2018 Best MBAs: Billy Marks, Yale SOM

Billy Marks

Yale School of Management

Sun Sag, Rising Libra (i.e., whimsical, idealistic, easygoing, curious, gregarious, restless, cheerful, rebellious, and relationship-oriented).”

Age: 29

Hometown: Newburyport, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I helped write and publish three budget travel guides on Paris, Rome and Florence while in college (shameless plug for Let’s Go travel guides)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Harvard College, A.B. in Romance Languages & Literatures (Post-Colonial French and Spanish Literature)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked at J.P. Morgan as a Senior Associate in the Antitrust Compliance department. As a small team of three, my co-worker, manager and I designed, implemented, and managed global risk prevention and reduction programs affecting the 250,000 employees worldwide in all 300-plus businesses at the bank.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? I split my summer between Boston, MA and Antigua, Guatemala, with Adelante Shoe Co., an awesome seed-stage ethical fashion brand that’s pioneering a new living-wage methodology for economic development in Central America. I joined the team as a full-on team member, doing everything and anything—updating our financial statements, helping take cool Insta photos of my new kicks, devising guerrilla sales strategies, helping prep for our angel round. My time with Adelante culminated in a week in Tepoztlán, Mexico, where I joined the CEO for a week-long intensive program to kick off the company’s acceptance to the Agora Partnerships social-impact accelerator program.

Where will you be working after graduation? Not sure where yet, but I’m passionate about combining my general management degree with principles of design thinking to problems of environmental stewardship, conservation, and sustainability. I want to help organizations—private, public, and nonprofit—develop more sustainable systems of production, consumption, and infrastructure, and hope to galvanize creative energy toward this end.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

– Student Orientation Leader

– Out Of Office (SOM’s LGBTQ Affinity Group) Co-leader

– Yale Business of Legal Cannabis Conference Co-founder

– Yale GreenLight Facilitator (where I co-facilitate design thinking workshops to develop creative solutions to client problems at the intersection of business and the environment)

– Career Advisor

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m really proud of the advocacy and outreach work that my Out Of Office team has done this year. Each year the LGBTQ affinity group puts on skit shows that showcase different workplace scenarios to bring to light issues that LGBTQ individuals face on a daily basis. This year we also partnered with Student Government to host an “Ask Me Anything” panel, where audience members could ask anonymous questions about the queer experience. At both events, we had really engaged audiences, who asked intentional and purposeful questions about how they can be better allies and how they can learn more about the queer community. I’m proud because it demonstrates both the hard work of my teammates in putting on such great events, and also the community that we as students have fostered to create such open spaces for tough dialogue.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the Yale Business of Legal Cannabis Conference, which I recently co-organized with a fellow classmate and close friend, Connie Lee (SOM ’18). We are both interested in cannabis for many reasons, including the impact of the War on Drugs in communities of color, the growing concerns about environmental impacts, and the proliferation of innovative products and services in this emerging industry. Yet we were surprised to find that management professionals outside of the industry rarely have sound knowledge or appreciation of the opportunities and challenges present in the business of legal cannabis.

The more we delved into this topic, the more we felt inspired to organize an event which would provide a holistic overview of the cannabis space, its history and its potential futures, as well as focus attention on key issues of social equity as cannabis moves further into the mainstream. As a first-of-its-kind conference, it was a lot of work creating the vision and getting it off the ground, but we received really positive feedback from our speakers, the attendees, and our fellow classmates, who found the conversations educational, informative, and inspiring. I want to work in sticky, intersectional spaces, pushing businesses and leaders to have tough conversations and confront the realities of how we can make the world a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable place. Hosting this conference was a big step for me in starting toward that mission.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Amy Wrzesniewski. While I had maybe three hours of class with her tops, I have found that she has left an indelible mark on me and the student body here at SOM. While she might not outwardly state it, I believe that her learning objective for students here is to first and foremost truly understand themselves, and then to make professional decisions (whether leadership-based, team-oriented or career-related) with this in mind to optimize for impact, happiness, and success. You can tell she’s been very thoughtful about the design of one of our cornerstone courses, Managing Groups & Teams, and the subsequent learning teams we work in. But more than that, her words of wisdom related to career choices have been passed down from generation to generation of SOM students and still stick with me as I think about my next steps: Don’t get on the first shiny cruise ship you see; wait for that cool, unique catamaran.

