Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2020

Ashley Wu

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Portlandian looking to make the world a weirder place.”

Hometown: Portland, OR

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve only ever met two people who can consistently beat me at MarioKart (GameCube version)

Undergraduate School and Major: Yale University, Economics & Global Affairs

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Associate Strategy Officer (Nutrition)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It was sponsoring a Grand Challenge for Affordable Nutrition, which gave seed innovation grants for projects like protein ingredients made from beer production byproducts in Ethiopia and a fish-powder food product in Cambodia

Describe your biggest accomplishment at Stanford GSB so far: I won a relay race around the island of Oahu with the best team, GSBeachbound!

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Doing. Things. Whether it’s planning trips, running our Impact Investment fund, starting companies, or cooking dinner, I am so impressed by my classmates’ ability to (flawlessly) execute on their ideas.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I came to the GSB to scratch my start-up itch. Startups are risky and lonely – having so many classmates who are also interested in new ventures makes a huge difference to the culture. Whether or not I ultimately leave here to pursue an entrepreneurial venture directly after school, I know it will have been valuable time spent experientially learning best and worst practices in finding product-market fit, team dynamics, and getting plugged into an amazing network of classmates who will be co-creators and funders someday.

What club or activity have you enjoyed the most at Stanford GSB so far? Building with my co-founder, Rafael – a marketplace for consumer brands and retailers to directly manage promotional spending (without brokers or distributors).

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? At McKinsey, I went to work primarily excited to work with interesting, smart people. At Gates, I went to work because I felt purpose in it: I loved helping food companies think about how they could use their innovation and marketing talent for good. I wanted some time to see if I could find something that motivated me in both of these ways.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Yale, Harvard

How did you determine your fit at various schools? For me, business school is a time to answer the existential questions of what purpose I will serve for society and what my authentic style as a leader will be, less so about finding a specific job for the 2-5 years after graduation. Stanford’s focus on interpersonal dynamics and leading with vulnerability is truly unique in its ability to help answer those questions. As evidence, by March, I think about half of students still do not know what they are doing with their summers. I see this actually as tremendously positive and unique at business programs, where students typically get pressured into signing job offers months after they arrive.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I fell in love with someone who is infinitely less manic and infinitely more fun than I am. Every day, he reminds me that it’s okay to take a deep breath and that our work should not define us – that we should do work that suits our life and goals. I’m also a much-improved skier now.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Confident and happy in whatever I am doing, working with an amazing team!

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