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I am a former banker (Leveraged Finance & Private Credit) who now works in the Corp Dev & Strategy team of a Pre IPO Unicorn Tech start-up. As my current start-up is a service provider to large F500 companies, I have seen firsthand that F500s have the largest competitive moats and will drive future innovation. The goal is to end up in F500 Corp Dev / Strat.
Target School: Ross
Considering: Tuck, Harvard, Stanford GSB, Kellogg SOM
See More Profiles For: Ross
Application Status: Open
Undergrad School: University of South Carolina
Undergrad Major: Finance
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Title: Corporate Strategy Mgr.
Length of Employment: 2 yrs, 1 mos
Title: Private Credit Associate
Industry: Banking & Finance
Company: Top Firm
Biggest life win is qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I reduced my marathon time from 4 hours + to sub 3 hours within the span of 2 years.
Post MBA, I want to pivot into F500 FLDP with the long term goal of being the CFO of a middle market backed PE company.
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With a 730 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA in finance from a public university, I would think you are in pretty good shape for an admit from Michigan Ross, particularly because of your work experience at a top banking firm and then at a pre-IPO startup. Your accomplishment of doing the Boston Marathon and reducing your time to complete the race by that large a margin is also super impressive. And let me just say that with schools experiencing a decline of domestic applicants, particularly white males, you are in a very good place to also get into some of your other options.
Congratulations on qualifying for the boston marathon!
Lots of strengths to your profile! Here’s what I see that glows:
Strong stats in terms of undergraduate GPA (3.9) and in applicable & rigorous major (finance), GMAT in line with average (perhaps slightly higher than actual mean, but likely average or below average for your caucaisan-male-in-tech demographic).
Your proposed strategic positioning of moving from a corp strategy role at a unicorn to a F500 company in a Finance Leadership Development Program (FLDP) is imminently reasonable and draws on your pre-existing strengths and demonstrated interests (e.g. finance undergraduate major, corp strategy work within a growing company). Your relative lack of work experience (2 years) versus the M7 average (4-5 years) will be less penalized by FLDP programs relative to other recruiters, …
Your proposed strategic positioning of moving from a corp strategy role at a unicorn to a F500 company in a Finance Leadership Development Program (FLDP) is imminently reasonable and draws on your pre-existing strengths and demonstrated interests (e.g. finance undergraduate major, corp strategy work within a growing company). Your relative lack of work experience (2 years) versus the M7 average (4-5 years) will be less penalized by FLDP programs relative to other recruiters, and the AdCom will know this, too, so I expect they will also be more gracious about it. F500 FLDP interests are very well represented in every top MBA recruiting pool, but less well represented within the applicant pool. Although these programs pay very well and offer excellent advancement opportunities and fantastic work-life balance relative to similar programs at financial services companies, there has historically been less interest in these programs. Because they are often in undesirable locations (e.g., not in NYC or SF) and career progression can be slower than other finance-oriented roles, leadership development programs often have fewer applicants than other areas. Additionally, most of the leadership development program interest tends to be on General Management (P&L oriented) leadership development programs rather than finance leadership programs. Ross, like every top business school, doesn’t want all of its students flocking to the 5 same cities post-graduation. They WANT alums in the rust belt as well as silicon valley. They want alums leading companies in CFO roles all over the world in every industry, from heavy manufacturing in small towns in the American midwest to REIT CFOs in Hong Kong. Having this differentiated, under-represented interest in financial leadership LDP programs HELPS you in the application process, ESPECIALLY to the extent that your target industries/companies are not the usual FAANG/SF/NYC suspects. As an aside, getting to your role of CFO of a middle-market PE-backed company (with all the management promote sweeteners such a role entails), would probably be most reliably achieved via an investment banking M&A associate role -> PE role with operational responsibilities at a middle market oriented place or family office -> CFO or financial leadership role within the middle market company. PE-owned middle market companies generally recycle CFOs within the same industry, so once you get a good relationship going with the fund, it’s a nice cycle. But the fund typically isn’t hiring from F500. Still, the aim here is getting into business school (because once you are in you can do whatever kind of recruiting you want). For the purposes of getting into business school, your espoused interest of F500 FLDP programs will carry you further than saying you want to work in IB M&A (much more well-represented, undifferentiated espoused goal in applicant pool).
