Five Graduate School of Business (GSB) students were awarded the Siebel Scholarship this year, in recognition of exceptional leadership and academic contributions. The Siebel Scholars will receive $35,000 for their second year of study and the opportunity to join a network of over 1,700 business leaders who serve as advisors to the Siebel Foundation.
Paul Oyer, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Stanford GSB, wrote that this year’s recipients “are notable for both their diligence to academic pursuits, for the leadership they bring to our school community, and for the potential to be high impact leaders beyond their time at the GSB.”
The Daily interviewed four of the 2023 GSB Siebel Scholars: Josh Rowley MBA ’23 has done extensive work in the field of private equity investment and is passionate about workforce development and advancing the opportunities of employees. Kate Gautier MBA ’23 is interested in applying data, design and technology to build solutions for challenges across a wide range of disciplines, from healthcare or hospitality to the future of work.
Olivier Babin MBA ’23 has a background in investment banking and venture capital and is dedicated to entrepreneurship and supporting the growth of small and medium enterprises. Elizabeth Rosenblatt MBA ’23 J.D. ’22 is a J.D./MBA dual degree candidate and hopes to drive innovation and competition in media and telecommunications markets.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
The Stanford Daily [TSD]: Tell me about your background and career journey. What major turning points and developments have gotten you where you are today?
Josh Rowley [JR]: One of the values that was instilled in me growing up was intellectual curiosity. I loved learning about how the world works, and I found that investing was a really great way to exercise that. I also have always been passionate about aviation and space, and I had a chance to do investing in this sector that I was really passionate about. Finding intersections where you have passions, a skillset and something to offer was a real turning point.
Kate Gautier [KG]: I started my college career at Dartmouth and originally thought I would be pre-med, but I decided to transfer. I reflected on my classes and decided to become a math major because I was drawn to the sort of problems in that space.
I ended up going to Barnard and had a set of really fantastic professors that kept my inspiration for math going. At Barnard, I spoke to one of my professors who was a labor economist. He was starting to work on research that applied labor economics to commercial applications and real businesses. I got involved in his work and we started a company. I was captivated by these problems and I worked on the people analytics project for four years.
Olivier Babin [OB]: Out of undergrad, I got an internship at Goldman Sachs, which was a pivot point for me. I learned a lot at Goldman and realized that impact was the point of my career and pure finance doesn’t satisfy that. I later joined the venture capital firm SoftBank Vision Fund, which was getting started at the time. I felt that venture capital was the right in-between of my finance background and leveraging the skills that I learned in undergrad and through working at Goldman.
Between Goldman and SoftBank, my girlfriend, now wife, was in Kenya. Eventually, I went to join her and we decided to cofound with a colleague and friend a microfinance nonprofit for small and medium businesses in Kenya. This collaboration reinforced both my desire to get closer to entrepreneurship and the impact potential you can have by building a business. That’s one of the primary reasons why I came back to school to explore that entrepreneurship path.
TSD: How has the Stanford GSB Program prepared you for a career in business, and in what ways has it supported you?
JR: The GSB has a focus on innovation and technology that is, I think, greater than most other comparable institutions. So many of my peers are focused on starting companies, looking into problems and thinking about interesting ways to solve them.
The faculty is also unmatched in the academic part of the institution. It is a world-class business education. You get access to the world’s leading researchers, academics and business practitioners. The ecosystem that is created, focused around the classroom, I do not think can be matched anywhere.
KG: The GSB has been a fantastic experience so far. First and foremost, I didn’t come from a stereotypical business corporate background. I studied math which is beautiful and hard but not always practical. Then I started a company with my professor, but it wasn’t like going to a consulting job or a banking job where you get this standard set of learnings. So, I got a ton out of the core curriculum and the first-year basic business training.
An analogy that I heard and think is really applicable is, when you ask business students towards the end of their first year ‘What have you learned?’ it’s sometimes hard to point to specific things. In business, it’s almost more like learning a language. All of a sudden you are in a room at a meeting and you understand what they are talking about and can contribute. It’s like you are speaking the language in a much more complete way, and you have all the tools that you need to be a part of the conversation.
OB: Number one, the people. The students come from so many different backgrounds. They are smart, driven, talented and passionate about different topics.
