Stanford GSB Essay Samples

Stanford GSB seeks outstanding and diverse people who seek a transformative experience at Stanford GSB and in turn, seek to transform lives, organizations and the world — that is, to make a significant impact. The GSB is looking for people who will make a big difference and have a better shot than most in being able to execute. Stanford GSB students often have an ‘unexpected’ trait, talent, or experience. The Stanford application essays are essential to showcasing character and experiences as well as the key evaluation criteria of leadership, intellectual vitality, and personal qualities.

Successful Examples of Stanford GSB Essays

Here’s a snapshot of the caliber of expertise on our SBC team.

What matters most to you and why?

Respect is the one word that sums up my life’s passions. At first glance, this simple word may seem a bit vacuous to describe something so profound to my being. But respect has truly been the guiding principle in my life: the one that I learned at an early age, the one that has influenced my decisions, and the one that drives me today.

As the son of American expatriates, I was raised abroad in a sea of diversity. To foster our development, my parents immersed my brother and me in local culture. We attended bullfights and visited flea markets tucked into the hillsides of the Andes Mountains. Living and interacting with residents of these distant lands taught us to respect those different than us. Through active involvement with the local heritage and customs, we learned that people are people everywhere and that all initially deserve my consideration and respect.

As I matured, this worldview guided my social interactions and ultimately shaped my diverse group of friends. The lessons of respect, taught from my experiences abroad, have given me an open and accepting personality. When I meet new people, I consider their circumstances and try to appreciate their point of view. As we learn about each other, it’s those select occurrences when a new person treats me with the same regard – considers my feelings and returns the respect I bestow – that we initiate the bonds of true friendship. This dogma has helped me forge a diverse band of brothers that serves as a foundation in my life. I met one of my adopted brothers in high school. He was a Russian immigrant whose parents had forsaken him at age 16. He worked the night shift at McDonald’s to support himself, but was kind enough to buy me, a stranger, dinner. A man who would offer so much when he had so little, especially to a stranger, earned my respect. He represents a fraction of my extended family. While each of my companions holds different and important beliefs, our underlying respect ties us together.

My grandfather furthered my lessons on respect. Born in Russia in 1927, he immigrated to the United States at age 21 as the Communist Party planted its roots. As a displaced immigrant, he arrived without friends and knowing little English. Nevertheless, he held two jobs, attended night school and completed his mechanical engineering degree in nine years – all while supporting a growing family of five. My grandfather’s life story and his sacrifices have instilled a strong work ethic in me. More importantly, the admiration I have for his achievements has engendered my deepest respect. His accomplishments taught me to respect my past and seize opportunities to honor those who came before me. While not an explicit lesson, I have applied these values to the core of my decision-making process. To dismiss what was surrendered for my well-being is to disrespect my heritage.

Respect drove my decision to attend the University of Alabamaon a merit-based scholarship. Although I had other options, I felt that my family had worked very hard to support me, and the opportunity to earn my education at minimal cost would, in some small way, repay my family. I remembered my grandfather’s teachings as I earned my degree. Given my free tuition, I crammed my schedule with courses in biological engineering and finance. I joined a prominent fraternity and established a tutoring program for struggling members. Using my personal computer, I formed a small online business to generate revenue for personal expenses. Having the luxury of some free time, I invested myself in community service activities. Teachings of respect have guided my life. They influence the way I interact, the way I make decisions, and the way I want others to treat me. Respect is at the heart of my friendships, and it is respect that gives me my drive to succeed. I strive to respect myself and earn respect from my family, friends, and co-workers, as well as from those who I have yet to meet. My values of respect have shaped me and will continue to define me.

What matters most to you and why?

When I was a little girl, my dream was to grow up and marry the king of Morocco. Yes, I admit, I wanted to be a queen, wear beautiful clothes, and live in a marvelous palace. But deep inside of me, I think I also wanted to play a role in Morocco’s destiny, to help lead it into an era of modernity. For me, the king of Morocco represented the Moroccan people and, as such, was the person who could do the most for our country. To my young mind, he seemed like the ideal partner to accompany me in my crusade. Growing up, I became more realistic and gave up the marriage goal. (Both the king of Morocco and I are married, so there is not a big chance of it happening anyway!). However, I still maintain dreams of helping Morocco develop. Accepting responsibility for these dreams has meant accepting that the path that best enables me to accomplish them may actually require me to live outside Morocco for some time. What matters most to me is keeping in touch with my Moroccan roots and doing what I can to give back to where I came from.

