Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2020

Chris Barnum

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Sports and entertainment buff, mountain sports enthusiast, puzzle aficionado.”

Hometown: Pacific Palisades, California

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I lived in London for a year when I was little and visited the National History Museum every day for 50 straight days!

Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University (Class of 2014); Bachelor of Arts in Science, Technology & Society

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Hulu, Senior Analyst, Corporate Strategy & Development

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Broadly, it was having the opportunity to work at a disruptive company at the heart of an industry facing change on a massive scale. On a tactical level, managing a cross-functional effort with department heads to identify and recommend new business initiatives across content and pricing strategy.

Describe your biggest accomplishment at Stanford GSB so far: Driving the Future of Arts, Media, and Entertainment Conference from the idea to the execution phase. It was a fun opportunity to work with classmates while bringing our shared vision to life.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? While difficult to select one word, the word ‘dynamic’ comes to mind. My peers are impressive and exemplify the traits of future leaders – critical thinkers, globally aware, and service-oriented. Students arrive at the GSB having started companies, authored books, competed at the Olympic level in sports, served our country, and more. Beyond this, what has been energizing is to experience the tangible dynamism everyone exudes. Their functional depth, deep commitment to interpersonal development, and energy to make an impact are all facets of this versatility.

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 was most impressed by the depth and breadth of the opportunities provided by the GSB program. The program takes you in as you are, provides a core foundation that is fast-paced and collaborative, then unleashes you to chart a curated experience. Whatever your hopes – launch a company, find full-time employment for a Fortune 50 giant, explore classes at the Law School / Med School, focus on improving coaching and public speaking skills, or simply enjoy a variety of all the above – GSB allows you to do it. The intentionally small program balances optionality with resources and systems of support built-in to ensure student success – from Career Counselors, Leadership Coaches, Communication Specialists, and more. This was critical as I was making a significant financial and time investment.

What club or activity have you enjoyed the most at Stanford GSB so far? Prior to starting this past fall, I had the opportunity to attend a Global Seminar in Switzerland and the Netherlands. While I was excited for this as my first official GSB activity, I never could have imagined how meaningful it was. I spent 10-days learning the intricacies of the global tax systems and left fascinated by how it has come to play such a strategic role in corporate decision making. Perhaps more importantly, I also experienced some of the best of the GSB. We met with numerous alumni who opened their offices and shared their cultures with us as new graduate students. Our trip was facilitated by world-class professors, who pushed our understanding of the topics. I also had a chance to connect, debate, and enjoy time with more than two dozen classmates in an intimate-yet-global setting outside the classroom. It will remain a hallmark of my time at Stanford.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Before enrolling at the GSB, I worked for two different companies in investment banking and media that provided me with an excellent knowledge base. However, knowing precisely how to create and execute a strategic vision in a competitive, ever-changing environment was something I was eager to learn. Simultaneously, as I considered moving from individual contributor to leading a team of 2, 20, or 2000, I recognized the people I most admire all had a deeply personal and authentic sense of leadership. It may sound cliché, but I believe one cannot fake leadership qualities. Taking time to learn more about my own brand of leadership is what made an MBA attractive to me.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UCLA Anderson

How did you determine your fit at various schools? My primary goal was to identify a program that taught systematic thinking on innovation and a focus on leadership. After visiting, speaking with alumni, and understanding the curriculum, I firmly believe both programs offer these qualities. Ultimately, my decision came down to the breadth of opportunities at the GSB. The tell-tale sign to me was listening to alumni who all spoke about the vast array of opportunities afforded to them by attending the GSB. To me, that is a defining characteristic of the school and it allowed me the space and structure to explore the next step in my career.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I can’t say there has been a single defining moment in my life. I have been fortunate to have supportive family, friends, and opportunities.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 5 years, but I know the leadership foundation the GSB provides and the amazing people I’ve met and will continue to meet at the school will play an invaluable role in my future. I hope to be in a career that allows me to learn alongside diverse teammates who are passionate about what we are creating together.

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