2022 Best & Brightest Business Major: Max Dambach, Tulane University (Freeman)

Max Dambach

Tulane University, AB Freeman School of Business

“Insatiably curious about the universe around him, his essence failing to fit adequately into fifteen…”

Fun fact about yourself: One fun fact about myself is that I am very interested in homesteading and self-sufficient living, something I attribute to a mix between my fanatical consumption of the tv show Survivor and the joy I had growing up tending to a vegetable garden with my dad. Once I have my first property, some of the first things I want to do is create an aquaponics system in the backyard.

Hometown: Franklin, Tennessee

High School: Battle Ground Academy

Major: Management and Communications

Minor: Finance

Favorite Business Course: My favorite business course that I took in my four years at Freeman was Management of Tech and Innovation with Professor Yuchen Zhang. In this course, we studied the development of new technologies and how innovative concepts and ideas come into being. We also learned to use R Studio, a data processing, manipulation, and analysis software that we used to derive insights from large sets of data. In this course, I loved the challenge that came with mastering data processing methods, as well as the emphasis on critical thinking skills and creativity in analyzing data.

My favorite part of the course was a final project in which we evaluated Kickstarter products using data-intensive analysis to determine how that product creates value through differentiation and whether that product could realistically compete in the market. My team analyzed a “smart” running insole called Runvi and used self-collected pacing data from the run-tracking app Strava, as well as biomechanics data from a Brazilian study to conclude that the smart insole created value for consumers through injury prevention and improvement of run quality. I had to create a methodology and analyze publicly available data sources from scratch to prove the value of the product, which was an engaging and at times frustrating puzzle that ended up being a definite highlight during my time at Tulane.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Dean’s List: I have been placed on the Dean’s list every semester since Fall 2018.

Running Club President (4 semesters): Running club has been a huge part of my last four years at Tulane, so it has been an honor to get to lead the club for two of those years. In the running club, I love getting to stay physically fit and exploring the city by creating new routes. Another amazing part of running club has been getting to encourage people in their fitness goals and also encouraging people to feel comfortable sharing parts of their lives with me and the group. I feel that I have learned more about how to talk to people and be a good listener from this organization than anywhere else in my life. Running is a big part of my life and I hope to continue to prioritize it in my post-graduate life. I plan on running a 50-mile ultramarathon this year, something I had planned to do last December, which was unfortunately derailed due to an overuse injury.

Student Leadership Team at Tulane Catholic (2 semesters): Coming into college, I never would have guessed that I would become heavily involved at Tulane’s Catholic Center. Nevertheless, following conversion, I have been confirmed Catholic, become involved in the liturgy as an altar server, enrolled in Bible studies, and enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the Catholic Center’s leadership team. On the leadership team, we planned events to engage the Catholic community, discussed strategies to encourage those around us to learn and grow, and conducted outreach on campus. This semester, I am sponsoring and mentoring a freshman who is converting to Catholicism and starting a group that meets weekly to study and discuss Vatican II Post-Conciliar documents.

Student Worker at Middle American Research Institute of Tulane University (1.5 Semesters): Fantastic opportunity to engage in professional development in an area of particular interest (Mesoamerican Culture and History). In this position, I made creative decisions in a complete overhaul of the organization’s website, going so far as to teach myself how to use HTML coding from scratch. Unfortunately, my time with MARI was cut short by the COVID pandemic in March of 2020, but this was a great chance to engage in an area of scholarly interest while also learning to push myself to expand my skillsets on the fly.

Where have you interned during your college career?

Designlight LLC (Summer of 2019 and 2020 – Nashville) Designlight LLC is a company that distributes lighting to commercial construction projects, essentially operating as a middleman between lighting fixture manufacturers and contractors. With this company, I worked for two summers, adding responsibility in the second year as I became more familiar with the business and its product offerings. As an order management intern, I was tasked with formulating competitively priced bids for customers, using fixture “schedules” to identify fixtures that met the specifications of the build site, while simultaneously maximizing margin for Designlight on both ends of the business. When our bids won, I would schedule shipments to the clients’ specifications and monitor the progress of those shipments over time.

