2015 Best MBAs: Jenny Dare Paulin

Jenny Dare Paulin - USC-PoetsAndQuants

Jenny Dare Paulin

 
University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

An actress by trade, this quintessential poet entered business school and immediately emerged as a business powerhouse. Academically, she has made the Dean’s List every semester, while serving as a teaching assistant in the core Global Economics and Global Strategy courses. But it is how she has stepped up as a natural leader where Dare Paulin truly stands out. For 10 months, she led a 12-person team on the APEC Business Advisory Council research project to enhance economic growth in 21 economies, traveling as far as China, Brunei, and the Philippines. In 2013, she led a team to first place in the GE ELCP Case Competition, where Dare Paulin herself was awarded best individual presenter. She then served as lead coach for the Marshall case competition program, where she selected and personally guided 23 teams. In addition, she helped develop various leadership and development programs for future Marshall students, along with planning an event in partnership with the U.S. military’s SERE School (survive, evasion, resistance, and escape).

Age: 31

Hometown: Santa Monica, CA

Undergraduate School: Connecticut College

Undergraduate Degree: Government

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

I was an actress (Broadway: Dividing the Estate, Off Broadway: The Orphans Home Cycle, Harrison TX, Film: Young Adult, Future Weather, Infection, TV: Dawson’s Creek, Promised Land, Beyond the Prairie).

Co-Owner Operator, Nacho Libre: a Gourmet Burger Joint in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? Ernst & Young, Los Angeles

Where will you be working after graduation? Ernst & Young, Senior Consultant Performance Improvement – Customer Strategy

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a trauma surgeon. Or a big game veterinarian in Africa. Or a professional mountaineer. To be fair, I haven’t officially ruled out any of those possibilities for my future.”

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was sitting, exhausted and sweaty, in the burger joint I had opened and was running in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. My life was difficult in a million different ways; I was working 16-hour days, desperately jumping from crisis to crisis, the water shutting of, the power going out. And I got a call from my agent saying that I had gotten the part of my dreams on Broadway. My heart sank and I wanted to cry; I didn’t want to leave. In that moment I knew something had to change. If I would rather flip burgers in a seaside shanty than perform on Broadway, then acting wasn’t for me. I also knew that I wasn’t going to spend my whole life running a micro business in rural Nicaragua. I flew back to New York and took the part, and started applying to business schools.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. And I want to guide that company to make a significant, positive impact on the world. I want to be a leader in redefining business toward greater global consciousness and responsibility. I want to live up to my full potential both professionally and personally.

Favorite Courses: Corporate Strategy and Competitive Dynamics, Project Management, Market Demand and Sales Forecasting

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? Just the other day, I looked up the essays I wrote when applying to Marshall. The school asks each student, “What are your short-term career goals post MBA? How will USC Marshall help you?” In my essay, I wrote about the APEC Advisory Council (ABAC) Research. ABAC is arguably the most challenging and prestigious opportunity that Marshall offers. I wrote, “Getting the opportunity to conduct research in APEC countries and presenting the findings at the annual ABAC CEO meeting would be a life-changing experience.” And it was.

Leading the 2014 ABAC Marshall Research Project is the hardest and most rewarding enterprise I have ever conducted: a challenge that humbles the struggle of opening a business in a foreign country, or the pressure of opening a show on Broadway.

Walking out of our presentation in Beijing (after three days without sleep preceded by 10 months of very little sleep), a businessman came up to me and wanted to shake my hand. He was from Kuala Lumpur and claimed that by using our research, he had been able to secure an additional $30 million in education funding in Malaysia. I am extraordinarily proud of our team’s achievements and proud of myself for living up to my highest business school aspirations.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My dad. While it’s well know that there is a glass ceiling and there are limitations for women around the world, my dad raised me without any stereotypical notions of what girls could and could not do. He coached me in every sport and helped me with every subject in school. I was expected to be athletic and artistic, good in all subjects. Because of my father’s influence, I believe anything was possible–It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something.

