Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Justin Mueller, MIT (Sloan)

Justin Mueller

MIT, Sloan School of Management

Navy veteran determined to provide value to companies dedicated to improving the world.”

Hometown: Missoula, MT

Fun Fact About Yourself: In high school, I ran for student body Vice President. My running mate and I performed our campaign speech wearing only boxers. We reversed the adage of imagining the audience in their underwear to calm nerves because our classmates should have been nervous voting for such an important position.

Undergraduate School and Major: U.S. Naval Academy, Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics; Old Dominion University, Master of Engineering Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: U.S. Navy, Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer

What word best describes the MIT Sloan MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Passionate. I became even more inspired to leave my mark on the world after meeting just a few Sloanies. Their positive and forward-looking attitudes are contagious. Some of the world’s most successful leaders know that to be successful, you must surround yourself with the best. I am grateful for that opportunity with my 450+ classmates.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of MIT Sloan’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Given my limited (read: zero) experience in the private sector, I desired to attend a program that provided a structured curriculum for the first semester. MIT Sloan’s core semester gives me just that. Once we get through it, we are free to take whatever interests us for the remaining three semesters. This flexibility allows me to be a sponge for a semester and then continue to learn and grow in the fields that I find most important to me.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at MIT Sloan? The Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is certainly the event that I look forward to most. As a budding Applied Mathematics major, I loved reading the papers that were published as a part of the conference. I even made my degree capstone a sports-related analytics project as a result. Watching this conference over the past ten years evolve to include discussions on topics not previously thought to be sports is inspiring and just continues to showcase MIT Sloan’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion. While I do not intend to go into sports post-MBA, I cannot wait to work on this conference and continue to be a lifelong learner in the world of sports and analytics.

Action Learning Labs are one of MIT Sloan’s biggest attractions. Which lab interests you most? How does it fit with your interests? After my opportunity to live in Italy for a couple years, G-Lab (Global Entrepreneurship Lab) became one of the most interesting labs to me. Getting the chance to participate in a project in an emerging market with global impact and reach intrigues me. Learning about other cultures, their customs, and the problems they face, I will gain an appreciation and improve my ability to think critically about problems, even if they are not ones that I have personally experienced.

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How have your experiences with the Sloan program thus far reinforced or upended these early impressions? Innovation and collaboration are definitely the first two things I think of. MIT is known worldwide for its innovation, so this is no surprise, but its focus on collaboration surprised me. While meeting my future classmates through the Zoom webinars throughout the application and AdMIT processes, I found that they too noticed this, and could not wait to act on it. Starting with core teams and oceans (MIT Sloan’s version of sections), the structure of the MIT Sloan MBA experience fosters collaboration. So far, everyone I have met seems to fully embrace it.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Shortly after arriving to my operations research position in Italy, I performed my first assessment of a naval exercise in Eastern Africa. I had the opportunity to spend three weeks with eight African navies, collecting data on their strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Using this data, I performed an in-depth analysis that determined focus areas where the United States could best assist these nations and improve their performance against real-life threats. In response to my work showcasing the importance and exceptional return on investment, Generals at U.S. Africa Command resolved to increase funding for infrastructure and navies in this region by 150%. This investment will expedite safety and security development in coming generations for these countries.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? My wife and I were living in Naples, Italy during the onset of COVID-19 and what we saw in terms of response, community, and kindness was incredible. Witnessing younger community members deliver groceries to older members and all of the “Andra Tutto Benne” (everything will be alright) signs made by children allowed us to keep our blessings in perspective. I feel that I have become more deliberate in my daily interactions, and it has really enforced my desire to work in an industry like clean energy that is dedicated to improving the world that we live in.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? As I looked at my career options after my tour on an aircraft carrier, I knew that continuing a career in the military was not for me. However, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to broaden my skills and experiences, so I decided to choose a position in Italy where I had the chance to work closely with other countries and perform data-driven analysis. Witnessing the value this provided, I knew that in order to continue developing these skills and scale my personal impact, I would need an MBA. After graduation, I hope to join a consulting firm where I can do this type of work to increase efficiency and influence of companies attempting to improve the world.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS, UPenn Wharton, Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Yale SOM, Michigan Ross, and Duke Fuqua

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into MIT Sloan’s MBA program? My best advice is to make sure that MIT Sloan is a good fit for you. Dedicate some time to understanding WHY you want an MBA, and then think about what skills you have, what skills you hope to gain, and what type of people you fit in with most. If MIT Sloan’s culture aligns with what you desire, then make that clear to the admissions team. Throughout the application process, MIT Sloan was the school that I felt I fit in the most and I think that showed in my application.


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