Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Michael Walsh, University of Michigan (Ross)

Michael Walsh

University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business

“Husband, dad, and three-dog pack lead who enjoys working on seemingly unsolvable problems.”

Hometown: Evanston, IL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I received my pilot’s license before receiving my driver’s license.

Undergraduate School and Major: Northwestern University – Economics and Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: DaVita, Inc. – Senior Manager, Data Analytics and Operations

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 strength of the Ross alumni community turned out to be the differentiator for me. During the on-campus interview day, there were several student panels. Without fail, every student on every panel had a story to share about one or more alumni who had gone above expectations to help them secure an internship or full-time offer—case prep help, mentorship for career switchers, industry and firm specific insights, or mock interviews.  An MBA provides a lifelong network, and it was impossible to turn down the opportunity to be part of Ross’.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? Soon after choosing Ross, my wife, while exploring opportunities for partners, learned about the Wolverine Wine Club. Her palate and knowledge of wine is significantly more refined than mine, but I’m looking forward to having her be a part of my MBA experience (in addition to learning a bit more about wine).

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Ross? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? One of my goals in pursuing an MBA was to gain a deeper understanding of business models, frameworks, and practices that have found success outside of a healthcare setting, which, reimagined, could bring value if applied in medicine. I’m looking forward to getting back into the classroom and involved in Ross’ action-based learning opportunities to gain exposure to new ways of thinking. In terms of what makes me nervous, recruiting is near the top of my list. I spent the six years prior to Ross working at the same company, so I can’t say I feel that my interview skills are as polished as they should be. Fortunately, the Career Development Office has resources to help.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Over the past two years, I lead a multi-team, cross-functional group through a revenue-cycle process overhaul. Due to the financial size of the issue we were tackling, regulatory requirements, effect on external stakeholders, and company-wide operational impact, the project garnered C-Suite and Board of Directors attention. All in all, the team pulled off an amazing accomplishment, putting to work several million dollars in new investments, deploying new operating practices, and driving a return that will have an enduring impact on the company’s profitability and compliance program for years to come.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After several years of experience focused on operations in healthcare, I wanted to broaden the applicability of my skill set. Looking back on some of the projects I led, I recognize that I benefited from a deep understanding of the organization’s dynamics. Placed in a different context, though, I’m not sure I would have been able to perform at the same level. The general management education an MBA provides, along with opportunities to deep-dive into functional areas—which for me include finance and strategy—that I had only limited prior exposure to in the past. This will make me a better thought-partner and contributor, regardless of where my career takes me.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also applied to Wharton, Kellogg, and Stern.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I went into the ‘How would you solve this business problem’ component of the Team Exercise with some apprehension. For the Team Exercise, interviewees are divided into small groups. Each group is presented with a business problem and asked to collectively develop and present a solution. Coming from a company with a tight-knit, community-first culture, I was used to problem solving with people I knew well. Naturally, this wasn’t the case for the Team Exercise. Despite my reservations, the event was fun—we had to improvise a bit for the presentation—and a great way to get to know other candidates interested in Ross.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Earlier in the year, I spent time studying accounting and finance in preparation for two summer courses that are prerequisites for Ross’ Fast Track in Finance program. Lately, I’ve been doing career research and networking. However, in April, I became a dad, so the majority of my time since has been focused on exploring the ins and outs of parenthood and spending as much time as I can with my son.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? A few years ago, I was listening to my VP comment on a complex project that was underperforming. She noted a missed opportunity to ask for additional funding. Looking back, her observation was nothing special, but it had a profound impact on me. Up until that point, I had not fully grasped what ownership over a project truly entailed—accountability over a completely exhaustive search for solutions. Later that day, I asked her if I could take on leadership of the struggling project. She granted me the opportunity. The responsibility turned out to be heavier than I anticipated, but it taught me how to bring people together, lead change, and build assets with lasting value, which changed my career trajectory and put me on a path to Ross.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? DaVita was an amazing company to work for. What DaVita has accomplished in terms of the quality of care and the cost at which that care is provided is a testament to the impact a community-first, company-second culture can have. It’s easy to forget that behind the numbers are people, often making personal sacrifices to do what is right—particularly in healthcare. Businesses have responsibilities beyond shareholders, and DaVita has a model for balancing a diverse set of interests that I think is worth studying.


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