Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland
“Personal change is a daily habit. Every day, we risk falling back into the same comfort zones. Business school is designed to be challenging and there are definitely days where we are tempted to go the easy route. However, I have found that I learn more and evolve faster when I keep change and challenge top of mind and resist doing what I always do.”
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
New York University
Bachelor of Science, Media, Culture and Communication
Minor: Metropolitan Studies
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Before business school, I was an account supervisor at Berlin Cameron United in New York City and was brought on to lead the brand strategy and marketing efforts behind the merger/acquisition of ING Direct and Capital One. I specialized in strategic integration, multicultural marketing, new business development and new brand launches.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? I interned in consumer marketing at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan as a member of their Marketing Leadership Program.
Where will you be working after graduation? Ford Motor Company, Marketing Leadership Program
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School
President – Smith Association of Women MBAs
VP of Marketing – Smith Net Impact
VP of Marketing – Smith Energy Association
Smith Forte Ambassador and Forte Fellow
Women’s Initiatives Graduate Assistant – Office of Admissions
Change The World Student Consultant
- Firm strategy and expansion planning for Water Resources Action Project
- Economic Impact Analysis for Montgomery County Partners for Animal Well-Being
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely proud of the change I have been able to affect in my local community, both at Smith and beyond the classroom. Last year, the Montgomery County Partners for Animal Well-Being (MCPAW) designed a Spay-It-Forward initiative for pet owners in Montgomery County, Maryland, to participate in a high-visibility, national demonstration project. I had the opportunity to serve as a student consultant for MCPAW to develop a landmark economic impact analysis, measuring the cost effect and feasibility of offering free spay/neuter services and micro chipping. Through comprehensive data collection, analysis and modeling, my team and I issued a deep-dive analysis that was presented to the Board of Directors and the county. My work served as the basis for the campaign launch, received local press coverage and resulted in real, ongoing change for Montgomery County.
At Smith, I am most proud of the significant visibility and elevation that I have brought to the female MBA population through my efforts as President of the Smith Association of Women MBAs (SAWMBA), a Forte Ambassador, and a Women’s Initiatives Graduate Assistant in the Office of Admissions. When I started at Smith, we were a newly minted Forte school and just moving into the 50/50 by 2020 Initiative (Smith’s pledge to achieve gender parity in our MBA programs within the next five years). As a student leader, my goal was to be at the forefront of that momentum, proactive in programming and more aligned with the school’s efforts to develop our female representation. It was imperative for our evolution that we not only meet expectations in our women’s initiatives, but that we benchmark and exceed expectations as well. To do so, I launched the first-ever SAWMBA bi-weekly newsletter to increase transparency and visibility between students and staff, installed a new benchmarking system to capture SAWMBA membership expectations, aggressively overhauled and expanded student programming to usher in critical topics, and targeted engagement from male counterparts. Overall, these accomplishments resulted in a more elevated and streamlined experience for our women MBAs and received coverage by The Baltimore Sun.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While working at McCann Erickson, the firm’s Verizon FiOS account came under agency review. The team was pressured to retain this multi-million dollar business, especially since it was 2009 and we were in the heart of the recession. After six months of competitive pitching, we successfully retained the account. However, the team faced a mass exodus with significant turnover. Three levels of supervision above me had vacated. This was my first professional challenge but I identified it as an opportunity. Because I was one of a few remaining veterans of the account and able to produce high-quality results, I proactively took over relationships with our senior client and fulfilled the duties of my managers in their sudden absence. As a result of my assertive performance and focus on continual business development, I was promoted within only 10 months of joining the account and was exclusively selected by the senior Verizon client and McCann Erickson senior management to work on high-profile projects. I became the youngest person on the team to handle the strategic alignment and project integrations of 10-plus partner agencies, to independently oversee $25 million worth of campaign rollouts, and to manage and train a team of five junior staff.
Favorite MBA Courses? My favorite MBA courses have been Game Theory, Operations Management and Competitive & Collaborative Negotiations. I have really appreciated that these classes have reframed for me the way to formulaically and systematically approach decisions by efficient goal setting. I believe these three courses in particular have molded me into a more effective decision maker.
Why did you choose this business school? I ultimately chose Smith because of the community and the curriculum. Smith was already my top choice, but I was impressed during my application period with the level of care that the admissions staff and students placed in every interaction. Two years is a large investment in terms of time and money, and I wanted to be in a supportive environment where I could be both challenged and cultivated. As an undecided student at the time, it was also important to me that I could be in an environment where I could be flexible and build my own education. Smith’s curriculum allowed me to design my focus while incorporating the experiential learning that I thrive on.
What did you enjoy most about business school? I most enjoy having access to more networking options that would not otherwise be available to me. In my time here at Smith I have had dinners with the Dean, met CEOs of both Fortune 100 companies and startups, and made connections with not only U.S. business school students but students in China, Australia and the Netherlands. I also appreciate global initiatives such as an international business plan competition in China that I competed in last year. I was able to go abroad to develop and pitch a business plan to potential investors and not only won first place and seed funding, but came away with a richer network. None of these opportunities would have been available to me without the Smith MBA program.
What was the most surprising thing about business school? The most surprising thing to me was how early things start and how much mental and personal preparation is required. The education started well before school started, with pre-skill courses in the summer before our first year, and recruiting for internships and jobs start before we even have a chance to get into one full term. I knew that I would be drinking from a fire hose, but I was very surprised by the extreme proactiveness required to be successful.
