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Favorite Companies Of The MBA Class of 2022

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Affordable. Accessible. Adaptable.

Powerful. Practical. Prestigious.

These qualities make any product sell — the kind that can transform how we think, work, and live. In the early 20th century, the automobile fit this description by re-defining what was possible. People enjoyed the freedom to pursue their dreams beyond their hometowns. Interstate highways were built and industries like petroleum and plastics thrived. In the later part of the century, personal computers became a must-have in homes. They provided a platform to create and connect as much as educate and entertain. PCs ushered in the digital age — and we can thank Microsoft for much of it.

That’s because Microsoft made PCs mainstream. Under Bill Gates’ leadership, the firm drove down size and cost and increased scope and sophistication. More than that, Microsoft re-framed its solution to appeal to a weekend novelist as much as a weary accountant. And the operating system, however maddening at first, served as the blueprint for others to follow. In the process, Microsoft’s decisions produced the ultimate case study for MBAs to dissect.

Vineetha Athrey, Duke University (Fuqua)

“SELL THE FUTURE”

Vineetha Athrey, a second year MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School, has closely studied Microsoft. She harkens back to the early 1980s — “when even research universities had, maybe, two computers.” For her, the genius of Microsoft — and Bill Gates, in particular — involves not just imagining a different world, but successfully selling that vision to the whole world.

“The way he did it is, to me, a great lesson in vision,” she tells P&Q. “We see businesses sometimes struggle to respond to even clear demands from the market. Here was a guy and a company that did not just create a product, but built up a whole ecosystem – market, infrastructure, demand, buyers, users, even influenced regulations where none had existed before! What it taught me very early on is this: Do not sell features, sell the future. It shaped my thinking as an entrepreneur and I believe it can be valuable for others too!”

Angela Masciale has first-hand experience with the company that she admires most. After all, the Texas McCombs second-year spent 4 years at Deloitte, rising from business analyst to consultant in the process. It was a company, she says, that shaped the professional whom she ultimately became.

“I learned the value of being on the ground but also appreciating and maintaining a bird’s eye view. I can create stunning visuals, or keep them simple. I know how to project manage to avoid potential hiccups and project manage while in the midst of a fire drill. I conquered the power of listening to shift client morale and successfully change a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’.”

Sijia Hao, London Business School

DOING IT DIFFERENTLY…AND BETTER

The best part of Deloitte, she adds, is how employees are treated after they leave the firm. The decision to leave, Masciale admits, was painfully difficult. However, she doesn’t feel like she was relegated to being an outside after leaving for business school.

“I am thankful for my time at Deloitte and will always cherish the way they supported me and my decisions,” Masciale explains. “Deloitte knows how to treat their employees. Even though I’m no longer there, I am not referred to as an “ex-employee” but rather, a colleague for life. While small, this distinction encourages a life-long connection and respect between the company and its employees, something I think all businesses can adopt and use for success.”

Of course, some MBAs look beyond blue chippers like Google and McKinsey when it comes to their favorite companies. Zanze’s Cheesecake is a case in point. A San Francisco favorite for over 40 years, Zanze’s Cheesecake isn’t your traditional bakery. Open just four days a week, Zanze’s specializes in cheesecake, producing no more than 50 a day according to the London Business School’s Sijia Hao. In other words, Zanze’s has resisted the temptation to sell in bulk or expand into areas that might dilute its reputation. In response to COVID, Zanze’s Cheesecake even pivoted to wholesale last summer, proving its model could endure disruptive times.

“From Zanze’s example, students can learn that if you focus on doing one thing, with the goal of being excellent at your craft, success will follow,” Hao observes. “Also, be conscious of the possible tradeoffs of expansion – from increased time input, to decreased product quality. Zanze’s could expand production, even by just one day per week, and make more money. Perhaps the owner prefers to allocate time and energy to pursue other interests beyond the business. Sometimes, there’s greater value to be derived from balance and restraint.”