You are still young, which doesn’t necessarily hurt you and the average age and years of work experience is trending down for M7 schools, but it appears that you may still be in your first position since undergraduate graduation. In general, the 24-year-olds matriculating into M7 usually fall into 2 categories 1) part of a 2+2 type program (which isn’t you since you aren’t applying as a college senior) or 2) have achieved more and risen through the ranks faster than the typical MBA student. For instance, a typical non-2+2 MBA student probably did something along the lines of: A->A (analyst to associate) within the first 2 years of working at a bulge bracket bank OR was promoted faster-than-expected within a similar training-type program at a well-respected tech company or consulting firm. We experience less success with applicants who are still on their first role post-undergrad who have significantly less work experience than the average. If you have not been given a formal promotion during your time at the unicorn, you’ll at least need to document the expansion of scope and importance of your responsibilities since you’ve been in your current role. Any performance-based metrics that you can point to (e.g., top 10% talent within your current role) or performance-based raises that you have earned should be called out in your resume as well. In your essays, you can describe the success that earned you these role expansions/promotions and, ideally, these successes will be echoed in your letters of recommendation as well (to flush out and reinforce the character traits you are signaling with your essay stories).
Not as much name recognition (lower-tier state school UG alma mater in the University of South Carolina, potentially not a big-name employer…though it may be… hard to tell from this write-up). Still, similar skills from a bulge bracket or well-respected boutique bank might be more reliable from a recruitment standpoint and are often more reliable signals for recruiters and therefore more prized by adcoms… that’s why ~60% of W/H/S has a bulge bracket bank, top tier consulting firm or FAANG on their resume at some point. These sorts of employers have reputable training programs that manufacture “known quantity” skills for other employers. Working at a unicorn will assuredly build other highly desirable technical skills and traits (entrepreneurial hustle and ability to grind/block/tackle, more creative capital raising strategies that are less dependent on cash flow and more dependent on exit value, marketing/valuing future earnings ability and IP value generation), but these skills are potentially seen as more risky and less well understood than a traditional training program at one of the aforementioned companies.
In terms of extra curricular activities, competitive long distance running is pretty well represented in the candidate pool, unfortunately, and even more so for your demographic. Your qualification for the Boston Marathon puts you at the top of the heap of (hobbist) runners, though, and is nothing to snuff at. The grit and determination it took to improve your time significantly enough to qualify for this significant race demonstrates a self-reliance and ability to achieve your goals that will be differentiating. Still, running is not a unique hobby, and definitely not one that has the potential to 1) lead a team to achieve greater things than the sum of its parts 2) improve the world 3) make the school look awesome with you as their alum one day. These are the aspects of potential EC essays that are the most rewarded in admissions, with bonus points in the hobby/EC is rare or unique. At the end of the day, this running is something that you do by yourself for yourself, so while even though your accomplishments as a hobbyist runner are undoubtedly impressive especially relative to other runners, you’ll need to feature it alongside other ECs with leadership display and civic impact. Running should certainly feature in your app, but it’s combination with other civic-minded ECs will carry you further, if you position your leadership within them in the right way.
You mention in your write up that you are thinking of applying to H/W/S as well as Ross. You absolutely should! Despite coming from several overrepresented demographics (Caucasian male in tech sector), you have a strong profile and you have a good enough shot to confidently apply to the top of the heap. I’d rate your probability of success with a slightly lower-ranked school like Ross much higher than H/W/S, likely around 60% if you execute your differentiated and underrepresented FLDP strategic positioning the correct way. Rooting for you!
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