What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Embrace the community and put in what you want to get out of the program. To me, Smith is 10 percent institutional establishment and 90 percent community and student creation. Neither of those parts is really set in stone, so you should understand that you ARE Smith. You are the community, and the program is what you literally make it to be. Come and get your two years of education, but making an impact in the world after that point starts with you embracing the community and making your mark at Smith first.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I reached a point in my career where I wanted to shift from execution roles to more managerial, business development and strategic roles. I knew that I would not be able to make that jump as easily without an MBA.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…either continuing to climb the corporate ladder without the value-add of an MBA and better business training, or exploring non-profit job opportunities. Before business school, I briefly volunteered in the Himalayas as a field reporter and program developer with an NGO – if I didn’t go to business school and didn’t go back to the corporate world, I would have pursued a more philanthropic nonprofit route full-time.”
Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I most admire John Wood, founder of Room to Read, a global nonprofit organization focused on literacy and gender equality in education in developing countries. John’s story is remarkable – he used to work for Microsoft as a high-performing, high-earning executive and traded it all for the nonprofit life. Using his own money, savings and network, he launched Room to Read, which provides books to children in Nepal. That mission has since expanded into more countries, evolved into commissioning local artists and writers to create locally relevant books, creating a publishing arm, library and school construction and so much more. John was hugely successful because he ran his nonprofit like a for-profit organization, yet critically tied to grassroots efforts. It’s innovative and organic. I’m happy I can call John a friend after working closely with him when I served as Program Chair of the New York Chapter. It just goes to show that no matter how big, how national, how global your effort may be, a great entrepreneurs and leaders will take the time to forge a solid networks and stay true to their values.
What are your long-term professional goals? I usually like to think in 4-5-year plans instead of year-by-year. Five years from now I want to be the head of marketing at my firm, as a subject matter expert. Ten years from now, I want to have launched a lifestyle brand or product that is tied to education, literacy and gender parity on a global level. These issues are currently still widely successful only among proactive, socially responsible audiences. My hope is to create something in the future that generates serious positive, sustainable externalities that serve everyone, even consumers.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? Myself. If I was being cheeky I would say, ‘my legs for always supporting me, my arms by always being by my side, and my fingers because I can always count on them.’ But seriously, holistically, I always thank myself first because ambition is a hard thing to develop and I am grateful for my drive. We don’t thank ourselves enough for dedicating and committing ourselves to our demanding days. Beyond that, I want to thank my parents for giving me all the opportunities they could, and for happily pushing me to deviate from a traditional Chinese American first-generation expectation of being a doctor, lawyer or accountant to really follow my dreams. I would also have to thank my former SAT professor who passed onto me what is now my life motto – “If it is to be, it is up to me!”
Fun fact about yourself: Right before business school I had an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ moment where I quit my job, broke my lease, and really followed my heart across the world. I went off the grid with no phone or Internet, only $200 in my pocket and one duffel bag, and lived in the Himalayan mountains. I taught at an all-girls hostel in a remote village where girls’ education was not only lacking but grossly undervalued. It was life-changing.
Favorite book: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Favorite movie: Alice in Wonderland
Favorite musical performer: Carrie Underwood…although usually I prefer to listen to instrumental film scores, not singers
Favorite television show: The Walking Dead
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere you can’t easily get to with a map – my favorite places so far have been the Humla district in Simikot, Nepal, and the black sand beaches of New Zealand.
Hobbies? Aerial arts/dance, yoga, cooking, scrapbooking, creating amateur travel documentaries, reading obscure books that people throw away
What made Tiffany such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?
“Tiffany is one of those rare MBAs who stands out as soon as you meet her. Based on her poise and professionalism, you just know she will have an impact once she enters the program. And she certainly has had an enormous, positive impact at Smith. I feel fortunate to have known Tiffany for the past two years as an MBA student and as the President of the Smith Women’s MBA Association (SAWMBA). In addition to being the Senior Associate Dean of the Business School, I am also the faculty advisor to SAWMBA and work closely with the officers of this organization, particularly the President. I am also leading the School’s women’s, diversity, and military initiatives, Thus, I have had numerous opportunities to work with Tiffany and get to know her.
Tiffany is one of those students that faculty dream of having in a program – she’s ambitious, conscientious, dependable, organized, and at the same time, caring, collaborative and a positive force for change. She’s a change agent and builder and in all of her roles as the President of SAWMBA, Graduate Assistant, Brand Ambassador, she has been an architect in initiating some of the most progressive programming for not just women, but also men, in order to really change the conversation about diversity and women in business. This has been critical as we seek to fulfill our 50/50 (gender parity across our MBA programs) by 2020 campaign. As an ambassador to our Forte Foundation students, Tiffany has been a strong advocate in recruiting and supporting women at Smith. She has also enabled women to make connections across our various MBA programs (full-time, part-time, online and executive) to build even stronger networks. But, her impact is not just among women at Smith. She is a role model for all of our students and has helped with our military programming and in recruiting MBAs with families. And she didn’t just participate in all of these activities, she partnered with students, faculty and staff to develop them and then successfully lead them.
Her unique background illustrates both the Poet side (her involvement with the nonprofit world, net impact, artistic talents, holistic perspective) and the Quant side (how she continually embraces challenges in difficult, rigorous courses to push herself). She’s not just an MBA who will move further up the ladder (which she will), but more importantly she is an MBA who will make a positive, ethical difference in the world today. And we certainly can use more leaders like that!“ — Joyce E. A. Russell, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean, Robert H. Smith School of Business, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland