When Dan Reiss and Robert Fagnani were applying to business schools two years ago, their backgrounds suggested they would stay on the East Coast.
After all, Reiss was a native of Philadelphia who majored in drama at New York University. He had been working in New York City for an investment management firm. Born and raised in New Jersey, Fagnani had gone to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and spent the past four years at Morgan Stanley in New York.
Ultimately, the pair went west, accepting invites from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. Reiss turned down Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business to come to sun-bleached Los Angeles, while Fagnani passed on the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business to enroll at Anderson, currently ranked 14th best by Poets&Quants.
‘PEOPLE HERE AREN’T AFRAID TO START WITH A BLANK CANVAS’
Why turn down higher ranked schools to go to UCLA? For both MBA students, a lot of the appeal came down to culture. “There’s a very different way that people think on the West Coast,” says Reiss, who also saw appeal at how technology was was so preeminent in the West and infiltrating every facet of life. “People aren’t afraid to start with a blank canvas and rethink everything. I like that lifestyle. If I had went to Tuck, I would have never left the North East.”
Fagnani, 28, agrees. “The more I looked at programs, the more I realized that the infrastructure, the classes and the opportunities are roughly the same at the top schools,” he says. “The biggest variable is the culture. I felt this was the place I would fit in and thrive. There is this spectrum on the larding environment where one is more team-based and one is more academic. Anderson is far on the team-based collaborative scale as far as culture goes with Tuck and Kellogg. Booth is more on the academic side. I felt a little bit more at home here.”
He’s not alone. Student opinion surveys show increasing levels of high satisfaction at UCLA’s Anderson School which has gone through something of a major transformation in recent years, becoming more closely tied into the tech boom both here and in Silicon Valley and Seattle. The upshot: Applications last year soared by 32%, while the average GMAT for the overall applicant pool was up five points to 688, swayed in part by the greater tech focus. Those extra apps drove the school’s acceptance rate down to 18%, from 22% a year earlier, while the average GMAT for the new class hit a record 715, up from 706.
‘I DON’T CARE IF YOU HAVE THE H WORD ON YOUR DIPLOMA’
“This class is phenomenal,” boasts Rob Weiller, associate dean of admissions for the MBA program. “The second years are in awe of the new class. More importantly, though, they are still the same kinds of people. We haven’t sacrificed our supportive culture. There is just a world of opportunity out there and our career center is plugged into those opportunities. It is way more difficult to do that from the East Coast. I don’t care if you have the H word on your diploma.”
At 26.5% of the Class of 2014, technology is the top hiring industry of Anderson graduates and has been for the past three years. The percentage going into tech from UCLA has more than doubled in the past four years, eclipsing the 20.4% who took finance jobs and the 14.2% of Anderson MBAs who went into consulting (see major employers of Anderson MBAs).
This year, in fact, at least 15 students went to work at Google, while Amazon and Microsoft each hired 10 or more MBAs, and Adobe Systems, Amgen, Apple, Ebay, Symantec, and Vmware each employed between five and nine Anderson graduates. School officials, moreover, believe that tech has morphed with L.A.’s traditional strengths as an entertainment and media mecca to give birth to a host of new startups and tech firms in Silicon Beach, a three-mile stretch of sand between Venice and Santa Monica. More than 500 startups and tech giants inhabit the place, ranging from Snapchat to online video service Hulu, along with an expansive L.A. office for Google.
“The school has pivoted fairly quickly to become much more of a technology school than when I first came here,” says Mark Garmaise, a finance professor who joined UCLA in 2001 after a stint at Chicago Booth. “Our major new push is going towards analytics and technology. We have great data analytics courses and classes where students are working with Google and doing real-time problem-solving.”
A UNIQUE COURSE: THE GOOGLE CLASS PAIRS A PROF WITH A GOOGLE EXEC
Dubbed “The Google Class” by students, the course is unique and symbolic of how Anderson, once more of a finance and quant haven, is transforming itself into a pathway into tech. Anderson partnered with Google to develop the course which is officially called “Digital Marketing Strategy” and was first offered on a trial basis this past fall. Co-taught by marketing professor Sanjay Sood and a Google executive, the course provides students with a broad overview of Google’s approach to marketing focused on four key areas: insights, measurement, storytelling and brand. “We reinvented the class to be more industry relevant,” says Karen Williams, executive director for the school’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports. “There are Google cases and projects with Google executives. All the top schools are being challenged to bridge the thinking with the doing. It is a model we are talking with another company about and have two more firms on our target list.”
Where Anderson MBAs Go To Work
Source: UCLA Anderson School