Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2021

Marcus Tenenbaum

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Obsessive New York sports fan, overly-ambitious cook, once-competitive athlete grasping at past glory

Hometown: Florham Park, New Jersey…home of the New York Jets!

Fun Fact About Yourself: As an Air Force officer stationed at the White House, I visited 11 states, nine countries, and took 41 flights on Air Force One.

Undergraduate School and Major: United States Air Force Academy – Humanities Major

Most Recent Employers and Job Titles:

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – Technical Operations & Logistics Manager

US Air Force – Director of Technical Support, White House Information Technology

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Leading my first team at the White House is definitely my biggest accomplishment and the thing I’m most proud of. The seven military members and one civilian member of the Executive Support Team were responsible for all technology delivery and support to White House Senior Staff, First Family members, President, and Vice President.

Despite (or maybe due to) the high-stress environment, the family we built – and the culture we created – was one where people could bring their whole self to work and lean on their teammates. The trust we developed led to the adoption of a team-wide growth mindset and that provided the catalyst for each of us to grow closer as a group and become leaders in our organization. (I even officiated one of their weddings…in what is widely believed to be the shortest wedding ceremony ever.)

This team led dozens of technology and operations projects during the transition between President Obama and President Trump. Since the transition, the members of this team have gone on to critical roles at Visa, Facebook, and in the personal office of Barack & Michelle Obama. The four service members who remained in the military have all been promoted and carried the tenants of the team we built back to other active-duty units.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The supportiveness from my classmates has been overwhelming. From the first conversations I had with Rossers through today, I never felt like a question or request was received with anything other than a willingness to help.

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 wanted to attend a program that would allow me to try adapting my leadership style (built primarily off experiences in the military) to problems in a number of different areas. Having a chance to get on the ground and work through real problems is how I learn best. I think Ross does that better than anywhere else. I’m hoping to stretch myself and fail quite a bit while I’m here. I’m sure I will come out on the other end a better person for it.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Armed Forces Association was critical throughout the application and decision process. I can’t wait to join and help other veterans as they go through this same process. I want future applicants to find a school they can feel good about, just as I did.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Every interview asked something about ‘defining myself’ and I struggled with the idea of defining myself in a 30-second answer. Coming out on the other side of these interviews, I realize that inquisition and depth of character are two of the many things applicants must possess to pursue this road. Those things demand self-discovery and growth. I can guarantee that if asked this same question in Spring 2021, I’ll have a dramatically different answer than the one I gave over the last 6 months!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The goals I have and things I want to accomplish in life are far more accessible with an MBA. After realizing that, the decision was easy. I wanted to spend a year or two outside of the military seeing what the private sector was like before attending school and the timing worked out well to do it this year.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Tuck, Oxford, Columbia, and Yale

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The first thing I did for every school was to reach out to people with shared backgrounds and experiences. Typically, that meant reaching out to military veterans. I added and dropped schools off of my list based on those conversations. I went through every online source I could find (Poets&Quants ended up very high on my most visited sites) and spent time reflecting on which schools gave me the greatest boost toward achieving my career goals. Ultimately, this process came down to four fundamental things for me: 1) Would this school help me get where I wanted to go?; 2) Was the environment one where I could bring my whole self?; 3) Would I find myself surrounded by people that would add experience and value to my growth; 4) Would my own experience add to the growth of future classmates? I couldn’t be happier about landing at Ross.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Pinpointing a single defining moment is near-impossible. I had formative experiences at the Air Force Academy, in Afghanistan, and at the White House, but my transition from the military to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) takes the cake. Learning how to function in a less-structured, more-fluid environment took time and effort, but I learned a lot. I changed my mindset from one looking to solve problems immediately to one who looked for the best long-term solution. I learned to manage people a little more deliberately and, ultimately, I was forced to examine my strengths and weaknesses in a way that taught me how to use that self-awareness to grow myself and others. I’m incredibly thankful for having had the opportunity to work for such an ambitious organization.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? If you had asked me ten years ago where I’d be now, I don’t know that I could have been more wrong but here it goes…

Assuming the Yankees don’t call me to be their new centerfielder, I’ll be well-practiced as a management consultant and, hopefully, someone that people look to for support and advice. I hope that I am still an asset for veterans looking to make a change and that I help make this path a little bit easier for some of them. And I hope I’m celebrating a Michigan football and basketball national championship!

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