2021 MBAs To Watch: Ryan Bash, MIT (Sloan)

Ryan Bash

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“I am a dog-loving civil-servant-turned-consultant who is passionate about LGBTQ+ representation.”

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: In college, I sailed from Honolulu, Hawaii to Papeete, Tahiti.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Kenyon College, BA in Biology; University of Pennsylvania, Master of City Planning

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? United States Department of Transportation, Policy Advisor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Bain & Company (Boston)

Where will you be working after graduation? Bain & Company (Boston)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-President, Management Consulting Club
  • Vice President, Sloan Pride
  • Representative, GradRat Committee
  • Core Fellow
  • Dean’s Fellowship recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my work as co-President of the Management Consulting Club. COVID-19 forced us to scrap our standard recruiting playbook and quickly adapt our programming in the new virtual world. Despite the challenge, we had a wildly successful year. I got to work closely with first-year students to help them meet their recruiting goals and I had fun along the way.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? This is hard to measure, but I am most proud of my focus on serving the American people during my time in public service. It was a joy to go to work every day.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose to attend Sloan because the students I met understood that their privileged position at MIT should be used to improve the world.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? There are many fun events and traditions at MIT Sloan. However, my favorites are our pre-orientation trips for incoming students. They are organized and led by second years, and they are a great way to meet classmates before school starts. I participated in an Alpine hiking trip outside of Zermatt, Switzerland, which included a stop at the Matterhorn Hutte. Many of my close friends continue to be people I met on that trip.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I try not to dwell on coulda-woulda-shoulda, but I spent the start of school focused on academics and recruiting to a fault. During October of my first year, my ocean (“cohort” to non-Sloanies) won the Sloan Olympics. I skipped it to go to a recruiting event. While there may be a causal effect (I am terrible at tug o’ war), I wish I had gone to that instead. There are plenty of recruiting events to go to, but only one Olympics and I should have reassessed my priorities in that moment.

What is the biggest myth about your school? A myth is that everyone at MIT has an engineering or quant background. While many of my classmates come from those fields, I have been pleasantly surprised by how many liberal arts grads are on campus. As someone who falls into the latter category, I found that Sloan’s culture really reflects my undergrad experience: Sloanies are humble, curious, and funny; we invest in our community.

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been surprised by my peers’ tolerances to take risks. Many of us come from backgrounds that encourage conventional measures of success (grades, salary, jobs, etc.), but I have been inspired by seeing my classmates redefine those metrics for themselves. They throw their entire energy and brilliance behind new ideas. I wish I had that confidence!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? People say this every year, but I used the application process to force introspection. MIT Sloan is a small program; the school wants people who want to go to Sloan, not people who just want an MBA. The application process is unique among its peer schools because of that; you cannot Ctrl+H one school for another in Sloan’s essay.

I took the time to understand not only what I wanted to gain from the experience, but what I wanted to contribute to it. My mentality was that my unique background, perspective, and goals was a value-add to my class, and I was excited to learn from my peers as well. I condensed and packaged that messaging in a way that I think gave me an edge.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Nadi Kassim. He is one of the warmest and most persistent people I have ever met. Nadi somehow manages to authentically develop deep individual relationships, and in cheerleading the entire class. It looks effortless, but I am sure it is not. He continually invests in the Sloan community through his multiple on-campus roles, including on the Sloan Senate, the Sloan Veterans Association, and as a Core Fellow. He is involved in developing and mentoring undergraduate students through the MIT ROTC program.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? It was not nearly as disruptive as I would have imagined, and I think that is unique to Sloan. In typical MIT fashion, the school hacked how to safely continue some in-person courses this year. So much credit is owed to the faculty and staff for creating and administering a robust program of testing and tracking on the MIT campus.

Our COVIDPass program is more than just an enabler of in-person courses; it maintained a sense of community and facilitated the mental health benefits that come with in-person interactions. A large part of the Sloan value for me has been in seeing how much members of the MIT community care for each other.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My husband’s belief in my own success ultimately convinced me to pursue an MBA. He has always been a supportive partner and I could not have done it without him. He graduated from Wharton just before I started at Sloan, so I got to use his MBA as a dry run for my time in school. It helped me understand which variables I wanted to optimize in my own equation.

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

  1. I want to always work with people who are humorous, smart, and inspiring. I want to enjoy the work process with them as much as I enjoy the work product.
  2. I would love to return to the federal government as a senior appointee in a Democratic administration in the future.

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

“Last August, my core class teaching team decided to split our instruction between faculty-led case discussions and teaching assistant-led exercises. This reduced classroom density and facilitated safe instruction during the pandemic, but it hugely increased workload and demands on our TAs. So I was nervous, when I called my first TA, Ryan, and explained the plan.

Ryan’s response reveals his passion, fearlessness and his exceptional, community-oriented leadership. He did not see this restructuring as a pandemic-era burden, but instead as an exciting opportunity to bring more hands-on simulations and real-world experience into the classroom. Ryan thought not of himself, but instead seized an opportunity to contribute to the experience of the incoming cohort of Sloanies. He then proceeded to deliver on this all semester, connecting with his students and creating a classroom experience that earned him some of the highest student ratings I’ve ever seen. Simultaneously, he brought his thoughtful perspective to bear in helping hone and implement new classroom content on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Students sought him out after class to follow up, ask advice and, star-struck, learn from a brilliant peer. With TAs like this, who needs faculty?

But I should not have been surprised. Ryan’s performance as a student in my class the previous year had been nothing short of stellar. He is brilliant, thoughtful and incredibly dedicated in his work. The perspective he brought from his public sector experience challenged and enriched our discussions. But, Ryan did not just excel on assignments and get his own unique view across in class discussion. He consistently engaged with his classmates; challenging them, drawing them out and building up his cohort. This orientation to lifting up others and fostering community is a constant for Ryan.

And Ryan’s specific style of leadership–of listening, drawing out and raising others up–is the noblest side of management consulting. Perhaps this is what has made Ryan such an effective leader of Sloan’s Management Consulting Club. I have no doubt it will serve him well as he continues his work with Bain after graduating. But, channeling Ryan, let me emphasize that, more important than what it will do for himself, Ryan’s leadership will contribute to his profession. Ryan gives me hope for a consulting culture focused on serving clients and creating shared value. Or, he can always come back and teach.”

Nathan Wilmers
Assistant Professor of Work and Organizations
MIT Sloan School of Management


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