?My first sixteen years in Morocco contributed to my deep love for its rich traditions, varied culture, and contradictions. The Moroccan people are very warm and friendly. Strangers are welcomed into private homes and invited to share meals from the same plate. The Moroccan idea of family is much broader than in the West: it encompasses parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, neighbors, even friends. In fact, following custom, I call my mother’s girlfriends “aunt.” Since a typical family gathering may include 100 people, I usually bump into a lot of aunts. ?The Moroccan cuisine, cooked in terracotta containers, mirrors the country’s diverse origins. Spices from different origins–saffron, curcuma, cumin, cinnamon—are mixed into a savory blend that is often cited as one of the most appreciated in the world. Morocco’s unique geographical position, between the Western and oriental worlds, between the North and the South, also makes it a historical crossroads of cultures: the Berbers from the Atlas Mountains, the Spanish from Andalusia, and the Arabs from the Middle East. As a result, each region of the country possesses its own unique identity, which contributes to the national culture as well as its own legacy. For example, since I am from Rabat, the capital of Morocco, at my wedding I was proud to wear the wedding dress specific to the “Rabati’s bride.”

?At the same time, Morocco is a true melting pot of world religions. It is perhaps one of the few places on earth where Muslims and Jews live in perfect harmony. On his deathbed, King Mohamed the Fifth, who led Morocco to independence from France, told his son, the soon to be King Hassan the Second: “take care of my Jewish people.” I was educated to live among all religions, and my best friends were Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We respected their holidays, and they respected ours. We learned their principles as they learned ours. This multidimensional education taught me one of my most important principles, tolerance, especially essential for someone destined to live abroad. This principle has always helped me to understand others and respect their opinions even if it completely contradicted my own.

?As I grew up, I also became more aware of Morocco’s contradictions: the great differences between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” the illiteracy (50% of the population can’t read), the disturbing plight of many women (in rural areas, 90% of women are illiterate), and the weak economy. Yet, despite all this, I believe that Morocco can find growth and prosperity by investing in information technology, particularly since every year Morocco trains many high-quality engineers eager to be part of its economic development.

?Some of my optimism for Morocco stems from my pride in the accomplishments of my own family. During the 15th century, my ancestors, engineers and sailors from Spain, fled from religious persecution into Morocco (specifically, Fez and Rabat) where they became ship builders and traveled the seas. This heritage of travel fits well with my sense of myself today as a multicultural person–I too am driven to seek out challenging international experiences. As a young girl, for example, I traveled all over Europe, South Africa, and along the Mediterranean Sea. Later, I lived in France for seven years and have lived in the United States now for two.

?Naturally, I have inherited my family’s interests and skills. From my father I inherited quantitative strengths and the problem-solving temperament of an engineer. He is a reflective but independent man who owns his own carton manufacturing business. I spent many hours in his factory learning about operations and managing people (my father has 70 employees, from factory workers and engineers to salesmen and administrators). From my father I also inherited my love of nature. The country is still where we both go to find calm away from the pressures of life. Some of my favorite memories are the hours we spent discussing the hazards and pleasures of agriculture on the country property where he grew strawberries.

?My mother, however, has been my true role model, and it was from her that I inherited my drive and leadership skills. She is Morocco’s first dermatologist and first female professor of medicine. She has always been a great inspiration to me and a great source of emotional support. The grand lesson she taught me is that if a woman wants to be successful, she has to be the best, better than any male. This is a rule she has always applied to herself.

?Even my mother embodies Morocco’s contradictions. She is a very modern woman who assumes great responsibility in her professional and private lives, but a traditional woman as well. While she supports my loftiest ambitions she also insists that I learn how to cook and learn more housekeeping skills! So, during my vacations, at her insistence, I took cooking classes to become the more “perfect” housewife.

