Meet Yale SOM’s MBA Class Of 2020

Russell Halliday

Yale School of Management

I’m a tenacious, motivated athlete, a curious and compassionate adventurer, and a mediocre trombone player.”

Hometown: Sudbury, Massachusetts

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m fluent in Tagalog

Undergraduate School and Major: Bowdoin College, Government & Legal Studies and Environmental Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Legislative Assistant in the Office of Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Philippines, I worked to combat overfishing and the use of destructive fishing practices, including dynamite fishing, by building a marine learning center in my community. After learning to speak the local dialect, I interviewed hundreds of fishermen and stakeholders, identified the need for education and training about sustainable fishing practices, and enlisted community involvement in the development of a marine sanctuary. Working with the local government and various NGOs, I raised funds through public and private donations. I then designed and oversaw construction of a typhoon-proof marine learning center that is in use currently as a training facility in my community, where bay restoration is now underway.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Excited. Excited to be here, excited to be a part of SOM, excited about the direction of the school, excited to learn from and about one another, excited about future career prospects, excited to change the world.

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? I felt that the Yale community, both at SOM and at the larger university, is devoted to producing leaders with a social conscience. While Yale SOM is sending students to the top consulting and banking firms, it is also supporting those who seek new social-impact fields. My dual desire to develop a business skill set and to explore the potential to make an environmental and social impact on society is, I feel, perfectly in line with SOM’s core values. As a public servant pivoting into finance, I was looking for a school that would value students with alternative backgrounds like mine. With each interaction, I increasingly felt that Yale SOM, as an institution and as a student body, is committed to the common good.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to the weekly Social Impact Lab series at SOM, in which we’ll discuss with leaders in the field the challenges behind and potential for using private sector solutions and resources to help solve some of our world’s pressing issues. I’m also looking forward to joining the Ice Hockey Club and participating in the annual Garstka Cup.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I was originally inspired to pursue an MBA after I met several social-impact investors who were visiting my fishing village in The Philippines. They were researching the feasibility of cultivating seaweed and sustainably caught lobsters for export from my community’s bay. Their proposed initiative would bring income to my village, while incentivizing conservation efforts in our newly formed marine sanctuary. These investors energized the community as I had never seen before, and I saw how they could effect change on a large scale, when backed by private resources. Following Peace Corps, I wanted to learn more about how public policy affects and complements grassroots development efforts around the world. I pursued a job in the office of Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern, who is dedicated to eliminating hunger and malnutrition, both in the U.S. and across the globe. I learned a great deal about constructing effective federal policy. An MBA will allow me to develop the skill set to pursue a highly impactful job in finance, where my experiences in Peace Corps and in Congress will allow me to bring a unique perspective.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? At this stage in my career, I believe that only an MBA will give me the tools I require in order to pivot careers. Further, only a prestigious MBA program, such as SOM, can give me an extensive alumni network, as well as business contacts, that will prove invaluable in my future. As such, I am committed to investing the time and effort necessary to achieve my goals. I also appreciate the financial investment required by an MBA program, and I recognize that this investment will have a tremendous payback in terms of the graduate school experience as well as with future career opportunities.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Haas, Stanford GSB, Tuck, Darden, Stern, Anderson

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Through campus visits, one-on-one meetings, and phone calls, I spoke with as many alumni, current students, and faculty members as I could. With a background in public service, I knew that I’d be trying to master challenging and new concepts, so I was looking for a group of highly collaborative, good-humored peers. Further, I wanted to get a sense of where students were working immediately after graduation and several years out. During this process, I spoke with many SOM students and alumni who were incredibly generous with their time. I was impressed with how passionate students and alumni were about SOM and the school’s future. Further, I noticed that the students here take a genuine interest in learning about one another. Each student shares his or her story, often in deeply personal detail, during the Yale Voices tradition. Finally, during the admitted students weekend, SOM invited two alumni to speak to us about their successful and unique fund they had founded while at SOM. I was impressed by their story and the resources SOM had provided them. I found myself saying, “This is exactly the sort of professional I want to be—intelligent, well-spoken, humble, and civic-minded.”

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When I was in fourth grade, my aunt died, and we adopted my three younger cousins. I had always been a kind child, but this change in our family thrust me into new territory. As I became closer with my new siblings, I became a deeply empathetic person. I developed the ability to sense when somebody around me is sad or anxious, and I strove to find new and creative strategies for helping. In later years, I found these skills to be incredibly helpful as I led teams of teens on hiking expeditions and athletes on the lacrosse field. Throughout my career, I have continued to draw upon these skills. My ability to listen, empathize, and work creatively toward common goals has been a key success factor in my ability to work with teams and to lead.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I aspire to work in investment banking. In speaking with current bankers, I understand that this career is fast-paced and team-oriented. It requires complete mastery of financial concepts, and affords one the unique opportunity to collaborate with and learn from executives within the bank and at client companies. As an associate at an investment bank, I would develop a skill set that would allow me to make significant contributions to my bank, other companies, and society.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to be a vice president at an investment bank, working to explore opportunities in the social impact space.

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