2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Tom Kittredge, IESE Business School

Tom Kittredge

IESE Business School

“Lumberjack-at-heart making his way through the world. Entrepreneur, idealist, changemaker, half-decent cook.”

Hometown: Portland, Maine

Fun fact about yourself: I once spent a summer living and sleeping on the deck of a 20-foot wooden sailboat. My back has never been the same.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Sarah Lawrence College, Bachelor of Arts, International Development

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), Maine, U.S. – Account Specialist, International Operations – Managed relationships with international partners.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Revision Energy, New England, U.S. – New Ventures Lead – Designed pilot program integrating solar energy, distributed energy resources, and IOT technology and explored potential market opportunities.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m developing and planning to launch a business venture in the outdoor education space with a fellow IESE classmate, Samantha Alipio.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

1st Year MBA:

  • Winner, 2017 Fall Innovation Challenge
  • Winner, 2018 IESE Capstone Project
  • Audience Award Winner, 2018 Mustard Seed Social Entrepreneurship Challenge
  • First Year Director, Responsible Business Club
  • First Year Director, Doing Good, Doing Well conference 2018
  • First Year Director, Startup and Entrepreneurship Club

2nd Year MBA:

  • President, Responsible Business Club
  • Chair, Doing Good, Doing Well conference 2019
  • Lead Organizer, Techstars Startup Weekend Barcelona, 2018
  • Vice-President, Startup and Entrepreneurship Club
  • Vice-President (Hiking and Backpacking), Outdoor and Climbing Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of successfully organizing and leading three major, distinct events during the second year of the MBA, while still maintaining high academic standards and a personal life. These three events have all required a serious investment of time, effort, and planning, as well as distinct skill-sets to pull off.

As chair of IESE’s 16th annual Doing Good, Doing Well conference (Europe’s largest student-organized conference on responsible business, averaging over 500 attendees), I have been intimately involved in every aspect of the conference. I have worked closely with the rest of the executive team to bring in over €25,000 in sponsorship; secured high profile speakers from businesses and institutions like the United Nations, Patagonia, Schneider Electric, Danone, and more; designed our theme, panels, and workshops; and worked to raise the profile of the conference across Europe. As Lead Organizer of Techstars Startup Weekend Barcelona (an intensive three-day event that brought together over 100 people from across Barcelona’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to ideate, validate, and pitch business ideas), I oversaw every workstream, including marketing, sales, sponsorships, operations, securing judges and mentors, and community partnerships. Finally, as the hiking head of IESE’s Outdoor Club, I organized and led 25 MBA students on a three-day backpacking trip in Aigüestortes i Estany of Saint Maurici National Park. As the sole trip leader and organizer, I had to coordinate students with varying degrees of hiking experience and backgrounds as we climbed to almost 10,000 feet (3000 meters) and had to deal with altitude, snow, ice, and inclement weather.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my time at CIEE – the U.S.’s largest study abroad and intercultural exchange organization – I managed relationships with many of our largest international partners, located on six continents and in dozens of countries. This role required me to navigate a variety of different cultural norms, form strong international bonds, and ensure clear communication with non-native English speakers – all skills that have stood me in good stead at IESE. In this role, my proudest accomplishment was serving as a facilitator and mentor for I-LEAD, week-long social entrepreneurship, intercultural awareness, and leadership training for 60 international university students and interns hosted by CIEE and Ashoka and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. This experience was an incredible opportunity to work with future change-makers from across the globe as they began to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, hone their leadership abilities, and explore how they could make a positive social or environmental impact in their home countries. The lessons that I took from that week have carried with me to IESE, and have shaped how I have approached Doing Good, Doing Well; Startup Weekend; and my own career aspirations.

Why did you choose this business school? There was not a singular, decisive factor for why I chose IESE. Rather, it was a combination of appealing characteristics that made me excited about the program. I really wanted somewhere with a heavily international student body (82% of IESE is international), as I had spent the previous five years in a similarly diverse work environment and found it stimulating and a great way to be exposed to different points of view. I was excited by the case method approach – my undergraduate courses were almost entirely small-group seminars, and I find discussion-based courses a lot more conducive for learning than lectures. When I visited the campus when deciding upon programs, everyone I spoke with raved about the quality of the professors, which was quite important to me. From a career perspective, beyond being a top-ranked MBA program, IESE also places a lot of emphasis on social impact and has a burgeoning entrepreneurial program. And obviously, spending two years in sunny Barcelona is hard to beat.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Lean into what makes you different, even if it does not match the typical MBA profile. Prior to IESE, I had worked exclusively in the NGO/nonprofit sector, and my career interests – entrepreneurship and social innovation – hardly matched the ‘classic’ MBA career trajectory (i.e. consulting, banking, tech, etc.) I remember being nervous that my lack of conventional business experience or acumen would be disqualifying. But I think that IESE does an excellent job of seeking candidates who can bring distinct perspectives to the table. And one of the marvelous things about my time at IESE has been discovering a group of passionate, like-minded classmates with whom to exchange ideas, learn new skills, and share discoveries. In many ways, I’m glad that I did not have the standard MBA profile coming in, because an unusual background allowed me to consider issues from a different angle while also benefiting from my classmates’ expertise.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Angela King, my co-president in the Responsible Business Club. We work together every day, and I am in constant awe of her dedication, work ethic, and commitment to moving the club forward. She has a seemingly unlimited supply of energy and is able to send more messages in a morning (starting at 5 a.m.!) than I can in a week. She’s been an invaluable partner and I am very grateful that we are such a strong team.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Without a question, it is my father, Fletcher Kittredge. In 1994, when he was only a couple of years older than I am now, he started one of Maine’s first Internet Service Providers. At the time, the internet was still in its infancy, and so leaving a well-paying job in Cambridge, moving to Maine, and launching his company was a big gamble. Yet twenty-five years later, the company is still going strong, it’s a five-time recipient of Inc. Magazine‘s Fastest Growing Companies, and in 2011 he was recognized as Maine Business Leader of the Year (large company category).

