2022 MBA To Watch: Michael Hixon, University of Michigan (Ross)

Michael Hixon

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Former Olympic athlete transitioning into investment banking at RBC Capital Markets.”

Hometown: Amherst, MA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve been to 25 countries and five continents.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Economic Consulting

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a two-time US Olympic diver and captain of the US National Diving Team and 2020 Olympic Team.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Venture Capital Summer Associate at CEAS Investments, a single-family office located in Delray Beach, Florida.

Where will you be working after graduation? RBC Capital Markets, Global Investment Banking Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Dean’s Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The academic achievement I am most proud of is my team’s performance in our MAP project. We consulted for Capital Group, a large global asset management company. The opportunity to get hands-on experience consulting for executives at a company with a global reputation was exciting and challenged my teammates and I to dig deep into our research to find meaningful deliverables. Although I was extremely proud of our performance and the feedback from CG, I was most proud of how our team worked together and developed internal relationships. I think we all found the experience to be highly valuable, but our connection as a group and the relationships we built through the process made the experience even more rewarding.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of how I navigated my transition from diving to business school and used that experience to break into investment banking. I’ve seen a lot of former Olympians and professional athletes fail to set themselves up for a career after athletics. Michigan facilitated a process for me to discover what I wanted to pursue and how to break in. I did not make it easy for myself or the Career Development Office (training for the Olympics in year one, pushing my summer internship to the fall so I could compete in Tokyo, and changing recruiting paths from venture capital to investment banking in year two), but I couldn’t be more excited about where I am headed.

Why did you choose this business school? Michigan’s reputation, not just as a path to future employment, but as a place to learn and sharpen skills made it attractive to me. The quality of professors and the hands-on experience you get through action-based learning made me feel like I would be leaving business school as prepared as possible. I think those experiences are valuable for everyone, but if you are a career switcher like I was, that hands-on experience is a major difference maker.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There has been a long list of influential professors and mentors I have found in the Ross administration, but Maxim Sytch is the professor at Ross I would single out as having the greatest effect on me. His lectures are enthralling, and you always take away one or two things that either reframes your thinking or gives you a skill to implement in your communication. I joked last year that people always use sports analogies to promote business practices and teamwork, but I had to go to business school to learn how to be a better teammate in sports.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? It’s tough to beat a home Michigan football win against Ohio State, especially when you storm the field. That’s one of the great things about Ross, where although you are receiving a top-tier MBA experience, you are also part of a massive state school and get to feel and engage in the passion that exists on campus.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? One of the few things I would change about my MBA experience would be to take part in more clubs and extracurricular activities. Juggling 35+ hours of diving per week, classes and recruiting during my first year made me feel like I didn’t have time for anything else. During my second year, I’ve attended a ton of events and projects set up by clubs and have really enjoyed myself. It’s something I wish I had taken more time for. Ross and their student body do a fantastic job creating interesting and exciting experiences for all students to take part in.

What surprised you the most about business school? Most people talk about business school as a two-year gap from employment where you have fun and set up your career path, but they don’t always describe it as a pivotal learning experience. While it is certainly true that the time spent in this program has been fun and crucial to my career development, I think most people undervalue how much knowledge and experience there is to gain in an MBA program. The core classes and electives available offer a ton of exciting learning opportunities and chances to improve at skills that will be highly useful in the workplace. The opportunity to engage in leadership classes and activities also has the power to reframe your thinking and help you reimagine who you can be in a professional setting.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was clear in my essays and interview about why I wanted to come to Michigan and how I felt I could positively impact my class. Based on my prior experience, I wasn’t sure I fit the mold of someone who would be accepted into a top business school, so it was important for me to be clear on why I belonged and how I would use my experience to advance my career and help my classmates in the process. I found that it’s important to lean into your differences and bring unique experiences to offer an alternative perspective.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sean Ellsworth, MBA ’22 and US Army Veteran. Sean is a great classmate, friend, and someone that really amazed me at Ross. Sean and I were on the same MAP team and learned quickly that the US Army and US National Diving Team share the same principles on punctuality, as we both arrived at each team meeting ten minutes early. This gave us a chance to talk and get to know each other. We shared our experiences of recruiting for the corporate world from non-traditional backgrounds. Sean is a father of three and transitioning from his service to a position at Vanguard. His ability to put others first and lead in a way that attracts followers is something I admire and aim to achieve myself.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Both of my parents were collegiate athletic coaches and always strongly supported my pursuit of academics and a career after sports. They saw so many athletes come through their programs over the course of their careers so they knew what successful transitions looked like and what caused some people to falter. They always had great advice on how to navigate my next steps, and when I decided to turn professional and focus solely on diving after graduating from Indiana University, they were the ones that prompted me to consider pursuing an MBA when I was done to transition to a career in finance.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Right now, I’m focused on becoming a top-tier associate for RBC, and I hope to come in and make an impact in my first year. I’m excited for the opportunity and am ready to make the most of it. I think it would be exciting to stay with one bank for my entire career and eventually move up the ladder to a managing director position at RBC.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has taught me that you must be ready to adapt to all circumstances. Uncontrollable factors alter our experiences and the path ahead, and it’s critical to maintain flexibility on how you can best address these surprises. I certainly never planned to be training for the Tokyo Games while in school and full-time recruiting, but adjusting my mindset and seeing the opportunity this curveball presented allowed me to get the most out of both experiences. Although we all hope there will never be any event quite as life-altering as a global pandemic, there will always be surprises that require adaptation and finding the optimal path is important.

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

“Many neuroscientists claim that multitasking is a myth, but I doubt they have met Michael Hixon. Venture capital summer internships are among the most desired and difficult to obtain but even with classes, and what amounts to a full-time job of diving practice, he found time to secure and work a VC internship after securing his second Olympic medal. It’s even a shorter list of people who are able to earn a full time offer from a Wall Street investment bank without interning in IB the summer beforehand, but it seems there’s little he can’t accomplish once he sets his mind to it. They say hard work beats talent–but Michael has both. The sky’s the limit.”

Imari Love
Associate Director of Finance, Michigan Ross Career Development Office


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.