Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2021

Marie-Cristine Kaptan

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Compassionate and humble, resilient high achiever. Loyal partner, independent non-conformist. Fitness enthusiast, food-lover. Untalented, enthusiastic dancer.”

Hometown: Zurich, Switzerland

Fun Fact About Yourself: One of my hobbies is baking, which turned out to be quite profitable for a while. As a teenager, I used to bake cakes every Saturday morning and sold them to a restaurant in my village at a profit margin of 75%.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Master of Law at the University of Zurich, Switzerland,

LL.M. at King’s College London, UK

Bachelor of Law at the University of Zurich

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate at Niederer Kraft Frey Ltd. (litigation attorney), Zurich, Switzerland

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When I worked as an attorney at one of the largest Swiss law firms, I managed and implemented a project for a Swiss NGO leading its expansion to ten jurisdictions, including Barbados, Dubai, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Senegal, Malaysia, New Zealand, Panama and Paraguay. It was a complex process that involved legal advisors in each country and lasted several years. The NGO’s goal was to conduct development work in areas where it was most needed and this project kicked it off.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? The quality that best describes my classmates is a mix of powerful attributes that makes them truly extraordinary: they are passionate about meaningful issues, self-reflective, so smart that they keep coming up with innovative solutions, and courageous and driven enough to very quickly move from idea to action.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The key part of Stanford’s MBA program that led me to choose this business school was the innovative and very practical approach it has to developing leaders. Contrary to traditional teaching methods, Stanford’s program focuses on actual practice (for example through the Leadership Labs). It provides, throughout the entire two-year-experience, a myriad of opportunities to obtain leadership positions in which students get the chance to develop and apply their own leadership styles. Not only in terms of quantity, but Stanford’s MBA program stands out from a quality point of view. Students are being trained to challenge each other’s leadership practices, provide feedback in an effective manner, and constantly reflect upon their own conscious and unconscious behaviors. In addition, the lecturers and guest speakers are truly extraordinary and successful leaders who provide insights into their own learnings from experiences that go beyond what one can learn from talking about leadership in theory.

To me, apart from learning some hard skills and business fundamentals, this hands-on approach to practicing leadership was essential in my decision to attend business school in the first place. I believe that a human being will never be a “fully trained leader” but should always keep learning. I wanted to graduate from my MBA having developed awareness of how I can be effective as a leader and what my personal leadership style looks like.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve found about Stanford GSB so far? I was most surprised about how supportive the GSB community is. Other people’s successes are celebrated, not frowned upon; if someone needs encouragement, that person receives lots of smiles, pats on the back, and kind words. Whoever has an idea is quickly joined by a crew of people who want to help. I’m truly grateful that I get to experience this incredible support system, and I’ve made it one of my personal goals to foster this kind of caring and encouraging behavior wherever I go.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question by far was the essay question: “What matters most to you and why?”. That’s because answering this question requires deep self-reflection which takes time. For me, it inspired a process of truly questioning my life choices. Indeed, I believe that this is one of the most important questions that anyone should be aware of at any given point in time because it is often neglected. I still come back to this question on a regular basis since it is important to me that I am constantly aware of what actually matters to me and why and how this influences my actions.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Columbia, INSEAD

What is the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you arrived at Stanford GSB? The biggest epiphany I’ve gained since arriving at Stanford came with one of the most defining moments I experienced during this time. It happened when I gave my TALK, an event that happens every Wednesday night and where students give a 25-minute talk about their lives, personal stories, or insights. I gave the first TALK in our year and was terrified since I had never revealed personal information about my life and never talked in front of that many (about 200) people. What I realized after seeing the reactions of my classmates is how powerful and inspirational authenticity and vulnerability are. It made me understand that finding one’s own voice (not what people think that others want to hear) and embracing the character traits that one views as weaknesses is the most powerful connector to build personal relationships, which again is – to me – the key to living a satisfying life and achieving professional success.

What do you see yourself doing ten years from now? Ten years from now, I see myself leading my own company that advises government and private sector companies on change for sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices. I will have completed at least one Ironman competition and still live a healthy and active lifestyle together with my partner. Further, I desire to strive for excellence in whatever I do, lead by example and inspire communities (in various geographic locations) to take care of themselves and our planet by spreading knowledge and providing tools and showing ways of sustainable living.

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