There’s also value inherent to purpose, innovation, and empowerment. Those are just a couple of cultural staples that differentiate the best companies. Last year, P&Q asked selected members of the 2022 MBA Class to share the companies they respect most. From Pixar to PayPal, here are some of the companies who have influenced the next generation of business leaders the most.

John Olsoni, Indiana University (Kelley)

“I have great admiration and appreciation for disruptive companies, particularly those that challenge industries rooted in tradition reluctant to change. Any firm that faces an established industry and is able to completely alter the way it operates fascinates me. In 1999, PayPal set out with a goal, to disrupt the banking industry by connecting point-to-point transactions at scale for the first time. E-commerce was brought to those around the world with an internet connection, a PC, and a bank account. Those individuals previously unable to transact on a global scale, were now able to interact in the buying and selling of goods from the comfort of their own home.

Thousands of companies have since spawned from this simple yet well executed idea. Companies like Amazon, eBay, and others would not be possible without the founding principles of PayPal. The ability to connect people and provide a secure, yet convenient method of payment has shaped the way billions do business. The most significant learning I take away from this is not that your idea has to be revolutionary, rather that your execution and impact should be. Systematically influencing the way people live for the better, while creating opportunity along the way, is the hallmark of any disruptor and what I think entrepreneurial-minded business students should strive to launch.”
John Olsoni, Indiana University (Kelley)

“This might sound clichéd as I know it’s a classic MBA case study, but my favourite company is Patagonia. One of my favourite books is Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. He talks about Patagonia’s ongoing process of integrating truly sustainable practices throughout every single aspect of their business model – from the arduous process of developing organic cotton supply chains to creating a marketplace for used Patagonia products. The company is completely radical, but also highly successful.

I think what other business students can learn from Patagonia is the idea of market transformation, and making change happen – rather than waiting for change to happen. Patagonia did not have a fear of how prioritizing sustainability would hurt their bottom line – they understood the urgency of sustainability issues within their business and made it work.”
Christine Livet, London Business School

“I worked for Unilever ever since I graduated from university and would have to say my experience would be hard to top. There, I was shaped to become a strategic purpose-driven leader. Through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, I saw how a development agenda can be incorporated into a business’ strategy and learned to make tough trade-offs to drive both sustainable business growth and societal change. This was truly valuable to me, as I always wanted to utilize my career as a springboard to make an impact in the lives of others. Moreover, I appreciated how the leaders would always put people first before making any major decisions, and extended help to employees when it was needed – something incredibly vital now that we are all facing the economic impact of the corona virus pandemic. It has been very fulfilling to work for a company with values aligned to my own.”
Michelle Marie Miranda Cua, IESE Business School

“My favorite company is probably the Volkswagen Auto Group. The products VAG produces across their plethora of brands from SEAT to Bentley are a masterclass in efficient, modular design and manufacturing processes, while also delivering differentiated and strong value propositions. Business students can particularly learn from Volkswagen’s reparation and product strategy in the wake of “Dieselgate”. While many consumers were turned off to their diesel cars (which were offered at low prices with extremely long warranties), VAG continued to deliver high quality gasoline cars with industry-leading technology warranties, allowing them maintain and even improve their brands’ power.”
Andrew Wen, University of Washington (Foster)

Athena Ebinger, Cornell University (Johnson)

“My favorite company is Ellevest, a financial advising platform created by Sallie Krawcheck to help women achieve their financial goals. One reason I admire Ellevest is its focus on helping its clients invest in companies with business practices that are beneficial to women. In 2019, the company created Intentional Impact portfolios to help its Private Wealth clients invest in companies whose business practices promote women. In order to accomplish this, Ellevest created a set of criteria to review companies in different areas that have been known to impact women disproportionately. This year, Ellevest has added new criteria to account for racial biases and has promised to continue to look for ways to combat racial and social injustices. I admire Ellevest and its ability to react quickly and make necessary changes to its business model based on the current environment. Business students can learn that businesses can create positive changes in the community through a good business model from Ellevest.”
Athena Ebinger, Cornell University (Johnson)

Google. Really, Alphabet. While some companies tend to only think about what lies directly in front of them, and strive for incremental improvements to drive incremental growth, Google thinks bigger than that and invests in moonshot technology. There is something to be said and admired about the gusto and the courage that Google tackles its new ventures: internet search, autonomous driving, artificial intelligence, and even anti-aging technology. Obviously, Google has more capital available than the average company, but I think the lesson is the same: Think big, then execute.”
Cory Weeks, Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

Next Page: Peloton, Patagonia, SpaceX, Chick-fil-A, and more.

