Home / Resources / News / Highlights of the MBA at Yale SOM: An Interview With Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean of Admissions

Highlights of the MBA at Yale SOM: An Interview With Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean of Admissions

25 min. readIn this interview, Bruce DelMonico, Assistant Dean for Admissions at the Yale SOM, talks about the things that make the SOM unique:

  1. How SOM students benefit from Yale University’s overall resources
  2. The SOM’s Raw Cases, and how they differ from traditional cases
  3. The “Slingshot” program SOM uses to get students interview-ready
  4. The SOM’s connections to the tech industry, including SOM alumni in executive roles at Google and Apple
  5. How Yale SOM supports international students (and students of all kinds who want to work internationally)
  6. Entrepreneurship at the SOM
  7. The dreaded video essays!

On desktop, you can skip around to the topics that interest you most using the chapter selector, , at the bottom right of the player.

To read more about the topics we discussed in this interview:

  1. Yale SOM employment reports
  2. Raw Cases
  3. Yale SOM’s resources for entrepreneurs

Or, start your application now: Apply to Yale SOM

The SOM’s Integration Within Yale

David: I’m going to ask Bruce a few questions to try to showcase some of the things that make the Yale School of Management different, so I’m going to start out with a question that I saw for myself when I visited last year in April that two of the student hosts were doing joint degrees with the School of Forestry. I think that one of the things that can set the Yale apart is this close integration with the rest of the university.

Bruce, what do you think about that?

Bruce: Yeah, that’s a great question. First of all, David, thank you for having me. I’m glad to be able to chat today.

I think that sense of integration with Yale is really significant. I think that’s an important part of what we’re about here at the School of Management. The joint degree students is one aspect of that. We have, typically in a year, between 10% and 15% of our students are pursuing a formal joint degree with another Yale school such as the Forestry School, or public health, or the law school, or the medical school, drama, architecture, and on down the line. I think that’s significantly higher than what we see at other schools, but I think that’s indicative of the kind of integration we have across the university. It brings additional perspectives into the classroom, into the community that are very valuable that allow our students to think very broadly, but that’s just one aspect.

I could go on at length. I’ll try not to, but for example, we’re obviously a two-year full-time MBA program. In your second year, you take entirely electives. At Yale, you can take them anywhere at the university without limit. There’s no cap on the number of courses you can take at Yale College, the undergraduate, at the law school, the medical school, public health, you name it, engineering, across the board. I think that really allows students to tailor the education to suit their interests and what their professional aspirations are.

Then programmatically, there are a lot of activities that span the university from our entrepreneurship center, the Tsai CITY it’s now termed, conferences that span the university. The faculty are very, very integrated across the university. There’s lots of joint appointmentships.

Finally, as an alumnus or alumni, the networks are very well integrated, so when you become a Yale SOM alumni, you get access not just to the SOM alumni network, but the Yale College, the university alumni network. It’s possible to connect with students who went here for their undergraduate, for law school, for other degrees, and I think that’s really a powerful amplification of the network. There’s a really high level of integration across the university, and that’s important not just to SOM, but to Yale more generally.

David: What do you see as a typical way – if someone doesn’t commit to the full joint degree – how do you see the students taking advantage of some of these resources?

Bruce: I think just even taking electives, I know when I talk to students as they’re thinking about coming to Yale and they’re trying to decide whether to take the joint degree.

Many of them do, but some of them say, “I don’t care as much about the formal degree, so I’m just going to take the courses I would otherwise have taken for the joint degree as electives. I’ll get the substance, and I don’t have to then spend the extra time and extra expense, and I’ll have the knowledge. I don’t care as much about that diploma.” Some people do care about the diplomas, some people don’t. The flexibility to do either I think is really powerful. I think just beyond that academic piece, when I talk to students at the beginning of their time here at Yale and then their end, often one thing they say is they wished they had explored the university more, and it’s not just the academic piece. It’s cultural, social, professional, being involved in clubs that are university wide and not just at SOM.

There are really lots of opportunities. You can be a fellow, for example, at one of the Yale, the residential colleges, the undergraduate colleges. That’s really a great way to integrate into the rest of the university, so at many different levels, students take advantage of that opportunity, not just academically. I think they find it very enriching, very additive to their experience here at Yale.

David: It maybe even besides the fact that the program is structured in a way that it’s so easy to take some of these, do you think that you end up admitting a class of students that simply has broader intellectual interests than the average MBA program might?

