2018 MBAs To Watch: Sean Gilson, University of Maryland (Smith)

Sean Gilson

Robert H. Smith School of Business – University of Maryland

I’m a glutton for punishment due to my voracious curiosity.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Frederick, MD

Fun fact about yourself: I am the proud parent of a very needy 2-year-old Golden Retriever named Bodie (IG @bodiemeetsworld).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Elon University – Finance & Accounting

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? ABB, Inc. – Senior International Tax Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? American Express – New York, New York

Where will you be working after graduation? American Express – Finance Manager, Joint Rotation Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President – Finance Association

Graduate Assistant – Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

Smith Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Between getting married, classwork, training for and running the Baltimore Half Marathon, and starting a tax business, it’s safe to say I overextended myself last Fall. That said, starting a tax business has been one of the best learning opportunities I have been through. Although the nature of a tax business is very seasonal, I wanted to utilize the skills that I picked up at Smith to put together a comprehensive business plan to target millennials who were tired of relying upon TurboTax or H&R Block, and needed to build a relationship with a trusted advisor to answer complex tax questions (ie: My favorite FAQ: What are the tax implications of selling bitcoin/litecoin/ethereum?) From creating a website to troubleshooting software, it’s been both a humbling and rewarding experience that all the more makes each and every entrepreneur a champion in my eyes. Although if getting married qualifies as an extracurricular, starting a business is a distant second in comparison.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Quickly passing the CPA when I first got out of college so that I could have my social life back!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Faulkender (now Associate Dean Faulkender). As a former corporate tax professional, I am no stranger to watching people’s eyes gloss over or having them quickly exit the conversation the moment I bring up taxation. On the other hand (and much to my initial surprise), Dr. Faulkender has spent the majority of his research in this field and had an open-door policy to talk shop about tax. We quickly became friends and now talk about things that are much more enjoyable than tax, such as cars, travel, and scotch. I also can always count on Dr. Faulkender to provide me with sound career advice.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Financial Strategy for Corporations. Dr. Mullins spiced up lectures on securitization and financial flexibility by providing hilarious analogies. On the concept of debt overhang, Dr. Mullins related it to putting in all the hard work of baking a pie, anticipating your first bite, and then realizing that by the time you came back from washing your hands that your family member (ie: hungry grandfather in this case) had already eaten the proceeds of all your hard work. This one will stay with me forever!

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Smith because of the small class size, experiential learning coursework, and tight-knit student body. I have made lifelong friends from Smith through experiential courses such as the Mayer Fund. The Mayer Fund, our student-run actively managed endowment, has allowed me to form close friendships with my fellow fund members while also relying on them for constructive feedback when I am biased toward a particular stock.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? As trite as it may sound, just be yourself. Prepare for the application process by talking to current students and getting a feel for the school’s culture. If you’re nearby, plan on dropping by campus to shadow a class!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Haven’t heard any mythology about College Park, MD recently, but eager to find out if any exists.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not getting to know all of my classmates. Between all of my extracurriculars and new tax business, there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not rushing through the halls at school. If I were to do it over again, I would never miss a social – it’s a great opportunity to get to know students in the class below and reconnect with fellow classmates from different professional disciplines.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Staci Bank. Staci is everywhere – really. She always puts in 100% effort, is meticulously organized, and somehow is always able to be an active participant in each and every event she attends due to her preparedness. Maybe she has a clone or twin sister that we don’t know about. Or maybe she just really is that good.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents have been excellent role models. When I initially pursued a Finance degree at Elon University, they pushed me to double major and pick up Accounting. Their guidance at that time enabled me to build a firm foundation in Accounting and eventually go on to work as an accounting professional. Now that I have pivoted to Finance, I recognize the value of fluency in Accounting and will carry it with me due to my parents foresight and guidance.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a ski-bum out west.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Create more common space for eating / gathering outside of the caserooms.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Go to the World Cup
  2. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone they could rely on for sound advice

What is your favorite movie about business? Smartest Guys In the Room – Jeff Skilling is a crazy guy (he is scheduled to get out of jail next year!).

What would your theme song be? Huey Lewis & The News – “Hip To Be Square”

Favorite vacation spot: Camps Bay – Cape Town, South Africa

Hobbies? Skiing/Snowboarding; Travel; Going to dog-friendly restaurants





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