2020 Best & Brightest MBA: Phillipe Diego Rodriguez, Stanford GSB

Phillipe Diego Rodriguez

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Hometown: Hacienda Heights, California

Fun fact about yourself: I love cooking and hosting events to get to know people — during my first year at the GSB, I hosted over 10 dinner parties with my wonderful roommate, Sam Leiter.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science in Physics with an Emphasis in Business and a Concentration in National Security from California State University, Fullerton

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Contract Specialist, United States Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Diversity and Inclusion Intern at Social Finance Incorporated (SoFi)

Where will you be working after graduation? Consultant at Altman Vilandrie & Company (Strategy Consulting in Telecom, Media and Technology)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Stanford Student Enterprises Advisory Board Member
  • Contracts Advisor for GSB Startups

Leadership Roles:

  • Vice President of Aerospace Business Club
  • Peer Tutor in Microeconomics
  • Delegate for Stanford U.S-Russia Forum (SURF)

Awards and Honors:

  • Siebel Scholar
  • The Ernest C. Arbuckle Fellowship
  • The Patrick E. Paddon and S. Leslie Jewett Fellowship
  • The William and Barbara Breuner Fellowship
  • The John and Shelby Saer Fellowship in Honor of Ken and Phyllis Saer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I participated in the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum (SURF), a program dedicated to cultivating positive relations between the United States and Russia. As part of this program, I worked in Business Relations working groups with domestic and international colleagues to write a research paper on Russia’s digital economy. SURF also gave me the opportunity to travel to Moscow and Siberia (Tyumen and Tobolsk) during my Thanksgiving break in 2019 — I got stuck in Siberia and almost didn’t make it back for the final week of classes, but luckily it all worked out.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My first supervisor on base wanted me to learn as much as possible before business school and had given me the chance to lead my first negotiation as a first-year contract specialist in Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center. I spent the next couple of months in negotiations with a defense contractor and worked side-by-side with my supervisor and a Lt. Colonel. Not only did we close negotiations in a favorable position for the government, but I formed relationships that have lasted far beyond my time with the Air Force.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation co-taught by Dr. Robert Burgelman and Rob Siegel. Not only did the course have insightful lectures, guests, and discussions, but it felt like the class at the GSB where my teachings were really put to the test. It’s far too easy to say “it depends” in answering a case question, but in this class, we were pressed to take sides on case issues, defend our course of action against peers, and think through the nuances of our decisions. I came to each class excited for the case discussions that would ensue and the guests that would provide their insights afterward.

Why did you choose this business school? My senior project for undergrad was on the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), a unit of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) dedicated to fostering innovation within the government. During my research on the history of Silicon Valley, I learned about Stanford University’s role in contributing to many technologies that were adopted by the government. I chose the GSB because I wanted to be immersed in an environment where technological innovation, entrepreneurship, government, aerospace, and defense were all prevalent.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? The admissions process is holistic. The essay questions are an important factor in determining fit for GSB; however, letters of recommendation, work experience, and undergraduate extracurricular activities also matter as well. Know your reasons for applying to business school and write your application in a way that conveys why GSB is the best place to achieve those goals and how you will positively contribute towards the success of not only your peers but the GSB community-at-large as well.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had talked to more students beforehand. There are so many nuances of the GSB that you don’t find out about until you’re in the thick of it. At the GSB, there’s always going to be an amazing speaker (e.g. Phil Knight, Steph Curry, Satya Nadella, etc.), a class that you simply must take (e.g. all of Rob Siegel’s classes), or a wine tasting event from some of the most prominent wineries in Napa Valley. To this point, use Warren Buffett’s 5/25 rule — in order, write down a list of the 25 things you want out of business school, then selectively focus your attention on the top 5.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The GSB has been transformative in many ways — I’ll briefly describe three. Being at the GSB allowed me to change the way I thought about the world. The class is diverse not only geographically, but professionally, and personally. The GSB allowed me to reflect on who I was as an individual, and who I wanted to be in the future. Lastly, the GSB taught me that the journey doesn’t end here — there are many more years to develop our friendships and change lives, change organizations, and change the world.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Hannah Barrett. She’s absolutely incredible and my best friend here at the GSB. Hannah is intelligent, hard-working, funny, and always goes out of her way to help others even if it means putting what she has on hold. She’s a Peer Mentor and helped the MBA1 class navigate their first years, tutors accounting, and serves as a teacher’s assistant in multiple courses — all the while being the best dog mom for her floofy dog, Pongo, crushing every single class she takes, and being the best friend I could ask for at the GSB.    

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Mr. Dan Black, a Cal State, Fullerton alumnus, and sponsor of the Dan Black Physics Business Program definitely influenced my decision to pursue a business emphasis in college. In undergrad, when I was deciding whether to choose a degree in physics or business, his program allowed the possibility of pursuing a combination of physics and business. Thus, I decided to study physics with an emphasis in business in undergrad and further my business education with an MBA afterward.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? The goofiest MBA term that I’ve encountered here at the GSB is the propensity to substitute the “B” in “GSB” for anything it can be replaced with. When you arrive at the “GS-Bubble” you’re given a “GS-Buddy” who may well become a “GS-Bestie,” and it’s all well and good because while you’re at the GSB you’re
“GS-Blessed’ (I’d say I’m very blessed to be here).

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would…continue my work at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center and studying to obtain a designation as a Procuring Contracting Officer (PCO), authorizing me to enter into contracts on behalf of the government and manage large space-related acquisitions.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1. Build my scholarship fund to enable more students the opportunity to pursue graduate education 2. Visit twenty new countries because I think I’ve got the travel bug and I love it!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my peers to remember me as someone who gave the people and causes he cared about everything he had, and more.

Hobbies? Cooking, dinner parties, board games, running, weightlifting

What made Phillipe such an invaluable member of the Class of 2020?

“Every now and then I am lucky enough to have a student who stands out for their intellectual capabilities, academic engagement, and maturity beyond one’s years. Phillipe Rodriguez is exactly this person.

I had the good fortune to have Phillipe in three of my courses. In each class, he has stood out for his thoughtful and insightful participation both in class and in his written work. I always enjoy the unique perspective he brings to our discussions, and his willingness to take strong points of view in a thoughtful and astute manner.

Philippe represents all that is great about our Stanford GSB student body, and I am greatly appreciative to have had the chance to have had him multiple times as one of my students.”

Robert E. Siegel


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