Torrey Mayes, UC Berkeley (Haas)

“My favorite company is Nike because of their innovative products, connection with sports culture, and their willingness to openly support racial and social movements. Nike seamlessly combines their adaptive high-performance gear with a trendy fashion forward design that is comfortable and unique. There are lots of ways to run a successful company and Nike uses its massive platform to not only make profit, but more importantly advocate for justice and equality.”
Torrey Mayes, UC Berkeley (Haas)

“I know of no company that balances efficiency with quality and price like Chick-fil-A. While the company is super profitable and their company culture is uncompromising, it is the operations of the average Chick-fil-A franchise in any given American town that can teach the most to business school students. These restaurants serve as a literal case study on effective systems and customer service and demonstrate what a commitment to excellence and perfection looks like on a daily basis (except on Sundays) in a way that can be transferred across industry.”
Richard Pettey, Harvard Business School

“My favorite company is a nonprofit called The Ocean Cleanup. Growing up near the coast, I always had an appreciation for the ocean and our role in protecting it. I admire the fact that a new business invented a system, which involves floating barriers and a solar-powered conveyor belt, to remove large plastic objects from the ocean. They also developed a business model to finance the operation by melting down the recovered plastics and selling them to make recycled items.

However, it was not always smooth sailing for The Ocean Cleanup team. Initially, the first system failed and was not able to retain plastic effectively. Instead of giving up, they created a second version of the system, which was successful in collecting plastic from the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup organization identified a difficult problem, took a risk in developing and financing the system, and persevered to see it become successful. Knowing that progress is not always a straight line and that with perseverance and passion we can make a meaningful impact is an essential lesson for business students.”
Jonathan Nichols, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

“One brand I really admire is Fenty Beauty. In 2017, Rihanna wanted to create a product where, in her words, “…people could appreciate makeup without feeling like it wasn’t for them.” After research with women of color, she launched her Fenty Beauty foundation line in 40 shades. When the products were released, social media praised her authentic execution of the product. And shortly following the launch, beauty publications started using the phrase “The Fenty Effect” to describe major brands that released an extended shade range in response to Fenty’s success.

By using representation as THE guiding principle for her company, she created a brand that resonated with consumers and changed an entire industry. Rihanna’s success shows me, and my fellow MBA students, that inclusion isn’t just a “nice-to-have,” it’s an essential ingredient of brands’ success.”
Rachel Chanen, New York University (Stern)

Niki Miyashiro, USC (Marshall)

Peloton is my favorite company since it combines my love for fitness and technology. While I was still working, John Foley, the CEO, did a fireside chat for our clients that I got to listen in on. He discussed how important it was for them to support the community when they are one of few companies doing well right now. They also just announced a new bike and are refunding customers who purchased the old bike before the announcement since the price went down. I don’t know of a lot of companies that would give such a refund. Business students could learn that creating shareholder value can still be done while taking care of your customers and community.”
Niki Miyashiro, USC (Marshall)

“Since reading Yvon Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing, I’ve had an admiration of Patagonia. I appreciate the origin story of the company and how the principles established early in its founding have remained a bedrock of the company’s culture. Their dedication to promoting a more sustainable future through corporate initiatives is inspiring to me. I think that a lot of companies simply pay lip service to their principles rather than make decisions based off of them. I think the biggest thing that business students can learn from Patagonia is the importance of standing up for what you believe in. Environmental sustainability has been a guiding principle for Patagonia since its inception and something that the company has remained dedicated to for its entire existence.”
Mitch Platman, University of Washington (Foster)

