Harvard | Mr. The Builder
GMAT 740, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Program Manager
GRE 324, GPA 3.74
Harvard | Mr. Consulting To Emerging Markets Banking
GRE 130, GPA 3.6 equivalent
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Biz Human Rights
GRE 710, GPA 8/10
Harvard | Mr. Comeback Kid
GMAT 770, GPA 2.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Greek Taverna
GMAT 730, GPA 7.03/10
Harvard | Ms. Biotech Ops
GMAT 770, GPA 3.53
NYU Stern | Mr. Development
GMAT 690, GPA 2.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Energy Operations
GRE 330, GPA 3.85
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 To Healthcare Reformer
GRE 338, GPA 4.0 (1st Class Honours - UK - Deans List)
Wharton | Mr. Steelmaker To Consultant
GMAT 760, GPA 3.04/4.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Overrepresented Indian Engineer
GMAT 740, GPA 8.78/10
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Indian Quant
GMAT 745, GPA 9.6 out of 10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Food & Education Entrepreneur
GMAT 720, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Standard Military
GMAT 700, GPA 3.74
Harvard | Ms. Gay Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. International Oil
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Lieutenant To Consultant
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Duke Fuqua | Mr. IB Back Office To Front Office/Consulting
GMAT 640, GPA 2.8
Tuck | Mr. Infantry Officer To MBA
GRE 314, GPA 3.4
Rice Business | Mr. Future Energy Consultant
GRE Received a GRE Waiver, GPA 3.3
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Campaigns To Business
GMAT 750, GPA 3.19
MIT Sloan | Mr. Special Forces
GMAT 720, GPA 3.82
Columbia | Mr. Fingers Crossed
GMAT 730, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Ms. Egyptian Heritage
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Investor & Operator (2+2)
GMAT 720, GPA 3.85
Harvard | Ms. Harvard Hopeful
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7

Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Cindy Gao, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Cindy Gao

Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University + McCormick School of Engineering (MMM Program)

“I’m an equity-driven urban technologist by day and a professional dabbler in hobbies by night.”

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Fun Fact About Yourself: I became an avid plant mom over quarantine and name all my plants based on their places of origin.

Undergraduate School and Major: Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service, International Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Associate, Go-To-Market Strategy & Operations at LinkedIn

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? To me, going to business school is about learning from others and investing in relationships. I chose Kellogg because of the community-oriented culture of the school that would help me accomplish that goal. Kellogg is known to be extremely collaborative and it was evident the moment I started engaging with the community. Each informational interview led to introductions to others who shared my background or interest. Professors proactively set up lunches and coffees with students. The care each person takes to invest in those around them makes Kellogg truly a special place.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Northwestern Kellogg? I am super excited about being one of the first-year presidents of the student experience committee (SEC) for the MMM program. The SEC at Kellogg is a part of the Kellogg Student Association. We organize professional and social programming for students, gather feedback, and advocate for changes that will benefit both current and future students.

Being a part of SEC has been an opportunity for me to advocate for the needs of our community and promote our values especially around diversity, equity, and inclusion. For instance, we put on big and small group events so both introverted and extroverted classmates feel excited to participate. We also  partner with classmates who have experience leading DE&I workshops to facilitate opportunities for the Kellogg community. Finally, we want to bring DE&I to the forefront of our outreach to prospective applicants so we can continue to attract diverse candidates. It’s been amazing to be able to take advantage of the student-led culture at Kellogg and work with classmates who want to leave the program a little better than we found it.

What word best describes the Kellogg MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Humor. I love that my peers at Kellogg don’t take themselves too seriously. Many class traditions require creative costumes – in my first month here, I’ve already worn an animal onesie to a restaurant and dressed in in space cowboy theme on a Chicago trolley. Even professors get involved in birthday celebrations and pranks. Getting to know each other through these silly moments has helped me form stronger and more genuine connections with my classmates. Besides, it’s so much fun!

