Daniel Shaffer, MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2019
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: United States Military Academy, engineering management
Pre-MBA Work Experience: U.S. Army, 5 years
Why business school? Why now? I felt like I received a great deal of experience from the military that I could leverage to have an even greater impact in the private sector. Business school will provide me with skills and an incredible network that will undoubtedly assist in achieving my long-term goals.
Why MIT Sloan? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? MIT Sloan has a community unlike any other. I was astounded by the intellectual capacity of the students that comprise each class and was in awe of their unwavering ambition. MIT Sloan and the greater MIT community are comprised of humble professionals who desire to identify untraditional solutions to create incredible change. The MIT administration really places faith in its students and takes a sincere interest in individual success.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? During my time in the Army, I had the privilege of leading teams of up to 40 soldiers and organizations in excess of 2,500 soldiers in some unique environments. I feel that I can provide my class with a variety of perspectives from my strategic leadership experience while simultaneously receiving development from my classmates’ diverse backgrounds.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I am a diehard Pittsburgh Penguins hockey fan who cried tears of joy in my house, by myself, after they won the 2017 Stanley Cup.
Post-MBA career interests? I’m interested in pursuing a career in financial services.
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? During the application process I believe that I formed relationships with students and admissions committees that provided a very realistic perspective of my target schools. I didn’t have a firm understanding of business school or how it can positively impact my life, so these relationships helped me direct my efforts to find the right community for me.
–One thing you would change or do differently? If I had to redo the application process, I would spend less time obsessing over blogs. I believe that each prospective student has a unique background and he or she needs to identify that background and highlight it to their target schools. Blogs do not tell the whole story. While they provide some very useful advice and data points, I spent hours, if not days, comparing myself to others, which is an ineffective judge of anyone’s candidacy.
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? I would have gladly skipped standardized testing. I spent a great deal of time studying during my free time in Afghanistan and walked away with a score much lower than my target. I was completely demoralized, but I had built a strong support network throughout my target schools and they provided the reassurance I needed to persevere.
Greatest highlight so far at MIT Sloan? The greatest highlight so far at MIT was my trip to Iceland with 30 classmates and other members of the community. We call these “pre-functions” at Sloan, and they are hosted by rising second-year students. I didn’t know anyone else so I had the opportunity to make 30 great friends, and our relationships have only grown since returning.
One thing about MIT Sloan that you didn’t expect before arriving? Every mentor I’ve had who has attended business school has advised that life starts immediately. To some degree, I always doubted the veracity of that, but I can confidently say they were right. We have hit the ground running, however, I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to go through this experience with.
Also, I’ve never used Whatsapp before, and all prospective students need to be prepared for an excessively large number of Whatsapp groups to form.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? I’m most anxious about negotiating the myriad opportunities and priorities that are provided during the first year. There is a huge fear of missing out on clubs, academic events, and social events. However, I believe that identifying priorities early on will really help focus efforts throughout my two years.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year? I’m most excited about refining my career objectives and exploring a completely different world. I’ve really only been exposed to the military since graduating high school, so I find it fascinating to hear about my classmates’ incredible experiences. I could not ask for a stronger community, and I’m grateful for all of the support I’ve received throughout my transition to business school.