?Throughout my childhood, family conversations often focused on Morocco’s problems and ways to solve them. My mother’s concern for Morocco led to her election as director of the education and healthcare department of Forum 21, a not-for-profit organization that proposes situation analyses and makes recommendations to Morocco’s legislators. Like my mother, I also attend the Forum 21 sessions to discuss Morocco’s problems with other participants. Part of my patriotic impulse to help Morocco stems from my parents and the socially focused environment they created.

?I was educated in a French school in the capital of Morocco, Rabat. Not only did I have both French and Moroccan professors, but the French school also attracted all the foreigners living in Rabat. As a result, it has always seem perfectly natural to me to have classmates or co-workers from all over the world: Europe, Japan, China, Africa, the U.S.. ?At the French school, we were taught French history, French literature, French civilization, and even France’s civil rights and laws! It’s no wonder that I became eager to discover this country from the inside, and perhaps other challenges as well. I also wanted to study in the engineering field because I was not only attracted by quantitative disciplines but also because I knew Morocco needed all kinds of engineers (mechanical, chemistry, software…) to build its developing economy. After my high school graduation, my excellent grades enabled me to obtain my French high school diploma with the highest honors, ranking first among 300 senior students. In 1994, I was admitted to the most selective Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles, the preparatory classes for scientific and engineering French schools, at the Lycee Louis Le Grand in Paris. My peers were all the best students of their high schools, and the competition was tougher than anything I had known. The only things that mattered to me then were mastering math, physics, chemistry, philosophy, and the next subject so I could be among the 5 percent who made it into the best schools. At Lycee Louis Le Grand, students are called “taupes” (“moles” in English) because the study program is so intense you have to bury yourself in your books with little chance of ever seeing daylight. After a few months, many students feel like giving up and leaving the program (30% actually do after the first year). I found myself in a radically new environment, facing the additional challenge to adapt to a harsh competitive process. Fortunately, my determination saved me from becoming discouraged by the workload. At the end of these grueling preparatory classes, I took competitive exams for France’s scientific schools. I was admitted to all the best French Grandes Ecoles and joined Ecole Polytechnique (whose acceptance rate is around 3%) as the only female foreigner admitted out of 6,000 applicants!

?While I was a student at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, I met my husband, a Moroccan national who was born in France and has lived in France, Turkey, and the United States. This encounter was another kind of cross-cultural experience for me as my husband is a Moroccan expatriate who has never lived in Morocco. Our visions of Morocco are clearly different, and this has always put some spice in our relationship! He is also passionate about negotiation and psychological impacts of interpersonal relationships.

?After 4 more years in France, where I worked as a Business Analyst for Arthur D. Little, My husband and I decided to start from scratch and begin a new life on the west coast of the U.S. For him, it meant fulfilling an old dream, an academic career (in fact, he is now a third-year Ph.D. student in the Organizational Behavior Department of the Stanford Graduate School of Business). For me, it meant Silicon Valley, the “Mecca” of new technologies, start-ups, and entrepreneurs; the home of brilliant young technology “freaks” and billionaires; and a legendary place of advanced knowledge. In the Valley, I could learn even more about telecommunications and the Internet, my practice area at Deloitte and the industry in which I am determined to build my career. Three months after transferring to Deloitte’s Palo Alto office, I began to realize that staying in consulting, where one is by definition more an observer than an actor, would prevent me from being at the center of things. To be at the leading edge of technology advances, I decided instead to work in a research & development position and joined France Telecom R&D.

?Since 1994, then, I have lived the “expatriate’s life” outside Morocco for more than a third of my young life. It might seem natural for me to have distanced myself from my Moroccan preoccupations and my crusade for Morocco’s development. But my extended absence from my homeland has actually intensified my love for it, and I still return to Morocco four times a year (whether I am in France or in the U.S.).

?I express my love for Morocco in many ways. In my personal life, I have maintained most of my close friendships in Morocco, and visit each of them as much as I can when I return there. I also fast during the month of Ramadan and observe the same Ramadan traditions that I would if I were in Morocco (I cook the traditional soup, Harira, for example, and I gather with friends for the traditional breaking of the fast).

