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Real Humans of the Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2020

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Izzy Ernst, Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2020

Age: 28

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Oxford University, UK; philosophy, politics, and economics

Pre-MBA Work Experience: 4.5 years, across management consulting, public, and third sector

Why business school? Why now? I spent the last three years working on refugee issues, first for a government agency in Germany, then for an international NGO. It’s hard to describe how much this time has shaped my values and given me a sense of responsibility to do something good with the privileges I’ve had so far in my life. I fundamentally believe that we need government agents who can operate at scale with the right support from multilaterals and expert NGOs to solve the global, humanitarian crises of our time. But I also saw some of the real political and operational challenges they face. I believe a solid management skillset and the ability to think outside the box is still rare, but increasingly more important in the public and third sector. Through the MBA, I look forward to gaining the right toolkit and building my network to make a real difference in this space.

Why Stanford? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? I knew that I wanted more than a traditional business school experience. I actually focused most of my applications on policy schools, given my strong interest in the public and third sector. However, I believe Stanford will offer me something unique. I won’t just get a solid education in management, but I will also be exposed to a really entrepreneurial, innovative environment and way of thinking. The world is changing rapidly, and Stanford, with its geographic and cultural proximity to Silicon Valley, is at the heart of that. I believe understanding this tech-driven world and the opportunities as well as risks that come with it will be vital to affect social change in the future.

Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2020
Izzy Ernst, Stanford GSB MBA Class of 2020

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020? That’s a tough question! I think my management consulting experience has given me a solid basis to approach and crack problems, but I only really learned how much more challenging decisions are played out in practice when I started working for the government. Issues are rarely straightforward, especially when concerning society and peoples’ lives directly. I hope I can bring this practical experience into the classroom to push all of us to not just think about a good answer in theory, but also one that works alongside all the complicating factors in the real world.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I did a number of slightly random, but really fun, internships before and during my time at university. I worked in a water pump factory in Ireland for a month where I got to see how a production line works. I also spent a summer working for a fashion designer in India, which was possibly one of the coolest things I have done.

Post-MBA career interests? For now, I want to go back into the third sector, though I’m not ruling out politics in the long run. It is easy to criticize politicians, particularly in today’s climate. One day, I would like to try and do a better job myself.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? Before I decided to apply last year, I had already booked a holiday with some friends shortly before most deadlines. Leading up to it, I almost ended up cancelling to focus on my applications instead. I didn’t in the end which, retrospectively, was the right decision. It was actually really helpful to get out for a bit, recharge mentally, and then come back to them with a fresh mind (and some healthy time pressure).

–One thing you would change or do differently? I applied to too many schools because I didn’t expect to get into any of my top choices. Applications are so time consuming, though, that I had to rush some of them (which was reflected in the results). If I did it again, I would probably focus more on what I really wanted plus a solid back-up.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? The GMAT! Like most people, I was working whilst I applied, and studying for a standardized test in my free time felt pretty daunting. Luckily, one of my friends was preparing for a big law exam at the same time so I could join him in the library on weekends. At least this way we each had a buddy and could feel sorry for ourselves together.

What is your initial impression of Stanford’s students/culture/community? Everyone seems really passionate, full of energy, and just genuinely nice. It’s clearly a very diverse community, but everyone cares about what they’ve come here to do. I can definitely see myself having a heated debate with someone, then going out for a dance together and picking up again where we left off the next day.

One thing you have learned about Stanford that has surprised you? I didn’t realize that it was possible to do a dual MBA and Master of Public Administration (MPA) with a number of other universities before I talked to current students. If you’re interested in public sector work, you can get the best of both worlds!

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? Being a student again!

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? Being a student again!

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.