Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles In Courage

David R. Hinshillwood

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

“Bumbling, beardy, boisterous, and kind-hearted oaf passionate about social justice, company culture, and trash television.”

Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am an aspiring Drag Queen who goes by the name Miss Patti Archy (like “patriarchy,” which I hope to dismantle one lip-sync at a time!).

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University, B.A. in History and Literature & the Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: PrepScholar, Inc. / Sales and Support Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My most recent company, PrepScholar, is an education technology program that seeks to improve educational access at scale, and that’s exactly what I sought to do in my Sales Management role: improve our processes at scale in a way that was both lucrative to the company and helpful to our customers. Thus, my biggest accomplishment at PrepScholar was the creation, design, implementation, and maintenance of an upsell experiment that revolutionized the way we were interacting with current customers to encourage them to upsell to our tutoring packages.

By understanding PrepScholar’s “buyer’s journey” where our sales messaging stopped at purchase, I saw a huge gap where we weren’t trying to upsell our stellar tutoring packages to families who were enrolled in our smaller package (an online-only adaptive software). Singlehandedly, I was able to create a personalized email messaging that married qualitative data (like their dream college) with quantitative points (hours in the program, test scores, etc.) to point out the gap between their current scores and the necessary scores for admission to introduce and sell the benefit of our tutoring packages.

Even in its MVP stage, the upsell experiment increased company-wide sales numbers nearly 30 percent, and it’s something PrepScholar has since integrated into its core sales practices! As a self-proclaimed “scared of numbers” guy, I was not only really proud of the lasting impact my project had on the company but also the metrics-driven quantitative success of the sales.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My classmates are a mix of many things: ambitious and talented, hardworking and fun, but most of all, I’d have to say they’re effervescent. Effervescence goes far beyond describing a tart and satisfying sip of good champagne (which I’ve learned many in the class have a penchant for!); it’s a bubbly, tingly, and even inspiring sensation that gives you a warmth in your gut and a smile on your face. From day one, the folks I’ve interacted with in Goizueta’s incoming class have given me nothing but these positive, intoxicating feelings.

However, unlike the nasty hangovers and bad decisions that can come from the effervescence of champagne, the effervescence of the Goizueta Class of 2020 has left me feeling great and thirsty for more. Besides the few folks I got to meet at the whirlwind of a Welcome Weekend, we’re all on a GroupMe where we all chat daily as an incoming class. In just one day, we could talk about the best way to politely but firmly give your notice to your employer, the World Cup, climbing mountains, and grabbing a beer. The Goizueta class of 2020 is one with diverse passions and backgrounds, but they all have some important commonalities: an enthusiastic love of business, a vivacious and alluring sense of self, and a willingness to imbibe the experience of our MBA program in a way that will last far beyond our two years together.

We have students with spouses and children, wildly successful career switchers, and international students with a zeal and excitement for business that goes unparalleled. I’m lucky to be one of the bubbles in the glass of Goizueta 2020.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? There are a lot of phenomenal things I could say about Goizueta, many of which were contributing factors in my decision to join the class of 2020. Paramount to all else was the overwhelming sense of community I felt throughout the application process, whether it was at Welcome Weekend or after formally accepting my offer to join the incoming class. Every top Business School boasts great professors, impressive networks, and hard data on success, but not every school can craft a narrative of care, compassion, and community that is so intertwined in Goizueta’s core values as an institution.

As someone who doesn’t have a traditional MBA background (liberal arts humanities undergraduate, shorter than average work experience, startup experience and young to boot), I needed a place where I would feel supported by my peers, my professors, and the administration as a whole. From my very first interview with Heather Holland where we talked about Atlanta’s drag scene and the bond she has with her daughter from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, to the friends I made at welcome weekend with whom I bonded over the daunting and delicious cheese plate and Atlanta heat, to today where I’m still receiving invites to grab drinks (and buy microwaves) from my peers, I could tell that even in the hyper-competitive business school arena that Goizueta is going to be a place where I can simultaneously feel challenged and supported. Without community, success can feel shallow and unfounded. Thankfully, I am confident that in Goizueta I have found an institution that promotes growth through community impact (within Goizueta itself, Atlanta at large, and on an even more international scale).

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really excited to join Emory’s Entrepreneurship Club (EVCC). I’ve always had an interest in startups – especially their conception, funding, and development – and so seeing that first hand will be extremely invaluable and enlightening as I begin the recruitment process.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? My grandfather – or “Poppo” as I call him (since I wanted him to be related to Elmo when I was little) –  was not only a huge influence in my life but also a major professional aspiration for me growing up. One of life’s most bittersweet ironies is watching a man who was the COO of a cancer research hospital battle cancer, and his journey showed me that there’s no time like the present to better yourself, pursue your passions, and make a difference. Sometimes, we don’t get a “tomorrow” or a “next time” and I want my grandfather to see my impact. So, business school, here we are!

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? There’s nothing quite like holding a $200,00 piece of paper that reads, “David Hinshillwood, Bachelor of Arts in Unemployment from Harvard University” to give you a swift kick in the butt. I value my experience at Harvard for many reasons, but most important of all, it helped show me that a liberal arts education gives you a well-defined sense of your passion and a strong voice with a much less defined career path.

