2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Valerie Shen, Stanford GSB

Valerie Shen

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Midwesterner-turned-Californian. Always looking for adventure. Passionate about combatting climate change. Unashamedly quirky.

Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin

Fun fact about yourself: I visited all 50 US states before turning 24!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Harvard College, Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science & Public Policy and Earth & Planetary Sciences

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Analyst at Kleiner Perkins in Menlo Park, California

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? MBA Intern at X (Google’s Moon Shot Factory) in Mountain View, California

Where will you be working after graduation? Chief Operating Officer at VC firm G2VP in Menlo Park, California

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Chief Investment Officer of the GSB Impact Fund, Co-Chair of the MBA Student Association Academic Committee, Siebel Scholar

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I led a team that planned a week-long trip to Colombia for 200 of my classmates before school even started. It was the biggest project I had managed up to that point, and I had never been to Colombia before. I am far from fluent in Spanish, so it was a huge undertaking. I am proud that through our team efforts everything went super smoothly, and we created such a memorable bonding experience. To this day many classmates credit “that one night in Cartagena…” with starting their deepest business school friendships.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Prior to business school, I helped start G2VP, the Venture Capital firm I will be working at after graduation. We invest in exceptional teams applying new and emerging technologies to traditional industries, sustainably. I had the privilege of being part of an incredibly talented and cohesive team building this new firm from scratch, making decisions on issues as big as our first investment and as small as the font of our logo. It was my first taste of entrepreneurship, and so fulfilling to see the team investing in companies creating the world as it should be.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Managing Growing Enterprises, taught by Graham Weaver. This is a course on management and making hard decisions as a leader, taught through case studies and role plays. Graham has bestowed so much life wisdom upon us over the course of the quarter. I could fill pages with the insights I have learned but will just include my favorite quote: “Demanding excellence is wonderful. Demanding perfectionism will kill you. If the standard is perfection, the only outcome can be a disappointment.”

Why did you choose this business school? There are so many reasons I love the GSB. As a former consultant, I’ll stick with three. First are the people – I know this is cliché, but my classmates and professors are even more amazing than expected. Second is the interdisciplinary nature of Stanford, which I deeply value because my career goals require extensive interdisciplinary cooperation. I am pursuing a joint degree in Environment & Resources and get to take classes from various departments across the university. Finally, I love the Bay Area – I hope to spend the rest of my life here, so I am excited that my business school network will be centered here. The Bay Area is full of opportunities in every sense, as well as beautiful nature, wonderful weather, and delicious food.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be deeply reflective when answering the essay question “What matters most to you, and why.” People get surprisingly personal and emotional. Also, don’t procrastinate (and especially don’t procrastinate until Round 3)!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I came to Stanford expecting that everyone would be super liberal in terms of their political leanings. On the surface, we give off that impression. If you ask the right questions, you can find plenty of “closeted” conservatives. I am very proactive about bringing out those voices.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I knew how much access being a current student at the GSB gives you, in terms of ability to get time with just about anyone, especially given that supposedly this access weakens as we become alumni. I wish I organized more dinners with professors and other prominent business leaders, as I have found all these conversations extremely fascinating and inspirational.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tae Yoon. I work with Tae whenever possible – at this point, we have completed over a dozen projects together across five classes and he is the best teammate one could possibly ask for. Tae is so smart, hard-working, efficient, thoughtful, and fun – the perfect balance of competence and warmth.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Definitely my parents. My dad is a professor, and all my grandparents are all educators. I wouldn’t necessarily call them tiger parents, but I have always grown up with the mindset that I would attend some graduate school, it was just a matter of deciding which one.

What is your favorite movie about business? I watch very little TV so don’t have a large repertoire to choose from but will go with Crazy Rich Asians as that was my favorite recent movie. Love that Hollywood finally made another Asian-centric movie!

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? ATS = Across-the-Street. Used to describe all Stanford classes/activities that are not at the GSB, even though there is not one literal street to cross as the GSB is right in the middle of campus and everything is super accessible. Sometimes, we create a bit of a “GSBubble” around ourselves. SGD = Small Group Dinner. I find this term amusing because often these dinners still have a dozen or more people, which would not be considered small anywhere outside of business school. My metrics for what it means to be extroverted vs. introverted have been completely recalibrated.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…traveling the world learning cuisines from a variety of cultures, combining two of my top hobbies. Fortunately, I get to do quite a bit of this in business school – currently writing this in Turkey over spring break!”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Priceless. There are some things money can’t buy (for everything else, there’s MasterCard).

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Teach a course at the GSB on how business leaders can help solve our climate-energy challenge. 2. Ride on Air Force One.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Always willing to be my unfiltered self and fight for what I care about in a persistent and transparent manner.

Hobbies? Travel, food, hiking, national parks, piano, debating politics and current events.



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