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Real Humans of the Chicago Booth MBA Class of 2023

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chicago mba class of 2023Ben (Binh) Bui, Chicago Booth MBA Class of 2023

Age: 29
Hometown: Vietnam
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Green Mountain College; Double majors in Business and Psychology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry):
5 years in consumer goods (PepsiCo and Vietnam Dairy Product) and 1 year in startups 

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I decided to attend business school because I desired to become a better product manager in tech, building accessible products at a large scale for users to have inclusive experiences and ultimately improving the quality of their lives and our environment. 

My work with consumer products (e.g., bottles and packaging) and tech products (e.g., mobile and web apps) has prepared me for a foundation in strategic planning and some management skills. However, I realized that I needed more hands-on experience in product building and in-depth knowledge of social enterprise. An MBA is a vital step for me to achieve this goal. It creates a safe space for me to maximize my learning and growth while giving me opportunities to meet people from different backgrounds who can become my future business partners in enhancing quality of life and environment through technology.

Why did you choose Chicago Booth? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
With Booth’s flexible curriculum, I can tailor my MBA to gain hands-on experience of both product building and social enterprise. I really look forward to taking the Developing New Products and Services, the Technology Strategy, and the Social Enterprise lab courses where my classmates and I can work with business clients to grow their business and solve users’ real-world problems through our development for new products. 

Another reason I chose Booth is the school’s pay-it-forward culture. There are many mentorship programs at Booth in which second-year students volunteer their time guiding and helping first-years prepare for recruitment. As I have been at both mentee and mentor positions, I truly appreciate the time and guidance from a mentor. The pay-it-forward culture is also the main factor I decided to matriculate at Booth instead of other top schools.  

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I am excited to share with my classmates a project in which my team, after recognizing our customer pain points, worked with cross-functional teams to optimize a product’s package design for better user experience. Great things were that we were also able to cut costs by $0.5M and reduce plastic waste by 14K pounds each year through this packaging optimization. Through this experience, I would argue that good profits are to be derived from a customer-centric and environmentally friendly business. 

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I can grow an avocado tree from a seed, a cup of water or a glass bottle, and 3 sticks. In one of my pictures, you’ll see me with one of my avocado trees in a glass bottle. 

Post-MBA career interests:
I aim to become a product manager at a big tech company. 

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I’d say self-reflection because it really helps us know who we are, what we want to achieve, and how we can get there. I found it useful to conduct an honest SWOT analysis on myself before I started writing my application. It showed me where my knowledge and skill gap were and indeed evaluated whether I really needed an MBA to achieve my goals. 

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would not compare myself to other applicants. It was a waste of time and brought me nowhere. People come from all walks of life, and comparison is an absurd thing to do. 

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I wish I would have skipped all the waiting time between submission and interview invites, between interview and admission results. Victories taste better after a wait, but who doesn’t want to know the result? I was able to get through the waiting time thanks to a group of my close friends. They knew about my MBA application process and scheduled weekly meetups in which we played games or watched movies together.  

What is your initial impression of the Chicago Booth students/culture/community?
My initial impression of the Chicago Booth students is that they are supportive and collaborative. A question posted on our Slack channel usually gets replied by other students within a couple hours, if not minutes. People are very open to form groups and work together. 

What is one thing you have learned about Chicago Booth that has surprised you?
Besides many career- and academic-focused activities, Booth really invests in taking care of our wellness. Many events are organized to provide students with comprehensive wellness services and support our success. We have been offered free plants, counselling, and even dogs on campus. I mean you get chances to pet dogs on campus, not take them home. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
Yes, it did, and I’d like to look at it in a positive way. Covid-19 gave me reasons to request virtual meetings with Boothies and connect with them easily. Also, most people were more likely to agree to meet with me via Zoom during the pandemic. I imagine that in pre-Covid life, it would be really difficult to ask a high management level to meet in person.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I recruit for tech and worry about the unstructured recruitment path. Unlike consulting and investment banking, most tech firms do not have a clear recruitment timeline. However, Career Service and Booth Tech Group have been significantly helpful in providing events, programs, and detailed guidance, so we can develop our own search strategies and effectively recruit.   

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am excited to get to know my classmates and hear their life stories before Booth and their goals after Booth. We have so many incoming trips, and I really look forward to spending time hanging out with them and doing team building activities that we would probably remember for a long time after our MBA. 

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.