2018 MBAs To Watch: Jake Sondergard, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Jake Sondergard    

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

Jake is a reliable, hard-working, critical-thinking, charismatic, people person.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Kalamazoo, MI

Fun fact about yourself: My wife and I were featured on an episode of a DIY Network show.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Spring Arbor University – Marketing & Finance (graduated in 2008)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

U.S. Corrugated – Regional Account Manager

Quad/Graphics – Management Training Program, Sales Service Representative

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017?

Eaton – Eden Prairie, MN

Where will you be working after graduation?

Eaton – Global Leadership Development Program (for MBAs)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Urban Impact Foundation – Youth Mentor & Coach
  • Allegheny Center Alliance Church – Youth Leader
  • BNY Mellon – Corporate Social Responsibility Fellowship
  • Dean’s List for Academic Achievement

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? 2018 Katz Invitational Case Writer – It was great to be a part of crafting the business case with a focus on delivering a compelling challenge for our participants and a set of valuable solutions for our headline sponsor. Additionally, it was fun to be on the ‘otherside’ of the case competition experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Completing my MBA. It has been easily the most challenging, stretching, and rewarding period of my life.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Ken Lehn – He’s a world-renowned expert in his area of study, who does an excellent job teaching difficult concepts and making them applicable. Dr. Lehn was always willing to extend the learning outside of the classroom, which was a necessity for me but also invaluable to my educational experience.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Valuation I – through delivering a quantifiable definition of value, as the present value of a firm’s future free cash flows, the concept of economic value added (ROIC – WACC) drastically changed my perception of what represents a financially successful business.

Why did you choose this business school? Katz has a strong reputation amongst its alumni and after visiting it was a great cultural fit for me personally. Additionally, having the highest return on investment in the country made it an easy decision.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Schedule your 1st year courses to best prepare yourself for the functional area of focus in your internship.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Katz is known for its small class sizes, which I can say is justified. The small classes allow for a valuable and intimate learning environment.

What was your biggest regret in business school?I don’t feel that I have any major regrets in my MBA experience. When I came into the program, I was determined to be “all in,” and I can say looking back that I did my best to act with intentionality and perspective.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Chris Lechner – He’s a well-read, critical thinker who I am proud to have worked and learned alongside. Chris is a reliable friend and colleague who has already accomplished so much in his life, as he spent the past 15 years putting criminals behind bars (as a District Attorney). I look forward to following his career in the future.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? A good friend who intentionally asked me an important question a few years ago, “do you feel called to what your currently doing? If not, what are you doing to get to where God wants you?” Powerful words that absolutely led me into business school.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…selling empty boxes in the Corrugated Packaging Industry.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would have an ALL Business School cookout/barbecue in the ball field behind Mervis Hall with students, faculty, administration, and family invited. All with the goal of extending and building on our relationships and community.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Ride my bicycle coast-to-coast across the lower 48 states.

Hunt and harvest a “Pope and Young” Whitetail Deer with my bow.

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

One of the first guys in Mervis Hall every morning and willing to help anyone who asked.

What is your favorite movie about business? It’s a Wonderful Life – Acting with integrity and conviction is the most rewarding way to live, and with the right perspective it can have a wide-reaching impact on the world.

What would your theme song be? “All the Poor and Powerless” – Sons & Daughters

Favorite vacation spot: Northern Michigan

Hobbies? Fishing, bowhunting, cycling, youth ministry, watching sports.

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

“I have had the privilege of teaching over 750 students in the Katz MBA Capstone course over the last four years, and Jake Sondergard definitely ranks at the very top. He was a president of a simulated athletic footwear company in the Capstone course, meaning I worked very closely with him and his team’s assigned board of directors. The board and I were impressed with how he led his team and how he managed board relations. You could tell he was much more sophisticated in that role compared to his colleagues. While most presidents take on the role as a glorified team leader by assigning tasks and scheduling meetings, Jake spent time delegating, motivating and developing the VPs on his management team.

There are two instances that demonstrate his unique leadership and intellectual curiosity.

  1. Since most of the VPs on Jake’s management team were international, he would spend time at the beginning of each meeting having someone review something about their culture. This gave everyone an appreciation for each other and made them feel included. As a result, the team worked well together and avoided the tensions that naturally occur on the other teams.
  2. During the term after Jake was in my class, he reached out to me and wanted to meet. When we met, he told me he had been asking some of his favorite professors about books they were reading. The fact that Jake already had a job, was in a very busy final semester, and wanted to discuss reading lists demonstrates Jake’s unique thirst to continuously learn.”

Ron Magnuson

Clinical Assistant Professor

University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business





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