Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2020

MIT Sloan School of Management

Academically, the class represents a significant shift. A solid engineering foundation, however, wasn’t one of them. This year, 31% of the class earned engineering-related degrees as undergrads, just a point down over the 2019 Class. Traditionally, business majors account for a fifth of the class – and the 2020 Class is no different at 20% (a point down from last year). The big difference? The percentage of economics majors nearly doubled from 11% to 20%. That wasn’t the only noticeable difference. The percentage of humanities and social sciences majors rose three points to 14%. By the same token, the number of math and sciences majors plummeted four points to 7%.

Among professional backgrounds, the composition of consulting and financial services swapped spots – literally – with the 2020 Class. Consultants make up 21% of the class as financial services professionals take up 19% of the seats – numbers that were reversed with the previous class. Technology again held an 18% share, followed by government and public sector (14%), industrials (8%), energy (7%), healthcare (6%), and consumer goods (5%).

A LEADER IN THE STARTUP SCENE

By the numbers, the Class of 2020 enters MIT Sloan in the best of times. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s recruiter poll, the school ranked among the second-most respected, perhaps one reason why members of the 2017 Class took home $184,289 in starting pay. Students were equally bullish on the program. In The Financial Times’ student and alumni survey, Sloan notched the third-best marks, not to mention a #2 ranking for personal development and educational experience in The Economist survey. Among business school administrators and faculty who completed the U.S. News survey, MIT Sloan ranked among the top three programs in entrepreneurship, information systems, production, and logistics.

Entrepreneurship has always been a trademark of an MIT education – and Sloan is no different. The school boasts resources such as the Martin Trust Center, which offers resources and support to aspiring entrepreneurs. This includes startup space, programming, competitions, and partnerships with other MIT departments, labs, and groups. In the past five years, Sloan MBAs have also launched PillPack and Bevi, which have generated a combined $142 million dollars in funding. Just across the street from Sloan sits the Cambridge Innovation Center – the original home of Hubspot – that currently includes over 170 startups and $7 billion dollars in venture capital. Boston itself has acted as the center of biotech research and startups for decades, while also making strong inroads in artificial intelligence and business software. While Boston isn’t the Bay Area, the metro still generated over $5.2 billion in investment in the first two quarters of 2018.

MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo

Such resources made MIT Sloan the perfect destination for startup-minded MBAs. “The opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan are second-to-none,” says Hai Lieu. “A very structured Entrepreneur & Innovation Track allows me to experience the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem at MIT. I can greatly benefit from various resources from Martin Trust Center such as startup mentoring and coaching from Entrepreneurs in Residence or simply being surrounded by a cohort of like-minded.”

Indeed, successful entrepreneurial programs revolve around more than mere advice and studio space. It is a mindset that permeates an institution – a dogged commitment to creation and a relentless pursuit of progress. That’s exactly what Martin de la Herran Oyarzun found.

“I have always been a risk-taker,” he explains. “I was looking for a school that had a focus on entrepreneurship. MIT has some of the best entrepreneurship professors in the world, but also an entire structure of resources to help their students build companies. MIT alumni have founded more than 30k currently active companies whose annual revenue is the equivalent to the 10th largest GDP in the world.”

SIP SERVES A WELCOME BREAK FROM CLASS

If you played word association with Sloanies about the MBA program, “entrepreneurship” probably wouldn’t be the first word you’d hear. Instead, you would hear some variation of “action learning.” Part of that stems from the Action Learning Labs, the defining experience of Sloan MBAs. Here, students choose from a dozen labs, where they team up with organizations worldwide. Such projects can be geographically-centered (Israel, China, India, United States) or targeted to particular functions, such as finance, analytics, healthcare, operations, entrepreneurship, enterprise management, and sustainable business.

What exactly do students do during an Action Learning Lab. Faye Cheng, a 2018 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, gathered an array of hands-on experience during her two labs. “For example, through Operations Lab, my team helped a major food processing company think through how they can reallocate their resources to accommodate increasing demand for customization,” she says. “Through Global Entrepreneurship Lab (G-Lab), my team worked with the biggest co-working space company in Peru to strategize how they can expand in the region and strengthen their competitive advantage against international players entering Peru.”

