2016 Best MBAs: Jennifer Thomas, University of Texas

Jennifer Thomas Texas

Jennifer Thomas


University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“I learn something every time I speak with her, which is something I can say of very few students.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Plano, TX

Education: Vanderbilt University, B.S. in Human & Organizational Development

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? I worked in Austin as a Senior Research Manager across multiple industries for Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG), a primary research and expert network firm

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Bayer Pharmaceuticals Management Associate Intern Program

Where will you be working after graduation? Returning to Bayer as a Management Associate on the Women’s Healthcare brand team in New Jersey

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School I’ve had the privilege of co-founding a new organization, Healthcare Innovation Fellows, as well as serving as President of the MBA Healthcare Association, Vice President of External Affairs for Graduate Business Council, and as a Board Member with Re: Cancer, a local non-profit supporting cancer patients and their families.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There are two that stand out to me for different reasons. The first is co-founding Health Innovation Fellows (HIF) alongside classmate, Nicholas Buck. We started this student-run organization as a way to further healthcare education at McCombs for ourselves and for future generations of MBA leaders. Given the technology resources of Austin and the launch of UT’s Dell Medical School, it was the right time to build a collaborative, hands on program allowing McCombs students to innovate in an industry desperate for change. I couldn’t have asked for a more practical way to learn entrepreneurship and advocacy skills, and this program will benefit generations of healthcare MBAs after me.

The second is the academic practicum I completed last fall with the leadership team at UT’s Dell Medical School. The project involved evaluating global digital health accelerator models for potential adoption by DMS in order to further its goal to be on the forefront of new models of care. Through this project, I not only gained hands-on experience in market analysis, but the project furthered engagement between the MBA program and the medical school for future collaborations.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At my job before business school, I had the opportunity to manage many young professionals. Since leaving GLG to attend McCombs, I’ve enjoyed staying in touch with many of them and tracking their career and personal accomplishments. I absolutely agree with the management philosophy that your success or failure as a manager is dictated by the success or failure of those you manage.

Who is your favorite professor? The most impactful was Professor Kate Mackie. As someone who was new to marketing, she took a real world approach to her teaching that worked well for me, and she made herself available around the clock to students seeking her advice on class work or career-related concerns. It’s also pretty darn cool that she rescues and rehabilitates horses at her home in south Austin.

Favorite MBA Courses? Strategic Marketing, Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurship, and Leadership Dynamics

Why did you choose this business school? Most importantly, I wanted a program with talented, down-to-earth students who aspired for more out of their business school experience than three new letters on their resume. McCombs was the ideal combination of an engaged student body, a top-notch marketing curriculum, and the opportunity to blend my interest in healthcare and technology.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Learning from my brilliant and talented classmates

What was the most surprising thing about business school? The oftentimes chaotic nature of business school was a great way to find out my priorities, personally and professionally. When you throw yourself into an environment where you constantly have to pick Choice A, B, and sometimes Z, you find out what matters most to you.

What was the hardest part of business school? I’m still not sure I fully understand some of those finance arbitrage problems…

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Storyboard your professional life with arrows pointing to each new phase and future phases post-MBA. Once you can explain the reasons behind each transition in your storyboard, you’re ready to apply. Your unique story will help define you in the admissions process.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I think “MBA” was listed on my 5th grade career goals project, so it’s been awhile coming!”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Halle Tecco, Founder and Managing Director of Rock Health, a digital health investment fund and former accelerator program. The VC arena is dominated by men, and I find it inspiring that she built arguably the most successful health innovation program in the U.S. so early on in her career.

What are your long-term professional goals? Own or lead a business that uses technology to improve women’s lives.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents. They let me freely choose my own path in life, but they have always insisted that I give 100% of myself to whatever I pursue.

Fun fact about yourself: My initials, JET, were intentional. My mom travelled over 10,000 miles while pregnant with me.

Favorite book: Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Favorite movie: Up

Favorite musical performer: Ray LaMontagne

Favorite television show: As my fiancé would say, “Any horrible reality show.” It’s true.

Favorite vacation spot: Texas Hill Country

Hobbies? Cooking, outdoor fitness, and collecting film soundtracks

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

“I met Jennifer when I provided help for her to found the Healthcare Innovation Fellows. Since that time, she has performed an independent study with me looking at electronic medicine ecosystems in conjunction with academic medical centers throughout the world, whose ultimate customer is the Dell Medical School.

The Healthcare Innovation Fellows is a very successful attempt to kick-start the healthcare MBA program here at McCombs. As founder, she spent untold hours interviewing candidates, navigating administrative hurdles, and creating program content for those students. In particular, she has set up a most interesting speaker program for the Healthcare Innovation Fellows this year. She also helped me last year set up the MBA portion of the UT Healthcare Innovation Symposium, which focused on entrepreneurship in healthcare. Given that the Symposium draws over 400 attendees and she had the most attended panel, this is a remarkable achievement. All in all, she is extremely good at articulating visions and then executing them. Hence, I would qualify her as one of our “Best” with no hesitation, and I have been observing MBAs for 19 years.

Ms. Thomas than began to work on a benchmarking project as an independent study with me looking at healthcare startup ecosystems that Austin might want to emulate. She did this on her own with minimal guidance. That said, her presentation to myself and the Dell Medical School Vice Deans summarizing the findings in December was singularly outstanding. I have never heard someone impart that much knowledge at such a high rate of words per minute. Even more extraordinarily, she did not stumble nor repeat herself once. The best way I can describe her presentation was “drinking from a firehouse,” but without any confusion on her audience’s part. This also speaks to the amount and quality of work she can perform with minimal guidance. Thus, I firmly believe that Ms. Thomas is also clearly one of our brightest at McCombs in many years.

Finally, in my personal conversations with Ms. Thomas, she is always thoughtful and articulate, without the overbearing or arrogant nature commonplace among people of her capabilities. Frankly, I learn something every time I speak with her, which is something I can say of very few students.” — Edward G. Anderson Jr., Professor, Information, Risk, & Operations Management, Director, McCombs Healthcare Initiative, President, Production and Operations Management Society


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