Rob Self
Home Region

Ann Arbor, MI

Undergrad Education

University of Michigan

Previous Experience

Ford Motor Company, University of Michigan, Tesla Motors, Inc., BMW Group AG, BMW Manufacturing, Sunventrix LLC

HBS Activities

Heartland Club co-president, Midwest Student Association co-president

“How can we align the interests of corporations to better serve the holistic needs of society?”

A cursory glance at Rob Self’s resumé seems to suggest a contradiction: with an advanced degree in mechanical engineering and a lengthy job history in manufacturing and automotive, his founding of a startup to serve Midwestern farmers seems to have arrived from a different resumé.

But to Rob, there’s a singular theme of continuity: sustainability. “It started with the Boy Scouts,” he says. Originally intended as a way for Rob and his father to have fun on weekends (eventually joined by his two brothers), Scouting “gave me an appreciation for how beautiful our planet is – we need to preserve the wonders of the world for our future generations.”

“I started my career in auto,” Rob says, “because it’s simultaneously something that impacts just about every person in the world while being a huge contributor to carbon emissions. I wanted to help people live more comfortable lives while conserving resources on our planet.”

In addition to engineering roles at Ford, Tesla, and BMW, Rob co-founded a startup, Ceres, to help farmers manage precious water resources through better access to data. Although the venture is currently on hold, it helped Rob understand his path ahead.

Learning how to lead the way toward sustainability

Rob had enjoyed his work as an engineer, but he felt “frustrated that the strategic decisions were made elsewhere. I wanted to be part of these discussions. I looked at influential leaders and noticed that many had MBAs from top institutions, like HBS.”

“Initially,” Rob confesses, “I was worried that HBS would have a pretentious feel, but after coming and visiting, I saw how down to earth everyone was and how I could thrive here.”

Rob arrived with his wife, Jeannie Self. “One of the reasons I chose HBS is because there’s a real community here built around spouses and partners. I wanted her to be part of the experience. At HBS, she’s invited and welcomed to the same events; there’s no discrimination between who is going to school and who is the partner.”

With a long-term goal of encouraging sustainability, Rob asks, “How can we align the interests of corporations to better serve the holistic needs of society? It’s quite exciting to see that many of my classmates are also interested in the broader good, less focused on corporate profits as the end-all, be-all. There are many discussions on how business leaders should think about their role to impact society in a positive way.”

This summer, Rob will take on his first consulting assignment with Boston Consulting Group. “Coming from a product development background, I see this as a great way to transition to a leadership role; I’ll get to see how leaders in different industries operate.”

In his EC year, Rob will serve as co-President to both the Heartland Club and Midwest Student Association. He looks forward to deepening ties between the Midwest and the Harvard Business School. “This school is a place of thought leadership and innovation; the foundation of which is a student body representative of all regions.”

Rob’s passion is for impact, yet he feels comfortable with the current ambiguity of his destination. “I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know HBS is a great place to explore and discover where I can make a difference.”