There is such a vast menu of classes, and you get to interact with a mix of practitioners that are teaching at Stanford part-time while still being a VC investor or CEO of their companies that have tremendous life experience in the business world.
Stanford has an amazing school reputation and was always going to be one of my top choices. I think what reinforced it was the entrepreneurship angle of the school and the human aspect which really came through in the application process. There was a human element that stood out at Stanford. The care and the expectation that everyone has to represent themselves and the organization well come across in every interaction, whether it’s the admissions team, the professors or the people that are involved in clubs. People are really nice and want to do what is best for the school and the students, which is awesome.
Elizabeth Rosenblatt [ER]: Through its curriculum, Stanford GSB has prepared us with the skills to succeed in business — not only technical skills, but also a deeper understanding of interpersonal dynamics and a more complete view of the complex world in which we live. But perhaps more importantly, Stanford GSB has given us a community of incredibly talented individuals who cheer each other on in all endeavors — whether in class, launching a startup or running a marathon.
TSD: What do you hope the future holds for you?
JR: I am planning to go back to an investing role at Viking Global. They are able to invest in things that are new technologies and on the cutting edge of innovation. Also, I think the world is going to have an increasing need for investors who are aware of their businesses holistically as it relates to workforce development. This means giving employees opportunities to grow and scale and being sensitive to the real impact that being someone’s employer has. I think investors have become increasingly aware of this but continue to need to improve.
KG: What I like doing is building stuff, creating something new that was not there before and working on interesting problems. A lot of my peers have a space that they are interested in, such as healthcare, consumer or media. I don’t segment the world quite in that way. While I am working on a project right now for Startup Garage on surrogacy and how to make the surrogacy journey better for carriers and for intended parents, I also think there are super interesting problems in the future of workspace. I don’t see myself as being confined to a particular space. I gravitate more toward interesting problems and the ability to get my hands dirty in solving them.
So what that means for where I go, we’ll see. I see myself probably building something at an early stage, a company of my own, someone else’s, or working on a really cool project for a tech company that’s in an interesting place. I think there’s a through line that relates to helping people have their voice be heard in a way that matters and empowering people to be seen and recognized in a genuine way.
OB: I’m starting a company with a co-founder at GSB. We’re both really excited about working together in a partnership and the idea itself. I enjoyed venture capital and I could see myself going back eventually. I love the education system and school, and I would love to be teaching a class part-time as a future goal.
TSD: What has your experience with the Siebel Scholars Program been like thus far, and what do you hope to gain from this opportunity?
KG: There is a really great community at the Siebel Scholars Program. It’s been around for several years now, and each year there is a class. We get connected with not only our current class of Scholars but also the alumni that have come before us.
Personally, I am really grateful that it’s an interdisciplinary organization because a lot of really interesting work and interesting thinking is happening at intersections of multiple disciplines. So, to have this scholarship that’s not just about business I think is really great.
TSD: Can you share any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and students interested in business?
JR: Intellectual curiosity is the best predictor of success for people in investing roles and in broader business roles. The people who add the most value to the business world are people who can see things a little differently than everyone else, and I believe that often comes from a deep intellectual curiosity.
Reach out to people. Go talk to one person a week that is doing what you think might be worth doing and you can learn so much from them. That is one of the best things you can do, especially early on, if you want to learn about all the different paths you can take. It will shed a lot of insight on where you think you might find yourself best fit.
KG: Particularly in today’s society, and particularly at a school like Stanford, we are all extremely good at jumping through hoops and checking boxes. We have so much less practice doing something just for the sake of doing it or studying something just for the sake of learning. I find that those activities, not only are they the purest expression of our human freedom, it also is precisely those activities that will teach you and turn you into an interesting person with a perspective on the world, and ultimately that’s what you need to be to succeed in business and in life.
OB: If you had told me when I was graduating undergrad that I wouldn’t stay in finance for my entire career and I would go into the entrepreneurship route, I don’t think I would believe you. Be flexible. It’s good to have plans and ambition but be flexible to changes over time and take opportunities that are presented to you. You regret the opportunities that you don’t take, not the mistakes that you make by taking opportunities.
ER: I owe much of where I am today to mentors that were willing to give me opportunities to try things outside my comfort zone and provide constructive guidance to help me succeed. I would encourage aspiring students interested in business to seek out mentors and constructive feedback and to remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint.