2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: John Ettinger, Stanford GSB

John Ettinger

Stanford Graduate School of Business

East Coast transplant making my way out west.”

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I once ate at 12 different Taco Bell locations in a single day as part of a private equity due diligence.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Yale University (BA, Economics)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Lee Equity Partners (NYC-based middle market private equity firm)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Grocery Outlet Bargain Market (Emeryville, CA)

Where will you be working after graduation? Sycamore Partners, Vice President (NYC-based private equity firm with a consumer/retail focus)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Private Equity Club President
  • Student Association Treasurer
  • Student Association Social Committee CFO
  • Peer Tutor in Finance
  • Siebel Scholar
  • First Place in GSB Executive Challenge

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of our leadership team’s work running the Private Equity Club at GSB. We came into the year focused on making the club a more inclusive community, particularly for minority students and those with “non-traditional” backgrounds. We added a ton of new events to our calendar: co-sponsored panels with minority student associations, lunches on breaking into the industry, club-wide happy hours, one-on-one job coaching, etc. There’s still a long, long, long way to go, for both the club and the industry. But I think we took important steps toward reaching the students that have felt excluded in the past, and hopefully made some progress in the percentage of minority and non-traditional students taking on private equity roles after graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was lucky enough to work on three acquisitions that closed in my 2 years as a private equity associate. Those were hard, hard work—months of late nights bleeding into early mornings. It makes it all the more fulfilling to see those deals come to fruition, to acquire a company you believe in, and to work closely with management growing a business post-close.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Lisa De Simone. She taught Corporate Tax and by some miracle kept the entire class hanging on every word. I still don’t fully understand how she managed it, but I’m signed up for Personal Tax in the spring. She is a true taxation maestro.

Why did you choose this business school? I had spent my whole life in the Northeast Corridor and thought it was about time to shake things up and give the West Coast a try. People do seem to think differently out here, which I think offers useful perspective for a stodgy old East Coaster like me. The perfect weather doesn’t hurt either.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be genuine. Your “story” will be easy to tell if it’s true.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Two years go by fast. Don’t waste a minute.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? GSB has been most transformative for me on the personal side. It’s been useful learning hard facts and figures, but even more useful learning what type of leader I am, and what it is that would make someone choose to follow me. Time will tell, but I suspect those lessons will continue paying dividends for my entire career.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Alice Song. I’ll never forget a moment from the first week of GSB, when our 60-person section was tasked with coordinating to complete a communal task in 90 minutes. It was chaos. No one knew what to do or who was in charge—we had only just met one another! Alice stood on a chair, and the room went silent as she took charge and calmly outlined how we would proceed. I don’t know what exactly it was—her humility, her composure, her intelligence—but we all fell in line. Some people are natural leaders, and I’m excited to see the heights she achieves post-GSB.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I had no interest in pursuing business when I was in college! I always imagined a career in public service. When I joined the workforce, however, I concluded that having a first career in business would equip me with an invaluable toolkit for a second career in public service. So I dove into business head first, and haven’t looked back.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Big Short. Financial markets can feel like an abstraction at times, but in the end everything links back to “the real world.” A lot of investors forget this too easily.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? GSB has gone to great lengths to re-brand “Porter’s Five Forces” as “PIE and Four Slices”. I suppose it’s part of some sort of academic turf war with HBS, but I scratch my head at the number of PhDs spending their time determining whether that fifth element is indeed a “force” or rather a quantity of pastry.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a whole lot less thoughtful about what makes me tick.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? That’s hard to say without the benefit of hindsight. But I often imagine myself forty years from now and wonder how much I’ll be willing to pay to go back in time and live just one week of business school life. I imagine it would be a fair chunk of change.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Write a book that has nothing to do with business. I love fiction, and hope I get a chance to exercise that “right brain” creativity.
  2. Serve in public office. I’ve always viewed public service as the highest calling (private equity is a close second, I suppose), and hope to someday pivot my career to government.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as someone who never passed on an opportunity to give back to the GSB community.

Hobbies? California’s biggest Yankees fan. Sports nut generally. Running, hiking, volleyball, tennis. Anything outdoors. Sweeping generational fiction.



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