My academic focus in the performances of race and gender in throughout American social and political history helped me explore my interest in people relations and the importance of contributions individuals make to shape society as a whole, but I wasn’t quite sure whether that would springboard into a role in operations, HR, or marketing. It also helped me understand my own privilege and the hierarchies I myself am intertwined in, but that still didn’t lead me to a dream career.

I’m confident that an MBA will help ground my general interests in a way that is much more focused and targeted, where I can marry my own personal core ideas and interests to a concrete career path.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to schools in the top 20 that had a strong brand identity and inclusive community located in or near major cities. Among those programs were the likes of Haas, Stern and Anderson.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? There were a couple of key factors I considered as I was finalizing my list of schools to apply to. Among the top factors were quality of instruction, average aid, class size, student-rated satisfaction, and opportunities for employment outside of traditional MBA work placements (like Wall Street, Consulting, etc.).

To assess the fit for each of these factors, I used a mix of school-specific and national resources. I began by enrolling in the ROMBA (Reaching Out MBA) email list and ruled out any school that didn’t have a ROMBA affiliation. From there, I spent time on the websites of each school to which I was interested in applying to look at their course offerings, read up on professors, and scanned their list of clubs and activities to see where I thought I could find my community and make the biggest impact. I then began reaching out to school networks based on my interests (LGBTQ activism, rugby, marketing, hospitality and startups) to discuss any present opportunities and what it was that made them love their school. I chose this specific route because these students were the ones actively involved but could also speak candidly about their experience. Thankfully, each school also has extensive records of where students are placed by company, industry and role, so I could see which schools sent MBAs to work in tech or startups and begin finalizing my list from there.

After I gleaned all the information I possibly could from school websites, I began using outside sources: US News and World Report Rankings, Poets&Quants, and Clear Admit to start understanding where each school fell in the Top 20; what students loved about their school; and how long it took for them to pay back their MBA. I knew I wanted to go to a prestigious university but I wasn’t going to spend upwards of $200,000 to enroll at a school with a great name that wasn’t the right fit for me.

Lastly, and this is probably my biggest recommendation: interview your interviewer. If you make it to the interview stage of the application, you should be determining fit as much as the interviewer is: ask what’s hard about living in that city, what a day-to-day is like, and what makes them unique. The interviewer will likely have crafted answers, but it’s illuminating to see what a school representative decides to highlight.

Ultimately, it was schools with a strong sense of activism, community orientation, and small class size that made the cut.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Wow, talk about a Jerry Springer moment! The biggest defining moment in my life so far has been coming out of the closet and living my truth as an out and proud gay man. Though society is making huge inclusive strides to protect the rights of LGBTQ-identified Americans, I’ve experienced first-hand the hate, fear and body-shaming that gay folk face, and so coupling that with a somewhat conservative-minded family, I was nervous to live my truth.

Like the aspiring businessperson I was, I wrote an email addressed to my entire family so no one would be mad they weren’t told first, and also so that I could more eloquently put into words feelings that had been dormant since I was a pre-teen.

Common themes throughout my life are to live with authenticity, challenge the status quo, and do work to support my communities, and coming out was a culmination of those three ideals. Through coming out, I was able to more deeply understand myself and what set me apart as an intellectual, a businessperson, and a human being. Since coming out, I’ve joined Boston’s gay and inclusive rugby team to challenge myself physically and mentally while also building a network of support; I began doing drag to challenge the conception of fragile and toxic masculinity; and I proudly do charity work to raise money for HIV/AIDS research and other issues plaguing gay America. Coming out allowed me to understand my impact and challenged me to continue to live my life with truth, integrity, and a sense of purpose, and you all better be sure I’m bringing my gay down to Goizueta!

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I’m obsessed with the power and success of the sharing economy (AirBnb, Uber, Lyft, etc.) because it synthesizes a lot of my interests: strong company culture and brand identity, hospitality services, and a people-helping-people approach where folks are sharing a part of themselves (whether it be their car’s backseat or their spare bedroom) to form transient but still impactful connections. I’d love for my post-graduation career to start at a company in this sector. Ideally, I’d love to join the Marketing division of one of these companies to continue to brand and market these services to help connect people on an individual level while being part of the initiative to ensure that these tech startups-turned-institutions are here to stay in a safe and legal way.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I have this crazy gay dream of opening an LGBTQ chain coffee shop and bar across America’s most gay-friendly cities. Think of it as Starbucks’ flamboyant younger brother with beardy bearistas and beartenders who have an intimate knowledge of service, craft cocktails, and culturally-aware coffee. It would be a company obsessed with community, whose patrons could feel comfortable regardless of race, gender and size, where a portion of the profits are donated to initiatives like the Trevor Project and the HRC, and you could walk in at noon to a re-run of RuPaul’s DragDrag Race and a Golden Girls themed night starting at nine.

HA! In all practical seriousness, waking up from the idyllic dream above, in 5 years, I hope I will have gotten my feet wet in small-scale startups to the point where I understand what it takes to build a brand and a company from the ground up to help with in funding and starting my company. Coffee and cocktails are both social endeavors that marry my love of people, products, and culture in a way that I’d be excited to struggle and commit my life to their operation and success, but it takes experience and know-how beyond the scope of what I feel I can currently do.

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