Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Stephanie Muller, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Stephanie (Steph) Muller

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“Technology-focused professional motivated by opportunities to learn and improve operational processes.”

Hometown: Castleton, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I had the opportunity to travel to Nepal for a friend’s wedding last year; it was the furthest I’ve ever travelled and one of my favorite experiences to date.

Undergraduate School and Major: Hamilton College, BA in Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: M&T Bank, Senior Business Analytics and Reporting Analyst (HR)

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? For me, the key aspect of Tepper’s program was that Carnegie Mellon has put significant effort into integrating its business school with the rest of its programs and resources. My interest is in how businesses adopt and adapt to new technologies, and this cross-campus integration – particularly how it’s been embedded in the Business Technologies concentration – was a significant factor in my decision. I choose Tepper for the opportunity to truly collaborate across campus and gain the skills I need to contribute at the intersection of technology and business.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m most looking forward to joining the Business and Technology Club at Tepper. Changing technologies have played a significant role in my professional experiences to date, and I intend for that to remain the case in my post-MBA career. I’m excited to join an organization focused on exploring the impact of new technologies on businesses and learning more from current industry leaders.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Tepper? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I’m most excited to immerse myself in the challenging and collaborative environment of Tepper. I expect to be pushed and challenged in this program and am looking forward to working with my peers to learn more about myself and improve our abilities to meet those challenges. Starting my MBA in the middle of a global pandemic is the part I’m most nervous about. There’s already so much uncertainty in our collective future that I was nervous it might be the wrong environment in which to add more uncertainty by leaving my job and pursuing an MBA, but I knew it was the right time for me to go. I am continually inspired by my new business school peers, who are approaching this challenge with optimism and enthusiasm.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment so far occurred early in my career, and it is significant to me because it established my current career goals. In my first role in banking, I encountered a pain point: we received and stored our available ID numbers as physical lists. These lists were often mis-filed or retained IDs that had already been used. As a result, this system was wholly inaccessible to our remote team members.

My frustration with this process spurred me to seek out other options. Constrained by our lack of a project budget, I learned VBA in order to create an Excel file that would consume plain-text ID number files from our vendor and, via macros, retrieve new IDs and mark them as used. Implementing this new solution solved many of the issues we faced with our physical system, increasing my team’s efficiency. Since this experience, my goal has been to solve operational pain points by applying technology within any imposed constraints.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I chose to pursue an MBA at this point in my career in order to increase my impact. In my prior roles, I’ve had opportunities to take on additional projects focused on using technology to improve operational outcomes while also fulfilling my primary functions. Pursuing an MBA gives me the opportunity to shift the focus of my career further in this direction, while gaining invaluable skills and knowledge.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? MIT – Sloan, Dartmouth – Tuck, and the University of Washington – Foster

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Tepper asks MBA applicants to describe their “Plan B” if their primary post-MBA goals are unattainable. I found this a challenging question and, in the end, couldn’t abandon my primary plan entirely – if I prove unsuccessful my intent is to continue learning and improving myself while seeking a different path to my primary end goal.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started my business school search by focusing on programs that were aligned with my career goals and interests. Using online resources, like Poets & Quants’ school profiles, I identified schools with technology-focuses in geographies where I was interested in living. For my final decision, the most significant factors in determining fit were my experiences during on-campus visits. By visiting in-person, I was able to get clearer pictures of the school cultures and whether they were aligned with my own values.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? In my most recent role, I was asked to lead a project team devoted to developing a new tool for accessing legacy HR data. This was a challenging task. I was responsible for coordinating a cross-functional team to ensure that our end-users’ needs were met by the tool our technology team was developing. At the same time, I had to ensure we had no data quality losses, adhering to our legal and privacy constraints, and remaining on time and within the project budget. The very first action I needed to take as project lead was to revise our timeline to push out some key deadlines, which required support and approval from senior managers in several areas of the bank. Rising to this challenge and successfully seeing this project through to its conclusion was confirmation to me that I was ready for business school and the career I hope to build post-MBA.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I am inspired by companies seeking to operate in socially and environmentally responsible ways. I recently learned of Gravity Payments’ $70,000 minimum wage policy and I believe they’ve set a valuable example. In 2015, it was a bold experiment that has since proven its value to both the company and its employees. Other companies are taking similar steps – Bank of America recently increased its minimum hourly wage to $20 – and in 2019, the Business Roundtable updated their “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation,” acknowledging for the first time that corporations have a commitment to all of their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. These steps are a sign that society is changing in response to historic levels of inequality and many other challenges and I think we all have things to learn about managing companies in socially-responsible ways.

Pretend you have just graduated from business school. How do you picture your experience being successful? I will consider my business school experience successful if I’ve expanded my knowledge base and developed new skills I can apply in my future career. I hope to end this program having established lifelong relationships with my peers and ready to make an impact on the world.




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