?I also express my love through community service. As a student at Ecole Polytechnique, I joined the AMGE, the Moroccan French Grandes Ecoles Students Association. In particular, I was in charge of organizing the annual job fair, which invited Moroccan companies operating in France to meet with and recruit Moroccan students studying in France. In 1998, I convinced ten of these companies to spend around $2,000 each to participate in the fair, and they eventually hired seven Moroccan students for entry and mid-level positions. ?In 1999, I also led the organization of a festival at Ecole Polytechnique that AMGE sponsored to help Paris-area French and European students discover Moroccan music and food. I arranged to have Moroccan belly dancers perform and served Moroccan specialties and mint tea. The event was a total success: more than 500 individuals attended, and since then, the Moroccan festival has become an annual institution organized every year by the AMGE in a different Grande Ecole.

?As an Ecole Polytechnique student, I also joined the humanitarian association, Action Sociale de la KES (ASK), which organized tutoring sessions in the poorer suburbs of Paris. Through ASK, I began tutoring Malika, a nine-year-old Moroccan girl who, knowing only Arabic, could not understand her classes. For a year and a half I tutored her in French and math for two hours every week. She opened up to me personally and told me stories about her life and her dreams. At her end of year party, I was happy to be able to meet her family and congratulate them in Arabic for their daughter’s accomplishment. She was admitted to the next grade.

?These first experiences at helping Morocco “from a distance” were intensely satisfying and inspired me to think of bigger, more ambitious ways to help. Two years ago, my father and my brother created a company called that promotes Moroccan handicrafts by selling them all over the world via a web site. I was closely involved from the beginning as a shareholder, and I was particularly responsible for selecting the pieces of Moroccan handicraft we sold and transforming part of them to make them more appealing for the western market, like changing colors and materials while keeping the original features. I spent my vacations traveling around Morocco, meeting with craftspeople and convincing 60 of them, representing more than 15 corporations, to become our partners in showing off the beauty of Moroccan crafts. My challenge was to have them agree to sign off on our “quality charter,” which requires them to respect copyright laws and satisfy Western quality standards. Today, it is a successful company with revenues of over $500,000 in 2004, mainly in Europe. At Stanford, I would like to work on a project to learn how to promote the company in the United States and write a business plan toward this goal.

?In Morocco, I am also one of the founders and since 1999 have been the president of a small association that is dedicated to improving Morocco’s educational system. We publish a quarterly journal on the status of education in Morocco, and we fund 20 scholarships a year for Moroccans aged 8 to 12 who lack family or resources, so they can study in Morocco’s best schools. From my own finances, I also personally sponsor two of these scholarships (amount in Moroccan currency : 15,000 DH, which represents $1,500) and meet with my two young scholars every time I return to Morocco. At Stanford I would to give this association an international dimension by building new relationships with similar U.S. associations, either through a summer internship or through the Africa Business Club. We would ask for support from U.S. companies that deal directly with Morocco. With these funds, we would also organize immersion trips to Morocco for U.S. high school students and to the U.S. for Moroccan high school students.

?I have also integrated my love for Morocco into my professional life. I am the project manager in San Francisco for Studio Creatif, France Telecom R&D’s futurist lab for thinking imaginatively about the future of the organization. I am in charge of designing new concepts of telecommunication services to be offered by France Telecom to CEOs in 2012. In 2002, I interviewed 30 CEOs and would-be CEOs in France and in the United States to understand how they picture themselves in the future. To enrich the study and give it a stronger international dimension, I decided to include Moroccan CEOs in my sample since it is important to me to look at the other, developing world side of the “globalization” coin. So, during one of my vacations in Morocco I interviewed five leading Moroccan CEOs. Finally, I have also integrated my love for Morocco into my professional long-term goals. As I elaborate in essay B, I plan to take advantage of my position at the international division of a global telecommunications company to contribute to help North African countries develop telecommunications and Internet industries.

?My ability to deepen my contribution to Morocco’s future will not rely only on my professional experiences and skills, however. My broad international experiences—in France, Europe, Africa, and the U.S.–have given me interpersonal skills and a sense of perspective that will be essential as I implement my ambitious my dreams of helping Morocco.

?Seeking out multicultural experiences is one of my joys. When I was a Research Assistant at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, in 1999, I had an American roommate and an Indian roommate. Though I considered myself, as a Parisian and Moroccan, to be a cosmopolitan person, Anuradha was the first Indian I had ever met. We quickly began sharing our stories and experiences about our countries, and exchanging our favorite dishes. We both realized that though Morocco and India are distant geographically, our cultures and traditions were very similar. For example, we both had a henna ceremony in our weddings. This instinct to share and learn will help me build partnerships as I work toward Morocco’s brighter future.

