Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Stephanie Babij, University of Michigan (Ross)

Stephanie Babij

University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business

“Never-say-die competitor, number-cruncher, fitness/outdoors enthusiast, and lover of all things chocolate.”

Hometown: Ontario, OR

Fun Fact About Yourself: Upon graduating college, I packed my bags, purchased a one-way ticket, and headed to Germany to play professional basketball. No friends, no family, no German language skills. It was one of the most daunting yet immensely rewarding decisions I’ve ever made!

Undergraduate School and Major: Occidental College, Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: DoubleLine Capital, International Fixed Income Analyst

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?  Michigan boasts an impressive repertoire of resources. I felt Ross was the most well-rounded program with the strongest network because of its emphasis on community. In my years working in finance, I came to realize that, in short, people matter. Throughout the application process, Ross rose above the rest; the breadth of the network became immediately apparent and, more than that, the genuine care and interest shown by students and alumni in all my outreach convinced me that Ross was the place to be.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? MAP! The renowned Multidisciplinary Action Projects at Ross are the epitome of hands-on learning and in my opinion, unrivaled in the B-School realm for experiential learning. As a seven-week consulting project, it is essentially a short internship opportunity before the summer internship. Having only two years to gather as much information as possible to guide a potential career-switch, MAP provides an invaluable opportunity to gain more experience.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Ross? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? I am most excited about being taught by the world-class faculty at Ross and broadening my mindset through the wide diversity of backgrounds of my classmates. I am quite fortunate to be able to dedicate two years to learning in a truly unique and high-caliber environment.

I’m most nervous about starting school amidst the pandemic. What does it mean for class interactions, recruiting, networking, and bonding with my classmates? The magnitude of uncertainty can be overwhelming.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Although it was only a building block in my career, I’m very proud of becoming a CFA Charterholder. Having no significant finance background when I started my job, I recognized that I needed to gain a certain skill set to be successful. Three years of self-study and three rigorous exams later, I achieved my designation, and a solid understanding of the fundamentals of portfolio management and financial analysis. Working and honing this new skill set, I believe, led to an even more consequential accomplishment:  becoming the sole bank analyst on my team, responsible for upwards of 40 companies within our investment portfolios at any given time.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I remember lacing up new Nikes, feeling like I could take on the world – or at least anyone on the basketball court. I aspire to create and bring to life similarly motivating products – ones that can inspire confidence and tenacity among others. While I’ve loved the challenge of my financial career, I understand an MBA is key to expanding the breadth of my business acumen and allowing me to take on a more versatile and impactful role in my dream industry. Consequently, a Ross MBA is integral to pivot into product/brand management at a leading sports and outdoor company.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Berkeley Haas, Duke Fuqua, UNC Kenan-Flagler, UW Foster, UT McCombs

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Why an MBA?” When I first saw that prompt, I thought, ‘Great, something simple’. I readied myself to type my response. Cue the emotional roller coaster of earnest self-confrontation. Who am I? Who do I want to be? How have I measured up to what I thought I’d become? Answering this prompt was anything but simple!

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? Working on the infamous “networking”! As a student, I get the unique chance to reach out to people to learn more about career paths without the layered tension of an ulterior motive. As a hopeful career-switcher, I am taking full advantage of the extensive Ross community to learn as much as I can by chatting with anyone willing to give me 15-20 minutes!

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I’ve always been a competitor. From an early age, athletics bred a militant discipline that infiltrated all aspects of my life. If I were to pinpoint a moment, at only five years-old, my dad handed me my own basketball, perhaps unknowingly sparking my competitive determination. A drive that has taken this small-town girl to college in the big city of Los Angeles, onto a world stage playing professional basketball in Germany, and back to the high-flying world of finance in a career in downtown LA. Now, I’m faced with my next challenge: a Ross MBA. I know I have the grit and work ethic. Paired with the resources and support at Ross, I am excited to see where I can go next!

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Perhaps I’m partial because I’m from the PNW, but REI is one of my favorite companies. I became an even bigger supporter when, in 2015, REI closed its doors for Black Friday and instead promoted getting outside to connect with nature and friends and family. As a financial analyst, I understand the importance of sales and metrics, but I believe more deeply in the mission of a company. REI is certainly geared toward making profits but isn’t so profit-thirsty as to deviate from its mission. It continues to be a steward of outdoor recreation and fostering connections through the great outdoors, something near and dear to my heart!