Valerie Shen

MBA 2019
  • Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
  • Pre-MBA: Venture Capital & Management Consulting

Valerie Shen

Post Graduation Goals:

Combat global climate change by working at the intersection of business, politics, and science

Favorite Class:

Practical Policy and Politics with Keith Hennessey, though I took too many classes with him to really pick one favorite!


GSB Transformation:

The GSB has been a powerful exercise in self-reflection, helping me identify my strengths and weaknesses, and what opportunities or environments are a good fit for my personality.

I’ve been starting my Tuesday mornings early this whole year, because I keep taking classes with Keith Hennessey, who is incredible. He had decades of experience in DC before coming to the GSB, and now teaches several wonderful classes on policy and politics. The only downside is a weekly written assignment due before class on Tuesdays, which I always end up cranking out last minute.
My class with Keith this quarter is How to Make Economic Policy, an elaborate simulation where we are each assigned roles as legislators in the federal government, and try to enact bills over the quarter on climate change, immigration, and debt reduction. As a warm-up, we did a “Policy Time” exercise today to practice advising the President about climate change and help him set policy.
Next I had Individual Taxes and Financial Planning, with Lisa De Simone. She has taught us so many tips and tricks over the quarter that collectively will almost certainly save me more money than the cost of the MBA. Today we learned about the tax consequences of marriage, and how for many in our demographic getting legally married is a questionable financial decision (disclaimer: this is not legal, tax, or financial advice)!
TALK is a beloved GSB tradition where classmates share their personal stories in a really deep and reflective manner in front of a supportive audience. It’s always fascinating to hear how people got to where they are today. Typically TALK happens at night, but it’s our last quarter and many more people want to give TALKs, so we’re doing them at lunch now as well. Fun fact: GSB lunch events run from 12:10-1:10PM every day, so people have some buffer time to hang out after classes end at 11:45AM and before they start again at 1:30PM.
All GSB students have some flexibility to take non-GSB classes from other Stanford departments, which we collectively call “Across-the-Street” classes (abbreviated ATS). Due to my joint Masters in Environment & Resources degree, I probably have more ATS classes than most, so am frequently biking around campus. Today was Mark Jacobson’s “100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything” at the engineering school, an overview of alternative energy resources.
I have a ton of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays this quarter, so I always end up preparing just-in-time. Took this hour and a half to triage some emails and read for my next class.
“Systems Leadership for the Digital Industrial Transformation” is co-taught by Jeff Immelt (former CEO / Chairman of GE) and Rob Siegel (a VC investor and one of the most popular lecturers at the GSB). I took a class with Rob last quarter as well and learned a ton, so am back for more. After school I’ll be working at G2VP, a VC fund focused on applying emerging technologies to traditional industries, so the discussions in these classes with industrial giants and their disruptors are super relevant. Today our guest was Ric Fulop, Founder & CEO of Desktop Metal.
One of my main extracurricular activities is serving as Chief Investment Officer of the GSB Impact Fund, a student-led fund housed at the GSB’s Center for Social Innovation. We run a year-long learning experience that takes participants through the end-to-end impact investing experience, culminating in real funds deployed to companies we expect to produce positive social/environmental impacts as well as financial returns. Tonight we had our first Investment Committee Meeting of this cycle, where practitioners and faculty advisors evaluated the deals students have prepared for months to pitch.
Last weekend I participated in the inaugural Stanford Cleantech Challenge, a hackathon of sorts where teams competed to produce solutions to real problems companies are facing when combating climate change. We ended up winning (!!) with our solution to Silicon Valley Clean Energy’s (SVCE) challenge around electrifying homes away from fossil fuel appliances. This morning we had a call with SVCE to brainstorm how to further develop this idea.
Next I hopped on the phone with a college classmate who reached out for advice on searching for VC jobs. The GSB is often such an all-encompassing experience that I’ll have several days in a row without much outside interaction, so it’s always fun to reconnect with old friends.
Most GSB classes do not meet on Wednesdays, but we had a special class today because the professor was out of town on Friday. This class, Incentives and Productivity, is taught by Ed Lazear, who was Chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors. It’s a microeconomics class typically for MBA1s, but I did not get a chance to take it last year and heard great things so decided to take it this year as a MBA2. It’s one of the most academic classes I have taken at the GSB (we actually take derivatives and write equations on the board :P) but definitely very interesting!