?Today, as a Product Manager at France Telecom Research & Development, I am in charge of pitching eBusiness-related R&D project proposals to internal sponsors in France in order to win budgets for our research and manage these R&D projects. This requires me to play the role of intermediary between ours labs in France and San Francisco. As such, I often have to switch fluently from one culture to the other. Because of the time difference, the American team frequently uses email to send proposals, exchange comments, and obtain approvals. Even though I was not a huge fan of emails in France, I quickly adopted it as a primary means of communication since the San Francisco office prefers written to oral exchanges. In fact, I became so immersed in American office culture that I almost forgot that the French still prefer direct, phone-based exchanges for in-depth discussions. Learning how to work comfortably and well in the style that is most appropriate for a given culture has helped me to obtain the research budgets I need to achieve our goals.. These intercultural skills will also help me help Morocco.

?Though it looks like I may never have the chance to become Queen of Morocco, I will gladly settle for having a big impact on the future of Morocco.

What matters most to you and why?

Sharing a makeshift cake with strangers at the Charlotte airport as the clock strikes midnight on my birthday. Meeting with a Partner on the mountains of Park City, so breathless by the elevation I can barely get a word in. Dashing from an anniversary dinner to catch an impromptu flight to London for a project kick-off. My resume will have detailed my professional experiences to-date, but underneath each of the bullets are dozens of memories like the above. Upon reflection of these memories, one thing I know for sure is that I am not the typical Consultant. I have chosen adaptability to define me above other characteristics that may have hindered me from pursuing this path.

My favorite personality test will tell you that I am introverted, intuitive, a thinker, and a planner. Growing up, I was markedly different from my sisters, and you could typically find me reading in the clothing racks as my mother took us shopping, or out loud in the back seat of our family car while my sisters tried to listen to their favorite N*Sync song. As I considered my future career, my instinct told me that an introverted bookworm should not pursue a client-facing, heavily social and unpredictable career filled with endless experiences like the above.

Three years later, I am thankful that I overcame these fears and insecurities and adapted myself to the life of a Consultant, fully embracing these experiences. For others, adaptability might mean something else, but everyone will have to embrace some version of adaptability in the near future. At X, my focus has been building a market around the Future of Work – how technology, demographics, and globalization will change the nature of work. I have become a leader in this space, crafting our response to clients’ questions for dozens of discussions, pursuits, and conferences. I have succeeded at developing compelling thought leadership, but the fundamental challenge of driving this point of view in market is similar to the fears I once held as I embarked on my career.

I believe the central theme of the Future of Work is the concept of adaptability – the need for companies and individuals alike to be agile and willing to engage in lifelong learning to keep up with today’s constant rate of change. In the same way that I overcame my fears to pursue my passions, millions of workers (and their leaders) will have to overcome theirs in order to succeed in a future that is increasingly uncertain and irrevocably different – and that is a difficult pill to swallow.

Adapting to uncomfortable situations does not come naturally to many. Fortunately, my personal journey and background has accelerated this skill for me. I am the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and the daughter of a failed small business owner who reinvented himself at 50. The epitome of strength and adaptability, my grandparents came to America after being liberated from the camps, started a family in Queens and opened a small Jewish bakery that was eventually passed on to my father. By the time I was born, the business was being overrun by supermarkets and my father’s lack of passion became its downfall. I grew up in an environment of uncertainty, but also with a role model who learned an entirely new trade after a 25-year career and found a job that excites him every day.

The time came for me to embrace the strength and adaptability of my forefathers this past November, when my mother suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. Moving forward seemed inconceivable, but the following year turned out to be the highlight of my career to-date. The same week that my mother passed, I was offered a role directly supporting a Human Capital Partner in building a new practice grounded in the thought leadership I helped to develop in the Future of Work space. Despite my personal hardships, I could not pass up the opportunity to be involved in transforming the face of Human Capital. I took on the role, and was immediately immersed in setting the strategy for the new business that will deliver large-scale transformations following Future of Work discussions. This has meant gaining experience with cognitive technologies, considering how they will fundamentally change jobs, and developing new ways to transform the workforce for the future. It has been a fast-paced role, vastly different from traditional Consulting client work. Adaptability has revealed itself not only in the wake of life’s hardest moments, but also during exciting times like these, pushing me to take on ambiguous and advanced roles at X.