What makes Chicago such a great place to earn an MBA? Pursuing your MBA near Chicago means that you have all the resources at your disposal to work hard and play hard.

Professionally, many highly sought-after companies in finance, consulting, and technology have major offices in Chicago. The entrepreneurship community is growing quickly as well. With these professional opportunities, you’ll find a large community of Kellogg alumni within Chicago who are willing to help you get your foot in the door. You can also do in-quarter internships during your time at Kellogg, and being close to Chicago makes it that much easier to secure a coveted role.

Socially, there are countless things MBA students can do with their classmates in Chicago ranging from visiting museums and parks to exploring the city’s world-class food scene. One of my favorite memories at Kellogg so far has been attending Lollapalooza music festival with my classmates – something we’re only able to do because of our proximity to Chicago. With University of Chicago and Loyola University nearby, there is a vibrant student community outside of Kellogg as well.

Kellogg is known for a team-driven culture. What quality do you bring as a teammate and why is it so important to success? I’m a strong believer that teams are most successful when they bring out each person’s strengths. As a teammate, I always seek to understand other’s strengths and areas of interest when working with them. Usually when I start working with a new team, I will intentionally set aside time to get to know everybody, their backgrounds, and interests in the project. This allows us to better understand where and how each person can contribute to deliver the best work while staying motivated through the process. To me, being a good teammate means identifying and empowering others on my team to contribute their strengths to the group.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At LinkedIn, I had the opportunity to take on some super exciting initiatives launching new product features and sales teams. The instance I’m most proud of is setting up a new sales team for our advertising business, servicing small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers. For this project, I designed a new set of sales motions, collaborated cross-functionally to enable the tools and systems required, interviewed candidates, and helped train the new hires. Despite being at a large company, this project was fast-paced and hands-on. I walked away from it having learned so much about how sales teams operate and excited to know that we built something new to serve our SMB customers.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Like many others, COVID-19 really forced me to reflect on what mattered to me and how to live those values. At the time, I was living in San Francisco working at LinkedIn during the day and teaching a professional development class at San Jose State University at night. When the pandemic hit and everybody moved to working from home, LinkedIn introduced a myriad of policies to support this transition such as stipends for home offices, flexible hours, and leave policy for caretakers. In that moment, empathetic leadership really stood out as a value that I want to carry on through my career.

While we all had to adapt to a new normal under the pandemic, the impact to some communities were much more severe than to others. For the first-generation college students I taught at San Jose State University, the early pandemic was devastating for their job searches. Many companies froze headcount, delayed start dates, and rescinded offers. Coming from lower-income backgrounds and without professional networks to rely on, these students’ disadvantages became even more apparent. Witnessing this small piece of how the pandemic exacerbated existing inequality in society further affirmed to me that I want to create products and services that promote equity.

On a personal level, the pandemic also helped me to realize what energizes and motivates me. With more free time on my hands, I read novels for the first time since college and rediscovered my love for playing the piano. Being forced to spend more time at home has pushed me to be better at centering myself, and I hope to continue practicing that skill.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I wanted to pursue an MBA because I was also interested in exploring the smart city technology space. Growing up, I moved around a lot and lived in number of cities across, China, Canada, and the United States. I loved the vibrancy of cities, but also saw the inequalities that they can harbor. This upbringing has inspired me to want to work to address the challenges faced by the most populous cities around the world. Having spent my last five years in the technology industry, I want to bring my experiences and skills to create technology solution to solve urban challenges.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to London Business School because of its international student body, but ultimately prioritized the MMM program at Kellogg because of its unique curriculum and offerings.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA program?  Bring your whole self to the application. Yes, it’s important to showcase your skills and your impact, but Kellogg isn’t just a career pivot – it’s a community of people who want to learn from each other and have fun together. What gets you out of the bed in the morning? How do you show up for the people and things you care about? They want to know what truly matters to you and what type of legacy you will leave with the program.