“Part Parent Trap soundtrack, part Drake, with a healthy dose of Golden Retriever, and a pinch of Buddy the Elf.”
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia
Fun Fact About Yourself: I eat the green parts of strawberries.
Undergraduate School and Major: Georgia Tech – Industrial & Systems Engineering (Go Jackets!)
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Ventures ATL – Managing Director
Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Stanford GSB’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The focus on innovation. In our lives, there are countless solutions to be discovered, adventures to explore, connections to be made, and ideas to be dreamed up. Innovation is key for us as a society in order to support our compassion with action and to translate our curiosity into progress.
Many of our classes and extracurricular opportunities here are designed to empower us by using problem solving as a vehicle for learning. For example, in our “Data and Decisions” class, we not only learned about the potential pitfalls within algorithms where unwanted biases can be easily and unintentionally incorporated, but also were tasked with discovering where these pitfalls originate and designing creative machine learning approaches to better avoid unwanted bias. This gave us real reps in areas, like healthcare and environmental resources, that have a tangible improvement on the quality of life of others. The focus on innovation at the GSB is especially meaningful to me because it reflects an inherent optimism in our future. An optimism I share and feel the momentum of within our community.
What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about Stanford GSB so far? I had no idea how many fruit trees are on campus! As a constantly hungry person and a smoothie aficionado…this has been a most welcome surprise. Assuming a market price of fifty cents a lemon, I’m well on my way to (consuming) a citrus scholarship.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Intentional. With a class of several hundred people, there are a variety of interests, priorities, and goals. Despite the differences, there is a shared thread of intentionality in how students here spend their time and allocate their energy—and they are generous with both! People here are fascinating. From interesting hobbies to crazy sounding dreams (that don’t seem that far out of reach once you meet those dreaming them), the students at the GSB do a lot all while investing heavily in education, careers, projects, friendships, and family. The past year has necessitated creative approaches to community formation, and classmates have utilized their passions for comedy, cuisine, physical activities, and more to include and connect during a time that can feel isolating. The enthusiasm for life is evident and the intentionality with which they live their lives is inspiring!
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At Ventures ATL, I was part of a wonderful team working to bridge the large unemployment gap (currently ~80%) within the autism and neurodiverse communities. Ventures ATL seeks to align the skills and interests (namely attention to detail, focus, and an affinity for repetitive tasks) of our employees with the needs of commercial clients (from global corporations to local businesses). We operate a portfolio of business services in which our employees (we are not a placement agency) assist companies with business-critical projects, largely centered around data. Interestingly, we also co-designed and sell a collection of autism awareness themed handbags – which has led to a noticeable increase in my handbag knowledge! By the end of our first full calendar year, our revenues exceeded our expenses. This moment was immensely gratifying. It was a significant step in our company’s history and one that stood upon the dedication of our hard-working team, validated the value we so strongly believe our employees bring to our clients, and underscored the potential of the neurodiverse community when presented with the right opportunity.
Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Finding comfort in wobbly balance. An MBA is a fantastic chapter in your life, but it requires some difficult page turns. Because of the amount of investment you make into new relationships, experiences, and opportunities, there will be increasing tension amongst the priorities in your life. This tension is not a bad thing and is not unlike the tension that arises from any new life chapter, but the demands on your time can be especially high during an MBA.
Imagine yourself standing on a balance board, with each side of the board representing opposite ends of a specific tension (ex: relationships from home that you value deeply and new friendships you are excited to build). Often, these two sides of the board are both great things, but there is only so much time in a day. If you’ve ever stood on a balance board, you know it is incredibly difficult to be still. Instead, you find a rhythm in which you are constantly readjusting. Sometimes you fall off. Often, you find yourself overcorrecting and wobbling as you steady out. Your center of balance can shift and the amount you need to lean into a given side can vary widely based on where this center of balance is. Discipline and optimism are key, and finding this balance is a constant work-in-progress. However, I think embracing the initial discomfort of the “wobble” without getting discouraged allows for a discovery of self and center that enable not only a greater handling of these tensions but a greater appreciation of the values that are creating tension in the first place. You can be sure of foot without sure footing.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? Just Stanford!
What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? Rather than a new epiphany, I’ve further solidified a perspective from years past. Gratitude is a necessary precursor to fulfillment. If the source of your worth is placed in accomplishment or attaining a certain state or status, you’re not likely to find (lasting) happiness. Being achievement-minded is a great asset, but allowing one’s level of achievement to dictate self-worth will leave anyone, at best, in a constant chase. Coming to a big-name school does not solve insecurities, anxieties, or self-consciousness. This does not mean the pursuit of great things is not worthwhile. Whatever you dream of, go for it! In fact, go for more! But pursue for purpose, not validation.
If you have a moment, listen to “Love Yourz” by J. Cole. This song paints a picture to reflect upon. As he concludes, “you’re never going to be happy until you love yours.” This is not an encouragement to settle. Simply put, don’t go a long way before you realize you went the wrong way.
What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2023? Coming to Stanford (or insert [business school] or really life in general) is an exciting opportunity! Look at this experience as if you were holding a cup, and your objective is to fill that cup up with whatever is fulfilling to you. The opportunities at Stanford are an overflowing and powerful waterfall. There is plenty of water with which to fill your cup. Without clarity of purpose, this waterfall can seem daunting and overwhelming.
Although everyone’s path is different, I would caution you on coming to Stanford to find yourself. You don’t need to know exactly where you’re going (we’re all figuring out what we want to be when we grow up), but do invest ahead of time in creating a thoughtful direction for your goals while in school. The return on this time invested will be tenfold. Further, it is important to realize that filling up your cup is going to be a messy experience. You’re going to get wet! You will not, and cannot, do everything perfectly. You need to be okay with your cup being smaller than the capacity of the waterfall. You will not be able to do and experience everything; it is only natural that most of the water will not land in your cup. Remember that your fulfillment is a measure of how much ends up in your cup, instead of how much does not. If your cup is full, do not mistake extra opportunity for missed opportunity. You can learn from and enjoy the experience regardless; appreciate the position you are in! The beauty of a waterfall alone is worth the “hike”. And while you are by an especially magnificent waterfall here, don’t hold back, splash around!
DON’T MISS: MEET STANFORD’S MBA CLASS OF 2022