Because I remember one thing you’d said to me before previously was that, for Yale SOM, diversity is not just a matter of, well, do you check a certain box in terms of your status or a membership in a given category, but that you looked also for people with a diversity of ideas or things that they were curious about.

Bruce: I think that’s exactly right. It’s tough for me to compare to other MBA programs obviously, so not being there, but only being at Yale.

But I know from our past conversations, what you said, I think that’s exactly right. We do care about diversity across a whole host of dimensions, and it’s not just about an affinity group. It’s not just about what your formal background is academically or professionally, but really about how you think.

In the admissions process because since that’s what I’m involved with, I’ll relate it to that. We are looking to bring in people who have diverse ways of thinking and a core of very intellectually curious. It’s not just at Yale about absorbing material that’s given to you, but it’s really about thinking about the material, thinking about it in a highly integrated way which speaks to our curriculum, and really questioning the status quo, why things are the way they are, are better ways to do things, how should I think about this, not just receiving the knowledge, but really kind of thinking deeply about it and making it your own.

In admissions, we’re looking for people who have that mindset, have that mentality, and think very critically, and do apply that kind of rigorous approach to their studies and to themselves more generally. I think that definitely is an important part of the experience here at Yale.

The Raw Case Approach

David: It’s an interesting thing about the curriculum as well, the kind of critical thought because then, sometimes, one of the things that I will highlight to people about the Yale School of Management is the way that you guys use raw cases.

We do have a lot of people who find some appeal in the case method, and then, sometimes, these people will think, “well, OK, maybe I don’t fit the glove at Harvard, I’m not going to count on that one coming through for me. Where else should I look for cases?” Sometimes, they go to another program that is really dedicated to almost exclusively cases like Darden.

But then, we worked with some candidates who had been involved in writing HBS cases in the past, and they describe the way that a huge number of interviews was actually then synthesize down to a case where it was going to be relatively short.

What do you see the students getting out of these raw cases as a distinctive point of the curriculum?

Bruce: Sure, I think that’s a great question. I tend to think of the raw cases as a bit of a hidden gem, kind of the killer app of the curriculum here at Yale. It’s not always appreciated, but it really has a transformative effect I think at a core level. And just for people who don’t know, raw cases, they are Yale generated cases. We have our own case writing team. The cases are different than traditional MBA cases like you would see at Harvard or Darden or elsewhere. We do use some of those traditional cases, but a lot of cases we use are these SOM cases where the material is not– you talked about the funnel — not synthesized down for you.

In fact, our case writing team is led by someone who came from HBS, and the way he describes how the Yale case is constructed is, they start by doing all the research and interviews and everything they would do for an HBS case, and then they stop. They don’t synthesize it down, they don’t distill everything for the students. They give you all their research, give you all the materials that they’ve gathered, and then the students have to do the work of synthesizing it, making sense of it, understanding it, because that’s a really important skill.

When you’re in the real world, you’re not going to have a case writing team to do that work for you, to tell you what’s important and what’s not, what to focus on and what to ignore. You have to figure that out for yourself. I think one of the limitations of traditional cases, you don’t have to do that. You get a 7, 10 page document. It tells you all you need to know, it excludes all the extraneous facts, it just kind of walks you into the punchline. That’s not really how the world works.

Our cases we think are much more real world. Even when you’re in the classroom, you’re getting a real-world experience because you’re having to navigate these cases, you’re having to make sense of primary source material. There are 10Ks, 10Qs, interviews with key stakeholders, media coverage, the kinds of things you would interact with in the real world, you have to do that here. You have to make sense of it, you have to absorb it, you have to reconcile inconsistent or incomplete data and really bring your best thoughts to bear on the case. I think that really develops a kind of skill that you don’t develop anywhere else, frankly, because you’re not given the material in the same way at any other business school than you are here at Yale.

I think that’s why I call it the killer app of the curriculum because it really is a differentiator, and I don’t think people fully appreciate it. For those who do, it really is a bit of a game changer.

David: I had a 15 year corporate career before I came to education consulting here, and I’ll tell you, we can let the viewers guess exactly how many times that I received a pre-chewed solution to the problem in my roles there.

The answer is zero.

Bruce: Yeah, I think that’s right, and if you did, then there was no need to consult you because whoever was giving you the information already had the answer themselves.

David: Most of the time, even the data itself would be wrong, or you would start out and, can you even trust the numbers? Do you even have a reliable number which tells you the costs, the revenues, the number of visitors? A lot of times, something even at that basic level might have gone wrong.