“I love the concept and mission of The Skimm. For a society that has more access to information and technology than ever before, it sometimes feels as though are as uninformed as ever. The Skimm actively combats this, while delivering the information in a fun, easy-to-read, and consumable fashion. I also love that it’s a female-run business, with two founders who, at a very young age, recognized the shortfalls of their industry and set out to do something about it. They have expertly paired their unique skills and backgrounds to create a highly successful source of media and continue to evolve The Skimm’s offerings.”
Kathryn Allen, University of Virginia (Darden)

Sarah Black, MIT (Sloan)

“I would probably say The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney’s ideas pushed the boundaries of entertainment at the time. He had an amazing vision and took risks to realise it. This created a legacy that has brought joy to millions and significantly impacted the evolution of animated films and theme parks for the better. Today, despite its size, the company continues to find innovative ways improve and grow its product offerings (think Disney+) which still bring enjoyment and wonder into the lives of adults and children alike.”
Sarah Black, MIT (Sloan)

“I can only speak as an outsider looking in, but I’ve always been fascinated by Bridgewater Associates’ practice of “Radical Transparency.” Rather than keeping certain sensitive details behind closed doors, Bridgewater encourages open and honest communication within the company at all levels. That manifests itself in practices like allowing employees to see the salaries and performance ratings of all others at the company, all meetings being recorded and transcripts being made available, and all offices having an open-door policy. I think the company is participating in a fascinating corporate culture experiment and am interested to see if it continues to work for them.”
Brett Davidson, Yale SOM

“I’d say SpaceX, not only because it was founded by a fellow South African (Elon Musk), but also because they have pushed the boundaries of innovation. They have challenged norms, taking something that was thought to be a state-only function (space / scientific research) and turning it into an exciting, impactful, and profitable business. In addition to creating models and products that are driving down the cost of space travel, they are also working to create new opportunities for people by providing low-cost, high-speed internet to places where access has either been unreliable or even unavailable. SpaceX is a lesson in how out-of-the-box, experimental thinking can be turned into an impactful and profitable business.”
Tsepo Serakalala, London Business School

“I have never found myself particularly interested in retail, but my answer is Nordstrom – and not just for its annual sale. Nordstrom consistently ranks among the highest in customer loyalty and satisfaction and is cited by business books as an example of a company that revolves around the customer and was an early user of data to support that goal.

For business students, Nordstrom serves as a reminder to stay grounded in the people (customers and clients) we intend to serve. It is easy to be caught in the mindset of trying to prove you are the smartest person in the room. However, focusing on who we are working for and how we cultivate those relationships is more important.”
Dylan Geary, University of Chicago (Booth)

“I’ve always had a great respect for an underdog story and I’m a big fan of SpaceX. 10-15 years ago, the majority of people laughed at their aspirations. Today, they are reusing rockets and sending passengers to the ISS while the space industry is trying to catch up to their ground-breaking progress. They are a great example to business students that in order to achieve things that have never been achieved, we have to be willing and dedicated to do things that no one has ever done before.”
Drew McKnight, University of Michigan (Ross)

Linse Rose Kelbe, HEC Paris

Ellevest is an investment and financial planning firm founded by a woman and built for women, whose financial needs are often not taken into consideration in typical financial industry products (e.g. taking mid-career breaks, living longer than men). Ellevest also offers Impact Portfolios, which focus on investing in companies and funds that prioritize women in leadership, community development, and sustainable practices. Business students can learn ways to address previously underserved markets, whether they be defined by gender, race, or other designation. More importantly, they will also learn that addressing these needs is a good business opportunity as it meets previously unfulfilled demand.”
Linse Rose Kelbe, HEC Paris

“My favorite company is Patagonia because they embody the notion that doing good is good for business. Patagonia seems genuinely committed to their mission statement, which is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” As a B-Corp, Patagonia also values their employees, communities and the environment alongside shareholders in the decision making process. At the end of the day, Patagonia is driven to use business as a force of good. Business students could learn from the intentional approach that Patagonia takes and the role in which they see themselves. Specifically, Patagonia is primarily concerned about the long-term consequences of their actions, rather than being driven by short-term gains. When considering business problems and potential solutions, students should take into consideration Patagonia’s lens into the world: that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.”
Nataly Garzon, Washington University (Olin)

