2018 Best MBAs: Isabelle Cox, MIT (Sloan)

Isabelle Cox

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Curious Kiwi continually seeking adventures, new landscapes, and meaningful connections.”      

Age: 26

Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand

Fun fact about yourself: I played competitive ping pong for five years in New Zealand.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Auckland, BA in Psychology and Political Science (Auckland, New Zealand)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Analyst (Paris, France)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), New York City

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

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Dean’s Fellowship recipient in recognition of academic and personal achievement
  • Co-President of the Management Consulting Club
  • Co-President of the Vintners Club
  • Consulting project member in SEID (Sloan Entrepreneurs in International Development)
  • Member of Sloan Ambassador’s Program for prospective students
  • Teaching Assistant for 15.311: Organizational Processes
  • Teaching Assistant for 15.317: Leadership and Organizational Change
  • Research Assistant, Behavioral and Policy Sciences

 Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the direct impact I have been able to have on the Sloan community during my time leading the Management Consulting Club (MCC), with my co-President Pedro Yarahuan. The MCC is one of the largest and most active clubs at Sloan, counting almost 40% of MBAs as members, and engaging the Sloan community by playing a key role in training, mentoring, and preparing students for the consulting recruitment process. Through this work with the MCC, I am incredibly proud that I could directly contribute to the informal Sloan motto of “Sloanies helping Sloanies”.

Over the past year, I was honored to lead a team who worked incredibly hard to build on the club’s collaborative legacy and success in assisting students navigate the often confusing and frustrating recruiting journey. Specifically, we have increased the number of trainings and club events, strengthened the mentoring component of the club, and further built on the club’s existing partnership with the Career Development Office. Importantly, we have also worked to improve the overall accessibility of consulting to our members by better showcasing different types of consulting, and working to provide deeper support for international students.

During our tenure I have found it incredibly rewarding to get to know so many of our classmates, and an honor to see the very tangible and meaningful difference that our peers’ efforts have had for those going through the recruiting process.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The positive impact of my work researching, conducting analysis for, and writing the OECD’s Gender Diversity Action Plan, which consisted of 25 concrete recommendations to increase diversity and inclusion for all of the Organisation’s staff.

Working on the Action Plan was my first major assignment at the OECD, and I was immediately thrown in the deep end. Not only did I conduct a benchmarking analysis with other organizations in our sector such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, but I also met with the various member countries who would be voting on the paper, in order to understand their often differing positions. I used this information to craft the report and recommendations, wherever possible focusing on the ease of implementation and potential upside for all those involved, as well as the innate value of equality. Ultimately, all 34 OECD Member Countries unanimously approved the Action Plan after only its first reading, with the implementation of my recommendations starting shortly thereafter.

I am incredibly proud of my work on the Action Plan not because of its objective success, but because of the importance of diversity and inclusion. The unanimous approval of the Action Plan clearly signaled the OECD’s commitment to supporting these efforts internally. Within two years of its passing, the majority of the recommendations in the Action Plan had been implemented, and representation of women in senior management increased by 15 percent. At the same time, the Organisation continues to emphasize inclusion of all staff, with the Action Plan setting the precedent for a number of new initiatives including its recent EDGE certification for commitment to inclusive workplaces.

Why did you choose this business school? When I was first considering business schools, I never thought that MIT Sloan would be the school for me due to my image of it as a school for engineers (more on how wrong I was below!). Despite this, I had the opportunity to meet with various MIT Sloan students and alums across a wide range of situations, and was truly impressed by both the diversity of people I met and, more importantly, their desire to have a positive impact, regardless of the career they were pursuing. As soon as you set foot on campus, it is clear that faculty and students alike genuinely believe in Sloan’s mission statement of developing “principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice”, and being in this environment, even for a short period, is incredibly inspiring.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? It sounds clichéd, but focus on being yourself in your application. Use the application process as an opportunity to think through the narrative of your life thus far and where you hope to be in the future. Furthermore, use your story to show what motivates and excites you. Business schools want to get to know the genuine you, not your impression of what you think they are looking for. Sharing your genuine self means they are more likely to see your unique value and that you are more likely to end up in the right school for you.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That it is all engineers. While Sloan certainly emphasizes a rigorous, analytic approach (both quantitatively and qualitatively), it does so with an incredibly diverse and balanced student body from all different backgrounds and professions.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not travelling with classmates more in my first semester. At that point I was just settling in and trying to figure out recruiting and academics, and didn’t make the most of some of the small weekend trips that were happening. Since then, travelling to new places with different people has been a highlight of business school, and I am very aware I only have a couple more months left to do this!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Any of my classmates who are also parents or caregivers. While I struggle to fit everything I want to into each day, I am constantly amazed by classmates who are able to do all these things while also juggling a family!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I am lucky to have had many role models who have been incredibly influential to me, but the biggest of these has to be my Mum. After the death of my father, she completely rebuilt her life, re-entering the workforce following years away. After a lot of hard work, she eventually became a small business owner. Seeing how hard my Mum works and the pride that she takes in her businesses is something that has inspired me from a young age, and she constantly serves as an example for me to push myself, embrace challenges, and pursue the best opportunities for myself.

At same time, I also owe my decision to pursue grad school, and particularly business school, to a manager I had at the OECD. From the beginning, he recognized the determination I had inherited from my Mum, acting as my mentor and pushing me to reach my potential. As an MBA himself, he was also able to see the true value that such a degree could offer, especially to someone whose goal was to pursue a career implementing effective organizational change, and actively encouraged me to overcome my hesitations and apply.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…back in New Zealand pursuing a career in public policy (my college job working with beneficiaries for the Ministry of Social Development is still the most rewarding job I have ever had!), or off in some new country trying my hand at a completely new challenge.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would add a core course on ethics and managerial decision making. Sloan does a great job of weaving these topics through all of our classes, from Accounting to Communications, but I think an entire class dedicated to these topics would be incredibly valuable. Making tough decisions in ambiguous situations is a key part of leadership. Taking the dedicated time to reflect on and challenge, our own values before being put in such situations would be extremely beneficial.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To ski Mont Blanc’s famed ski route La Vallée Blanche, and to spend a summer driving around New Zealand in a campervan.  

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who used the opportunities available to give back in a meaningful way, and who was a thoughtful, kind, and reliable friend who strived to have a positive impact on all those around her.

What would your theme song be? “Heroes” by David Bowie

Favorite vacation spot:Skiing in Lech, Austria

Hobbies?Skiing, live music, travelling across the USA and the world, spending time with friends new and old, reading, and seeking out the best overlooked restaurants and wine bars, wherever I happen to be.

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

“Isabelle Cox brings a rare blend of skills and strengths to her time at MIT Sloan and I am confident this mix will serve her well as she continues leading and learning in the future. Isabelle’s intellectual curiosity is notable. She has a sharp analytical eye for seeing what is happening in a system and seeing how to dig further to test her hypotheses. At the same time, Isabelle enjoys putting time, effort, and thought into implementation so that the ideas she is exploring are also ready to roll in the real world, an approach that Isabelle brings with her from her time at the OECD. On top of these intellectual and practical skills, Isabelle has a generous spirit. She has consistently fostered a genuinely friendly and still stimulating community.

Isabelle first impressed me with her probing questions and deep interest when she was a student in my Organizational Processes class. When she served as a teaching assistant the following year, I knew that the next cohort of MBA students would benefit from her thoughtful, but low-key, support. Isabelle consistently signaled to students that their questions and concerns were welcome and that she knew they had it in them to thrive in their new experiences. Isabelle brings the same approach to her mentoring of students from across Sloan as co-president of the Management Consulting Club, and to her active involvement in the various other clubs and initiatives she supports on campus. She is a popular and valued member of the student body, and we all benefit from her smarts, her expertise, and her ability to convey that she is eager to learn alongside others. I know that she will continue to deliver on her goal of affecting meaningful organizational change when she joins BCG’s New York office later this year, and I am excited to see where this journey leads her.”

Erin L. Kelly
Professor of Work and Organization Studies

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018