Bruce: I think that’s exactly right. That’s the kind of thing even here at SOM. When you’re going through the cases, you have to figure it out and question. Sometimes, the data doesn’t sync up, and you have to figure out, “OK, what do I rely on, what’s the better data source?” Those are skills you need to develop. When you leave SOM, having gone through this over and over and over again, I think you’re that much farther along to be able to do this kind of work which is important.

David: Now, I have a few questions about some of the practical resources, but before I dive into that, is there anything else you want to say about the curriculum?

Bruce: To the extent people know about it, I won’t give too expansive of a exposition about the curriculum. People can certainly learn more on our website or elsewhere or meeting us in person.

But I think in keeping with the raw case discussion and the discussion about integration with Yale: our curriculum is what we call an integrated curriculum. Again, much like the raw cases, it’s different than what you’d experienced elsewhere at another MBA program in the sense that it’s not based on functionally discrete silos. It tries to break down those silos and present materials across disciplines in a very interdisciplinary way and tries to get our students to think about issues and problems in a much more holistic, much more integrated and interdisciplinary way.

Again, we think that much like the raw cases, that’s how the world works. That’s how you need to think. You’re not just going to be presented with an accounting problem, or a marketing problem, or a finance problem, or an operations problem. Issues that you will be dealing with really span disciplines, and you need to understand how those disciplines, how those functions, how those parts of an organization interact and need to interrelate.

That’s how we teach, and I won’t go into the specifics of the curriculum.  I don’t think we have time, but I’m happy for those who are interested to check the website or reach out to us. We’re happy to talk more about what it really looks like.

Recruiting at Yale SOM, including Slingshot and Mock Madness

David: It’s fair to say I think this kind of stuff will interest many people, but the applicants will always be considering two sides, of course: What will they learn, what’s the curriculum like, and what are the practical resources to help them get that job that they want or even to figure out which job that they want.

We of course know a number of people who are students or have been students in the past, and one thing that they highlighted was some of these peer-to-peer things that the school facilitated and some of the training that everyone went through pretty early to get an orientation on recruiting.

Can you tell me a little bit about this slingshot program that everyone starts out on?

Bruce: I think that’s right. At Yale, our Career Development Office, its full service, it starts from the time you start in orientation, even a little bit before throughout your two years and beyond. It’s open to alumni as well. In addition to the more immediate aspects in terms of things like on-campus interviewing, recruiting, internship placement, those types of things, there’s a whole curriculum that the Career Development Office has put together to help give our students and help our students develop the skills they will need, not just for that first search, the internship search, or that first job after graduation, but for a lifetime of career progression and career searches.

It’s very powerful. It starts in orientation with a session where alumni come back to campus and come from different industries, and share their experiences, and talk to students about what kinds of skills recruiters and employers are looking for in a places like consulting, investment banking, technology, whole-range health care, across the board. It’s called Career Immersion, and it’s a great session.

Then Slingshot, which you’re specifically referring to, is actually the online resource that our Career Development Office builds specifically for the school here, although they’ve started I think to commercialize it and offer it to other schools as well. But the idea is, before Slingshot, the Career Development Office would have sessions throughout the fall and spring about different aspects of a search or just professional development. Things like networking, small talk, cover letter writing, resume writing, interviewing, it’s a whole curriculum.

These used to be in-person, but now, they’re online modules that students can consume whenever they want at whatever rate they want. It’s kind of like flipping the classroom.

They can consume these modules, and then, they can have a consulting session

with one of the Career Development Office counselors who are open for these sessions throughout the year and have actually literally thousands of sessions. You could go every day if you wanted. Some people do that. Some people go once a week, some people go once a month, maybe once a semester. It’s really up to you. But it really creates a modularity and an individuality to the programming that I think students have found very effective. They can tailor the Career Development Office programs to suit their particular interests.

David: I think that these things are very effective because we have for some time warned people after they work with us, and then they get the offer to attend an MBA program, there’s a huge temptation for them to think, “oh, I’m glad that’s over. Now I can relax a little bit in the MBA program. I’ve got two years before I have to get back in the workforce!”

Then, we have sometimes then scolded them and said, well, “OK, go and celebrate, that’s nice. Don’t forget that the recruiting is going to start sooner than you think, and you need to be well prepared if you want to get the best offer from it.”

And other kind of stories we’ve seen. This kind of teach-a-man-to-fish type of approach that you’re describing is a very interesting because at certain programs, even if the programs don’t cater to that, we’ve seen that the students come in with a kind of attitude, almost like, “well, I’ve paid my $200,000, where’s my job offer, please?”

Even if the school could give you the job offer, then what’s going to happen next time? Mommy’s not going to be there to give you your job offer next time, so that’s a great program, and we’ve heard good feedback about the programs from the students who we’ve known at SOM.

Bruce: That’s great. I think that’s exactly right. There’s definitely a dual focus, and it’s not just getting that immediate job, but as you say, preparing students for a lifetime of professional progression.

It’s not just for students who are doing more bespoke or more targeted searches. Even students who are doing what would be considered the more standard track, management consulting, or investment banking, and have very robust, and very structured on-campus processes. Even in those students, the Career Development Office suggests they do an independent search on top of that just so they can develop those skills because, again, it’s not just about getting that job, but it’s about developing the skills that you will use for your entire career.

Even if you’re doing something very structured here on campus, the Career Development Office still recommends that you do something more independent just to continue to build that skill set.

David: I certainly have heard that even the traditional paths, like the investment banking, do require the students to make pretty frequent pilgrimages down to New York to do the networking events, kiss the ring, and get everyone to know them a little bit.

Bruce: Yeah, they do. We try to push back against that to be quite honest. I think sometimes students think that they need to do more than they actually do, and we try to remind them that we’re right by New York, it’s easy to get to New York. I think there’s a temptation there for students to go to New York because it’s accessible, but we try to point out that there are lots of programs that are not near New York where students do fine in terms of finance and investment banking internships, and they’re not in the city all the time, and so it’s not a requirement. You should have some perspective about it because there’s a lot going on, and you don’t want to get out of balance in terms of how much time you’re devoted to the search versus your academics versus the social component of the program.

You need to really think it out what the right balance is, and there are some times that students get a little out of balance and maybe focus too much, and we try to rein them in and give them a little bit of perspective because it’s not in the long term interest of them to be too heavily invested in one aspect of the experience versus others.

Recruiting for Tech at Yale SOM

David: I don’t think we have to sell anything in terms of that Yale SOM is a good place from which you can launch into consulting or banking that people are, like you say, all too eagerly embracing the fact that you can get to New York for those ones.

Now, another kind of big is to the tech industry. You were saying a moment ago how plenty of people at schools that are not near New York somehow manage to find their way into banking. What does Yale SOM do to help people get into the tech industry or to work for employers who might be out on the west coast?

Bruce: I think that’s a great question. Tech at Yale, and I think it’s the case elsewhere, it is really growing. It’s our number three industry now after consulting and finance in terms of where people go after they graduate. It’s definitely growing.

The West Coast presence has definitely just skyrocketed. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I feel like in recent classes, as high as 20% of classes have gone to the West Coast from Seattle down to LA, and a lot of that’s in tech. We actually have a very, very newly formed west coast advisory board made up of some of our alumni on the west coast who are helping us advise on our strategy on the West Coast and our presence there because it’s become such an important part of our school strategy and the alumni network.

There’s a lot happening on many fronts, but including the career side on in terms of tech, we–

just to give an example, in January, around the same time as the consulting and the investment banking on campus interviewing process are happening, the “super week” as we call them, investment banking super week and consulting super week — there’s also a west coast trek led by the Career Development Office that goes to a number of employers again from Seattle, Amazon, on down to Google, and Apple, and Microsoft, going to some media companies down in Los Angeles and elsewhere, some smaller companies as well to meet with alumni and talk to employers.

We have a very strong presence. I think it’s very helpful that people like Laszlo Bock who was in charge of HR at Google, Beth Axelrod who’s in charge of HR at eBay, are SOM alumni. Joel Podolny who was the dean of SOM, is in charge of HR– or had been in charge of HR. He’s now in charge of Apple University at Apple. One of our former Career Department Office employees is in charge of university recruiting at Amazon. We’re very well placed in the HR space, and I think that’s really helped us. Amazon was our largest hirer last year. I think that’s not uncommon. I think that’s probably the case for other business schools as well, so I’m not saying that to say that we’re differentiated from other schools, but just to say that we are very much seeing that tech bump, and it’s been I think very helpful to our students, and they’ve definitely embraced it, and I think it’s been an important change over the last couple years.

