David Sall, 27, is a poster child for the value of an elite MBA. Formerly a psychologist, he has been able to parlay his MBA education at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business into a 300% salary increase and a spot on the marketing team at Mattel.
The Los Angeles native moved to the east coast to complete his undergraduate studies at Tufts University outside of Boston. After graduating, he spent three years working with adult mental health patients at The Alcott Center for Mental Health Services.
After The Alcott Center lost its business development director during the fallout of The Great Recession, several business development responsibilities were added to his plate. During this time, he discovered a love for marketing that inspired him to switch careers and get his MBA at Marshall, where he graduated this spring as a member of its Class of 2013.
I fell into the marketing profession by accident; it sort of just happened. While working at The Alcott Center for Mental Health Services, we lost our development director; thus, I was given an additional set of responsibilities to help fill that gap. I built public/private partnerships, helped develop new service platforms for our clients and performed a host of other business development functions during that time.
At some point, I began to realize that I was much more excited about my business development work than my counseling work. I ended up deciding that I wanted a career change and with that, more formal training in the fundamentals of business.
While I knew that l wanted to be involved in social enterprise long term, prior to that I wanted to gain some experience in a large company. I also knew that I wanted to be able to contribute to that company at a high level within a specific discipline. I chose marketing.
I chose to attend USC Marshall for several reasons. First, location was a high order priority for me. I wanted to attend a school that had a strong and powerful network within the Los Angeles/Southern California area. While visiting the school, I also liked the fact that it had a well-developed resource lab specifically focused on social enterprise.
One major value of mine is that I must align myself with people and organizations whose goals are centered on more than just profits. When I visited Marshall, I met a lot of people who shared that value. That cultural mode let me know that I would easily be able to fit into the community there.
At Marshall, your entire core curriculum is completed during your first semester. As a result, you are able to spend three out of your four semesters taking electives where you can dive into your areas of personal interest.
While at Alcott, I didn’t even realize that I was the de facto marketing director of that organization. I just knew that I found the work exhilarating. While at Marshall, I set my sights on joining a world-class marketing organization post-MBA. I wanted to partner with a company that would continue to build on what I was learning at Marshall and give me the opportunity to develop high level skills in that arena.
It was also important to me to end up at a company that had a multi-faceted mission; one that had an ethos that focused on more than just stockholder returns. Based on my top 3 criteria of mission, marketing and location, I came up with a very short list of preferred companies to work for. Mattel topped that list.
Between recruiting and my internship (which I did at Mattel), I took advantage of every opportunity to speak with anyone who had ties to my dream company. I both spoke with current employees and tapped into USC’s deep and rich Trojan Network to engage as many people as possible who could give me insight on what it was like to work for Mattel.
I was told over and over that Mattel possessed an attractive duality of caring about making a difference in the lives of its customers and employees while also being a world-class marketing organization. My internship confirmed that what I had been told about the company and its culture was true.