2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Sophia Weng, Stanford GSB

Sophia Weng

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Full time gamer, lifetime student. Creating fun, diverse, and inclusive gaming experiences for all.”

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Fun fact about yourself: I learned English and made my first friends playing a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) called Fly For Fun.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgetown University, Finance and Operations & Information Management (OPIM)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Activision Blizzard, Corporate Strategy and Business Development Senior Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Manticore Games, San Francisco (Remote)

Where will you be working after graduation? Working on a crypto gaming startup!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Arbuckle Leadership Fellowship, Social Chair for Arbuckle Leadership Fellowship, Crypto Panel Lead for Future of Arts, Media & Entertainment Conference

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being an Arbuckle Fellow and helping shape the entire MBA1’s leadership journey. I worked with nine MBA1s on a team setting (Leadership Labs class) and in a one-on-one setting (via Personal Leadership Coaching) over two quarters to develop their leadership skills. I witnessed so much growth and reflection from my MBA1s. I feel lucky to have been a part of their journey. At the same time, I’ve also experienced tremendous professional and personal growth. I can say confidently that I am a better friend, daughter, partner, and person because of this program. Arbuckle Fellows defined my GSB experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of hosting the first and institutionalizing The Girls Who Code workshop at Activision Blizzard. It started out as a one-day event where women leaders at Activision Blizzard interacted with 20+ high school girls via panel discussion, workshop, and a lunch and learn. Not only did this event show how exposure to STEM majors and non-traditional career paths can open doors for these girls, but the event was also a huge morale boost to the Activision Blizzard employee base. I ultimately received support from senior management to make the Girls Who Code workshop an ongoing initiative at Activision Blizzard.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the GSB because I want to found a gaming studio. GSB was the best place to develop the long-term skills and relationships required to achieve my aspiration. I can learn the skill sets and meet my future co-founders through Stanford’s entrepreneurship, engineering, and design classes. Stanford’s mission-driven culture could also help me develop as a purposeful and empathetic leader. This is critical as I hope to leverage video games to change diversity and representation in the interactive entertainment industry.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Hugh Keelan, Lecturer for Leadership Labs, Leadership Fellows.

My favorite professor is Hugh Keelan. He is my teacher, coach, friend and rock. Hugh brings so much care and intention to everything he does. He (and my clinic mates) have challenged me to stretch in so many different directions. He has also supported me unconditionally inside and outside of class. I’ve learned how to show up more fully because he is such a wonderful role model. I’ve also learned how to show care in the gentlest, yet most uplifting manner. I am so glad that we got to spend two quarters together and I know that our relationship will continue after the GSB.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA tradition is TALK on every Wednesday. Students get together to hear life stories of two classmates. I always feel so inspired by and connected with the GSB community. Fun Fact: TALK was started by Bonobos co-founder Andy Dunn.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I had two part-time internships (not simultaneously) during MBA1. I spent 15+ hours a week over four months! If I could go back in time, I would at most do one. Instead, I would spend more time cultivating relationships with my peers and professors. I would also spend more time on my gaming blog (So What Gaming), which I ended up dropping because I had no time. I learned a ton during my internships, but I lost out on precious time I had to build relationships, create memories and try something new (writing).

What is the biggest myth about your school? Myth: GSB is all fun and party (compared to other business schools). Reality: GSB students know how to work hard and play hard. Everyone is extremely driven, yet super down to earth. There are many people who work full time on their start-up, participate in social events like TALK and FOAM, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, I do wish people would express more frequently how overwhelming MBA can be – the duck syndrome is true!

What surprised you the most about business school? I am most shocked by how much we embrace vulnerability at the GSB. Growing up in a family that didn’t voice a lot of emotions, I was quite uncomfortable with the level of vulnerability at first. However, I’ve come to realize that people truly care about each other. People also respect each other’s boundaries if they choose not to share. After spending two years at the GSB, I am a big proponent of using self-disclosure to foster a trusting, open and honest environment. You can say that I drank the Kool-Aid!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The journey to MBA starts before the application process because it encapsulates the candidate’s 20+ years of life experience. There is no one thing I did during the application process that gave me an edge – if I started right before applying, it would be too late. I believe the biggest differentiator is my story. I spent an inordinate amount of time on my essay and crafting my narrative. I poured my heart and soul out to explain why video games mattered so much to me, the lessons I learned from playing video games, the work and impact I had at Activision Blizzard, and how video games are the perfect medium for change. I believe that my story, vision and unique profile (there are less than five people from the gaming industry in my class) made me stand out.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Kelsey Aijala. She was my roommate during MBA1 and one of my closest friends on campus. She’s so thoughtful, articulate and fun to be around – there’s never a dull moment when I am with her. Kelsey is out to change the public education system, so schools and learning systems can help students become the best versions of themselves.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I studied business twice, once in my undergrad and now again at graduate business school. I was first inspired by my high school economics teacher, who taught me how the roles of government, institutions, companies, and consumers play in our global economy. I was so fascinated that I applied only to business school programs. There is no specific person that inspired me to apply to business school the second time around. Some of the smartest people I knew (from work and life) graduated from business schools. One quote sums up how they’ve collectively inspired me: “Going to business school is like traveling into space and doing the impossible. Graduating is like coming back to earth knowing that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

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

Build my own gaming studio.

Help raise the diversity and representation benchmark in the gaming industry.

What made Sophia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Sophia was an Arbuckle Leadership Fellow, a competitively selected group of MBA2 students who learn and hone the skills of coaching and mentoring in the two-quarter (Fall and Winter) Leadership Fellows course by serving as coach to nine MBA1 students. In Fall quarter, Sophia worked with a squad of six MBA1s in their Leadership Labs course, acting as team coach to the squad and as 1:1 coach to each member individually. In Fall and Winter quarters, Sophia also served as Personal Leadership Coach (PLC) to three other MBA1’s, helping these students clarify what they most wanted to get out of their time at the GSB and helping them take action on these goals.

Sophia was exceptionally dedicated to the learning and growth of her coachees. She was described by one of her PLC coachees as “a phenomenal coach” and by one of her Leadership Labs squad members as follows, “We truly struck gold in the Squad Fellow lottery – Sophia was awesome.” Opinions like these were consistent across Sophia’s coachees. Furthermore, stepping into the role of coach requires the Leadership Fellow to courageously examine her own strengths and areas of growth. The best coaches are those who are willing to do their own inner work: understand their strengths and flat spots, identify and tackle the fears that may hold them back from showing up fully and authentically, and cultivate the skills that enable them to build psychologically safe relationships with their coachees. Sophia embraced this inner work with courage and resolve, and her service as a Leadership Fellow likewise helped her coachees grow and become better people.”

Hugh Keelen
Lecturer in Management at Stanford Graduate School of Business

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