Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2020

Jack Armstrong

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Recovering consultant. Outdoor enthusiast. Live music lover. Coffee, beer and prosecco drinker.”

Hometown: Keswick (a small town in the North of England), but my most recent home was London.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I didn’t learn how to swim or ride a bike properly until several weeks before my first triathlon. The first time I clipped into the bike, I fell off.

Undergraduate School and Major: Technically Oxford Brookes with a Major in Applied Accounting. Although having joined PwC as an Apprentice at 19, I completed my degree while working after qualifying as an accountant. This means I have never actually been to the campus and the GSB is my first time at School since high school.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: PwC UK – as a Manager within Business Recovery Services, focused on Operational Restructuring and Turnaround.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a consultant, I had the opportunity to work with lots of amazing clients to drive large scale change within their organizations. One former client (and now friend) stands out specifically as my proudest professional moment. We worked side-by-side (literally) for 12 months where I spent my time coaching them through various leadership challenges, role modeling skills to them, and teaching them hard skills such as how to build a model, design slides or run effective meetings. Ultimately, they delivered outstanding results and they went from the newest team leader to project leader and ultimately received two promotions. Since leaving the client, I have followed their journey as they continue to build and grow an exceptional team. Being such a big part of someone’s development journey felt extremely rewarding.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at Stanford GSB so far: Winning our case in the Executive Challenge with my amazing squad mate Laila! In your first quarter at the GSB, you take part in Leadership Labs. A quarter-long program, you work in squads of six through a collection of leadership challenges. The program culminates with the Executive Challenge, where over 100 alumni from across the globe return to campus to go head-to-head against pairs of students in contentious role plays. It’s an amazing chance to test everything you learn through the quarter against real-world executives (who certainly don’t hold any punches). My partner and I managed to win the overall competition for our case. It was an amazing feeling to pull together as a squad and put into practice everything we learned in such a short space of time.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My classmates are the most passionate people I have ever been fortunate enough to be surrounded by. They are truly passionate about community, relationships, and the impact they want to make in organizations and society. As someone who gets their energy from the people around me, this passion is infectious.

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? Outside of Stanford’s year-round sunshine (which certainly had a strong appeal) Stanford’s focus on Personal Leadership Development really drew me to the GSB. In order to make an impact within organizations and ultimately society, I felt that the ability to lead people was a vital skill. With leadership experiences being integrated into the curriculum at the GSB it seemed like the perfect fit. From weekly leadership labs in the first quarter to electives such as Interpersonal Dynamics – known as Touchy Feely at the GSB – I would be able to build self-awareness, sharpen my emotional intelligence and continue to hone my influence and ability to build high-performance teams.

What club or activity have you enjoyed the most at Stanford GSB so far? Stanford is the most phenomenal community. Within the GSB family, the Pride community on campus has played a large role in my time at the GSB so far. Having previously chosen to not engage with LGBTQ groups at work, I have found the Pride community to be a core part of my experience at the GSB. Whether this has been attending alumni events, the pride retreat, or just our weekly mixer aptly named “PGPG” or “Pretty-Gay-Pre-Game” I have found it to be a great support network.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? It was never part of the plan! Neither of my parents completed undergraduate degrees, so graduate school was not something I had really considered. Having joined PwC at 19 with several years’ experience firmly grounded in operational delivery, I was looking for my next challenge to grow personally and professionally. After speaking to several friends and colleagues, they suggested an MBA. After some quick googling (honestly, I was pretty clueless about MBAs), it seemed like a great next step. I decided I wanted to pursue an intellectually rigorous MBA in order to hone my skills around strategy, vision, and leadership. My goal is to transition from a leader of teams to a leader of organizations and eventually a leader in society.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS and IESE.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Outside of the rankings, articles and online research, I was searching for the opportunity to share knowledge, experiences, and ideas with a group of individuals from around the world, who are all passionate about making change. Therefore, on my journey to building a business that makes a positive impact on society, Stanford’s focus on developing leaders who are passionate about changing lives, organizations and the world seemed like a perfect fit. In terms of determining cultural fit, from my first admit event in London with alumni and future classmates to admit weekend on campus, everyone I met was truly welcoming and inspiring; from the beginning, I felt surrounded by people who would support me, challenge me and have fun with me along the way.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I was fired from my first full-time job. I had lasted one week. At age 18, I stood alone, tired, and now unemployed outside the office of one of the world’s largest professional services firms. Having moved to London to start work, I was left wondering how this could have happened. Months of effort had been undone by something that I had taken for granted – my exam results. That one additional mark I had missed meant that I didn’t meet the academic requirements of my firm. I handed my laptop and pass over the security barrier to a faceless HR manager. It was all over before it even really started. Reflecting on this moment and how it shaped who I am today, it taught me that you can learn from each and every opportunity, particularly those that don’t work out. In turn this has helped me to develop a wealth of experience that has shaped my ability to withstand difficult and challenging situations whilst building genuine relationships that are powerful in times of adversity.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ultimately, I hope to build my own firm that invests in and works with both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. My aspiration is to help these organizations drive transformational change, improve performance, develop key relationships, build resilience, and maximize the opportunities available to them. Outside of work I hope to support the growth of social purpose organizations, specifically those aimed at providing development opportunities for disadvantaged young people. This means, in the short term, I hope to learn as much as I can working alongside rock star leaders to build and grow world-class organizations.

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