Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Jacob Gleason, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Jacob Gleason 

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Insatiably curious learner, first-generation college graduate, dog lover, hiker, and devoted family man.”

Hometown: Springfield, Illinois

Fun Fact About Yourself:  Despite living in 4 different cities post-undergrad, I’ve always commuted via walking to and from work.

Undergraduate School and Major: Illinois State University, Economics and Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Wells Fargo, Business Manager of the Investment Portfolio Trading group

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The 1-year program! Kellogg’s 1Y program was the perfect blend of everything I wanted in an MBA at my current stage of life and career. I had over 9 years of work experience prior to my admittance, and I wasn’t looking to re-take core classes focused on areas which I had direct work experience in both academically and professionally. Having the flexibility to take electives from day one was really important to the specific goals I had in my MBA education, and the structure of the 1Y program uniquely catered to that without sacrificing any of the traditional MBA benefits.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Northwestern Kellogg? Kellogg Worldwide Exploration Student Trips (KWEST!) Like many business schools, Kellogg has a variety of fun intra-year activities and trips, but KWEST is such a unique kick-off and orientation experience that I found unique to the Kellogg student experience. During KWEST, incoming students take a trip with a group of their peers, with the goal of not sharing anything about your background until the third night to help inspire deeper conversations and eliminate bias. The rest of the trip is full of bonding activities, fun events, ridiculous themed outfits, and more. The atmosphere creates such a wildly fun bond with a diverse range of people across all the Kellogg programs. It set the tone for what to expect and look forward to throughout my time at Kellogg.

What word best describes the Kellogg MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Openness. From day 1 at CIM (Kellogg’s orientation), everything was rooted in collective learning, growth, and shared experiences. Although I’ve always viewed education as an individual exercise, Kellogg constantly encourages group-based activities, which is far more reflective of how the “real world” works. This takes a commitment from all students to give as much (or more!) than they take and it’s what makes the entire experience so engrossing.

What makes Chicago such a great place to earn an MBA? You mean Evanston, right? Chicago is one of the most amazing cities in the world with access to all the ‘global city’ allures of diverse dining, entertainment, and people, but at a cost that’s totally reasonable (even for a student). It’s worth noting that Kellogg’s location in Evanston is, in my opinion, a ‘best of both worlds’ approach where you can spend as much, or as little, time in the Windy City as you’d like with the rest of your time spent embracing the (lake) coastal college-town vibes of Evanston.

Kellogg is known for a team-driven culture. What quality do you bring as a teammate and why is it so important to success?  I like to serve as the “book-ends” by helping to get things organized to start and bringing everything together at the end. So much of team-based work is just getting everyone moving in the same direction and I love coordinating the chaos.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Although not a single moment, I’m most proud of my continuous pivots between wildly different jobs during my career. I’ve moved from small business lending to risk management analytics to buy side investment research. Most recently, I’ve moved to operational management of a vital team within one of the world’s largest banks, I’ve stretched myself at every opportunity and always found a way to add value while giving me the greatest opportunity to learn. I’m hopeful I can continue this approach toward work throughout my career.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general?  Professionally, COVID-19 hit right as I was applying to Kellogg in early 2020, and I was extremely fortunate to be able to take a yearlong deferral prior to my enrollment. During that year, I had the opportunity to work as a pre-MBA venture capital intern at two amazing funds with some absolutely brilliant people and it was the perfect “taste test” to give me all the information I needed to make an educated decision about my post-MBA career goals.

Personally, the pandemic reaffirmed all the thoughts that I had been struggling with around sacrificing personal relationships and vicinity to family and friends for the sake of faster career growth. My wife and I had moved back to Chicago to be closer to family in late 2019 and that pivot, although a setback professionally, was completely validated once the lockdowns hit and we were so close to all our friends and family.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation?  I had hit an inflection point in my career after nine years in banking and I felt like the business world was changing so fast while many legacy institutions were stuck in the hypothetical Jurassic Park egg. I love the complexity of financial services, so I didn’t want to leave the industry entirely. However, I wanted to get closer to some of the innovative technology companies creating more efficient and effective delivery of those same services. I’m looking to spend my time building and investing in FinTech companies that are creating the future of financial services.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None! I was focused exclusively on Kellogg’s 1-year program for all the reasons described above.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA program? Ask your peers, mentors and/or family to read your essays. If they don’t hear your voice as the narrator, re-write the content to be more personal to you and your story. Most everyone who applies to business school has an impressive background with loads of personal accolades and professional achievements, but no one has your unique story. It’s those moments of openness and reflectivity sprinkled throughout your essays that will be so vital to connecting the dots in your application.