Admitted To Harvard, Wharton & Stanford, This Entrepreneur Made A Surprising Choice

Anchor Ebanks was admitted to Stanford, Wharton and Harvard. He’ll attend HBS in the fall of 2022. Courtesy photo

The driving force in Anchor Ebanks’ life is empowering others. Helping people realize their full potential. Helping them achieve their dreams.

A graduate of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas and a native Texas son, Ebanks himself has overcome so much that his story could be a book — and maybe some day it will be. But even when he talks about his plans, including his start at Harvard Business School in fall 2022, he couches them in terms of how he can help improve the lives of others, in the workplace and in society.

It’s one of many reasons one admission counselor has called Ebanks “a real superstar.” And it makes it easy to see why not only HBS but Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — the three schools he applied to — opened their doors to him.

LEANING INTO THE EMPOWERMENT OF OTHERS

Anchor Ebanks, who currently works as a product manager for YouTube. Courtesy photo

Anchor Ebanks grew up “in poverty, more or less,” raised by a single mother after his parents’ divorce and his father’s return to his home in the Cayman Islands. His mother, Yvette, a nurse, worked 100-plus-hour weeks to provide for the family; his siblings, two sisters and a brother, became victims of their environment: dropping out of school, becoming addicted to drugs, going to prison.

Anchor wanted a different path. And he wanted to help others find a better path, too.

“I think it was important for me because what it did for me is help me to realize, ‘Oh, I really want to empower myself to be the best version of myself’ — fueling my learning from their situation to make sure that I don’t make the same mistakes,” he says in a recent interview with Poets&Quants. “And then I think over time as I thought about it more and more, that passion for empowerment of achieving one’s best self, that extended way beyond just me.

“I love it. That’s where my real passion lies in life, in making people achieve their fullest potential. It became more and more evident to me when I started to have nieces and nephews — and more and more evident when I started to go to college and maybe achieve a little bit of success, have a little bit of credence, have little bit of means of mentorship, etc., and I really leaned in to this whole idea of empowering others.”

THE SPARK

That driving force has only grown as Ebanks’ career has progressed. As an undergrad, he founded a nonprofit, Consult Your Community, that paired university students with local small businesses that needed professional consulting services. “The angle that I took was, there are a lot of under-represented folks that really need this kind of help, particularly women and Black and Latinx, etc.,” he says. “So that was the idea: Let me pair students with these small businesses that are owned by women or Black, Latinx folks and help them — help both sides, right? Help the kids get the experience and exposure that they want, but also really drive impact on these businesses. I started that, loved it. It was literally my favorite activity throughout all of college. Continued to be a part of that organization in some capacity, and today we’ve provided more than 15,000 volunteer hours to small businesses. Really just an amazing opportunity to drive some impact.”

It was the spark that helped him realize that empowerment of others — particularly those who are under-represented, those who need a little bit of help — was his path. He has carried that drive with him through consulting for Deloitte and into his current role as a product manager for YouTube — and he’ll continue carrying it to the MBA program at Harvard and beyond.

“As I’m thinking about the next step in my career, that’s how I want to position myself — to be in a position where it is more or less my job to empower others to be the best version of themselves,” Ebanks says.

WHY HBS OVER STANFORD? 

Accepted to Stanford, Wharton, and Harvard in 2019, Ebanks chose Harvard despite having worked and lived in the Bay Area — and despite a post-MBA plan to create a venture capital firm focused on empowering under-represented minorities and women to “create the next generation of companies.” Long-term, he says, he wants to help companies “establish diversity, equity, and inclusion as a core tenet and principle of those companies moving forward.” Which begs the question: Wouldn’t Stanford be the logical choice? Why did he eschew the obvious and plentiful advantages of the startup and VC ecosystem of Silicon Valley?

Long-term, Ebanks says, choosing Harvard gives him greater flexibility — and keeps him from becoming “a victim of my own way of making decisions.”

“I believe the short-term path to enable me to achieve success on that long-term vision that I described is for me to move into entrepreneurship specifically in consumer tech,” Ebanks says. “Basically the way that I view it is that I want to get some operating experience, potentially build a business. Whatever happens, happens, like address some impact, and then, ultimately, move into the investing side of things.

“I actually decided on Stanford. But I flip-flopped. Basically I decided on it and then I moved back to Texas, and then a few months go by and I started to imagine my life at Stanford. I think an important detail is that I really had an amazing life when I was in the Bay Area. I enjoyed my time there. I had a great set of friends. It was really awesome, but there are certain things about the city that I just don’t really like. It’s not necessarily my cup of tea, and I don’t see myself being there over the long-term.

“As I began to think more and more about my life at Stanford, it would obviously be two years in the Bay Area, which is fine. I could do that. I could definitely do that. I liked Palo Alto better than I like say San Francisco city. But a couple of things, as I mentioned that post-business school, I’m going to move into entrepreneurship. I really want to just like buckle down and build something for five to seven years.

“And I also know myself and what I would do post-graduation is choose the option that optimizes for my professional well-being. And there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind, the best place to be as a Stanford grad is in the Bay Area. I knew that I would make that choice, but then I started to imagine it. So it’s two years for business school and then another seven years post-business school. That’s a decade of me being in the Bay Area.

“And when I started to imagine that, especially in the context of moving back to Texas and really saying, ‘Oh, I love Texas,’ I was like, ‘I don’t think I can do it.’ Instead, I will go to Harvard. It’s obviously not as strong in entrepreneurship. There are a higher number of people, alumni, in venture capital, but that’s just by virtue of them being a larger alumni base. What Harvard does is, it enables me a ton of flexibility post-business school on where I can go. I could go to New York. I could even go back to the West Coast. I could go back to the Bay Area — but at least I won’t be a victim to my own way of making decisions. This will enable a broader set of options. And I can really make the best decision for me at that point.”

‘GENUINE, ACCOMPLISHED YET HUMBLE’

Ebanks never used to talk about his early years, his family struggling to get by, the poverty and the challenges. But in applying to business school, he came to realize that his story could help others. As Rajdeep Chimni, founder of Admissions Gateway, says after working with Ebanks on his applications, “He is very genuine, accomplished yet humble, and and the ‘distance of life’ he has traveled makes him instantly likeable. He is passionate about diversity and inclusion and has walked that path in his work and his personal life.”

“I’m definitely not one to post in any way or show off in any way,” Ebanks says. “Before the whole business school process, no one knew any details to my story, really. I would never talk about it. And what I realized is, over time, the more that I’ve opened up and shared, people do have takeaways from it and they really are inspired by it. It’s humbling, quite honestly. Because it’s just my life, you know?

“If I know that by sharing my story, I can impact others, helping them achieve their highest potential, then let’s do it. That would be awesome.”

See the next pages for Poets&Quants’ interview with Anchor Ebanks, edited for length and clarity.

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