While I admire his successes, it is his approach and philosophy to a business that has resonated most deeply with me and galvanized my own interest in entrepreneurship. He has always taken a human-centered and community-oriented approach to business, and is a passionate advocate for expanding rural internet accessibility to spur economic development and revitalize local communities. His passion and commitment has inspired my own conviction in the potential of purpose-driven SMEs to be drivers of positive social and economic change. On a personal level, witnessing the active role that he took in our family’s life has been a powerful rebuttal to the notion that successful entrepreneurship has to be a life-consuming endeavor.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? There are plenty of MBA terms that have grown stale – I’ll be happy if I never hear the terms “SWOT analysis” or “Porter’s Five Forces” again – but by far the goofiest tradition at IESE is awarding a stuffed toy cow to whoever had the “comment of the week (CoW)”, i.e. the most ridiculous, out-of-the-blue, uproarious- laughter-provoking statement in a class. With over fifty nationalities represented in a given classroom, it is rife with opportunities for misunderstanding, and while many of the comments were not fit for publication, I will say that I will never look at diapers the same way again.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in a better financial position. In all seriousness, I have always been avidly interested in politics and before catching the entrepreneurial bug, was considering trying to join a political campaign. It would be fascinating to be involved in policy-making, particularly on a state level where there is greater proximity and impact is more tangible and immediate. One of my favorite parts about being in such an international setting has been the opportunity to discuss politics with classmates coming from a diverse array of countries and political contexts.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? This is a challenging question, because so much of the value that I have derived from the MBA is intangible, and it’s difficult to estimate what impact it will have on my life in the next five years, let alone the next fifty. I know that some of my peers who are interested in banking or consulting have calculated their future earnings – and I have seen the statistics that a top- end MBA has an average 10-year ROI of 300%. But as someone interested in entrepreneurship, any number would be massively speculative. But I will say that on a personal level, it has definitely been a worthwhile investment. I have met an astounding group of thoughtful, interesting, diverse people; studied real-world cases from hundreds of businesses and industries; traveled and done consulting work with local companies in Spain, Kenya, and Brazil; had the opportunity to design and lead two conferences; and spent two years living in an incredible city. Regardless of what comes next from a career perspective, the impact of the MBA has been profound and worthwhile.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Build my own kayak (and paddle it around New Zealand!)
  • Explore 100 countries (halfway there) and all seven continents (Antarctica, here I come…)

Hobbies? Anything and everything outdoors, but especially backpacking, kayaking, sailing. Soccer/football/ fútbol. Games in all shapes and sizes.

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

“I got to know Tom as his Leadership professor in the MBA program, and we maintained regular contact since then beyond the course. Tom stood out in the Leadership course as an attentive and active class participant – he does not only contribute but also knows how to listen and help the class develop collective learning together. As a result, I was not surprised to see that he obtained an A in this course. Moreover, his outstanding intellectual capability can be witnessed by his overall academic performance over a wide variety of subjects, including both hard and soft skills, in the MBA program – in a highly competitive grading environment with forced distribution policy, he received an A in 18 out of 24 credits and a B+ in a further 3.5.

What I appreciate the most in Tom, however, goes beyond his intellectual capability. It is primarily his sense of mission and purpose, and the desire to apply his knowledge and competencies for greater social good. In addition to serving in a few students clubs, he took the lead as the chair of the Doing Well Doing Good (DWDG), Europe’s largest student-organized conference that aims to promote awareness in business leaders to assume greater social responsibilities. As I serve as the Academic Director for a leadership development program for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which shares a similar vision in serving people and the society, we have been exchanging ideas and collaborating along with these initiatives. It is indeed his passion and empathy that transcends the pursuit of personal interest that touched me the most. Such a great combination of competence and compassion for people enables Tom to be an effective leader that can implement his vision and create a greater good for the society as a whole.”

Yih-teen Lee, Ph.D. Professor

Department of Managing People in Organizations

IESE Business School



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