My insight into adaptability has been a personal journey that impacted not only my professional focus, but also my community work. Much of the struggle my father experienced in changing his career path came from not having a college degree. As a first generation college graduate, my passion for literacy and education access has steered me to become a leader in my community as a founding Board member of X and a volunteer high school mentor. I try to instill adaptability in the students I mentor and the non-profit leaders and school administrators I have the pleasure of working with, sharing the opportunities afforded by the same disruption my clients face such as rethinking the skills we teach our students, crowdsourcing global expertise to the classroom, and augmenting the physical classroom with digital tools. Adaptability in this context does not only mean prevailing over hardship to pursue your passions, but also fundamentally changing the way we think about delivering education in the future.

Grounded in the concept of adaptability, my personal, professional and community experiences have informed my dream of becoming an eminent strategist on transitioning Fortune 500s to the Future of Work and a Board member of innovative education NPOs transforming how we develop the future workforce. In pursuing an MBA from HBS, I will be able to bring my own unique perspectives and ability to adapt to the unparalleled case method, peer and alumni network and global community. This will accelerate and broaden my thinking on how to instill adaptability into organizations and our future workforce, ultimately deepening my ability to lead through the transition to the Future of “X”– work, education – you fill in the blank.

What matters most to you and why?

Being a part of the growth story for both my nation and my family’s business is what matters most to me. My experiences have led to my strong attachment to home and family, and I feel a strong responsibility to develop a legacy for Brasil and for Mendonca Propriedades, our family real estate development firm.

In retrospect, growing up in Sao Paulo was an experience of tremendous exposure to both wealth and poverty. Through our family business I interacted often with both middle class people like my own family, and those who had trouble paying their rent. This was just life as I knew it, and the culture and vitality of the city was what I focused on as I enjoyed international cuisine and celebrated Carnaval every year. My mother and father enjoyed art and culture and often took us to museums and events. My experience of Sao Paulo and Brasil was one of excitement and color.

When I attended University in the United States I was exposed to the stark contrast between my colorful, tropical city and what life was like in the US. While I was accustomed to the visual contrast between rich and poor in Sao Paulo, Ithaca New York was a city where most people lived a similar life. When I hosted friends in my home in Brasil they were shocked by the favelas (slums) visible through my high rise apartment windows. I was able to see my city with new eyes, and I wanted to do something about it.

Brasil is poised to be the economic powerhouse of South America, and I want to be part of this development and be a force for greater economic equality. The new opportunities in Brasil should be available to everyone – and the key is both access to sanitary dwellings and education. Since college I have volunteered to spend a few weeks a year teaching soccer to children in favelas, along with tutoring. I also run a fundraising effort every year for education in Brasil and have encouraged many of my friends to join my volunteer vacations.

In the long-term I plan to orient my career around developing our family business to have both a for-profit and pro-bono element. As I assist my father in growing our development activities in Sao Paulo and other cities in Brasil I will also set up a program where our employees may donate their time to help non-profit development organizations build affordable housing for the poorest residents of our city.

The economic renaissance in Brasil must lead us both to stronger development and to help those who are less fortunate. I plan to develop this legacy both for the city I love and for my family. I hope to see my children take over our business someday, and I want them to be proud of what we have accomplished.

What are your career aspirations? How will you education at Stanford help you achieve them?

We all need energy; energy is the basis of modern life. For the last 150 years, petroleum products have formed that foundation. These diverse petroleum derivatives, ranging from gasoline to cosmetics, have supported our economy and improved our quality of life. However, I’m a firm believer that there is now a better way.

My father, a petroleum geologist, explored worldwide for oil and gas. We lived overseas for many years, and his career sparked my interest in the energy industry. As a teenager, I realized that traditional petroleum energy was not for me. I learned that oil and gas would eventually run out, and that new technically and economically viable energy sources needed to be found. This belief guided my pursuit of a career in renewable fuels, and I am driven to find cleaner, more efficient fuels.