Why did you choose this business school? I was truly persuaded to come to SOM when a fellow admit passionately yelled at me during the big welcome weekend dance party that I “absolutely must come here!” (It was Christine Chen, a fellow P&Q “Best & Brightest.” Sorry, Christine!). In all honesty, I came to SOM because of the passionately supportive people like Christine. SOM’ers care deeply about their peers and their peers’ endeavors, regardless of what they might be. I felt that SOM was a place where I could come find my true north and be supported at every step along the way.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? BE. YOUR. SELF. The SOM community is a truly authentic one. I’ve never been in a quasi-personal/quasi-professional environment where I have so naturally been able to live my truth, and I think that SOM students, staff and faculty are able to sniff out inauthenticity, and just want you to thrive as you. Remove the, “Oh, well I should say this to get into b-school.” No! Get rid of the person you should be and focus on the person you want to be.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I was told the pizza here is amazing. And it is, don’t get me wrong! But honestly, I still stop by my late-night 99-cent place on 43rd and 8th when I’m in New York, because you can’t beat $1 New York pizza.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not taking more time to explore outside of SOM and Yale. We are, as a community, so framed by to-do lists, job hunting, making “impact,” that we forget to take time to breathe and explore the cool things Connecticut has to offer—hikes, art, and architecture.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many SOM students whom I admire, but one that quickly comes to mind is my learning teammate Natalia Ariza. Natalia came to business school to really challenge herself and grow. Not ever thinking she would end up in business school, let alone at a place like Yale, she at times felt like an imposter. But despite personal and professional challenges, she kept an amazingly optimistic perspective, looked so many of her fears straight in the eye and treated every challenge as an opportunity. I sincerely admire her grit, tenacity, and self-awareness, and can’t wait to see where she goes in life.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… the classical clarinet player my inner orchestra geek always wanted to be.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would build in more opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to engage with each other in playful, creative, and connective ways. I was originally impressed by Evans Hall, our beautiful and impressive glass building, but I’ve come to find it overly formal at times. Without a lot of comfortable, generative spaces to encourage genuine, non-school related conversations to happen, I would install sleep pods and lounge furniture in ways that disrupt the usual flow of everyone and encourage people to congregate in a relaxing way.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Road-tripping through the United States to see all the natural beauty this land has to offer and learning to scuba dive and seeing the Great Barrier Reef before it’s gone forever.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a compassionate and empathetic listener.

What is your favorite movie about business? A childhood favorite and cult classic: Empire Records (1995). Renée Zellweger, Liv Tyler, and their fellow cast members remind me that profit doesn’t always win and that community can hold you up, especially when you’re fighting for something that has a greater purpose. “Damn the man, save the empire!”

What would your theme song be?Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato (It’s just such a confidence booster.)

Favorite vacation spot: The salty shores of Cape Cod.

Hobbies? Attempting to land some shoulder stands in yoga, meditating and drawing, trying out new vegan smoothie recipes, trying to grow a man bun, and obsessively telling my friends about their astrological signs.

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

“Billy Marks is a dedicated student leader at the Yale School of Management, cited by his peers as someone who goes above and beyond to provide guidance to his classmates. He was selected to be a Student Orientation Leader and helped to create and facilitate a new session during the program on Student Wellness. Many of the incoming students lauded him for always going out of his way, even on his busiest days, to answer any questions they had about career searches, leadership roles, or just life in general at SOM. Even after the Orientation program concluded, Billy continued to serve on working groups throughout the year, committed to enhancing topics particularly around diversity and inclusion. Billy is also a Career Advisor, Co-leader of the LGBT affinity group “Out of Office,” an Entrepreneurship Consultant with the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, and the co-founder of the Yale Business of Legal Cannabis Conference. In addition, Billy facilitates design thinking workshops for clients’ sustainability and environmental challenges through his work at Yale GreenLight. What distinguishes Billy is his authenticity and commitment to whatever project he is involved with, and the impact his projects have on our greater community.”

Rebecca Udler

Director of Academic Affairs & Student Life


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