Lockton Inc. (Summer of 2021 – New Orleans Office) – Lockton is a commercial insurance broker that negotiates favorable coverage terms for businesses across a wide array of industries. As a marine insurance intern, I developed a strong foundation in general insurance knowledge by setting up meetings with and interviewing professionals from throughout the company. I was expected to perform policy reviews and similar tasks for other associates, and I used those opportunities to apply what I was learning and ask further questions. Finally, along with a group of other interns, I researched the insurance implications for shipping companies of autonomous vessels and presented those findings to a panel of practice leaders and upper management at the company.

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor in the Freeman School was Professor Michael Hogg, who I took for Legal Studies in Business. Legal Studies in Business is a required course for all undergraduate business students that discusses legal and ethical issues that arise in business. I didn’t think that I had any interest in law, but I was surprised to find that the content was more challenging and compelling than I had given it credit for. Professor Hogg had a very engaging teaching style that encouraged participation, debate, and critical thinking.

Professor Hogg centered his class around “cold calling” or asking questions of students out of the blue. This forced students to remain engaged in the lecture and make their own contributions. Legal Studies in Business is certainly one of the best endorsements of the Socratic method that I have encountered in a university setting. Importantly, to make this system work, Professor Hogg made all contributions, right or wrong, valuable in the context of the lesson, an important detail, without which his style of teaching would have been largely ineffective. Professor Hogg was also a great resource when completing assignments and offered fantastic and fair feedback on papers and tests. On the whole, Professor Hogg was my favorite professor in the business school because he created a unique and difficult-to-maintain classroom environment that allowed for greater discourse and more effective learning of a concept that could easily have been monotonous.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The biggest lessons I have gained from studying business have been in determining what I value most in a company as a consumer and as an employee. I had never truly understood the great diversity of company cultures and other intangible factors that can completely change the way that a company interacts with consumers and with its own employees. Particularly through examining many case studies and discussing why certain companies are successful, it becomes clear to anyone studying business that much of the value in a company derives not from the product or service itself, but rather from human capital and a company’s culture.

My vision prior to studying business was that conducting business and working for a company would not differ wildly between companies in any given industry. In studying concepts like “differentiation” and “company culture”, I have identified many factors that are valuable to me in a potential employer and are currently aiding me in my job search and interviews. In better understanding how businesses create value, I better understand my own goals and dreams for my own future.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? The best advice I would give to students who want to major in a business-related field would be to branch out from the business school and take classes that interest you even if they do not contribute to your major and future career. Tulane does a fantastic job of incentivizing this practice with its “Newcomb Tulane Requirements”. This is the only time in your life when you can run down an academic rabbit hole and learn for the sake of learning. I don’t anticipate that I will ever use in business what I learned in classes like Pre-Columbian Art or Ancient Greek Language, but I am grateful that I got the opportunity to pursue my interests in an academic setting during my time at Tulane.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? What has surprised me most about majoring in business has been the complexity associated with starting a company. Starting my own company has always been a goal of mine for later in life, but prior to my time in the Freeman School, I was woefully undereducated and frankly naïve about the logistics of starting a business.

In classes like Venture Capital and Private Equity and Management of New Ventures, we looked in depth at a variety of case studies and performed research on prominent startups. Along the way, I learned about the myriad of challenges associated with fundraising, creating organic growth, building a customer base, and protecting intellectual property, all of which contribute to the success (or more frequently failure) of a startup. It is easy to think of an entrepreneur as a visionary and leader, but being an entrepreneur really demands knowledge that spans all areas of the business world from accounting to supply-chain management.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? One thing that I would do differently looking back at my experience in business school would be to attend more speaker events and extracurricular educational opportunities sponsored by the business school. I did not take enough advantage of these events and the networking and learning opportunities that they afford to students free of charge. I would encourage current and future business students, particularly if a speaker is from an industry of interest, to attend as many of these events as possible. These events can expand your horizons, causing you to consider employment opportunities in an industry that you had never considered.

What business executive do you admire most? The business executive that I admire most is the former CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelt. Immelt was named CEO of GE only days before the 9/11 attacks, which tanked the value of GE’s stock, particularly in their aircraft engineering segment. Immelt had to guide the company effectively in the wake of this disaster and later in the wake of the financial crisis. The pressure and scrutiny that Immelt felt in leading GE through these catastrophic incidents was only magnified the by fact that he was following the tenure of one of America’s most famous CEOs, Jack Welch.

