2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Nate Silver, Yale SOM

Nate Silver

Yale School of Management

“Cultivator of strong, supportive communities within organizations, on stage, and around the dinner table.”

Hometown: Providence, RI

Fun fact about yourself: In college, I gave a private tour to Bruce Springsteen and his son. His son didn’t end up enrolling, but my time with The Boss was one of my Better Days.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Vassar College, A.B. in Drama

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I simultaneously split my time between serving as Director of Operations for the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC), as Managing Director for Jackalope Theatre Company, and as a freelance theater director. With NSLC I was responsible for leading a team of 80, oversaw the company’s expansion to operations at Yale University and in Singapore, and implemented new high school programs in theater, culinary arts, nursing, and environmental science. With Jackalope I was brought on to build a board, double the budget, increase the audience, and maximize the company’s neighborhood impact. As a theater director, I was hired to tell stories in Chicago, around the country, and across the world. All three roles allowed me to lead large teams, develop and execute a shared vision, and combine creativity and my passion for strengthening organizations.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Deloitte Consulting, LLP – Human Capital Summer Associate in NYC

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte Consulting, LLP – Human Capital Senior Consultant in NYC

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Cohort Representative (Elected, 2 years)
  • Human Capital and Organizational Performance (HCOP) Club Co-Leader
  • Student Orientation Leader
  • Admissions Interviewer
  • Admissions Editorial Design Team
  • Joint Academic Affairs Committee
  • Out of Office (LGBTQ Affinity Group) Member (and unofficial chef)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Two stand out.

The first was working on a six-person student team to completely reimagine our admissions material for Yale SOM. Advised by Michael Bierut (Yale SOM Lecturer and partner at design firm Pentagram), we were encouraged to throw away everything we knew about how the Admissions Office talked about Yale SOM and to fully insert the student voice. The semester-long project resulted in something powerful and unique: a Yale SOM Admissions guide packed exclusively with primary source material from students. It has Instagram photos, actual student calendars and to-do lists, screenshots from our Slack and Facebook groups, international travel itineraries, personal reflections, embarrassing recruiting stories, etc. It was, in all ways, authentically Yale SOM, and I was proud to be a part of it

The second is winning Yale SOM’s Top Chef competition in the spring of my first year. Teams were given a mystery basket of five ingredients and then had 24 hours to plan, shop, prep, cook, and serve dinner for 250 guests, converting Yale SOM classrooms into fine-dining restaurants. A food lover and former professional chef, I felt like I had a lot on the line. Spending the sleepless day-long competition with my best friends, rolling green-tea gnocchi and frying grapefruit donuts, stands out as my favorite business school memory. It was fun, but, ultimately it was a business lesson: Craft a vision, execute well, prepare for mistakes, support those around you.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had the opportunity to work on the play Disgraced (2013 Pulitzer Prize Winner, 2015 Tony Nominee) for a few years, starting with its off-Broadway run in 2012. I served as Associate Director at Lincoln Center Theater, on Broadway, and on its national tour, but my proudest moment was directing the Asian premiere myself at Singapore Repertory Theatre in 2016. It was no small task, bringing this play so firmly about race, religion, and politics to the middle of Asia during the 2016 U.S. election, and it was made more complicated by the fact that the actors and design team had never worked together before. Relying on the sheer talent and grace of my collaborators and my ability to build a unified community, we made something special. The play opened to rave reviews, the run was completely sold out, and it was the perfect high note on which to return to the U.S. and finish my business school applications.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Definitely Urban Poverty and Economic Development with Kathryn Cooney. It was a great mix of the urban and race theories that were the highlights of my undergrad experience, combined with a broad and practical look at the policy interventions and economic development tools that cities and firms use. The course culminated in partnering on case development with trendsetting organizations, and my team and I got to work closely with MacArthur Fellowship-winning artist Titus Kaphar and his business partner Jason Price on their inclusive neighborhood revitalization project and artspace, NXTHVN. The primary business insight from the class is about the benefits—both tangible and intangible—to a city, its businesses, and its anchor institutions when the private and public sector come together around a functional, effective strategy for inclusive urban growth and economic development.

Why did you choose this business school? In short, I felt seen. My background looks particularly nontraditional for a business school candidate, but at Yale SOM I am not an outlier. The school has an incredible mix of talented, driven students who have come from the broadest possible spectrum of countries, sectors, and organizations. I wanted to attend a school where a diversity of backgrounds was truly valued, and where there is no one cookie-cutter type of student. It became clear, through my application and interview process, that Yale SOM was the place for me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Jim Baron, another favorite Yale SOM professor who teaches the Employee course in the core, ends one of his lectures on recruitment and selection by asking the first-years a question about their internship search: “Is your job-search behavior oriented toward merely eliciting ‘an offer’ or toward identifying ‘a good match’?” My advice is to look for a match. Every business school is different – intentionally. Know what you would bring to a community, and know what the school can offer you in return. Don’t force the issue or force yourself to fit into the culture of a specific school. When a school is right for you, you’ll know.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known that my background spoke for itself. I agonized over how to spin my experiences a certain way or find buzzwordy transferrable skills to put on my resume. In reality, what I had accomplished before business school and the true self I presented on my application was enough. Not surprisingly, looking back on the application process, I had success at the schools where I told a more honest story about my background and accomplishments, and I struggled at the schools where I felt like I was just telling them what they wanted to hear.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I didn’t know how wide the world was in terms of possible career paths. As a drama major turned professional theater-maker, I was myopic in my understanding of what was out there. Business school has been transformative in that I now have exposure to – and the confidence and knowledge set to land – an incredible set of roles in a wide spectrum of industries.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Becca Constantine is an absolute gem of a person, and I feel privileged to have her as a classmate. Not only is she exceptionally high-achieving academically, but she also possesses a generosity of spirit that is one-of-a-kind. She actively creates a community of thinkers, listeners, and learners everywhere she goes, and she’s the type of person everyone wants to be close to. No one has had a larger impact on how I hope to live my life after graduation than she has.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Though I didn’t study business in college, my theater company, primarily Director of Community Engagement Andrew Swanson, believed that I should enter a business role. After directing a play for Jackalope back in 2012, the company leadership sat me down and asked if I was interested in coming on as Managing Director. They wanted someone to think more strategically and long-term about the young company and they needed someone who could funnel the company’s artistic passion into a compelling vision for the future. They believed that I could be this person, and took a chance on me. It was through my time at Jackalope that I realized my skill set was most aligned to this sort of strategic managerial role, and I’ve never looked back.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Devil Wears Prada. Not only because when you take the Vassar-to-Yale path, you have to pick a Meryl Streep film. And not only because I kind of look like Stanley Tucci. The movie is a master class in “managing up,” and ultimately teaches to know yourself well enough to realize that some jobs just aren’t worth it.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? I may be in the minority, but I’ve never been able to get on board with the term “space” as a synonym for career “sector” or “industry.” It’s always felt kind of aspirationally astronautical, and I just can’t get behind it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…much less prepared to enter an increasingly complex world that more and more frequently requires business leaders to address the largest challenges facing humanity and our planet.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Hard to place an exact dollar amount until I firmly enter the next stages of my life, but based on the knowledge gained, friends made, and doors opened, I’m pretty sure it will be worth every penny.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Eat at each of the restaurants on the “world’s 50 best” list, and settle down with my partner, Chris.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who built community, hosted great dinner parties, and who will always pick up the proverbial phone whenever you call.

Hobbies? Cooking for friends and family, traveling to places with amazing street food, crossword puzzles, seeing theater, watching every Oscar-nominated film each year

What made Nate such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Nate is a second-year student in the MBA program at the Yale School of Management. He exemplifies the qualities of ethical, trailblazing motivating leadership that exemplify the criteria of the award.

In my role as the Dean of Students and Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Life at the School of Management, I work with a very large number of students across our five degree programs. Nate rises to the very top across this large pool of students with measurable demonstrated skills in the areas of leadership, professionalism, and interpersonal dynamics.

Our team in Academic Affairs and Student Life chose Nate from a very robust applicant pool to be a co-leader of our MBA orientation program. Nate, along with a small group of other orientation leaders, developed and executed two weeks of orientation programming events for an entering class of 350 global students. Nate worked very closely with me and my team to not just create and execute programming but to assist the professional staff in troubleshooting possible issues, organizing extra events, and reflecting on best practices gleaned from the programming. My team relied on Nate’s strong leadership skills and the keen emotional intelligence he demonstrated as he worked with individuals, small groups, and large-scale gatherings of students.

Nate was also selected by his peers for the elected position of Cohort Leader. Our program organizes all entering MBA students into five distinct cohorts across the MBA class. Each cohort takes all of their classes together and develops cohort norms to advance learning and positive group dynamics. The Cohort Leader acts as the representative of the cohort, organizes extracurricular programming for the cohort, and also handles concerns arising within the cohort.

Few students have the temperament to undertake this serious obligation and commitment to the student experience. I have worked very closely with Nate in his role as a cohort leader, and his strong leadership skills, his diligence in working to better the experience for everyone, and his ability to take on challenging issues differentiate him. One example of this quality is the establishment of the cohort affiliate program Nate helped launch, which allowed students to have increased informal interactions with faculty.

I recommend Nate with the highest possible praise.  During his time at Yale, Nate has distinguished himself consistently with his professionalism, strong intelligence, and empathy for others. I look forward to the contributions he will make as a future leader to business ethics.”

Sherilyn Scully

Dean of Students and Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Student Life

Yale School of Management