My mother, a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, is an incredible influence. She is a brilliant, out-of-the-box thinker who is never deterred by rules or obstacles and manages to navigate the world in a high wire act balanced by nuanced creativity and perseverance. She taught me very early on not to be daunted by everyday problems. Solving problems always seemed to be the product of interest and ingenuity.

If there is one quality that has made me successful in business school it is my audacity. I raise my hand and volunteer. And I don’t quit. That faith, that audacity, comes from my parents.

Why did you choose this business school? As a career switcher, clearly, I was going to need help learning an entirely new language. I wanted the best education available. Marshall also offered the unprecedented opportunity to work on the ABAC research project. This 10-month consulting project allows students to travel to the 21 APEC economies and interview Fortune 500 executives on critical issues to future economic growth. In my opinion, the relationship between the U.S. and Asia is the intersection on which the economic future of the world hinges. I wanted to be a part of it, and study it up close.

Marshall is the perfect size. It is large enough to have extraordinary international opportunities and to draw attention from the consulting firms in which I was interested, but small enough for me to get the level of personal attention I would need to master completely new skills. Going to Marshall is unquestionably the best decision I’ve ever made.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Having a purpose and being surrounded by smart, driven, passionate people who have a purpose, too. When I think about my favorite moments in business school, they all revolve around group projects—a case competition or a consulting project. There comes a moment when you hear the idea for the first time and everyone springs into action. Nights like that, or sitting with group-mates on the roof of our business school, are magic. Little moments of peace, shared with friends, in the placid wake of very hard work.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? When I started business school I was unsure if I could make it. I came to business school from an entirely different career. From my perspective at the time, Marshall had taken a chance with me. I enlisted the help of tutors, did extra assignments, and was determined to catch up.

Finally, about a month into school, we had a case competition that all first years are required to participate in—39 teams in all. I had an idea for my group. Despite some initial skepticism, the group embraced my plan—perhaps as much due to my passion as to the idea itself. The day of the competition, the team was anxious and exhausted. I remember sitting in the back of the classroom hearing that we had won the first round. We went on to win the next round. After the third and final round, our team sat together at one of the round banquet tables in the huge conference center where we had just presented. When the announcement came that our team had won, all I remember is my teammates’ faces. They were so happy and proud. That was the moment I knew that I had a place here and in business leadership.

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve spent a great deal of time on a working ranch. I can milk cows, herd cattle, and butcher beef. I have competed successfully in both barrel racing and as a hunter/jumper.

Favorite book: East of Eden

Favorite movie: Before Sunset

Favorite musical performer: Aqualung

Favorite television show: West Wing

Favorite vacation spot: Nicaragua

What are your hobbies? Horseback riding, ukulele, and pretending to surf.

What made Jenny such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?

“Jenny Dare Paulin is one of the rarest of MBA students; among those I count on the fingers of a single hand, even after a 30-year career teaching business students. She stands out for her intellect, her ability to get to the heart of the matter quickly, and her exceptional active listening skills. She has the confidence to disagree strongly with colleagues in a graceful yet fair manner that has earned her wide respect, and with her background in the arts and acting, she has created for herself a role as a go-to trusted leader for even the most quantitative and analytical minds in her class. Jenny defines leadership: Delivering results, no excuses, no matter the challenge, level of stress or distraction.

Two things truly distinguish her from her colleagues: First, her bone-deep conviction that MBAs can and should make the world a better place, that her efforts and the efforts of her colleagues should add up to something larger and better, for everyone. She is completely selfless in the hours she devotes to her peers, student organizations and charitable projects. Second, her ability to manage and leverage conflict.  A sentence that I will always remember, one made in an intense, highly stressful team project situation, was this:  “Criticism is only a suggestion delivered poorly,” she told her teammates.

That attitude and approach to her MBA studies, along with her personal drive for excellence and genuine care for her colleagues, makes her one of the best of the very best I have ever encountered.”

– Carl Voigt, professor of clinical management and organization, faculty lead on ABAC project.

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