David: Not only is that an example of the good connections that the SOM has some of these companies, I think someone like Laszlo Bock is a great example of– I think people admire his work rules and– and turning them of the conventional wisdom on its head, and it goes to show the kind of curious people that the SOM recruits in the first place.

Bruce: I think that’s exactly right. I think he’s a great example of the kind of SOM story that we like to talk about in terms of the career he’s had starting at McKinsey, and GE, and Google, and now starting his own HR consulting firm. It’s interesting because we try not to bother him too much in admissions. Obviously, we’re about talent identification and selection here much like an HR department, so we would talk to him occasionally when he was at Google, and he would provide some helpful insights. After he left, my thought was, well, maybe he’d had more time to help us out a little bit more, but he actually has less time now because obviously it’s his deal, and he’s really going full steam ahead. Hopefully at some point, he’ll come down, and we’ll be able to reconnect with him a little more fully.

Yale SOM’s International Focus

David: Now one other thing that I saw in the employment reports is that Yale SOM makes a huge number of international placements compared to some other schools. In the most recent year, the report was released for 19% versus, for example, 13% at HBS or only 11% at Wharton. What do you think is behind the big success in the international recruiting?

Bruce: I think a couple of things: To some degree, it’s no more complicated the fact that we have more international students. Almost half of our class is made up of students who have a passport from outside the US. That gives them lots of options. They also have an interest I think in working maybe sometimes in the US, but also, sometimes not in the US. Obviously, that’s important to us because we want to be the most global US business school, and we feel we are.

But then supporting that, in our Career Development Office, we actually have resources that are dedicated to sourcing opportunities outside the US, and we’re very focused on that. It’s not just about getting our students jobs here in the States, although that’s obviously very important, but really focusing on sourcing opportunities globally wherever our students want to go. We don’t want our students to be constrained by geographical limitations.

I think it’s a combination of having that global student body, and then also, those global opportunities that creates this higher than usual placement which we feel good about. As an aside, when you look at things like the US News ranking that is based on average starting salary, because we have higher international placements, we suffer a little bit because of that, but we’re not going to give up our values, our culture, our mission to try to make some sort of short term change to something like that. But we do see those, in the short term, those negative ramifications, but we feel like in the long term, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s the strategy that makes the most sense for our school.

David: I think really admirable because then, Yale SOM also places about 5% into nonprofit and, let me tell you, I don’t think that people are taking those jobs for the money, and we have had some very sad instances where people who came to us who we worked with on the applications told a kind of earnest story of, “here’s my history volunteering,” some people had already taken full-time jobs in the nonprofit industry given up probably by the time they applied six figures of compensation to have the service oriented career.

Then they go into another program, and we check six months later, oh, working at Amazon, working at Goldman Sachs, how creative.

Bruce: No, I think that’s right. I think it’s– we have a higher percentage going international, we have a higher percentage going into the social sector. I think that’s right. When you compare apples-to-apples though, if you isolate investment banking, consulting, technology, we’re right there with all the other top schools, all the firms and companies that recruit elsewhere recruit here.

We’re a core school for the top consulting firms which they only have five or six of those schools, and we’re one of them, so I think that says a lot. When you isolate the variable and really look at the apples-to-apples comparison, we’re as strong as any other school. I think people don’t realize it because some of the numbers that underlie some of those rankings, for example, they speak to aspects of our mission that are very valuable to us but that are not captured and not reflected properly. It’s frustrating, but again, we’re not going to change what we do just to cater to some short term indicator like that.

David: I think another thing that can get lost in the rankings as well, at least the MBA rankings specifically: we see a number of people who are attracted to Yale because they know that the overall reputation of Yale University as a whole carries a huge amount of weight internationally.

Essentially, everyone knows who Yale is, whereas a fine school, I like it for many reasons, the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, maybe not as many people in China have heard of Tuck.

“Oh, I went to Tuck.” “Where?” We do see a lot of people who, if they know they want to return to an international market, that can Yale brand name as a whole is a huge draw for them.

Bruce: I think that’s right, and it certainly somewhat definitely makes my job easier. But I think for students and alumni, I hear it not too infrequently. When you want to network, when you want to make a connection anywhere in the globe, and you say you’re coming from Yale or you went to Yale, you will get that return call, you will get that meeting just based on that alone. Obviously, you need to show your stuff individually after that, but just getting that foot in the door because you went to Yale, it’s not a trivial thing. Obviously, people don’t come to Yale just for the brand name, but I think it’s a nice thing, a nice additive aspect of the experience of being here at the School of Management.

