2018 MBAs To Watch: Steven Sanders, Purdue University (Krannert)

Steven Sanders

Krannert School of Management, Purdue University

I am a young businessman and engineer committed to the business of developing life-changing biotechnology.

Age: 28

Hometown: Argos, IN (1 Stoplight)

Fun fact about yourself: I am a self-taught men’s choral music composer and in 2012 wrote a song based on the state poem of Indiana. While the song took three years to write, it has now been performed hundreds of times throughout the state, the country, at the U.S. Capitol Building and overseas by the Purdue Varsity Glee Club and local community men’s choruses and quartets.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Purdue University, B.S. Chemical Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Cargill, Process Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Eli Lilly & Co., Greenfield IN

Where will you be working after graduation? Eli Lilly, Elanco Animal Care Expansion Business Analyst

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Purdue Student Managed Investment Fund
  • President, Purdue Graduate Entrepreneurship Club
  • Gold Team Lead, Student Managed Venture Fund
  • At-Large Board Member, Indianapolis Arts Chorale
  • Chicken Tender Tent Volunteer, St. Boniface Parish Germanfest

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Taking over the Student Managed Investment Fund and growing it from an 8-member graduate student exclusive club to a 40-member Graduate and Undergraduate club with $300k funds under management. It was my first experience building an organization completely from the ground up, and taught me a lot about managing talent when roles are largely undefined and real financial risk exists.  

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Mentoring three of my process engineering interns through completion of challenging but successful internships and on to successful early careers in the engineering field.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor John Burr – he teaches corporate consulting with bare knuckles. Because of his mentorship, my view of a professional client deliverable has completely changed.

What was your favorite MBA Course Student Managed Venture Fund – Having a chance to complete due diligence on startup companies with real funding on the line was a tremendous experience.  The support from our faculty advisors was fantastic and getting the chance to chat about best practices with Alumni VC Partners helped spark a passion in my heart for a career in early stage business development.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Purdue for its strong technology development ecosystem. I was looking for a chance to experience the world of early stage tech commercialization. As I found out, there is no university in the world where it is easier to become immediately and fully immersed than at Purdue. The Purdue Foundry incubator plugged me in to startup consulting very quickly and the Purdue Graduate Entrepreneurship Club allowed me the incredible experience of watching a group of 15 students from all over the globe come together and launch three new businesses in a room right before my eyes.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Purdue’s unofficial patron saint is Neil Armstrong. I think the people that choose to come to Purdue are those that embody the values Neil lived. Purdue MBAs are analytically quick to act yet slow to take credit.    

What is the biggest myth about your school?  Purdue has a small business school and a small business school is a bad thing – I think the right school for a potential student has nothing to do with the size of the institution. It’s all about mutual fit. If you are going to a school for the rankings alone, then you are making a mistake.  Your best option is to attend the school whose strengths are aligned with your personal and professional interests.

What was your biggest regret in business school?  Not starting my own company – after countless discussions with mentors and friends, I realized that I didn’t have the risk tolerance that it takes to jump full steam into a startup. Being a founder takes a special type of person, and when you meet founders who have taken out second mortgages on their homes to keep the business alive, you think a little more about real risk tolerance and whether you are that person. I wish that I would have been able to find the courage. Maybe someday it will find me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Avanthi Boopalan – in one of our classes we learned about Level 5 leaders, and I think that Avanthi is one.  She is an incredibly talented aerospace engineer, pilot, diesel engine designer and future Amazon Lab 126 analyst who would never mention any of her accomplishments to you in conversation. However, she WILL ask you how your day is going, how your wife is feeling today, and apologize for overstepping the team by creating the most exquisite and advanced Excel model mankind has ever created. Purdue is a more intelligent and kind university because Avanthi has been here.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad, undoubtedly.  We’ve been crafting new agricultural business ideas for a decade or two now (none of which have worked out) and his ability to apply and speak through business logic is something that I enjoy and am learning.  He is a non-traditional student who paid his way through college working as a farm hand.  I’ve never met anyone who has accomplished so much while having such a great time doing it.  He is the truest definition of a happy warrior.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an astronaut.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I think I would attempt to expose more students to management of a startup as a non-founder. Our MBA training at Purdue is heavily weighted towards large companies and early stage startups. I think having some training on how to succeed as the 15th person hired in a company would be valuable. It’s a managerial place that often gets overlooked, but can be crucial to a company’s success. As Ben Horowitz says, scaling can be one of the most difficult tasks a company is ever faced with.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Get my private pilot’s license and someday own a small plane
  2. Become CEO of a biotech/pharma company that cures cancer

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Steve loved getting good things done and celebrating them with good friends at Harry’s Chocolate Shop.

What is your favorite movie about business? Moneyball – It’s a great example that a lack of financial resources won’t prevent a committed and innovative team from being successful.

What would your theme song be?  The River by Garth Brooks

Favorite vacation spot: The Furr Ranch, Olney, TX

Hobbies? Guitar, Reading, Music Composition, Hunting

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

“Steve Sanders is the ultimate go-to guy and one of the most earnest Krannert MBAs you’ll find anywhere. His infectious energy and passion for Boilermaker culture made him an invaluable resource both in the classroom and in the recruiting process, where he engaged with many prospective students as a Graduate Assistant. Beyond that, his leadership of TWO student organizations (the Purdue Graduate Entrepreneurship Club and the Student Managed Investment Fund) was critical to their respective success and the advancement of Krannert’s culture of innovation and collaboration. We’ll miss him next year, but he’s already at the top of our ‘Young Alums to Watch’ list.”

Nick Rambo

Assistant Director of Recruiting   





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