Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Dara Canavan, Stanford GSB

Dara Canavan

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“Like an oak tree (“Dara” in Irish), I aim for great heights while staying grounded.”

Hometown: Derry, Northern Ireland

Fun Fact About Yourself: I celebrate my wife’s birthdays by making her custom board games. Playing “Guess Who?” becomes a lot riskier when all the characters are your in-laws.

Undergraduate School and Major: Imperial College London, BSc & MSc in Theoretical Physics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Deliveroo, Senior Strategy & Initiatives Manager

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Stanford GSB’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I inherited a passion for technology from my dad: a trained electrical engineer who built a successful software business that served the likes of Goldman Sachs and IBM. He did this not in London or the Bay – but in Derry in Northern Ireland. He is the embodiment of entrepreneurship.

At GSB, I’m making the most of the opportunities that my father wished he had: classes on how to turn ideas into scalable ventures, access to world-class faculty, and, of course, the ability to connect with the technology innovators of Silicon Valley.

What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learned about Stanford GSB so far? I think most cultures teach you that mistakes are a natural part of learning, but no institution embodies this more than the GSB. It was a real culture shock for me to see that failure is more than just tolerated – it’s downright celebrated! I have never felt so empowered to take risks and, in the least cliché way possible, to chase my dreams.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far? Give an example why this is true. Compassionate. I’ve had many challenging days since moving to the US, but my classmates have been helping me through every step of the journey – from second years’ advice on how to navigate the visa process, to my classmates connecting me with their peers in my industries of interest, to my sectionmates making my wife feel just as welcome as any student.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Early in my consulting career, I worked on the turnaround strategy for a national tool hire company. It wasn’t the most important project of my career, nor the most revenue-generating, but I know without a doubt that our work kept the business out of bankruptcy and saved thousands of jobs. Five years later, they’re still going strong!

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Through the School of Engineering’s Lean Launchpad class, I finally got to work on a business idea that I’ve been passionate about for a long time. Even if it never becomes a serious venture, I’m so excited to learn how to rapidly test and adapt my hypotheses in an experiential learning environment. It’s a totally unique experience!

What has been the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you started your MBA program? You can build new strengths while staying true to who you are. Traditionally, there has been a narrow view of what a “leader” is: bold, decisive, and assertive. While these are not inherently bad traits, the modern world requires a much broader spectrum of traits that emphasize integrity and collaboration. I’ve discovered that I can develop my “executive presence” while still being patient and thoughtful. I will rarely be the loudest voice in the room, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have influence.

What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2024? When Stanford’s application asks, “What matters most to you, and why?” they really want to know. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on career accomplishments. Take this opportunity to genuinely reflect on the experiences and decisions in life that make you who you are. Write from the heart.


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