Next Page: Google, Nike, McKinsey & Company, Starbucks, Apple, and more…

“A company I admire is Google because of its strong commitment to its values. These values are most evident in the sacrifices Google makes. The company renounced lucrative AI contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense to improve weapons because leadership believed it clashed with its stated goal of using AI for societal benefit. Similarly, Google retracted its potential re-entry into the Chinese market out of censorship concerns, which may have undermined its goal of promoting free speech and freedom around the world generally. As future business leaders, business students should realize that, even if such decisions have real consequences on a company’s bottom line, they should remain true to and uncompromising of their values.”
Joseph Mourad. Wharton School

“In the home furnishings industry there are many inspiring, innovative and creative small companies that are changing how we buy furniture and home decor. Williams-Sonoma, Inc., however, is one large, well-known, and long-standing company that is exemplifying how and why I want to change my industry. Led by a powerhouse female CEO and run by a majority female executive suite, Williams-Sonoma not only advocates for more female leadership but also affects positive and sustainable influence and change on a local level. Everyone can learn from this company for its multi-level, from-the-ground-up, diversity-driven mentality. This company’s leadership understands and reflects its consumer demographic and is at the top of the industry because of it.
Evanne Timberlake, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

“One of my favorite companies is Procter and Gamble. P&G is a classic consumer goods company which has been around for almost 200 years. Today, it owns many of the brands everyone uses on a daily basis. One thing business students can learn from P&G is the ability to make changes when necessary, no matter how big or small. Less than a decade ago, P&G decided to drop or sell over half of their brands and concentrate resources on the ones that drove the large majority of their profits. Some businesses may be hesitant to reduce the variety of their product selection due to the concern of losing market share or potential sunk costs of investments already made. However, most business professionals have the ability to realize when a change needs to be made, but it takes discipline and decisiveness to actually implement that change at the right time.”
Shreedhar Patel, Indiana University (Kelley)

“This is a tough one, but I’m going to say Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The two founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, demonstrate how businesses can be socially conscious and make a profit. The company supports numerous social justice causes, such as same-sex marriage and BLM, while making bomb original ice cream flavors. They also use their marketing platform as a popular ice cream brand to provide commentary on current issues. The company was also one of the first to oppose use of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone in cows due to its negative impact on family farming. They have also used their packaging to support the family farm organization, Farm Aid. The company even created the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, which encourages their employees to give back to their communities and offers grants for social justice programs. From them, I think business students can learn how to have a sense of humor, run a successful business and support important social causes.”
Payal Saini, HEC Paris

Jordan Budisantoso, UCLA (Anderson)

“Though not necessarily a “favorite company,” a company I’ve admired (as both a teacher and user) is Remind, a school and teacher platform that allows educators to communicate with students and parents. I remember reading years ago that every Remind employee (from the interns to the engineers to the co-founders) conducts live customer support calls with teachers for one hour every week. I’m not sure if they still do this, but employees would wear a blue cape in order to inform their coworkers that they were busy conversing with actual teachers and shouldn’t be interrupted. And while many companies preach customer obsession, too often people just acknowledge this wisdom as important without actually putting that advice into action.”
Jordan Budisantoso, UCLA (Anderson)

Dyson is a company that I truly admire. Its obsessive focus on design, experience, and innovation is the core of its success. Very few companies are willing to take a risk on spending millions of dollars reimagining and reinventing common house items in such mature markets. Dyson has managed to turn boring chores into exciting experiences and gotten people to actually enjoy vacuuming. What we could all learn from Dyson is not just to aim to create products that work, but to craft gratifying experiences for the humans using these products.”
Lucy Yiran Liu, INSEAD

“Being a person who loves outdoor activities and has hiked 23 National Parks, REI has been a big favorite of mine for a long time. Their original Co-Op business model was innovative and helped support those who pursued outdoor activities on a budget. Now, their outdoor programming and knowledgeable staff have built each store into a community of sharing stories, techniques, and ideas. The impact REI has had on the outdoor equipment industry is profound as they have worked to educate and bring together a new generation of explorers.

