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Real Humans of the MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2023

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sloan mba class of 2023Justin Mueller, MIT Sloan MBA Class of 2023

Age: 30
Hometown: Missoula, Montana
Undergraduate Institution and Major: B.S. Applied Mathematics, U.S. Naval Academy
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): U.S. Navy, Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer for 8 years

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
As I looked at my career options after my tour on an aircraft carrier, I knew that continuing a career in the military was not for me. However, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to broaden my skills and experiences, so I decided to choose a position in Italy where I had the chance to work closely with other countries and perform data-driven analysis. Witnessing the value that me and my team provided, I knew that to continue developing similar skills and scale my personal impact I would need an MBA. This made pursuing an MBA the obvious first step for me once I separated from the Navy.

Why did you choose MIT Sloan? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Given my limited (read: zero) prior experience in the private sector, I desired to attend a program that provided a structured curriculum for the first semester. MIT Sloan’s core semester gives me just that, and once we get through it, we are free to take whatever interests us for the remaining three semesters. This flexibility allows me to be a sponge for a semester and then continue to learn and grow in the fields that I find most important to me. The academic aspect of the school was one of the most important factors in my decision, and I am confident I chose correctly. Additionally, I have immensely enjoyed the passion of all people surrounding MIT Sloan. Their positive and forward-looking attitudes are contagious. Most of the world’s most successful leaders know that to be successful, you must surround yourself with the best. I am grateful for that opportunity with my 450+ classmates.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
As an 8- year Navy Veteran I have had the incredible opportunity to lead some of the most selfless, driven, and dedicated people in America. I have learned so much from my fellow service members and have gained both leadership skills and a deep understanding of the importance of teamwork. I think that I will bring a unique perspective to the MIT Sloan community, and I can only hope to contribute to my classmates just a fraction of what I know I will gain from them.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
In high school, I ran for student body Vice President. My running mate and I performed our campaign speech wearing only boxers. We reversed the adage of imagining the audience in their underwear to calm nerves because our classmates should have been nervous voting for such important positions.

Post-MBA career interests:
After graduation I hope to join a consulting firm where I can work to increase efficiency and influence of companies attempting to improve the world. Ideally I will work with clean energy or sustainability projects while at my firm, which is an area that I am very passionate about.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
– What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Leverage my network for help and advice on writing essays, interviewing, choosing schools, working through career exploration – basically everything MBA related. Without their help I know that I would not have been as successful in my application process.

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would have spent more time evaluating the number of schools that I applied to. I applied to 8 schools which was a huge time commitment, and ultimately where I was accepted was the schools that I was most passionate about from the beginning. The admissions teams definitely have the ability to sniff out the candidates who are the best fit and most passionate about their school.

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
If I could have skipped the essays, that would have been awesome. I have always enjoyed standardized testing so GMAT studying was fun for me, and I enjoy talking to people so the interviews were exciting (albeit stressful) as well. Writing essays, however, is certainly not my strong suit, and was not fun at all. My wife and network of friends are what helped me get through it. They were reviewing and proofreading my essays, which kept me motivated to write so that I didn’t waste all of their time and effort.

What is your initial impression of the MIT Sloan students/culture/community?
In one word – passionate. I have become even more inspired to leave my mark on the world after meeting just a few Sloanies. It is such an inclusive environment predicated on always trying your best and attempting to innovate anything and everything. I am so happy I chose MIT Sloan and could not be happier.

What is one thing you have learned about MIT Sloan that has surprised you?
MIT Sloan is well known for its analytic and quantitative focus, and because of that I had heard a stereotype that Sloanies are less social than other MBA students. In reality, I have found my classmates to be extremely welcoming, inclusive, and constantly organizing events to meet new people. I think this is a testament to Sloan’s admissions process as well as their focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion when building our class.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
I had to take the GMAT online, which was very unexpected. I took it the second day that it was available so there was not a lot of information on how it was being executed. That was quite daunting but ultimately worked out for me. Overall, I think that COVID-19 helped me in the application process because I was living in Italy at the time and everything going virtual allowed me to apply to more schools and schedule application interviews more easily since I did not have to travel for them.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I do not come from business and as such, I am anxious about the feeling of “imposter syndrome.” I know this is a very common worry, especially at some of these top MBA programs, and with fast learning paces and a plethora of social and networking events it is easy to feel behind.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
The Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is certainly the event that I look forward to most. As an Applied Mathematics undergraduate major, I loved reading the papers that were published as a part of the conference. I even made my degree capstone a sports-related analytics project as a result. Outside of that, it is certainly getting to meet the other 449 incredible classmates that I have.

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.