How I'm preparing for my second year at Stanford GSB | TopMBA.com

How I'm preparing for my second year at Stanford GSB

By Niamh O

Updated September 28, 2021 Updated September 28, 2021

“The GSB is a magical place – there is so much beauty in my day-to-day interactions, the friendships I’ve built, and the late-night conversations I’ve had,” says Andrew Loh, Stanford GSB student.

The new academic year is upon us, and students across the globe are returning to campuses to begin the next chapter in their education journey.  

Some may be attending university for the first time, while others are seasoned students ready for their final year of study. 

Andrew Loh is embarking on the second (and final) year of his MBA. TopMBA spoke with Andrew in 2020 about what it was like starting his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business during COVID-19. 

We recently caught up with Andrew to find out what he is most excited about for the second year of his MBA as students return to campus. 

Looking back to first year 

Andrew admits Stanford GSB has been all he expected and more and he continues to feel privileged to be a GSB student.  

He said: “The GSB is a magical place – there is so much beauty in my day-to-day interactions, the friendships I’ve built, and the late-night conversations I’ve had.” 

Andrew Loh is a dual degree candidate undertaking a Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School alongside his Stanford GSB MBA, and although it may seem like extra work, he says he’s happy he chose to be a dual degree student.

In fact, 20 percent of GSB students are dual degree candidates. Andrew said: “I think this speaks to the intellectual curiosity of the GSB cohort and our intersectional approach towards making impact in the future. Business alone does not have all the answers to solve our most pressing issues.”

Although happy with his choice, Andrew says he will miss Autumn 2021 at GSB as he’ll be at Harvard Kennedy – so that’s a trade-off for dual students.

Andrew said: “This is definitely a situation where I wish I could be at two places at once. I can only imagine the plethora of in-person opportunities to socialise, interact, and learn, especially now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Main takeaway from year one 

Andrew says his most salient takeaway from GSB is not being afraid to infuse humour into his daily life, both personally and professionally.  

He said: “For many people, levity is not only a manifestation of authenticity (and therefore good in itself), but it also can be good for its consequences. Humour has a special power to tease out uncomfortable truths in a disarming manner.” 

Andrew says this realisation was personally significant, as although he considered himself “funnyish”, he generally held back at work.  

He has received feedback in the past that because of his youth, any form of levity would diminish his hard-earned gravitas or executive presence, something Andrew says, ‘is important in countries where your persuasive power depends on how much grey hair you have.’

He said: “It was only at Stanford when I was told that I should consider humour as one of my ’superpowers’.” 

“Friends, classmates, and professors have shared this observation with me (GSB has an extremely open feedback culture). They’ve told me that the humour I bring to school is distinctive, memorable, and effective – helping build community, infuse energy and rally stakeholders towards agreement. 

“Whimsy helped me win GSB’s Executive Challenge, our annual MBA1-wide business case competition.” 

In his final quarter, Andrew took a class called Humor: Serious Business which explores using humour in the corporate world. He said: “This class and all my GSB feedback has completely changed how I plan to interact at work and in life.” 

Professor Jennifer Aaker and Lecturer Naomi Bagdonas bring humour to the classroom, and Andrew says they helped him identify specific areas at work where you can experiment with levity to great effect, like LinkedIn profiles for example. 

He said: “The argument here is that as GSB students, we’ve already earned some amount of credibility – we can afford to break the mould. LinkedIn humour can show a side of us that is unexpected and humanising, differentiating us from other profiles. I found this so persuasive that I immediately changed my LinkedIn description.” 

Andrew says all of his GSB professors have a wicked sense of humour which is effectively used in class – a USP he thinks should be in GSB’s public relations materials. And so, on Halloween, Andrew repaid the favour. Can you guess what he is?

andrew loh goldman sachs stanford gsb

 He’s Goldman Sachs of course. 

Most memorable first year moment 

Andrew says helping to bring music back to the lives of classmates during the pandemic is his most treasured moment.  

andrew loh singing stanford gsb

Restrictions made it difficult for the MBA1 class to build community and so, a socially-distanced concert was held in the courtyard of the student residences – led by Summer Hu, GSB ’22. In fact, Andrew sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah for his class. 

He said: “Imagine over 200 classmates seeing each other for the first time in one physical location. 

“We lost ourselves in the beauty of the music and the talent of our classmates. Just for a while, we were one – in our courtyard, along our corridors, through our living room windows, over Zoom.”

Second year 

Over the summer, Andrew interned with Amazon as a Senior Program Manager – his first foray into Big Tech, having previously worked as a consultant advising African, Asian, and European governments at the Tony Blair Institute.  

Andrew said: “Expanding from my experience in the public sector, I was excited to use the summer to explore the different levers in business and tech that can help improve society. I hope to become a leader who is fluent in the language of change across multiple sectors.” 

Andrew hopes to deepen his existing relationships and make lifelong friends this year. He says if friendship is the only thing he leaves with, it will have been worth it. 

Advice to prospective students 

Andrew says it’s easy to be intimidated by how selective GSB is with ‘crazy, high test scores, gold-plated resumes, and larger-than-life personas,’ but hopefuls should just go for it.  

He said: “The most important success factor for me was to set aside self-doubt, and just apply to business school in the first place.” 

Andrew says thinking long-term helps with a difficult decision. Would you regret not doing it in 30 years? Andrew knew he would regret not applying to GSB, so he bit the bullet and the rest is history. 

He believes the GSB application process is a forcing function for applicants to honestly reflect about their lives. 

Andrew said: “I would encourage applicants to leverage the opportunity – to rediscover influences, events and mentors that one may have forgotten; to tell one’s own story faithfully and authentically; to dream about how one can change lives, change organisations and change the world.”

This article was originally published in September 2021 .

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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