In an age of social media, REI continues to expand in-person social gatherings around a common interest. I believe my fellow business school students should look at the model REI has championed and contemplate its impact. Brands, whether in the tech or consumer space, can have a ripple effect beyond their products. With the right marketing and engagement, brands can help customers bond and expand their life’s vision.”
Jim Fiene, Duke University (Fuqua)

“It’s difficult to pick a favorite company, but one for which I feel genuine affection at the moment is Penzeys Spices; their promotional e-mails always get me thinking about the value of authenticity. Of course, authenticity is important if you’re shopping for spices, but I’m delighted by the way it seems to permeate their marketing strategy. When their e-mails talk about current events, I always feel as though the message is coming from a fellow human being rather than from “a brand.” I also enjoy that they’re completely transparent about the economics of their promotions—if they send you an e-mail telling you that vanilla extract is 50% off this week, they’ll explain that they’re losing money on vanilla extract and ask you to please order something else as well. I enjoy the weekly reminder of the value of honesty and a simple ‘please’.”
Anna Lincoln-Barnes, Yale SOM

“While it is hard to pick, I find Apple to be very unique. From the outside, I find it very independent in its decision-making without caring much about what its competitors are doing. It seems like they don’t care much about the general practices (in the market) and focus solely on their goals without any compromise. This focus and precision can very well be seen in their unique and unconventional designs. They are all about being different and are able to attract customers from all over the world with the least bit of marketing. To me, it is a broad example of being bold, believing in your own ideas, and accomplishing them so well (even if it is not conventional) that it earns appreciation and success without having to chase too hard. It’s also the key to being unique, and I think this is something that business students can learn from the success of Apple.”
Megha Reddy Yeruva, Washington University (Olin)

Mafalda Oom Torres, IESE Business School

“At the moment, McKinsey & Company is definitely the firm with which I identify the most. At McKinsey, we have the opportunity to face complex problems that required robust and insightful analysis along with creative solutions, in a highly challenging environment with teams and engagements across the globe. At McKinsey, we gain a new family. The internal team together with the client side work towards a common goal always upholding both organizations’ core values.”
Mafalda Oom Torres, IESE Business School

“My favorite company is Nike, which demonstrates the importance of staying true to your brand purpose and messaging. Nike has made, what some may call controversial business decisions. However, these decisions not only solidified their purpose of equalizing the playing field for all, but also amplified their messaging of uniting the world through sport. As this relates to business students, when you first begin your career, the advice you’re given is to develop your brand – who you are and how you present yourself to the world. Each decision you make affects your brand. If your core values or goal in life is part of your brand, then it’s best to double down on those and ensure each action you’re taking is aligned with your values and goals. You’ll see that it’s always best to stay true to yourself.”
Alexia Sabogal, University of Michigan (Ross)

“I think Starbucks is a pretty neat company. They do an excellent job of investing in professional and personal development for all of their employees – from the corporate leaders down to the baristas at your local shop. I admire companies who invest in their people, and am a big believer that this pays a lot of dividends for the individuals and the companies themselves.”
Gonzalo Roque, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

“One of my favorite companies is Pixar, the maker of movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, and Coco (just to name just a few of the magical movies they’ve created). It is a highly innovative company looking for creative solutions to their problems, which we can all aspire to do. Unlike some other Hollywood companies, they have peer-to peer reviews for constructive feedback so the team members can learn from one another. Additionally, they create movies that take you on a whirlwind of emotions, where the characters go through losses, transformations, and gains. They find a delicate balance of tragedy mixed with hope and positivity. For business students, it is a good reminder that MBA is one component of our journey and that even if we run into adversity, there will be moments of sheer happiness and joy.”
Shivani Handa, Indiana University (Kelley)

DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2022: THE COVID COHORTS

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