What makes a successful career? Although a few obvious elements come to mind, the question has endless answers. That’s something Jack Marzulli, MBA ’18, has learned at Stanford Graduate School of Business: There isn’t just one avenue that will lead to achievement.
“There are the obvious metrics of success that people talk about, such as how senior your title is, what you get paid, or how many people you manage,” Marzulli says. “But how much you grow as a person, how much you feel like you’re building new skills, how you improve systems and the lives of others — that’s all central to success.”
In the six years since he graduated from Princeton with a degree in public and international affairs, Marzulli has already worked in a variety of sectors. Through fellowships, internships, and jobs, his experience ranges from environmental research to education technology. This variety is something Marzulli continues to pursue at Stanford GSB.
“There was this pressure during undergrad and afterward to really focus on ‘smart career moves,’ ” he says. “But having the chance to try a few totally new things at Stanford GSB helped me narrow down what my future career might look like.”
Government and Business
After three years working in consulting at Bain & Company, Marzulli arrived at Stanford GSB wanting to gain more experience in the public sector. A few weeks after the 2016 presidential election, he came across an event titled Presidential Transition: Starting a New Government Right. The panel, hosted by the Haas Center for Public Service, featured Max Stier, an outside advisor to both the Obama and Trump administration transitions.
“It was fascinating to think about the Herculean task of taking over the executive branch of government,” Marzulli says. He followed up and landed an internship at Stier’s nonprofit, the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that works to help governments run more effectively.
“I wanted to see how Washington works from first-hand perspective and not just read about it in the headlines,” Marzulli says. The Partnership for Public Service doesn’t focus on policy but works to improve the federal government’s internal management. Marzulli spent his internship supporting the Partnership’s strategic and financial planning, while also helping the organization collaborate with private partners to recruit talented professionals into government work.
Marzulli’s summer in Washington D.C. was subsidized by Stanford GSB’s Social Management Immersion Fellowship, which supports students interning in the public sector and nonprofits. He was one of 28 students who received the fellowship from the Center for Social Innovation in 2017.
Bridging Business and Education
Marzulli enjoyed his foray into politics, but he’s currently more focused on effecting change through education — a passion that dates back to his childhood in New York. Marzulli’s mother and sister have both worked in leadership roles at charter schools. In 2015, Marzulli took leave from Bain to spend 6 months working for Coursera, an education technology company. At Stanford, he is pursuing a joint graduate degree in business and education.
Marzulli has built relationships with colleagues in both Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Graduate School of Education, thanks in part to WinEducation — an informal meeting organized by students to eat appetizers, drink wine, and chew on current issues facing education. He recalls one meeting that dramatically changed his perspective: Over merlot and hummus, Marzulli discussed the advantages and disadvantages of teaching technologies with three students from Stanford GSE. Marzulli had found that many of his business school classmates strongly supported technological innovation, firmly believing that getting cutting-edge technology into classrooms would improve schools. But by listening to his colleagues who are former educators, Marzulli’s thoughts shifted.
“When you talk to teachers, you see their hesitancy because they’ve used some of these tools before, and have seen how difficult they can be to implement” he says. “I started to understand how important it is to invest in people. Don’t focus so heavily on technology, but think about what teachers need to thrive.”
Leading Students, Professionals, and Professors
In addition to his dives into public policy and education, Marzulli manages the Stanford GSB Impact Fund. Through this program, 40 MBA students work with professionals and faculty to invest in social impact oriented startups. Marzulli recalls considering a change to the strategy that would have the fund focus on later-stage investments. Students, professionals, and faculty had different opinions on the issue — some thought earlier stage investments would bring more impact, while others saw them as too risky.
“We had to scramble to find a happy medium between the two models,” Marzulli says. “It’s a big challenge, leading a group with many stakeholders and making sure I’m communicating effectively so everyone is on the same page.”
After graduation, Marzulli plans to work in consulting at Bain for a few more years before pivoting to something more mission-driven in education reform. Although he can’t predict the exact path his career will take, he knows it won’t be a straight line. “I’m learning not to worry so much about what the linear path looks like,” he says. “There are many ways to get to success.”
Photos by Kiefer Hickman