In college, I studied biological engineering and finance. Learning biology was critical to understanding the building blocks of renewable fuels. Engineering trained me to analyze the issues, assemble key information, and solve complex problems. Accounting and finance built my comprehension of project economics, financial markets, and key drivers for successful energy companies.

After graduation, I joined the United States Biodiesel Board (USBB) and became immediately engrossed in all technical aspects of our biodiesel programs. Given my diverse background, I was also tasked with managing regulatory and development projects. Working for a non-profit trade association at the forefront of renewable fuels exposes me to the breadth of a new industry. This opportunity has helped me understand the direction of the renewable fuels industry and my future role in it, while confirming that an MBA will improve my ability to achieve positive results for the industry and society.

Attending Stanford will immerse me in a collaborative culture geared toward confronting the challenges of the world’s future energy needs. The university’s Global Climate and Energy Project is focused on the development of environmentally friendly global energy systems. Stanford students have created the Energy Crossroads group to consider new energy solutions. Grants by the Gates Foundation and Lawrence Kemp to Stanford’s Program on Food Security and the Environment have enabled faculty and students to evaluate the worldwide impact of biofuels production. Stanford’s reputation attracts leaders searching to merge technological breakthroughs with venture capital funding.

Post-MBA, I will return to the renewable fuels industry by working for a start-up feedstock company or a venture capital firm. Both career paths require a solid understanding of finance, marketing, and economics – skills that a Stanford MBA will strengthen. Both paths will also use the technical, management, and leadership skills I forged at USBB and honed at Stanford. I am confident I will use what I’ve learned so far, add new skills and knowledge through a Stanford MBA, and help bring cleaner energy resources to the world.

What are your career aspirations? How will you education at Stanford help you achieve them?

As the high-tech industry is increasingly global, it is important for today’s high-tech manager to understand international business issues. My background and goals align with the Stanford MBA program. As I explained in my first essay, I want an MBA program with a diverse student body. One of the most attractive things to me about the GSB program is that such diversity is emphasized and valued.

It is no secret that Stanford’s Bay Area location is ideal for my goals in the high-tech industry. Studying in the center of Silicon Valley will provide access to many learning opportunities (such as lecturers from that industry, case studies, working on projects for local companies, visits to such companies and more). The location can facilitate finding the right job for my talents and interests when I graduate.

While earning a general management degree will help me achieve my short-term goal of becoming a project manager, the fact that I can build my own personal program at Stanford will help me focus on my long-term goals as well. I am very interested in unique courses such as “Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital,” which relate tomy long-termgoal of becoming the CEO of my own company.

What are your career aspirations? How will you education at Stanford help you achieve them?

As a child I often traveled with my father to oversee our apartment buildings in Sao Paulo. We owned several small buildings in humble neighborhoods, and my father regularly performed maintenance himself. As the fortunes of the city improved, he was able to finance the development of a larger apartment building when I was in high school. This project was fascinating to me as I observed his meetings with bankers, contractors, and even a marketing consultant. The building was a success, and he has since developed several additional properties.

The interest in my family business led me to apply to the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. My aspiration was to learn about the hospitality business and work with my father to develop high end hotel properties to add to our real estate portfolio. While in school I learned a tremendous amount about US business, and was inspired to learn more afterwards by taking a job in management consulting immediately after graduation. My goal was to apply best practices from my experience with other companies to our family real estate firm.

After two years at BCG covering a variety of industries and focusing on operational efficiency, I moved back to Brasil and joined Mendonca Propriedades as our VP of Business Development. This is a new role and I work with my father, the CEO, and our CFO and COO to identify new areas of expansion for the business. Over the last year I have successfully sourced financing for our first hotel project. We will break ground next month.

Between Cornell and BCG, I have a strong foundation for my future goal to take over the family business and develop not only throughout Brasil but also in other South American countries. However, the last year of working in the family business has shown that I still have much to learn. I have been able to bring my knowledge of best practices in global business to inform my father and the other C-level executives, however, we need to hire a more professional team going forward and I need to develop my leadership and management skills to be an even more effective general manager of a rapidly growing and operationally complex organization. Stanford’s unparalleled leadership development, starting with Touchy Feely and extending into courses like Managing Groups and Teams as well as The Executive Challenge are directly related to my goals. I am excited to study with Professor James Patell, whose work establishing partnerships with Stanford and non-profits in developing countries inspires me. I know my experience at Stanford will position me to have a meaningful impact on both Mendonca Propriedades and Brasil.

Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

I joined the United States Biodiesel Board (USBB) as a technical projects manager straight out of college. USBB had recently hired a consultant to bring financial discipline and project accountability to its independent project managers. Historically, our project managers were good at taking action, but poor at communicating deliverables and financial progress. As recommended by the consultant, USBB’s Operations team hired an IT firm to build a digital platform that could communicate project progress to ensure completion within budget. Unfortunately, our project managers preferred the freedom of the past and collectively blocked transition to the platform. I answered the challenge by using my leadership and collaborative skills to drive a solution that positively changed the way USBB operates.

Recognizing that a failure to implement the system would continue the cycle of incomplete projects and fiscal irresponsibility, I convinced Operations and the consultant that I could rally the program managers. As a young program manager, I commanded little influence over this freewheeling group. They perceived me as a tenderfoot, issuing directions with no real understanding of USBB’s workings. I approached the team as a respectful, technologically savvy co-worker who could assist in the transition. I hosted webinars, training our program managers and key contractors, and worked late, familiarizing the staff with the platform. I brought the consultant and managers together to share ideas about platform improvements. I even volunteered to manage others’ projects on the platform until they became comfortable using it. The transition went smoother than anticipated as the USBB staff rapidly grew comfortable with the communication platform. For the first time, project finances were under control, and now the platform is the backbone for USBB’s operations.

Project managers and Operations have thanked me for championing the platform, and the consultant highlighted my contributions to my boss. Recognizing and respecting the other side’s viewpoint is critical in working together to reach the best solution. This philosophy, coupled with my leadership skills, helped me pull USBB out of the digital Dark Ages.

Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization.

When I was first hired as COO of Hobby Stop, a hobby supplies retailer with 50 employees and gross revenues of approximately $2.5M per year, our six-month-old flagship location was losing $35K per month. Because I had no prior operating or managerial experiences, I was quite apprehensive. I was given complete control over purchasing, marketing, payroll, and customer service, and I discovered that I have the ability to inspire and lead.

My first step was to rely on what I knew best – finance. Drawing on my experience as an investment banker, I identified the “low hanging fruit” through careful analysis of the stores’ financial statements. I developed two broad financial objectives: boost revenues by increasing store traffic and cut costs by reducing payroll, maintenance and merchandise expenditures. One of the first leadership lessons was that I couldn’t accomplish these goals by myself. I wanted to lead by example and inspire my employees by demonstrating that I was part of the team. So during the first few weeks, I rotated through the various jobs and learned the business from the ground up. I worked at the cashier’s station, cleaned the store, stocked the supply room, and composed ads for the newspaper. After my rotation through the operations, I took a leap of faith and promoted two young but motivated employees to be my assistant managers.

Another important lesson I learned about leadership was how crucial it is to earn my employees’ trust. Drawing from my experience on a management consulting assignment at Advent Games, I interviewed every employee and asked him or her the following four questions: “What is your role? What would you like to be doing? What can be improved? What do we do right that we shouldn’t change?” These one-on-one meetings encouraged a sense of ownership and signaled my willingness to listen and learn. By demonstrating an interest in every employee’s concerns and doing my best to accommodate them, I was able to earn their trust. At first, they were apprehensive. I collected the feedback, and I made concrete changes based on the suggestions I received: modifying the dress code, granting employees purchase discounts, and eliminating onerous operating policies.

Overall, I set expectations high with the Hobby Stop team and trusted that my employees could meet them. The most effective change I made was to focus my employees on common goals. I created employee incentives and rewards for key metrics like repeat customer purchases and inventory turns by category. I instituted new policies to improve customer service and the quality of the customer’s experience by designating specific employees to customer service issues while another group focused exclusively on sales. As a result, a customer-oriented culture developed, and I saw my employees bend over backwards to give the customer the most exceptional experience possible. The results were promising; we brought the flagship store to break even within three months.

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Meet Erin, who was Assistant Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) and Director of MBA Admissions at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

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