2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: David Lefkowitz, Babson College (Olin)

David Lefkowitz

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

“Dynamic leader with a passion for building relationships, facing profound challenges, and serving his community.”

Hometown: Rockville Centre/Buffalo, NY

Fun fact about yourself: My best friend is an elderly Chihuahua rescue named Smelly. We bond over cheese.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University at Buffalo, BA Political Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? VP, Business Development at YopSec (stealth cybersecurity startup)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? General Dynamics Mission Systems, Fairfax, VA

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Director of Alumni Relations, Graduate Student Council (Elected) 2018-2019
  • VP, Business Development, Graduate Manufacturing Club, 2017-2018
  • Co-President, Graduate Manufacturing Club, 2018-2019
  • Co-Founder, Graduate Finance Club, 2017-2018
  • Cybersecurity Liaison, Emerging Tech Club, 2018-2019
  • Beta Gamma Sigma, January 2019
  • 1st Place Winner, IXL Innovation Olympics Consulting Competition, Spring 2018
  • President’s MBA Scholarship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Taking 1st place in IXL’s Innovation Olympics consulting competition. It was a grueling semester-long match against teams of incredibly bright MBAs from leading business schools, and it landed me exactly where I’m supposed to be. At the conclusion of the competition, the sponsoring client offered me the chance to leverage my background in cybersecurity startup to help them, one of the world’s largest Defense Contractors, execute on a bold market entry strategy intended to chip away at the challenge of our generation – cyber(in)security.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Oddly enough, the proudest moment of my professional career has nothing to do with a job I’d actually ever been paid for. It was on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, and I was the leader of a group of 50+ volunteer community members who took the time to travel to Washington DC to ask our congressman for legislative support on a number of key Mideast-policy issues.

Those of us who could fit were sitting inside Congressman Brian Higgins’ office in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. Most of our 50+ strong delegation of community members from Buffalo, many of whom I’d recruited to travel with us for that day, spilled out into the hallway. Our Congressman listened carefully as we explained our concerns and asked for his vote on three key pieces of legislation. We were bipartisan in our perspective, unified in our voice, and prepared as could be. Even during that period of great controversy, he agreed to offer not only his support but even a signature of co-sponsorship. It was an achievement, no doubt, but one that took many months of preparation, and the courage and participation of each other person in that room.

I can’t think of any greater honor than to lead a group of people who are willing to believe in you to help them affect change on a matter of utmost significance to them, and in the halls of the US Congress no less. I’m so thankful for that opportunity and to know that, despite the apocalyptic tone on TV, the democratic process is alive, well, and working just as it was intended.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Lidija Polutnik’s Managerial Economics was a beautiful symphony of the economic principles that underlie marketing, strategy, competitive behavior, and more. Lidija is an artist at work in a lecture hall, and one of the most well-informed, no-nonsense, and expansively intelligent people I’ve ever met. Okay, enough about Lidija (we love you!).

What Managerial Economics offered was a deep understanding of the universality within a market economy – a way to understand the inevitability of product lifecycles, firm behaviors, category emergence, disruption, and industry lifecycles. Not only that, but the determinants of profit maximization at each step of the way.

Why did you choose this business school? Babson got my attention because of the school’s commitment to Entrepreneurship. However, that’s not what sealed the deal. My decision to choose Babson came from the demonstrable success and ongoing engagement of the school’s incredible alumni network; its culture of close collaboration and support among the student body; and from what I could immediately tell was a well-experienced body of faculty deeply interested and personally invested in the success of each of their students. All that from a Google search, sitting in a few preview classes and chatting with students on a tour around the campus. Almost two years later, the school has continued to exceed my expectations.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice: Be yourself and leave the pretense of needing to represent any conventional profile of a typical MBA candidate at the door and off your application. Babson has a highly individualistic culture and we like it that way. Everyone is encouraged to pursue whatever it is that they’re interested in. Have heart. Bring hustle. Try everything. Fail fast, or not at all.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Babson is only about entrepreneurship, as in the act of founding one’s own business. The school’s motto is ET&A: Entrepreneurial Thought and Action. Grads and Undergrads alike learn that it’s those with an entrepreneurial spirit, who can develop a vision and who have the chutzpah to act are those who change the world.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? There is no doubt that business school has been transformative for me. By so consistently pushing me outside of my comfort zone, I’ve learned that there are few challenges or blind spots that one can’t overcome with the application of grit, diligence, and an excellent support system. It has also been inspiring to watch my classmates develop a vision and take bold action to see it achieved.

My undergraduate degree is in political science and my professional experience had been rooted in sales and marketing. This has allowed me to hone a skill for communication and the language for strategic thinking. To say that my quantitative skills were immature at the outset of the MBA experience would be a gross understatement. My best friends and former startup cofounders liked to joke that Excel was my Kryptonite.

Then came the legendary Bob Turner’s Accounting and Financial Reporting course in Mod 1. Then Jerome Taillard’s Intro to Finance and Lidija Polutnik’s Microeconomics courses thereafter. Hiding from my weak spots was no longer an option. However, with the help of our incredible faculty and close collaboration with my peers, failure was no longer a foregone conclusion. Nor did it ever come true.

I’m coming out of Babson MBA with a newfound love for finance and a capacity for quantitative rigor that I’d never dreamed possible. Even more important than the acquisition of these crucial skills, I’ll be graduating with new-found confidence to take on the most daunting of challenges, even when the notion of success seems so out of reach.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are many, but the most prominent is a woman in our program by the name of Melissa Castro. Meet her for a moment and you’ll know her warmth and authenticity. Talk with her for a few minutes and you’d get to know her passion and intellect. Spend the time in an MBA program with Melissa, as her classmate and her peer, and you’d begin to understand why she’s a beacon of inspiration to everyone around her.

