Meet The MBA Class Of 2022: Conor O’Meara, Stanford GSB

Conor O’Meara

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Irishman with a passion for strong tea and strong opinions. Former opera singer, current spin instructor wannabe.”

Hometown: Galway, Ireland

Fun Fact About Yourself: Trained in classical music and opera for nearly 20 years, but biggest claim to fame is once singing backing vocals for U2.

Undergraduate School and Major: Bachelor of Economic & Social Studies, Trinity College Dublin / Master of Global Affairs, Tsinghua University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate, Department of Investment & Enterprise, United Nations Trade & Development

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? A key element of Stanford GSB’s curriculum is leadership development, including unique classes like Leadership Labs and Touchy Feely. When reviewing business schools, this intersection of professional and personal development was unique to the GSB. I wanted an MBA program that would not only allow me to explore my professional development, but (more importantly) explore what kind of professional I want to be. As someone who cares deeply about not only who we serve as business leaders, but also how and why we serve them, the GSB offered a perfect platform to consider how we can become values-driven leaders. Having an opportunity to question and understand my values as a professional, while learning from my classmates doing the same, was incredibly important. This type of programming will hopefully stand to GSB graduates in the most difficult professional and personal moments of our careers. For that, I am truly grateful.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about Stanford GSB so far? Context is everything. At Stanford GSB, like many other business schools, we engage with people who challenge you to think bigger and better about what is possible and what impact you can have on the world. Of course, this is an exciting time and place to embrace a growth mindset. But, at the same time, it has given me pause. I’ve realized that embracing new challenges, and exploring the art of the possible, is ever more dependent on the people, places and context you are in. For this reason, I think deeply about the people that aren’t as lucky to be surrounded by the support and opportunities like those we have at the GSB. How can we elevate the voices of those that don’t have the opportunity to benefit from the same context? Why are we here if not to embrace, and then extend, the opportunities we have to those that need it most? Although this isn’t a realization that has surprised me at Stanford GSB, it is one that has crystallized for me since moving to the Bay Area. As we aspire to be leaders of consequence in the world, it’s important we consider not only how lucky we are to be in our current context, but (more importantly) consider how we lift up those that may not be as lucky, but just as able.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Tenacious. It takes a special kind of person to take on a new challenge, in a new place, at a time when a global health pandemic is gripping the world. The Class of 2022 is an incredibly tenacious and talented group of individuals who have embraced new learning formats and new ways of making friends, and overcome new challenges never experienced by another GSB class. In every class discussion, start-up workshop, and guest speaker lecture, I’m inspired by the tenacity of my classmates as they look to do more and do better in whatever problem is in front of them. As we move from the GSB into our future careers, I have no doubt they will bring the same courage, optimism and appetite for change to the organization they create and problems they tackle.

What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2023? There is no cookie-cutter applicant to Stanford GSB. Rather, the GSB rewards and promotes those who are unapologetically themselves: The dreamers and the doers, the unafraid and the unsure. The GSB is a place for those who are willing to push the boat out, embrace differences, and do more than you originally thought was possible. As you consider your application, don’t be afraid to present the most authentic version of yourself, because that is not only what Stanford GSB wants to see, but because that is what will make you most successful personally and professionally.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: After undergrad, I joined a growing tech start-up that used behavioral science and ML (Machine Learning) nudging to help make people happier and more productive at work. At Potentialife, I created and led a new partnership to bring our technology to 1,000 social entrepreneurs across Ireland, helping them become happier and more productive leaders as they tackle the most entrenched social issues in my home country. Too often, new technology only reaches those that can afford it, but I was excited to lead an initiative where one small company could help entrepreneurs and small communities that are oft-forgotten or don’t have the same resources. The social entrepreneurs exhibited extraordinary change in their daily habits, creating not only more resilient leaders, but happier and more resilient communities where they work.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? As a Knight-Hennessy Scholar at Stanford University, I am incredibly grateful to be a part of a community of smart, driven, fearless and kind graduate students, focused on effecting change in the most complex global problems. The cost of attending graduate-level education in the United States is astronomical, and not something I experienced before as an international student. Indeed, a deeper conversation is needed about how we can extend access to higher education to those that need it most. For me at Stanford, the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program has been an incredible support — not just financially, but also because of the cross-section of leaders that support and challenge me to be a better global citizen.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? The world is bigger than you think. Often, people talk about how small the world is. Coming from the west of Ireland, I often thought this to be true. But at the GSB, I’m challenging myself and my fellow classmates to consider the people, places, policies beyond our immediate environment. Too often, entrepreneurs and investors in places like Silicon Valley are overly obsessed with trends that are popular in the valley, but give little consideration to the companies and policies that are either having real impact, or could have real impact, in places that are oft-forgotten, such as tech start-ups in Addis Ababa, economic policy in Shenzhen, or new investment theses in Bangalore. With reduced global travel and fewer international voices than normal as a repercussion of the global pandemic, the Class of 2022 has limited global exposure. For me, it’s more important than ever to bring an international perspective to our conversations at the GSB, considering how it will significantly shape our outlook as business leaders in future. For this reason, it’s important to remember that the world, and the impact you can have on the world, is much bigger than you think.