2016 Best MBAs: Claudia Caron, USC Marshall

Claudia Caron USC

Claudia Caron


USC, Marshall School of Business

“Never hesitate to speak up. At the beginning of business school, I was terrified at the idea of having to raise my hand to share my thoughts in front of my 75 classmates or study group. I was worried that my peers would make fun of my French accent or that I would have a hard time expressing my opinions in English. Not to mention, my fear of being cold called by my Strategy professor. After two years of business school and a successful internship, I gained a lot of confidence and I learned that I should never hesitate to speak up and share my ideas.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada


  • Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada) – Bachelor of Arts, Social Communication
  • Université Laval (Québec City, Québec, Canada) – Master of Arts, Public Communication
  • University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business (Los Angeles, CA) – Graduate Certificate, Marketing

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? City of Québec (Québec City, Québec, Canada), Director – Consulting and Marketing Division, Communications Department

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Mattel (El Segundo, CA): MBA Marketing Intern, Barbie Global Brand Marketing Team

Where will you be working after graduation? Mattel (El Segundo, CA), Associate Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

Leadership Roles

  • VP Education, Graduate Marketing Association (GMA)
    • Initiated and co-organized the first ever GMA Marketing Bootcamp (30+ attendees, 4 professors, 1 marketing challenge)
    • Co-organized the GMA Marketing Institute (60+ attendees, 13 speakers, 6 companies)
  • VP Communications, Graduate Women in Business

Community Work

  • Volunteered for Junior Achievement, Special Olympics, A Better LA, and Ronald McDonald House Charities
  • Mentored 4 MBA students from the Class of 2017
  • Participated in 2 internship panels (multi-industry and international students) for the Class of 2017
  • Co-MC’ed for…
    • USC Marshall Class of 2016 100 Days Celebration
    • USC Marshall Class of 2018 Prospective Students Event for Women

Awards and Honors

  • Beta Gamma Sigma member
  • Dean’s Honor List
  • USC Marshall Scholarship for Academic Achievement and Leadership
  • Case competitions:
    • Won the USC Marshall 2nd Place at the 2016 MBA Macy’s Marketing Challenge Competition
    • Was 1 of the 2 students selected to represent USC Marshall at the 2015 IPADE Global Case Competition (Mexico City)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While grades are far from being the best indicator of an individual’s talent, I am proud of myself for graduating with a GPA of 3.81/4.00, considering my “poet” background. I genuinely came to business school with the only hope of passing classes. I was well aware that the task would not be easy: when I started studying for the GMAT, I had to look at the words “odd” and “even” in a French-English dictionary. Prior to business school, I did not know how to use Excel formulas, even the most basic =SUM. The last time I had taken a quant based class was in the year 2000. With hard (very hard) work and the help of my fantastic classmates and wonderful faculty members, I was able to succeed beyond my wildest dreams. Needless to say, I have come a long way since I first set foot in Los Angeles.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? A few months before coming to business school, I was promoted to Director – Consulting and Marketing Division for the Communications Department at the City of Québec. As such, I supervised a team of 8 (including 6 advisors) in charge of communicating information to the 530,000 residents of Québec City. I was the youngest person to have been appointed to this position since the creation of the Communications Department in 1978 and I had some big shoes to fill. It was a huge challenge that allowed me to learn so much about myself and my leadership abilities. But most of all, it has been an exceptional opportunity to learn from my talented team and become better equipped to one day become a successful manager for a large corporation.

Favorite MBA Courses? Marketing Strategy and Policy, Market Demand and Sales Forecasting, Contemporary Issues in Competitive Strategy, The Analytics Edge: Data, Models, and Effective Decisions, and Corporate Finance.

Why did you choose this business school? Coming from a non-traditional background and having lived in Québec, Canada my entire life, I knew I would need the support of a strong network in order to succeed professionally in the U.S. With its strong “Trojan Network,” USC Marshall was definitely the right place for me. Believe me, it totally lived up to my expectations. (Also, I lived my whole life in a country where the cold winter lasts for months. Needless to say that the warm weather was definitely a plus!)