In other words, students can gain an array of functional and geographical experience to prepare themselves for their internships and beyond. This preparation is accelerated by the core curriculum, which is completed in the first semester. These experiential learning opportunities go far beyond Action Learning Labs. Sloan is also famed for its Sloan Innovation Period (SIP), a week-long break during each mid-semester where students take ungraded seminars in areas of interest. SIP serves as a welcome break from the coursework; it enables students to focus of topics like global health, design thinking, ethics, resilience, and even improv – with content delivered by faculty, experts, and business leaders alike. At the same time, Sloan is part of the MIT-wide Independent Activities Period (IAP), where students spend their Januarys on passion projects. Faye Cheng, for one, spent one IAP continuing to work on a startup in Peru that was part of her Action Learning Lab.

MIT Sloan School of Management class – Ethan Baron photo

Such activities sparked the Class of 2020’s imaginations – and often tipped the balance for where they wanted to spend their MBA years. “Assuming that most MBA programs all have great faculty and impressive curriculum, I believe that the big differentiator when it comes to learning is the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’, explains Itzik Elyahou. “The prospect of gaining hands-on experience through lab activities, study trips and Innovation Period, as well as the possibility to work on collaborative projects with faculty and students from one of the most prestigious engineering school in the world, made the choice straightforward.”

SCHOOL LAUNCHES BUSINESS ANALYTICS CERTIFICATE

Beyond Action Learning Labs, SIP, and IAP, some 2020 MBAs were just mesmerized by how this spirit of creating and doing forges bonds across campus. “I remember walking out of the business school into a team of students from across campus working on their self-driving tricycle prototype on the sidewalk,” says Kevin Cheung. ”It was action-driven collaboration like this and the innovative environment that led me to choose Sloan.”

This innovation spirit has also found its way into the MIT Sloan curriculum. Over the past year, Maura Herson believes the biggest enthusiasm revolved around the launch of the school’s Business Analytics Certificate. “The MBA population enthusiastically engaged with this new option to customize their studies with a concentration that teaches them to understand, apply, and draw business insights from both predictive and prescriptive analytics,” she tells P&Q. “The certificate coursework is built on tried and true classes like Analytics Edge as well as new classes like Communicating with Data.”

That isn’t the only innovation that students should expect, adds Herson. “This summer our Career Development Office welcomed a new leadership team. Led by Assistant Dean Susan Brennan, this group is excited to reimagine the delivery of traditional MBA recruiting and career services and provide best in class support of our students.  Dean Brennan is a nationally recognized Career professional who revolutionized this function in her last role as AVP of University Career Services at Bentley University.”

KEEPING THEIR OPTIONS OPEN

What’s next for the Class of 2020? By now, many are coming to grips with FOMO. Itzik Elyahou entered school looking forward to activities like Enterprise Management Hack-a-Thon, while Kevin Cheung places the Martin Trust Center, Media Lab, Delta v, and $100K atop his wish list. “I love the idea of taking concepts from the classroom and instantly applying them to real world problems under the guidance of incredibly knowledgeable faculty and peers,” Cheung says.

Long-term, the options are limitless for this class. Hai Lieu plans to move from operating a coffee shop to creating an eCommerce platform to better connect Vietnamese farmers with consumers across the world. Jaime Zorrilla Sánchez de Neyra’s goal is equally ambitious. He hopes to someday be part of the Health Ministry of Spain or even move to something more global. For him, that is the beauty of MIT Sloan: the experience can take him anywhere. 

“I know that after two years at MIT Sloan, anything and everything could happen.  I want to go to MIT Sloan with a clear mind so that I can nourish from the collaborative and innovative environment. Even though I have a specific goal, I would be lying if I did not confess that I am prone to exploring other industries in healthcare.”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates. 

StudentHometownAlma MaterLast Employer
Muneef M. AlMuneefRiyadh, Saudi ArabiaMcGill UniversityPublic Investment Fund (NEOM Project)
Eduarda BardavidRio de Janeiro, BrazilIME (Instituto Militar de Engenharia)DragApp.com
Kevin CheungLong Island, NYWashington University in St. LouisBoeing
Martin de la Herran OyarzunMadrid, SpainPontifical University of ComillasTelefónica
Itzik ElyahouTel Aviv, IsraelBen Gurion UniversityFiverr
Matteo GobbiRome, ItalyImperial College (London)European Investment Bank
Liliana Kennedy-PaeslerRaleigh, NCDartmouth CollegeCVS Health
Hai LieuDat Do, Ba Ria Vung Tau, VietnamKorea Advanced Institute of Science and TechnologyBaker Hughes
Marjani NairneNew York City, NYSwarthmore CollegeGoogle
Jaime Zorrilla Sánchez de NeyraMadrid, SpainUniversidad Autonoma de MadridHospital Universitario 12 de Octubre

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