Entrepreneurship at Yale SOM

David: Now, what are some categories of applicants or potential students who maybe aren’t considering the Yale School of Management actively enough, but they should be considering it more?

We’ve gone through some of the ones where I don’t think it’s a secret that you have good recruiting in the consulting or the banking and some of those areas, but what are some of the areas where people might think, well, “I don’t want consulting or banking, I’m not in nonprofit, I’m not doing a dual degree, what what’s in it for me at Yale?” Who are some of those ones that it would be a great fit anyway?

Bruce: I’m reluctant to mention any because I feel like I’ll leave something out and it will be necessarily incomplete. I’ll say a few things though, and I would start by saying: we do very much think of ourselves as a general management school. When you graduate from Yale, you’ll be well positioned and well prepared to have an impactful career in whatever field you want to go into, whatever industry, whatever sector. We feel very strongly about that, and we think that’s very much the case.

The things you mentioned in terms of finance and consulting, investment banking, consulting, social sector, are very true. We talked about technology. I think that’s a growing area where we’re well positioned. I think becoming increasingly well positioned to be effective there.

Related to that, entrepreneurship has really grown a lot at Yale recently in the last, say, four or five years since Kyle Jensen joined us. He’s a technology entrepreneur himself. He has three degrees from MIT, undergraduate, masters, and PhD, started some biotech companies, had successful exits, and now, his job is to help entrepreneurs here at Yale start their businesses and launch their careers. He’s built out a couple dozen new courses. There’s a whole new entrepreneurship center here. He’s really connected to Tsai CITY which is our Center for Innovation and Technology at Yale endowed by Joe Tsai, who is the number two at Alibaba and is Yale College and Yale Law alum. There’s a lot of activity going on there, and that’s really a very exciting thing.

I would also, again, at the risk of leaving other things out, you talked about the joint degree, so I won’t say sustainability, the Forestry School, the joint degree with the law school, and medical school, and elsewhere, public health, the kinds of things you can do there. But marketing is actually something that is quite strong here at Yale. We have top faculty, and I think people don’t always think of us as a marketing school. But one of the most exciting aspects and offerings here at Yale is actually through YCCI, the Yale Center for Customer Insights. They have what we call discovery projects where you can work on live projects for top organizations, so Apple, Google, IBM, Pepsi, will come to the faculty with a live problem, a real-world problem. Faculty will enlist students, and you can work on those problems, those issues with the faculty. It’s very much a strong experiential component to the program through the marketing department, through the Yale Center for Customer Insights.

I think people don’t always know about that and don’t always appreciate and realize it, but there’s a lot going on in that space, and I think it’s for people who are thinking about a career in marketing or brand management. There’s a lot to be had here at Yale.

David: Back to what you said a moment ago, the entrepreneurship. Sometimes people will ask us about entrepreneurship, we tend to be a little bit pessimistic maybe, or people will say, “great, I want to start a company during the MBA.” “Oh yeah, what have you done to make some progress toward that?” “Well, I’ve been thinking about a couple of ideas.”

Then I tell them, well, “Bruce is not going to believe you. Bruce wants to be confident you’re going to be able to take good advantage of those resources, and where’s the beef? Where’s your business plan? Where’s the potential customers?” Are we being too harsh? What kinds of people would you welcome to explore entrepreneurship at Yale SOM?

Bruce: I think your instincts are exactly right, and you’re approaching it very similar to how we do so in the admissions process in the sense that, if you say you’re an entrepreneur, where’s the beef at, as you say? What have you done? Do you have a product? Have you gone to market? Do you have customers? Do you have suppliers? Is there cash flow? Do you have any employees? What stage are you at in the process?

We want to get a sense that it’s something that you’re very serious about. It’s not just, oh, I have an idea, and when I come to Yale, it’ll magically all happen. That speaks to not just your particular entrepreneurial venture, but also how you approach things generally, your mindset, and how you think about positioning herself which is kind of a larger set of skills, larger set of issues that we care about generally. Not just for entrepreneurs but for anybody who comes here to Yale. But I think it’s particularly pointed for entrepreneurs just because there’s no other real structure around what you’re doing professionally. We definitely want for those candidates who are applying with an entrepreneurial background and want to go into entrepreneurship, giving us as much definition as possible about what your venture is like, what stage you’re at, just be as concrete as possible. That really helps us evaluate you and get a sense of what you’re really doing as opposed to what you want to be doing.