Melissa’s story is one of humble beginnings, and of considerable adversity. As the first in her family to pursue a college education, Melissa landed an entry level marketing role out of school and worked her way up to a powerful position with the biggest of firms. Although she’d already beaten the odds by a considerable degree, Melissa rightfully knew that there was still so much more she could achieve. Melissa came to Babson with an entrepreneurial spirit, and a dream to leverage her energy and cultural identity to make a difference where it matters to her most: in her community and the countless ones like it across the country. Since the start we’ve watched, Melissa experiment, iterate, and fall, never once failing to get back up again. Her dogged determination, optimism, and strength of character led to her found a venture called La Conexion, which we’re all so proud to support.

The entirety of Melissa, her love for her friends, determination in the face of adversity, incredible work ethic, leadership activities on campus, spirit of entrepreneurship, and sense of civic responsibility make her a classmate admirable to all. I speak for every member of Babson College’s MBA Class of 2019 when I say that it has been humbling, inspiring, and an incredible privilege to have her as a classmate, a friend, and an example.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My Uncle Eli has been one of my foremost sources of inspiration, throughout all stages of my life. Not only the inspiration to pursue a career in business, but an MBA at Babson, the undisputed leader in entrepreneurial higher education.

Eli’s story is that of the self-made American immigrant. He arrived in the United States in his mid-twenties with nothing other than an education, a few hundred dollars in his pocket, an unshakeable work ethic, and an unrelenting drive to succeed. He took the dirtiest of jobs. When he and my Aunt got married, he worked two or three jobs. He managed to save up enough cash to start his own small business in a single storefront that would proceed through an unrecognizable transition in only a few short years.

He opened his business to sell restaurant equipment, the same equipment he’d been working nights to clean in the months and years prior. An opportunity came to use his vacant front window to display flooring, the rest, as they say, is history. These were the beginnings of my Uncle Eli’s company which, no joke, is called Happy Floors. From broke immigrant to owner of one of the largest wholesale flooring tile distribution companies in the United States is the arc of this man’s career. Apart from the hustle and success, Eli is as caring a dad to my cousins and loving a husband to my Aunt. No matter how large and successful his business grew, it never got in the way of time with his family.

Look up the term “American Dream” and you’ll see my Uncle Eli. I’m proud to say he’s why I’m here.

What is your favorite movie about business? There Will Be Blood The glory of success for the sole sake of triumph is hollow, an illusion only apparent from the outside looking in.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…wondering what I could have made of myself, if I’d only listened to my Uncle Eli.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Add me on Linkedin and ask me again in five years.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I don’t believe in such things. My life has been so fortunate already, and life is too short to obsess over what we’ve not yet experienced. The only thing I wish for myself is to see my family more often, who are split between New York and Florida. Everything else is a gift and a pleasant surprise at that.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? While traveling in India, one of my classmates told me that I was like a coconut; tough on the outside but very sweet inside. Maybe the Indian accent made it sound better to me than it does to you, but I thought that was really great.

Hobbies? Hiking, cooking, current events, politics, technology, and kicking around ideas with my friends.

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

“I have had the great fortune to work with David in his role of Director of Alumni Relations for the Graduate Student Council. As you can imagine, there have been several students who have held this role over the years (a new student is selected each year), but David by far exceeds the work done by all of his predecessors. Unlike those who came before David, he is not interested in creating an event, he is interested in creating a partnership and a legacy. David has worked to bring members of the community together to make sure we are all working toward a common goal, leveraging relationships and resources.

Some examples;

David requested that the student government representatives have a place at the table with the Babson Alumni Association (BAA). This has led to a partnership with the BAA, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the Undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA). Moving forward (not just one time during his tenure), the BAA has agreed that the GSC and SGA representatives will be invited to their meetings.  Additionally, working with BAA members and his SGA counterpart, David has gotten the BAA and the undergraduate dean to agree to host regular networking events, related to particular industry interest. What is special about this is that at Babson, the undergraduate and graduate students do not partner in many ways. What David realized is that, in the end, they are all alumni of Babson and making connections now between the groups would benefit everyone. David attacks each project with an eye for how this will benefit the whole and not just him, or his colleagues in the graduate program.

Another example of David’s legacy is the work he is doing to support the graduate students who will come after him. He has been an integral part of helping the administration in the graduate school to re-design the curriculum that will be delivered moving forward. A part of that work is around students being assigned alumni mentors. David has been working with my team to utilize technology to make this assignment possible. He first approached me in October 2018 seeking to facilitate interactions between Babson graduate students and alumni. From his personal and professional experience and his interaction with various alumni, he recognized that his educational experience extended well beyond the classroom. His request was straightforward. How can graduate students tap into the vast army of alumni working in nearly every industry and at every job level to learn from their experience to solve business problems, discover a career path, or find a mentor? Over time, we started to frame this conversation around creating functionality in an existing platform, the Babson Connector, an online community for all Babson students, faculty, staff, and alumni. David’s pursuit of such functionality was not only dogged, but could be a foundation for increased community involvement, where students learn from alumni, and then as alumni are expected to pay it forward to future students.

David is future-focused, cares deeply about the entire community, and is someone who we are so grateful to as he will leave Babson better than he found it.”

Gerri Randlett

Managing Director

Alumni and Friends Network

Babson College



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