Valerie Shen, MS/MBA ’19: A Journey Into Subjectivity

Plunging into assignments that have no “objectively correct answers” has left her with more questions than answers — and happily so.

October 09, 2018



Valerie Shen, MS/MBA ’19, is one of five 2019 Siebel Scholars at Stanford GSB. | Photo by Stacy Geiken

One of five Siebel Scholars in the Stanford GSB Class of 2019, Valerie Shen graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College, where she studied environmental science and public policy and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She started her career at McKinsey & Company and later joined Kleiner Perkins, where she worked with a team to launch G2VP, a venture capital firm investing in sustainable, emerging solutions for traditional industries. This summer she worked on an early stage energy project at X, Google’s “moonshot factory.”

At Stanford, Shen is pursuing a joint MBA/MS in Environment and Resources, serves as co-chair of the MBA student association academic committee, and is the chief investment officer of the Stanford GSB Impact Fund. Shen is from Wisconsin, loves hiking, and has visited all 50 states.

Which Stanford GSB class did you find the most challenging?

Leadership Labs. I’m most comfortable in situations where an objectively correct answer exists; Leadership Labs is the polar opposite. It uses role-playing, feedback sessions, and self-reflections to start answering the question “Why would anyone follow you?” It challenged me to rapidly try on a number of different roles and be exposed to various experiments without concrete resolutions. The class is the beginning of a broader journey of self-discovery and left me with more questions than answers.

What most surprised you about Stanford GSB?

I hadn’t anticipated the extent to which introspection and “touchy feely” reflections would be such an integral part of the experience, or that I would actually find it so valuable and enjoyable. I don’t spend much time reflecting on emotions, either my own or those of people around me, and try to rely instead on facts or reason. I’ve come to appreciate how much my time at Stanford GSB has started to chip away at this.

What’s your dream job?

I’d love to run an organization with expansive global reach, likely involving physical assets and a large employee base. The cause I am most passionate about is combating global climate change, and allowing our society to do more with less through business, political, and technological innovations. My dream job would combine these two directions.

What was your first job?

In high school I was an intern for the Wisconsin State Assembly’s Committee on Natural Resources. It gave me insight into the endless considerations that go into seemingly mundane legislation, as well as the concerns that constituents face on a daily basis. It convinced me that starting my career as a junior legislative assistant, a path I was seriously considering, would not be my best chance at making a difference combating global climate change, and steered me toward the business world instead.

What’s your personal motto?

Life is the ultimate game. Play to win.

— Jenny Luna

About Siebel Scholars

Established in 2000 by the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, the Siebel Scholars program awards grants to leading universities in the United States, China, France, Italy, and Japan. Following a competitive review process by the deans of their respective schools on the basis of outstanding academic achievement and demonstrated leadership, the top graduate students from 27 partner programs are selected each year as Siebel Scholars. On average, Siebel Scholars rank in the top 5% of their class, many within the top 1%.

About the Siebel Foundation

The Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, a nonprofit, public benefit corporation, was established as a private foundation in 1996. Its mission is to foster programs and organizations that improve the quality of life, environment, and education of its community members. The Siebel Foundation funds projects to support the homeless and underprivileged, education and research, public health, and alternative energy solutions.

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