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Real Humans of Carnegie Mellon Tepper’s MBA Class of 2020

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David Baars, Tepper MBA Class of 2020

David Baars, Tepper MBA Class of 2020

Age: 32
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Puget Sound, Economics
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years in education from 2008 – 2013; 5 years at a software startup from 2013 – 2018. I started as an individual contributor in the marketing department, and finished as a product marketer and manager of the marketing department.

Why business school? Why now?
I began my career working for a non-profit and as a teacher through Teach For America, and I’ve been helping to grow a bootstrapped software startup for the past five years. In my role as a marketer at a startup, I’ve worked in a variety of positions, managed cross-functional teams, and more than quadrupled the size of the business.

I’m pursuing an MBA to build upon my foundation in sales and marketing, strengthen my analytical and leadership skills, and round-out my business knowledge in areas like operations and finance. I want to use my MBA to become a product marketer at a major tech company.

Why Tepper? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I knew that I wanted to go to a school that had a strong reputation for analytics, had great relationships in the tech industry, and a well-regarded career office. Additionally, I knew that I wanted to go to a school with a diverse student population. Finally, I prioritized schools whose values aligned with my own values.

I was attracted to how Tepper combined quantitative rigor and leadership. I plan to continue to work in the technology industry, and I know that having a robust analytical skill set will be critical to my success. Tepper will help me enhance my data analytics skills and give me the tools I need to succeed as a leader in tech. Moreover, as a student at Carnegie Mellon, I have the opportunity to collaborate with students outside the business school and learn from world-class engineers and computer scientists. I can’t think of a better environment to learn and grow.

The two most valuable things I did to research schools were: (1) speak with current students, (2) visit and attend classes on campus. I found my conversations with current students to be clarifying, and it helped me understand which programs would be a good fit for me career-wise and culturally. Moreover, speaking with students helped me understand how I could contribute at the school.

Throughout my process researching business schools, I was struck by how thoughtful and generous the Tepper students were. It was clear to me from the start that Tepper was a close-knit community. Visiting the campus and sitting in on a class cemented my decision to go to Carnegie Mellon. If you have the opportunity to visit schools, I’d recommend it. 

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2020?
A lot of people come to Business school because they’re looking to pivot roles, but I’ve already had a significant career pivot in my career. Making the shift from teaching math at a high school to product marketing at a tech company had its challenges, but it also has helped me see how interconnected different roles like finance, marketing, and operations are in a business setting. I think I provide a unique, interdisciplinary perspective in class, and that I’m able to take relevant examples from my startup to inform the class discussion.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
Most people don’t know how much of a bike fanatic I am. When I was a teacher in Colorado, I built and sold custom bikes with my friends. We would even decorate the bikes with custom paint jobs to match the buyer’s favorite college or professional sports team. This was my first foray into entrepreneurship and I loved it!

Post-MBA career interests?
I plan to work in a product marketing or project management role at a major tech company. I think that software and technology can have an enormously positive impact on the world, and I’m inspired to work at a major tech company with a global impact. I’m looking at both B2B and B2C companies.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Go and tour business programs that you’re interested in. Most schools will let you sit in on classes and give you a feel for what being at the school will actually feel like. Additionally, you’ll be able to speak with current and prospective students to get a sense of the community at the school.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have spent more time speaking with alumni from different programs. My advice would be to look at your network and see if there is anyone in your network who has attended business schools that you’re interested in.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I stressed out more than I should have about taking the GMAT. With that being said, the prospect of going to business school and meeting other people who were excited about getting their MBA helped me get thru things.

What is your initial impression of Tepper’s students/culture/community?
Tepper is such a collaborative place. From the point of admission onwards, my Tepper classmates created a WhatsApp thread to start communicating with each other. We helped each other coordinate the move to Pittsburgh, find housing and roommates, and navigate the start of the MBA program. Everyone that I’ve met has been smart, friendly, and eager to help one another.

I also met several classmates at a Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) tech trek in San Francisco over the summer. It was incredible to how quickly we were able to connect and support one another. Tepper is known for having a close-knit community, and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of it.

One thing you have learned about Tepper that has surprised you?
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how entrepreneurial my classmates at Tepper are. I have daily conversations with my classmates about their ideas for new businesses, and some of my classmates have actually already started their own side-businesses as full-time MBA’s! The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship is a real gift for the students at Carnegie Mellon, and it won’t surprise me if many of my classmates are founding their own businesses in the next 5 to 10 years.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
There are so many different opportunities available through clubs at the school, and I have a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out). Given the rigor of classes at Tepper and the depth of opportunities for exploration, I have to work hard to prioritize my time every day.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Career exploration. I love networking with alumni and businesses that come on campus, and learning about different opportunities.

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.