I didn’t have any specific plans for lunch, so hung out at the MBA Lounge, a really nice space on campus where MBA2s often camp out when we’re not doing anything in particular. There’s almost always some entertaining conversation going on there (and often free food left over from various events).
The rest of my day was spent at the Aerospace Business Conference, which took place for the first time this year. The GSB hosts a number of student-run conferences on topics ranging from climate change to sports management to arts and media. A few of my friends interested in aerospace took the initiative to start this new conference this year, so I decided to check it out and nominally volunteer at registration.
The Future of Connectivity and Autonomy panel was particularly related to the investment thesis of G2VP, where I’ll be working after school. Companies featured included Uber Elevate, Astranis, Iris Automation, and Swarm Technologies.
The conference ended with an inspirational talk by Steve Smith, a former NASA astronaut who is a GSB alum and the only ever NASA astronaut with an MBA. One of my classmates who co-founded this conference wants to be an astronaut herself, and was first connected with Steve back when she was admitted to the GSB and he called to congratulate her!
I typically start my days early so don’t love doing work after getting home at night, but really needed to process voting results from our Impact Fund Investment Committee meeting the night before. I am excited that we have a group of really great potential deals moving on to the next round!
We’re getting scarily close to graduation, so a group of us are planning “dis-orientation week” (colloquially known as “dis-o”), which is a week of final socializing between the end of classes and graduation. I’m in charge of Last Lectures, a series of life advice talks by our favorite professors. I met this morning with Glenn Kramon (a New York Times editor who teaches Winning Writing) to prepare for his Last Lecture!
I didn’t have class this morning (since it had been rescheduled to Wednesday) so I fit in a series of 1:1s. First I chatted with Panos Madamopoulos, a student in the MSx program (a one-year program for people slightly further along in their careers - I like to refer to them as real adults :P).
Next I caught up with my section-mate Will McMahon. Will is moving back to Europe after graduation :( Fortunately he’s in the minority and a ton of classmates are sticking around the Bay Area, so I’m hopeful that all these random hangouts won’t end upon graduation.
My classmate, Milana Shapira, offered to take headshots for people in front of the color wall (officially called the “Monument to Change as it Changes”). I’ve been trying to get a good photo here basically since I got to the GSB (it’s almost a rite of passage!) so was really excited for this.
I had lunch with Owen Wurzbacher, one of the most impressive people in our class. Owen and I met almost a decade ago when we ran a finance club together back in college, and I always appreciate his thoughts / advice.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I have my other “ATS” class, Sustainable Energy for 9 Billion, taught by Sally Benson (Director of Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy). We have a good crew of E-IPER joint degree MBAs who are all in this class, and Fridays are problem sessions where we just work through practice problems together. Mike’s Brown t-shirt triggered a trivia fact that there are four US universities with names that are colors - can you think of them?
After class I biked home to do a bit of work and change for the evening. This is rare for me - usually once I leave my apartment for the day I don’t come back until night time, even though it really isn’t far away. There are so many nice places to camp out on campus and do work whenever I have a gap in my schedule.
The big event of the night was the GSB Show! My friend hosted a pre-party at her house off-campus, where she lives with six other GSBers.
Show didn’t start until 7:30PM, and doors didn’t open until 6:30PM, but we knew from experience last year that people are aggressive, so we decided to be even more aggressive and show up at 6:00PM to wait in line :P It totally paid off - we got front-row seats!
The evening was so impressive! The GSB Show is an annual tradition which involves over 250 members of the GSB community. It’s a musical where all the writers, directors, producers, actors, dancers, musicians, technicians, etc. are GSB students or their significant others, and parodies life at the GSB. Everyone is super talented, and the show never fails to be incredibly entertaining.
After Show ends there’s a giant after-party at a club next door (and then an after after party at a house off-campus). I stopped by briefly but then very quickly decided it was time to sleep so called it a night. Perfect end to another fantastic and jam-packed GSB week :)