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Sean Ellis, Weekend MBA alum
Vice President, ORIX Capital Partners, Boston, MA

Why did you choose to pursue an MBA? Why Booth? 

Before business school, I held roles in product management and consulting. I think everybody looked at me as an operator and I wanted to start acting as an investor who could pull operational levers. Booth was the only school I looked at that didn’t have hard requirements early on, or define the exact path you had to take. Because of the program’s flexibility, my destination ended up different than where I originally started. The flexibility and the reputation of the faculty were both big draws.

What impact did your MBA have on your career?

I worked in product management at my former employer, and, interestingly, didn’t have a lot of data available to make decisions. I told my manager that I was developing new tools and skill sets, so let’s figure out how to get data and use it to shape insights. I started thinking about things more quantitatively, applying frameworks and skills from Booth on our data sets to guide our decisions more rigorously.

When it became apparent that I was ready for a job change, I worked with Career Services to understand my options. I shifted from the mindset of “what am I doing for my employer that allows them to give me time to pursue a degree” to “I’m investing in myself to gain an education and be marketable to both my current and future employers.” It got me thinking about how I wanted to spend the remainder of my Booth career. I ultimately decided to pursue opportunities in private equity. Booth taught me how to tell a great story with meaningful data points associated with it. My coursework helped me think through business challenges and be comfortable with ambiguity and using data when there’s a lot of grey.

"Booth taught me how to tell a great story that has meaningful data points associated with it. It helped me think through business challenges and be comfortable with ambiguity and using data when there’s a lot of grey."

— Sean Ellis, '20

What was the highlight of your time at Booth?

A group of Evening and Weekend students had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong with Dean Sykes to tour the new Hong Kong campus and meet with alumni. The day we were scheduled to arrive, a massive cyclone (hurricane) hit Hong Kong head-on. I made a stop in Beijing before meeting the group and found myself unable to travel on to Hong Kong as operators canceled all flights and trains. A classmate, Steven Liu, is from Beijing and was home with family before meeting the group. Both he and his wife met up with me and took me around town, including to a traditional Peking duck dinner. The trip revealed the Booth network's scope, but the unexpected extra day in Beijing made me appreciate the program's camaraderie.

What advice would you offer to incoming Part-Time students?

You’re pursuing an MBA to develop yourself. There will be conflicts. For example, if you want to attend a class but your employer is apprehensive about the schedule, ask, “is this important to me personally and developmentally?” If the answer is yes, work with your employer to make it happen. Be diligent about what’s vital to your development and prioritize those things. Be intentional. There is a ton of opportunity to fill your plate up, take stock and be honest about how much you can pursue. Once I demonstrated that I could be productive remotely, it was straightforward to build a schedule with my prior employer that allowed weekday classes in the Evening or Full-Time program. Intentionally committing to a non-weekend schedule allowed me to finish on a timeline that was advantageous for me. Maximize your time in Chicago! I minimized solo lunches, always had a coffee chat set up, networked over drinks after class, and cut it close to my flights because I wanted to maximize my time. Get used to running from security to the plane (as a frequent traveler with airline status, this was easier). I usually shared my journey to Chicago with other students who built a sense of community and made for built-in networking.

Read our other graduate profiles

Imah Effiong, Chetan Mahajan and Yingting Wang.