewing. This activity is directed exclusively by second-year students, and Bennet’s dedication to this effort has been outstanding. In addition to leading Sunday night (!) group training sessions, he facilitated many peer coach sessions and invested countless hours in one-on-one case preparation with fellow students. This work is of tremendous value to classmates, a number of whom have benefitted via great placements this year.

Bennet is also exceptional in his commitment to trying to improve the Vanderbilt MBA experience in a number of other ways. In a recent conversation I had with some our staff in Admissions, they mentioned how Bennet consistently thinks beyond the basic duties of his Campus Visit Coordinator role to suggest how the larger campus visit experience might be improved for future prospective students. And, he is willing to roll up his sleeves to do the extra work to drive new initiatives. Each spring, we have an internal case competition around a significant issue facing the school. Bennet will be authoring this year’s case, a commitment that will require him to reach out to a diverse group of stakeholders to capture and integrate their inputs. His final semester will also see him leading two other independent projects identified by the Dean and CMC Director. Overall, I would be hard pressed to think of a student who has positively impacted the school in so many different ways. And perhaps most importantly, he manages to do all this while maintaining a friendly, unassuming personality. A staff member may have said it best when she described him as a singularly authentic and genuine person.”

Brian McCann

Associate Professor of Strategic Management


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