Immelt has received a ton of criticism for his tenure at GE, some of which is certainly warranted, but I think that he has been very candid about the mistakes he has made and what he had learned from them. I admire that even in the shadow of Jack Welch, he took the company in new directions that he believed in, rather than trying to be a pale imitation of his predecessor. In a rapidly-changing business environment, Immelt took concrete steps to modernize the company and keep it on the cutting edge. I particularly appreciate his foresight in the creation of Ecomagination, an environmental business initiative that focused on reducing emissions, increasing emphasis on alternative energy and eco-friendly technologies, and making ecomagination efforts transparent to shareholders and customers. This was a bold and prescient initiative that ran contrary to the actions of many other similar companies at the time and was certainly not expected of such a large, established company.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Prior to coming to college, I had wanted to pursue journalism as a career, something that I eventually lost interest in as I studied business. That said, for a period of about two years, I wrote weekly articles about the Tennessee Titans for a website that centered around the Nashville-based sports franchise. In this role, I learned to meet deadlines and work with an editor, which were valuable lessons, but my proudest moment was when one of my articles was featured on Bleacher Report, a prominent national sports media outlet. Even though I no longer want to pursue journalism, the surprise and excitement I felt when I saw my own writing featured for a national audience is something I will never forget.

Which classmate do you most admire? The classmate that I most admire is my good friend Chase Stockwell. Chase graduated two years ago and has since moved back to his home state of Washington for work. Chase graduated from Tulane with degrees in Management and Computer Science and is now working as an Engineer Analyst at Accenture and getting his Masters at UT Austin. During my first two years at Tulane, as I was finding my way, I got to know Chase well through running club and he was an amazing resource for me who always had great advice and would share with me his own experience in the business school.

Chase and I continue to stay in touch after he graduated (mostly about the NFL and Survivor), but I know that I can always share how my life and classes are going and he will have timely advice. Most importantly, Chase was an awesome example of someone who went through his classes the right way: diligently and honestly. In addition, during his time at Tulane, he was heavily involved with a business fraternity, the Catholic Center, and the Running Club, which has certainly inspired me to strive for excellence academically, while also committing myself fully to organizations that I am passionate about during my time in college.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? It may be cliché, but I would most like to thank my dad for my success. My dad has made so many sacrifices and worked extremely hard for my family to enjoy the life that we have. That said, he has still never failed to make time for my siblings or my mom every time he gets home from work. From a young age, my dad has always encouraged me to work hard and aim for quality, particularly in academics but also in baseball, basketball, and cross country. He has taught me so much about how to succeed in business, be professional, and how to prudently interact with the people around me. My dad also has a really great sense of humor and understands how to make people feel comfortable around him, which is something I have tried my best to emulate in my own life. I owe a great deal of my success to these lessons that my dad has taught me, as well as the great example he has been in my daily life.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

Two items that would be on my professional bucket list would be first-and-foremost to start my own business. My dad has his own business and so it has always been something I aspired to as I grew up. I would love to conceive my own novel idea, build it from the ground up, and watch it grow. Entrepreneurship is fast-paced and demands a lot, but the financial and personal rewards of such an endeavor make the challenge worth it. My other professional goal would be to put my kids through college without student loans. I am very blessed to graduate, with the help of my scholarship, without the burden of student loans that can be extremely debilitating. If I can be in a place financially where my children will not have to bear that burden, I would consider that a great success.

What are your hobbies? Outside of the classroom, my hobbies include running, staying involved at the Tulane Catholic Center, playing chess, reading, listening to podcasts, and supporting my Tennessee Titans.

What made Max such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“I believe Max has a rare combination of knowledge in both breadth and depth. His broad exposure to ideas and in-depth understanding of domain topics enable him to jointly adopt a quantitative, modeling approach and a multi-dimensional perspective in order to address business-related issues. Such unique capability is crucial in future business, which is increasingly multidisciplinary and digitized.”

Yuchen Zhang
Assistant Professor



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