“Perpetually curious and often restless, always looking for a new adventure or challenge to get lost in.”
Hometown: Eagle River, Alaska
Fun Fact About Yourself: I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel a significant amount of the world—so far, 62 countries across five continents. Also, I love to scuba dive but don’t know how to swim.
Undergraduate School and Major: Willamette University, Economics
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Co-Founder and Director of Foreign Education, FasTrack English
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school, and why was it so important to you? The class size, financial aid package, and program ranking all helped put W. P. Carey near the top of my list, but visiting Tempe is what really sold me. My girlfriend and I came down for the Innings Festival in February and fell in love with the city. The beautiful modern campus is set right on a lake, and the innovative energy that surrounds the campus is palpable. Everywhere you look, there’s new growth, and the numbers back up that observation naming ASU as one of the fastest-growing universities in America. Altogether, that makes for an exciting place to jump back into academia, and a great springboard into the business world post-graduation.
Arizona State is renowned for its innovation. How have you seen innovation in the philosophy, curriculum, or researches at W. P. Carey? My first-hand experience with W.P. Carey’s innovation chops has been the seamless integration of technology into the curriculum in response to COVID-19. I can’t imagine the headache of moving an entire in-person business program into an entirely online platform in six months. Still, during the recruitment process, I became more and more confident that if any school were going to be able to do it effectively in that short amount of time, it would be ASU. The university staff has worked tirelessly to reassure the incoming class that the intimacy of an in-person MBA will be salvaged through all sorts of creative online networking and recruiting events. Their dedication has left me confident that every aspect of the program will be taken care of seamlessly. Some elements of the “Flex” program that they are pivoting into have even piqued my interest more than the original curriculum, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these additions remain as a core part of the full-time program post-COVID.
What club or activity excites you most at this school? Hispanic Business Club. The geographic proximity to Latin America was a significant factor for me in choosing W. P. Carey. It made it an ideal location to network with a diverse student body so I could sharpen my Spanish outside of the classroom. One of my biggest goals right now is to live and work in Central or South America post-graduation, so developing my network of contacts in that part of the world and becoming more professionally fluent are significant stepping stones to making that a reality. Also, I hear there will be Mexican food involved, so I’m all in.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Co-founding FasTrack English has undoubtedly been my most significant accomplishment to date. In late 2016, along with the help of a group of Chinese investors, we opened our first school in Suzhou. Within three years, we had grown to 13 locations, thousands of students, and hundreds of employees. We quickly became the largest chain of English training centers in a city of just over 7 million people in a fast-growing and incredibly competitive industry.
As we continued to expand, I remained the only foreigner on our board of directors. My unique position made my responsibilities increasingly diverse. I organized marketing and outreach events, designed curriculum, and recruited, hired, and managed our entire team of foreign teachers. My proudest accomplishment with FasTrack is the team I helped build in our international teaching department, a group of 32 wildly over-qualified group of individuals that essentially grew and spread from word of mouth alone. Our teaching staff’s strength was without question the most significant contributor to our company’s success and the envy of the industry. Word of our success spread to the point that partner schools in other regions of China would regularly ask me to come help them rework their recruiting process in order to compete with our performance metrics.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? While I loved almost every minute of that experience in China, I eventually began to feel like I was just treading water. We grew to become an established brand, so a significant amount of my creative outlets (marketing, social outreach, event planning) began to be cordoned off and handed over to experts in those fields, while I had to shift my entire focus to managing the foreign teachers. I found that I had reached a certain plateau. If I were going to be able to climb to the next level of responsibility and management within a large company, I would need the hard skills to back up my current set.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Arizona, USC
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?
I was asked to describe myself in 15 words. That question paradoxically manages to feel like way too many, yet somehow not nearly enough words to summarize me. On a serious note, I really do find it almost impossible to accurately and objectively describe myself, which has made the application process a bit of a challenge. That being said, it’s undoubtedly a valuable exercise in self-reflection and a helpful skill moving forward with interviews in the business world.
What was your defining moment, and how did it prepare you for business school? Certainly, the most defining moment in my development as a person was something I had absolutely no ownership in, but that is probably not as uncommon as it sounds at first glance. My parents decided my brother and I were being raised in too sheltered of a community in wonder bread-white suburban Alaska (yes, we have suburbs in Alaska). So when I was eight, they decided to take a year sabbatical from their careers and move the family to Central America. After spending a comfortable six months in a small town in Costa Rica, they decided that was still not quite adventurous enough, so we moved to the city of Granada in the more rugged Nicaragua. It would be impossible to describe all the ways that this experience shaped my life, but it certainly planted the seed of a love for adventure and exploration. This led me down a particular path that ended up with an MBA being the clear step forward for my career goals. While some criticize an MBA for being too broad and not specialized enough, I find that flexibility and open-endedness to be the single most enticing aspect of the degree.
What is the most important attribute that you are seeking in an MBA employer? Autonomy. Trust your talent and empower your employees to grow into and beyond their roles without the confining restraints of micro-management, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
DON’T MISS: Meet Arizona State’s MBA Class of 2022