David: It’s a bit of a dilemma because, of course, people who have nothing but maybe an idea, they don’t have much to start with.

On the other hand, suppose that someone does have a successful business already, do you see a lot of people who come in with a successful business and they continue to run the business while they attend SOM?

Bruce: It’s tricky because, as you know, any full-time MBA program is very immersive. It kind of takes away from the experience here to be trying to do something else off site trying to run a business.

We’ve seen people who have maintained them, definitely. What they tend to do is, usually they’ll have a partner or some other group of people who are working with them, and they will transition out a little bit, take a less active role in the day-to-day running of the venture, but still be involved in a higher level way, still kind of stay in touch, and then, kind of re-engage after graduation. That definitely does happen. It’s a tough balance to strike, but it is possible to do, but it’s less common, although, I think frankly, it probably happens every once in a while so that someone actually stays actively involved in their venture.

But I think it’s great coming to SOM, because a lot of people have been somewhat successful in their entrepreneurship venture or elsewhere, but they’ve really been guided more by instinct and gut feeling, and they really want to get the structures and frameworks and formal strategies

for how to approach some of the problems they face, and so, it’s really great to take those experiences and kind of develop those frameworks that you can then apply more rigorously after you graduate. I think that’s a lot of the value of the MBA, not just for entrepreneurs, but for people generally.

Yale’s Video Essays

David: Let me end with one question here about the application process itself:

Yale SOM has the videos as part of the application process, and I think it’s fair to say that a lot of applicants are nervous about those. Over time, we’ve seen one person who panicked so much that she slammed shut the lid of the laptop once the green light came on. We had seen in other years, people who had tried to band together and pool all the questions across a large group of people to create a master list of every question, but people are very nervous about it.

What would you say to them about how you’re actually using these videos in the application? Maybe there’s something reassuring you can say.

Bruce: I’ll try to be, and what I would say is definitely try to relax. It’s not as bad as you think.

You did better than you thought you did, invariably.

To your point, we don’t lean on the video questions very heavily. We are not going to say– for those who don’t know, there are three questions that are given from three different tranches, so there are three types of questions. This is done much as we’re talking now through a laptop and webcam. We pre-record the questions, you see them, then you have a short time, 20 to 30 seconds, to think about your response. Then your webcam goes on, and you have either 60 or 90 seconds to give your response.

We’re not going to have a couple of minutes of extemporaneous impromptu video responses outweigh your academic record, your professional record, your grades, your test scores, essay, those types of things. It’s very much meant as just another additional data point, and we usually use it as a positive. It’s not something that will undermine or disqualify anyone, but oftentimes, we’ll use it to get more insights. It’ll be something that will actually prompt us to invite someone to interview who we might not otherwise invited. It’s actually more of a positive than anything else, but it’s definitely not something that’s worthy of stress or anxiety. We don’t rely heavily on them. We know that these are not rehearsed things, that you’re doing them in the moment, and we don’t expect perfection.

My main advice with the video questions is obviously take it seriously, do a good job, but don’t worry that it’s going to be a make-or-break kind of thing for your application. We put much less weight on it than you might otherwise think.

David: Now to be fair, I should probably give you one of them right now. An education without art is incomplete: True or false? But we won’t really do that.

Bruce: You’re going back far. That’s a couple cycles, ago that’s a good question. I like that one.

David: We believe that the real fundamentals of these things don’t change. I don’t think that we are very obsessed with trying to know the latest questions, but how to give a natural performance has a lot more to do with what you said:

To relax, to know how to show yourself speaking fluently than to memorize an answer to a list of questions.

Bruce: I think that’s exactly right, and it’s as much about how you think and how you think through the issues than it is about what the specifics of what you say. And again, just to reiterate, we’re not looking for perfection, so don’t get too caught up in it.

David: Well, is there any other question that I should have asked you about Yale SOM?

Bruce: No, I think we covered a lot of ground, and I really appreciate the opportunity to talk, and hopefully what I provided is helpful to people who are thinking about the school. I’ve been here for over a dozen years. I came because of the mission and because of the values of the school. I’ve stayed because of the mission values of the school. I think it’s a great place for me and for students. I like the fact that people here really care. They’re optimistic, they think they can make a difference in the world, and it’s good to be around people like that.

David: Bruce, thank you for your time today.

Bruce: Sure, thank you very much.