2021 MBAs To Watch: Jeremy Russell, New York University (Stern)

Jeremy Russell

New York University, Stern School of Business

“Client-focused consultant who loves art, baseball, and traveling.”

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: A painting I made during a “paint night” event was on display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. It may have been in my wife’s cubicle in the curatorial offices when she was a fellow there, but it still counts.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Princeton University, A.B. in Politics with a certificate in Political Economy

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Satori Consulting, New York City

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Minoan, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? L.E.K. Consulting, New York City

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

Community Work and Leadership: Asian Business Society Co-President; Arts, Culture, Cuisine Club Vice President of Events; Inclusion, Diversity, Belonging, and Equity Working Group member.

Awards and Honors: Alumni Scholarship, Richman Family Scholarship, Dean’s List (Fall 2019, Spring 2020), Teaching Fellowship (Firms & Markets Core Class).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being a co-president of the Asian Business Society (ABS) from March 2020 through the present. Through this organization, I feel like I have been able to have a positive impact on both the Stern community and the city around me because of the strong team my co-president and I assembled and the goals we prioritized.

For instance, during the height of the COVID lockdown in New York when hospitals were scrambling to get PPE, we raised thousands of dollars in donations for the NYU Langone Health System. Going to school during a pandemic is difficult, especially for first years, and even more so for those who were unable to enter the United States due to closed consulates. It was important to me that all members, whether in Asia or America, were still able to feel part of the ABS community. Thus, we organized events that could accommodate most schedules and satisfy a multitude of interests, whether it was a workshop on adapting to American business culture or playing Among Us on a Friday night (U.S.) / Saturday morning (Asia).

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? About a year before I started at Stern, I completed a very challenging project for a large pharmaceutical client that involved managing three major work streams, including preparing for an overseas quality assurance audit, developing and analyzing KPIs for a medical information function, and managing a functional line re-organization. Expectations were high and there were a lot of moving parts, but I rose to the challenge and got it done. Since this was my first time truly leading a project, I had to really focus on anticipating client pain points and doing my best to address them preemptively. As a result, I managed to secure a three-month extension on the project, and I impressed the client enough that she was willing to be one of my business school recommenders.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Stern because, at my core, I am a community-driven person. Stern’s full-time class size of approximately 350 students is, in my opinion, the sweet spot. It is small enough that everyone knows most of their classmates, but not so small that everyone is in each other’s business. This is a thread that also connects my choice of undergraduate institution, previous employer, and post-MBA company. Having a strong sense of community is important to me. Even though that has obviously been disrupted by the pandemic, it is something that I correctly anticipated having at Stern.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite Stern professor is Sonia Marciano, with whom I have taken two strategy courses. Aside from being a very engaging speaker who can draw upon a wealth of experiences, what stands out about her is how accessible she is to her students. She is always willing to hold impromptu office hours to discuss class projects or questions, and she is generous with opening up her rolodex to help students get expert input into their projects. For example, last semester I greatly benefited from being connected with an economist with a deep understanding of the American whiskey market so that my team and I could add more depth to our analysis of Brown-Forman (the owner of Jack Daniel’s).

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite Stern event and tradition is Stern Social, which is our weekly social event held at Stern or in a local establishment (pre-COVID). I value this tradition as a way to maintain a sense of class cohesion and community. That’s because once recruiting started and I split off with the other consultants, Stern Social was the easiest opportunity to see members of my program with other specializations. My connection to Stern Social began when a good friend of mine, who was in the Stern class of 2020, invited me to one a few weeks before my Stern interview. Everyone I spoke to was happy to chat with me, a prospective student, about Stern and their experiences there, which truly illustrated the School’s warm and welcoming culture. That night made such an impression on me that I actually mentioned it during my subsequent interview.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would avoid COVID-19 and the global lockdown! In all seriousness, I would have tried to squeeze in as many typical MBA experiences as possible because there is no guarantee that one can do something the next semester or even the following year. In my case, I would have taken off more time before starting the program so that I could have traveled (I incorrectly assumed I would have plenty of time to travel starting spring 2020) and attended more after-hours social and affinity club events in fall 2019.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: NYU Stern is just a finance school.

Reality: Mostly untrue. Stern certainly has great finance faculty members and does well in finance recruiting, but it has a lot of terrific professors in other fields as well. Thanks to the various MBA programs, including the Part-time MBA and focused MBA programs, the School can and does offer a selection of courses, such as Sports Economics and Innovation in the Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Industry, much broader than could otherwise be supported by a school with our relatively small full-time student body. That said, I am pursuing a specialization in finance, so maybe there is some truth to this myth after all.

What surprised you the most about business school? I say this somewhat facetiously, but I am surprised by how much I have actually learned during business school. I have many friends who completed MBA programs, and it seemed to me from the outside that their experiences consisted primarily of costume parties and overseas travel. Obviously, COVID-19 curtailed activities like these this past year. When I was doing internship recruiting last year, I was surprised by how much I had absorbed and how useful many of the topics I had learned in classes were during my interviews.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was very strategic with the Pick Six, the “personal expression” component of the Stern application for which applicants choose six images and give them one- to two-sentence captions to describe themselves. Each image had to convey at least two compelling arguments for me to maximize page real estate. For example, I chose a photograph of me at a Shinto shrine in Kamakura, Japan, with some members of my then-client’s organization. On the one hand, it was a cool picture in an exotic location that conveyed my interest in travel. On the other, it displayed my client management skills (and implicitly, my “Emotional Quotient” skills, which Stern values). Each of my other pictures similarly did double duty, so, in reality, my Pick Six was more like a Pick Twelve in terms of information transmission.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate whom I most admire is Seung Kyu “SK” Bok. We are in the same block and met during LAUNCH orientation, when we were placed in the same group for several activities. He is a veteran and, for that reason alone, I admire him and his willingness to make sacrifices on behalf of his country. Even though he can probably easily kick my butt, he is also extremely kind and unassuming. On top of all that, he has a child who is now about a year old, and I have no idea how he keeps his entire life in order (it’s probably due to his impressive work ethic). All around, he’s an inspirational classmate.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I found the social aspect of school to be what was most disrupted by COVID-19, and I dearly miss going down to campus and seeing my classmates every day. Staying connected requires a lot more work because I cannot just run into people in hallways or at social events. In terms of classes, I am not actually very perturbed by having to meet over Zoom because I am used to interacting with international clients through videoconferencing. I am most saddened by the (understandable) cancellation of Stern’s typical study-abroad trips during the winter and spring breaks since these are incomparable opportunities to connect with business professionals in diverse locations like Morocco and South Africa.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Princeton offers a liberal arts education, so the closest I got to studying business in college was taking microeconomics. One of my close friends, Randy Wang, was two years ahead of me in college. In my junior year, he helped me decide to pursue a career in business rather than law, academia, or politics (all of which I had considered at different times over the prior two years). At the time, he was a newly-minted investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley. Talking to him about what the role was like sold me on going into business. I joined Morgan Stanley’s foreign exchange options trading desk as an intern the next summer. Although that exact role was not for me, I knew that business in general was the right career path for me.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Sell a project in my hometown of Toronto, Canada, so that I can merge a business trip with a family trip.
  2. Do work (probably pro-bono) for one of the organizations that has had a large impact on my life, such as the Episcopal Church or an art museum in New York.

What made Jeremy such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Jeremy has been one of Stern’s most prominent MBA student leaders. When COVID-19 hit NYC and local healthcare workers and hospitals were in dire need of PPE, Jeremy and his co-president, George Liu, along with their executive board at Stern’s Asian Business Society moved quickly to connect with the NYU Grossman School of Medicine to identify what was needed most. With Jeremy’s leadership, ABS raised funds and purchased PPE that was in drastically short supply at the NYU Langone Health system. Jeremy and his team’s effort in this endeavor allowed Sternies the opportunity to support New York City in the city’s greatest hour of need when so many were feeling powerless.”

Shannon O’Brien
Associate Director, MBA Student Life