Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2021

Sam Walsh

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management

“Level-headed yet critical, especially of the things I love most: coffee, food, and basketball.”

Hometown: Cabin John, MD

Fun Fact About Yourself: I spent a summer leading bat tours from a kayak on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TX. Ask me about the Mexican free-tailed bat over a coffee sometime.

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Texas at Austin, Marketing.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: National Basketball Association, Manager – Team Strategy & Analytics.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My favorite projects at the NBA were those involving innovation or community impact work. So, it was extraordinarily exciting to win the NBA’s first company-wide innovation campaign by proposing that players should compete during the All-Star Game for donations to their communities of choice. Alongside two colleagues, I had the chance to present my team’s winning idea to Adam Silver, Mark Tatum, Amy Brooks and the rest of the senior leadership team and a version of this idea has been implemented annually since 2017.

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How has your experience with the Sloan program reinforced or upended these early impressions? Analytical, entrepreneurial and rigorous are always top of mind when I think of MIT and Sloan. As I have gotten to know the school, I have come to appreciate just how essential these characteristics are to the institution and am thrilled to be part of the management program that enables its students to bring entrepreneurial solutions alive through commercial ventures.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Dynamic. I am still getting to know my classmates, but I already see that every person is multi-talented, driven, interesting and yet still humble. I can envision many of my classmates succeeding in many different paths and that’s an exciting cohort to be a part of.

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? Sloan is part of this high-powered MIT and Cambridge ecosystem, where the futures of work, energy, analytics, sports, media, and many other fields are being built. I was searching for a program that at its core helps its students build the future, and MIT Sloan is that.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Definitely the Entertainment, Media, and Sports club so that I can help with the Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference. The sports conference is the largest student-run conference in the world and I know from my professional experience that it is uniquely influential in the sports and media industries.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? It was really a command (ha) from MIT and I made it the hardest by my own doing. Paraphrasing, the command was, “Introduce yourself to your future classmates by video and in under one minute”. I was in the midst of seemingly endless essays and short answer questions across five MBA applications, and it required a different muscle to get in front of a camera and speak. In retrospect, I could have settled on my fifth video take instead of my fiftieth video take.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt that a few top programs would create leadership and skill development opportunities more rapidly than were available in my last role.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, and Chicago.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? To start, I established five characteristics that were important to me and ranked schools from 1-10 using information from free online materials. From there, I attended information sessions all over NYC, talked to as many current and former students as possible and visited schools whenever I could. It was important to me that the marketing that schools produced was consistent with my personal experiences with the school, and I was impressed by how closely those two worlds aligned with Sloan.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? An early defining moment happened when I was ten and my travel AAU basketball team won a national championship. My team was made up of kids with very different skills, physical abilities, and motivation. I wasn’t the star player, but I was a critical part of the team as a defensive player and communicator. When the final buzzer sounded in the championship game, I was as happy about our win as our leading scorer was. Today, I’m still motivated by being part of great teams and I know that the success of those teams is dependent on having great leaders and teammates who manage their egos.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Leading a business that serves the interests of the communities in which it does business. The sports industry is a great avenue for this, but I’m excited to be in an environment at Sloan to explore how other students are pursuing this same goal through other industries.

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