Leonid Markel

Class Year: 

Hometown: Voorhees, New Jersey, USA


Eastern Senior High School


Throughout my four years in the Huntsman Program I met an unbelievable array of individuals. From governors and senators to ambassadors and CEOs, I had the pleasure of hearing insights regarding a variety of topics from those most knowledgeable about them—all within the cozy confines of the Huntsman Program Office. While speakers may not come to the program every day, Huntsmanites are always up for a lively conversation about anything from Lebanese politics to the best finance professor. I cannot imagine another community as interesting and diverse as the Huntsman Program!

Why Huntsman?

Leonid, who goes by "Leo," was born in the former USSR. He lived in Kiev for four years before settling in the United States. At his high school in New Jersey, he played volleyball and participated in Model United Nations. Leo’s multicultural upbringing contributed to his interest in international affairs, and he was also a young businessman: he participated in business and marketing competitions and ran his own small-scale web design company while still in high school.
While the Huntsman Program was clearly a good fit for Leo's academic interests, he also appreciated the social benefits of the program. He says that his fellow Huntsmanites are "remarkable," and he has many close friends in the program. At the same time, he says that he never felt isolated from other Penn students and was able to meet many other students through classes and extracurricular activities. He also enjoyed meeting professors, politicians, and businessmen through the program's many events.

Exploring Diverse Interests

As a Huntsman student, Leo was involved in both volleyball and Model UN. He served on the Executive Board of the International Affairs Association, the largest student organization on campus and enjoyed the responsibility of helping to run an annual conference for more than 2,000 high school students. He also found time to work for the West Philadelphia Tutoring Project and to take a semester of Mandarin in addition to his Huntsman requirements in Russian.
Leo cites his study abroad program at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow as perhaps the best academic experience of his life. The study abroad program was relatively small, and he says that he and one other Huntsman student there at the same time were privy to lots of personal attention. "It was two students speaking directly to world leaders and high level experts," says Leo.
On campus at Penn, Leo picked up a Russian minor in the college and his Wharton concentration was Decision Processes. Leo is curious about the biases that we all have and how they can be corrected for the purpose of making people's lives better. His Huntsman senior thesis dealt with the role risk management played in the financial crisis and the statistics, regulatory framework, and behavioral economics behind it. 
During college, Leo spent one summer at Goldman Sachs' Investment Banking Division in London. The job saw him traveling to Moscow, and he cites his membership in the Huntsman Program and his proficiency in his target language, Russian, as how he was able to get the job in the first place. The following summer he did research on the financial crisis, running experiments in a behavioral lab. 

After Graduation

In terms of career opportunities, Leo says that "the possibilities for a Huntsman graduate are endless."
After graduating from the program, Leo began his professional life working for McKinsey – a management consulting firm – in New York, advising institutions on elements of strategy, risk, and operations. His work at McKinsey spanned the private and public sector, ranging from cost and supply chain risk analysis for a priority vaccine at the Gates Foundation to creating a system that captured the effect of commodity market risk on the credit quality of loans in Brazil. After McKinsey, Leo transitioned to private equity and spent two years at Thomas H. Lee Capital in New York, where he evaluated investments in companies across many sectors and closed a couple of deals.
Before matriculating to Harvard Business School in fall of 2013, Leo spent the summer as a volunteer consultant in India with TechnoServe on a project that dealt with the cashew nut value chain. Leo’s long-term goal after business school is to “harness capitalism’s power to improve lives.” He is grateful for the opportunities made possible to him by his family’s move to the US and hopes to work in emerging and frontier markets to create opportunities for others to pull themselves out of poverty.