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20 Questions with Connor Jaeger, MM ’16

By Bob Needham

When the world tunes in to the Olympic Games this month, Connor Jaeger, BSE ’14/MM ’16, will have a different perspective than most: This Ross School of Business alum and real estate executive is also a medal-winning Olympic swimmer.

As a development project manager in the City Living division for Toll Brothers in New Jersey, Jaeger oversees condo development in high-density urban areas. “The position is so interesting because you’re hardly ever doing something more than once,” he says. “One day I could be doing something high-level like working with an architect on the exterior design of a future building, and then the next day be in the details, deciding what the rate should be for a single parking space lease.”

Jaeger says the lessons learned from his Olympic experience — which includes swimming in two Games and winning a silver medal in Brazil in 2016 — influence his life in business: “Not to sound cliché, but the obvious one is how training instilled a strong work ethic in me. I may not be jumping into that pool before sunrise anymore, but I still wake up at 5 a.m. wanting to give my best every day.

“Equally important, the long road to the Olympics taught me that success does not come overnight. I didn’t even qualify for Olympic Trials until I was 20 years old, but I started swimming when I was 7. My past reminds me that no matter what my goal in business is, the only way to achieve it will be to work hard at it every day and to not get discouraged just because I haven’t accomplished it yet.”

In that spirit,  Jaeger agreed to dive right into our 20 Questions:

Connor Jaeger participates in a clinic for young swimmers.

Are you still active in the swimming world? 

I’m on USA Swimming’s investment committee. Before COVID-19, I was active in doing clinics for kids through Fitter and Faster Swim Tour. During the pandemic, I even did a few Zoom sessions with age-group teams. I hope to always keep a connection to the sport.

What sport are you best at, other than swimming?

Benefiting from all of those years of aerobic and endurance training, running has to be my next best sport. However, my favorite is surfing. I do it so rarely these days, though, I don’t know if I can really call myself a surfer anymore.

What’s your favorite sport to watch?

I’m writing this as I have the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials playing in the background. Swimming is still my favorite sport to watch. After that, Michigan football or Michigan basketball. Go Blue!

What’s your best memory of your time at Michigan or Ross?

The feeling I would have walking out of the pool after an early Saturday morning practice in the fall and hearing the band getting warmed up before the football game. The crisp fall air. The metronome playing in the background. The energy of the crowd coming into town and people setting up their tailgate. There’s really nothing better.

You were in one of the first classes of Master of Management students at Ross. What led you to enter the program?

I wanted to continue my education while I had an opportunity to keep training on campus. After studying mechanical engineering in undergrad, I was excited to expose myself to new material. I thought that a business degree would complement my engineering degree and also give me a solid base for a career in real estate, which is what I already knew I wanted to do.

Who are three people, living or dead, you’d like to have over for dinner?

My wife, Courtney, and my two grandparents who never had a chance to meet her.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

Backpacking through Europe in the summer of 2017.

What’s a book that you’ve read recently? How was it?

Moneyball. I saw the movie before, but the book was still very interesting. It is a great reminder to challenge yourself and challenge the way that you look at the world around you.

What’s your favorite show to binge/stream?

The Office or True Detective, season one.

Top three favorite musicals?

Something Rotten!, Jersey Boys, Hamilton.

Favorite podcasts?

How I Built This, Freakonomics, Serial.

Favorite line from a movie?

 “I don’t want to be a product of my environment; I want my environment to be a product of me.” - The Departed

What is your guilty pleasure?

Chicken parmigiana entrees for dinner (nearly) every Sunday night.

What’s your pet peeve?

People riding electric bicycles on the sidewalks. If someone from the city of Hoboken happens to see this, please help!

What are the most-used apps on your phone?

Spotify and iMessage.

Favorite drink?

Manhattan.

Favorite comfort food?

Lamb korma.  

Business or charity you wish more people knew about?

Covenant House. They do amazing work for homeless youth. If you’ve been considering getting involved with a charity, please consider looking into Covenant House.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Manage a rock band like Tom Hanks in That Thing You Do.

What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?

Buy Tesla stock. Joking aside, I’d tell myself to take full advantage of being at the University of Michigan and eventually in a program like the Master of Management at Ross. Meet as many people as you can and try to learn from them. Make an effort to stay in touch with as many people as possible.

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