What did you enjoy most about business school? Being surrounded by talented, smart and (most of all) kind young professionals. Business school allowed me to meet amazing people who inspired me and elevated me to become the person that I am today. Take Michelle, for example, who is an incredibly effective multitasker and the most generous person I have ever met. Or Charles, who is a living encyclopedia and the king of camping. Or Alex, who has been so helpful to all of his peers throughout our whole MBA experience. Or Gargi, who is remarkably cultivated at such a young age. Or Jessica, who is genuinely interested in learning more about her peers, their interests, their passion. Not to mention Will, Sagar, Ryan, Rob, David, Taher, Junior, Deepak, Gelene, Shayda, Anna, York, Jasmine…

What was the most surprising thing about business school? To say my classmates are not competitive would be a lie. After all, we are ambitious business students. However, I was surprised to see how kind, helpful and generous they also are. USC Marshall recently won the Challenge For Charity MBA competition for the 7th year in a row. My classmates raised $284,303 for charity and volunteered 9,356 hours. I am so happy I was able to be a part of it and give back to the community in a meaningful and sizable way. For example, I will cherish forever my experience with Junior Achievement, teaching the basics of financial responsibility, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship to elementary school students. I humbly hope that I might have made a little difference in their lives – because they certainly did one in mine.

What was the hardest part of business school? Business school is all about choices and trade-offs! MBA students have endless opportunities but limited time. The hardest part was actually making tough choices every day on what to say no to. Throughout my business school career, I set different priorities at different times. For example, during the first semester, curriculum was my priority, followed by career and community. I sometimes made the difficult decision of saying no to fun activities to stay at home and work on assignments. During the second semester, career became my priority with most of my focus on coffee chats, interview prep, etc. (I will let you guess what the priority is for the last semester!)

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? It will sound cliché, but just stay true to yourself. If you are kind, smart, generous, and hard-working, then USC Marshall is the right fit for you!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was on the way back from Cambridge, MA, where I participated in Harvard Summer School’s English as a Second Language program in the summer of 2012. During those 7 weeks, I realized business school would be the best way to broaden my horizons, expand my network, and gain new skills to enhance my career and become an impactful leader.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…seeing my beloved nieces and nephew more often. Luckily, thanks to my job at Mattel (and discounts on Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars), I can be the coolest aunt.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? My two directors at the City of Québec, Isabelle Dubois and Marie-Christine Magnan, are the leaders I admire most. They are not only talented, driven and influential women in the local government, but also highly appreciated by all of their team members. They really inspired me to hopefully become an influential and respected leader one day.

What are your long-term professional goals? To become the CMO of a Fortune 500 company and hopefully grow into a source of inspiration for younger French Canadians.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Without a single moment of hesitation: my dad. I lost my mother to cancer when I was 10 years old. Since then, my dad has been my most influential source of inspiration. He succeeded formidably in raising 3 children, all by himself, while holding important leadership positions. He taught me how being kind, having a balanced life, and always doing your best are the keys to success. Most importantly, he has always been my #1 fan, cheerleader, councilor and confident. I owe him everything and cannot thank him enough for bringing me where I am today.

Fun fact about yourself: I used to be a local television “celebrity” in my hometown (funnily enough, I was sometimes asked for my autograph). For 4 years, I worked as a TV News Reporter for 2 leading television networks with 35,000 viewers while attending college. As such, I reported 200+ news stories on local television and appeared 50+ times on national television to report major news.

Favorite book: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Favorite movie: Amélie (But the French version, of course: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain)

Favorite musical performer: I am a huge 90’s hip hop fan: Dr. Dre, DMX, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, etc.

Favorite television show: Mad Men

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with nice weather and good food!

Hobbies? Hiking, running, discovering new restaurants (and gaining back all the calories lost thanks to the first two hobbies), travelling, and watching TV shows & movies.

What made Claudia such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Claudia is a student in my class this semester on “The Analytics Edge: Data, Models, and Effective Decisions”. Although Claudia does not have a quantitative background, she works very hard to learn the materials and complete all of the (challenging) cases and assignments in the class. I still remember the time when we had an assignment on predictive modeling where students had to develop logistic and binomial regression models (from scratch) to make predictions based on historical data. It was a very complex and difficult assignment, and Claudia had been working on it for quite some time.  She came to my office hours, and afterward, worked non-stop until well past 2AM the night before the assignment was due. It was amazing to see how she rose up to the challenge, dedicated herself to learning the complex (yet incredibly exciting) course materials, and eventually mastered them.  It was truly a pleasure to have her as a student in the class.” — Paat Rusmevichientong, Professor of Data Sciences and Operations, USC, Marshall School of Business


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