Alumni News, Dividend
Back to Listing

Rachel Sze, MBA ’23: From Music to Management

Rachel's headshot displayed alongside the Bain and Co. logo

Rachel Sze, MBA ’23, started her career in music, working for years as a high school band director. Sze planned on continuing that path forever — until everything changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was a high school band director, so I did everything from directing the marching band, teaching two bands, two orchestras, and AP music theory with the director for the school musical every year,” Sze said. “I used to spend my summers teaching drum major and marching band camps around the country.”

Like many teachers, Sze’s world was turned upside down in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused students to transition to an online learning environment. As their usual routine became anything but, Sze observed how their school district handled major strategic decisions during a time of crisis and found herself wishing she could contribute to solving problems at that level of the organization.

“I really wanted to tackle big issues like that, but I realized that a master's degree in education or conducting wasn't going to be the degree that necessarily got me into the rooms where those sorts of discussions were happening,” Sze said.

During a time of unprecedented change, Sze decided that she would also need to make a big change to pursue the career she realized she wanted. So, Sze researched graduate degrees and eventually opted to pursue an MBA to get one step closer to the strategic leadership decisions they wanted to be part of.

Choosing Michigan Ross

After Sze made the decision to go back to school for an MBA, they started researching different universities and programs to find the experience that would be right for them.

“I think, for me, the deciding factor was culture. There are a lot of great business schools out there, but I think there are fewer business schools where I felt like I was going to have the opportunity to feel comfortable enough to take the requisite risks that are essential to learning,” Sze said. “I wanted to be able to feel safe and know that I was going to be able to fail in ways that I was supported by peers, supported by professors, and supported by the opportunities that I was being given.”

As Sze toured schools and spoke to people from different programs, she found that the community at the Ross School of Business had exactly what she was looking for.

“I'm really pleased to say that the culture at Ross absolutely panned out to what I was looking for. I think one thing I always remember is when I was doing early recruiting for Reaching Out MBA, there was a good handful of us that were recruiting for the same company, and we all had a first-round interview,” Sze said.

“I sort of figured, okay, everyone's been super nice during the recruitment process, but maybe the rubber hits the road now that people are going for the same jobs. But no – it was such a supportive environment focused on making sure that all of us were putting our best foot forward."

That sense of collaboration extended past the classroom into these real, tangible outcomes that people really come to business school to be invested in. I think that was when I realized, oh, this is real here.

Exploring passions through action-based learning

As an MBA student, Sze decided that they wanted to explore as much as possible during their two years of learning. That journey started with pursuing her first internship in the corporate world at Bain and Co. in 2022.

“That internship was my first office job. As a public school teacher, the fact that there was natural light and as many pens and as much paper as I needed, I was just like, wow, there's resourcing,” Sze laughed.

With her former career as a teacher having a very insular style of work, Sze was excited and energized by the work they were able to do in teams at Bain and Co. After her internship concluded, Sze was offered a full-time role at Bain. Eager to continue exploring different industries and aspects of work, they opted to defer their start date to take on more experiences at Michigan Ross before starting there full-time.

“I was able to work on lending solutions strategy at the University of Michigan Credit Union, and I also had a chance to work as a fellow on Capitol Hill,” Sze said. “On Capitol Hill, I had the opportunity to write a bill. I think it really speaks to the versatility of the MBA toolkit, the core skills of being collaborative, being able to see the field and zoom out, and just having this large reserve of skills and knowledge to dig into. I think it is what has enabled my success post-Ross thus far.”

Opening doors with an MBA

Post graduation, Sze has been working as a consultant at Bain and Co., a career they have found joy in pursuing. Having gotten her MBA in order to secure a seat at the table in strategic business decisions, Sze has found what she was looking for and is loving each day of new experiences.

“My days are usually some combination of internal meetings, external meetings with stakeholders, having the opportunity to work on models, ideating answers to big strategic questions… I think it might be easier to tell you what I don't do,” Sze joked.

As they look to the future, Sze is excited to continue making a positive impact on businesses and utilizing her skills as a Michigan Ross MBA.

I can unequivocally say that my MBA has opened a ton of doors and is absolutely enabling whatever happens next. I don't know exactly what form that's going to look like five years from now, but I know that the foundation I have from Ross, the colleagues and friends that I have from my time on campus, and the experiences I've had through classes and experiential learning are definitely going to be things that I pull on in the next five years and certainly beyond.

Documents & Links
Connect with Rachel | Michigan Ross Alumni Ambassadors