Real leaders don’t watch history. They imagine it. When the time comes, they step forward, embracing the uncertainty and criticism that come with leadership. James Cochrane-Dyet’s moment arrived in 2019. Before then, he was a British military officer who’d served everywhere from the Middle East to Eastern Europe. He’d even commanded the 90 horse-mounted guards to protect Queen Elizabeth during her birthday parade. After moving into consulting, Cochrane-Dyet was tasked with a leadership role that few could fathom: spearheading a project for the UK’s National Health Service to help prepare London for COVID-19.
“As de-facto Chief of Staff, I supported senior NHS leadership and clinicians in the development of the initial crisis team and high-temperature operational plans necessitated by the significance of the challenge,” he tells P&Q. “This included coordinating multiple projects involving a wide range of governmental and private stakeholders, and included helping build the UK’s largest ICU hospital from scratch within an urgent two-week timeline, as well as the consolidation of much-needed emergency staff, equipment, and resources.”
It was the allure of entrepreneurship and venture capital that led Cochrane-Dyet to London Business School. Here, he ran the Military in Business Club — the largest in Europe — while earning a scholarship. He guided his team to a spot in the world’s largest impact investment competition. He studied at Harvard and MIT through exchanges and partnered with Bain and McKinsey on projects. Along the way, he launched a stealth cleantech venture through LBS’ accelerator program.
On the surface, Cochrane-Dyet checked all the boxes. More than that, his leadership served as an inspiration to his classmates, says Helen Foley, LBS’ MBA Programme Director. “From a non-typical pre-MBA industry, James has shown that your past is not what matters. The key to James’ success on the MBA is having the right mindset, energy, and passion to really make the most of his experience.”
WOMEN AGAIN OUTNUMBER MEN ON THE LIST
Such qualities make him one of Poets&Quants’ Best & Brightest MBAs from the Class of 2022. Each year since 2015, P&Q has honored 100 full-time MBA graduates at the top business schools worldwide. You could describe these high potentials as the voice of their peers and the spirit of their institutions. They were the tireless ‘Energizer Bunnies’ of their cohorts, the ones who never quit, never settled, and never took ‘no’ for an answer. They were the unstoppable forces who never accepted anything less than excellence and always brought their ‘A Game.’ And their spark and commitment rubbed off on their classmates. These Best & Bright were problem-solvers who didn’t blink in situations where there was neither roadmap nor resources. They just made it happen. Like most, they didn’t have it all figured out. In the end, no one ever doubted that they were the ones you could count on.
In January, P&Q reached out to 75 business schools to invite them to submit nominees for the 2022 Best & Brightest. Schools were encouraged to choose candidates based on “academic prowess, extracurricular achievements, innate intangibles and potential, or unusual personal stories. That said, they also enjoyed the freedom to apply their own criteria and process for selecting students. Overall, 73 schools participated, with Harvard Business School again declining to submit nominees. This year, P&Q received 232 nominations, which were evaluated on extracurricular involvement, personal excellence, and the insightfulness of their responses and recommendations.
By the numbers, 65 business schools are represented in the 2022 Best & Brightest MBAs. The list includes 56 women and 44 men, hardly surprising considering female nominees outnumbered their male counterparts by a 132-to-100 margin. At the same time, 63 candidates were born in the United States, with another 24 already holding advanced degrees. The list also features 8 military veterans. McKinsey & Company again ranked as the largest consumer of Best & Brightest talent, hiring 6 representatives. Deloitte plucked 5 MBAs from the list, while Bain & Company and the Boston Consulting Company each added 4. In addition, these firms hired more than one member of this year’s Best & Brightest: Accenture, Amazon, Apple, Credit Suisse, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Salesforce. As of March 1st, 14 graduates remained undecided about an employer, while several more had chosen to either launch ventures or pursue further schooling. One striking feature of this year’s class: they weren’t afraid to shop around for the best opportunity. Among the 80 students who held both a summer internship and a post-graduate employer, just 44 chose to remain with the firm where they had their internship.
‘CREATE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE’
What did the Best & Brightest have in common? Over the past two years, you would’ve found them leading clubs and galvanizing volunteers. They oversaw student government, won case competitions, and organized treks, conferences and speakers. They ran resume reviews, case preps, and mock interviews. Classmates sought their counsel and administration tapped them as advisors. Their upbeat attitudes made others feel comfortable and their intellectual horsepower elevated the classroom experience. No, the Best & Brightest weren’t just members and contributors — they were standouts and leaders. In their wake, their communities were left with one question…
How did they find time to accomplish all that?
Exhibit A: Minwei Cao. At Cornell University, she was a TA for eight classes, which ranged from finance to microeconomics to digital technology. In contrast, Audrey Dotson squeezed in time to serve as the student manager for the Duke Women’s basketball team. Across the country at UC-San Diego, Kim Pendergrass’ bluetech startup, Algeon Materials, racked up 1st place finish awards in several new venture competitions and challenges. Then again, says Dartmouth Tuck’s Lulu Carter, one of the biggest achievements for MBAs can be simply be to clear your own path. That’s what she did when she connected her interests in athletics and gender.
“Where there were structured opportunities to pursue my passion for women in sports, I took them—from completing a First-Year Project with Under Armour focused on high school female athletes to conducting a five-year demographic analysis of baseball attendance as an intern with Major League Baseball. Where there weren’t structured opportunities, I made them—from interviewing Tuck alumna and chief marketing officer of the NBA Kate Jhaveri for Tuck’s Women in Business Conference keynote, to pursuing an part-time internship during my second year with Futures Sport + Entertainment…From our orientation, Dean Matthew Slaughter has emphasized that it is up to students to “co-create” our Tuck experience.”
A RETURN TO NORMAL
Not just their own experience. The Best & Brightest were also busy creating opportunities for their classmates. At Southern Methodist University, for example, you’ll find Annabel Reeves, an undergraduate psychology major who jumped on a plane to Silicon Valley with little experience in the tech industry. Eventually, she moved into venture capital, honing a skill set that enabled her to help design and launch the school’s first business accelerator program. Moving from accelerators to funds, Sam Buck co-founded the Michigan Climate Venture at the Ross School, an effort he describes as America’s “first student-run climate tech investment fund.” In some cases, the Class of 2022 launched university-wide efforts. Look no further than Daniel Bu at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.
“I am pretty proud to have been a co-founding member for start@ox, a student-led initiative that partnered with entrepreneurs and venture capital funds to encourage entrepreneurial thinking at the business school, medical school, and wider university,” he writes. “Through our efforts, I think we really did help to build up the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Oxford. We brought teeming ideas together, with different people who would help with ideation, let them bring it out of the room, build it, and then bring it back in before pitching for funding. To help spark innovation in a place that is nine hundred years old was an incomparable experience.”
Sometimes, a Best & Brightest MBA’s influence extends beyond her own business school. Case in point: the Wharton School’s Andrea Madu. “I am most proud of the cross-MBA DEI conference I launched last year in partnership with a team of brilliant MBA students from Tuck, Wharton, Harvard, Kellogg, Darden, and Ross. After the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests of 2020, we wanted to create a space where MBA students could learn and reflect on how they could advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and become stronger allies. There is such a need for these spaces at the MBA level. It was such an energizing experience to build a conference from the ground up that will live on long after I have graduated. Over 600 MBA students and prospective students across our six schools attended the conference, far exceeding our expectations.”
See Pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs