2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Joshua Lah, University of Chicago (Booth)

Joshua Lah

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Ambitious and driven, with a little bit of calculated risk-taking on the side.”

Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a big fan of the TV show Survivor; the show provides great insights into social interactions and general strategic and critical thinking. I’d love to get on the show one day.

Undergraduate School and Degree: London School of Economics, BSc Actuarial Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? JPMorgan London, Corporate Banking

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Morgan Stanley New York

Where will you be working after graduation? Morgan Stanley New York, Investment Banking – Financial Institutions Group

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Lead co-chair of Chicago Asia Pacific Group. I was passionate about fostering a strong community for the small number of Southeast Asians at Booth. As a club, we held events with the main goal of connecting our members not only within the Booth community but also outside it, with fellow Southeast Asian MBAs at Kellogg and undergraduates at the University of Chicago. We also worked to introduce our culture to the wider student body and facilitated career opportunities for students in the region.
  • Co-chair and co-founder of Booth Coffee Club (BCC). Three classmates and I recognized the need for a club for students interested in coffee and started BCC in our first year. We’ve since organized tours to local roasteries, explored coffee shops around Chicago, and put together workshops on coffee brewing and tasting. It provided a great platform for our classmates to get together in a casual setting and connect.
  • Board Fellow/Social Enterprise Lab. I was involved in programs at Booth that allowed me to work with and create value for local nonprofit organizations. Through the Net Impact Board Fellows program, I was placed as a non-voting member on the board of ArtReach, an art studio that offers healing for victims of violence through glassblowing. I learned about the challenges nonprofit boards face on a daily basis and worked with the management team to overcome some of the challenges, including streamlining the team’s annual budgeting process. Additionally, in the Social Enterprise Lab course, my team and I worked with the Evanston-based Curt’s Café to develop a plan for the nonprofit to scale its operations and broaden its reach to at-risk youths in other neighborhoods.
  • I am an active member of the Investment Banking Group in supporting the recruiting process for 1Ys, which included informational chats and interview preparations.
  • I am also an “Ask a Student” volunteer and have been speaking to prospective students about my Booth experience and helping with their applications.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Getting an A in Mark Tebbe’s Entrepreneurial Discovery class. It was the result of a group of people coming together and producing results, despite very different backgrounds, goals for the class, and priorities during the class (it was recruiting season!). We killed the final presentation and managed to sneak in an Ariana Grande music video. Getting through the Polsky Center’s Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge is a close second.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Performing top of class and being selected for a six-month placement with the French team based in Paris. The opportunity to be submerged in a culture that was absolutely foreign to me was once in a lifetime!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Laura Born. Professor Born was a combination of real-life professional experience, student engagement, and personality. In addition to her knowledge and insight into investment banking, I thoroughly enjoyed the banter she introduced into her classes.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Chicago Booth because of its reputation in the finance industry (which proved to be extremely and positively impactful in my recruiting). It also helped that Booth boasted a world-class teaching faculty while granting its students flexibility in their curricular choices. Chicago also sounded like a fun city to be.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? The best way to learn about an MBA program is to speak with someone who has been through the process, either a current student or a recent alum. This is especially important for international students: make sure you highlight what is truly unique about yourself and how that contributes to the ecosystem of the MBA program.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I really wish I’d gotten to know the professors and faculty better and build personal relationships beyond the classroom.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Miranda Zhao. Anyone who can juggle a joint MBA/MPCS degree, co-chairship for two of the largest clubs at Booth (Booth Tech Group and Chicago Woman in Business), and hiking trips to Patagonia and Mt Kilimanjaro in the same year – all while remaining a positive presence at school – easily earns my respect. She also makes a mean pizza from scratch!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mentor Kaj Christenson, whom I got to know at JPMorgan, was the one who instilled the confidence in me to pursue business school. He made sure I was reminded of my strengths that would allow me to do well in business school. However, he did not hesitate to give constructive feedback throughout the application process (and my job for that matter).

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to work in multiple countries and cities with people from diverse backgrounds and to create some form of positive impact for my native country Malaysia.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a kind, compassionate, and supportive friend.

Hobbies? Like much of the MBA population, I enjoy traveling and the outdoors tremendously; the national parks in the US are high on my list. I am also an avid CrossFitter.

What made Joshua such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“When thinking about the ideal second-year MBA to speak with incoming international students about how to fully leverage and enjoy the MBA experience, Josh comes immediately to mind. Whether assisting students with coursework or career advice, Joshua is generous with his deep conceptual and institutional knowledge.  A natural leader who is as comfortable at the CrossFit gym as he analyzing complex scenarios, Josh is hardworking and humble. I and his classmates would go long on Joshua if given that opportunity.”

Stacey R. Kole
Deputy Dean for MBA Programs and Clinical Professor of Economics


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