University of Florida, Warrington College of Business
Hometown: Tallahassee, Florida
Undergraduate School and Degree: Sociology, University of Florida
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Store Manager, Mattress Firm
Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? N/A
Where will you be working after graduation? Leaders 2 Executives (L2E) Program, T-Mobile
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Very early in the year, I was invited to join a team and participate in a case competition that would be held at the NBMBAA career fair, hosted by Fiat Chrysler. It was my first time even hearing what a case competition was all about, but I was eager to take on the challenge. For one month, my team and I worked tirelessly to refine our solution and presentation. In the end, our team was one of seven finalists out of 32 teams from around the country. While we missed placing in the top three, I couldn’t have been more proud of our presentation and the final solution that our team came up with. Placing as a finalist was a huge achievement for me, considering I had never done a case competition before. This experience motivated me to compete in two additional competitions since then.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working in retail, professional success is most often measured in sales and customer satisfaction. Although I have met (and exceeded) my fair share of sales quotas and customer satisfaction requirements at Mattress Firm, it is my work with Second Harvest food bank that I am most proud of in my professional career. It was a really rewarding way to help boost sales for the store, while simultaneously giving back to the community. I got the necessary signage from Second Harvest, and posted that Mattress Firm was hosting a food drive in the store. I also helped train some of the other sales associates on how to use donated goods as a secondary ‘closing tool’ for hesitant buyers. For qualified purchases, customers could get up to $50 off of the purchase price of their mattress set for bringing in 10 canned goods. Most of the customers were so thrilled that we were giving back to the community that some brought in food whether they ultimately purchased with us or not. Over the course of just a few months, this drive helped to raise over 1,000 pounds of non-perishable food to donate to Second Harvest Food bank, and I am excited to say that the response was so positive from customers and the community that Mattress Firm continues to collect donations.
Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is undoubtedly Jane Yellowlees. I had her for one course that was required, but enjoyed her so much that I took one of her electives as well. While all of my professors are incredibly talented in their fields, I appreciate that Yellowlees has such a wide breadth of knowledge—there’s almost no subject that she couldn’t speak with you about. She is personable, but also very, very direct. She does not sugarcoat her opinions and will not hesitate to say the things most people would not find appropriate. While others tend to cringe, it is her frankness and directness that I admire and find so engaging.
Favorite MBA Courses? My two favorite MBA courses have been Art and Science of Negotiation and Leadership.
Why did you choose this business school? One of the main reasons I choose this business school was for the intentionally small cohort size. Like most students, I considered other factors such as ranking and ROI, but ultimately the experience I felt I would have was the most important part of my decision. In undergrad, it was not uncommon to be in a class with hundreds of students. I don’t think I had a single professor that had a chance to learn my name. The UF MBA program feels much more like a family and I have had the opportunity to get to know my professors, classmates, and the career staff very well.
What did you enjoy most about business school? I enjoyed having a second chance to add value to my educational experience through extracurricular activities. Admittedly, I was not very involved in many clubs and activities when I was an undergraduate student – and it was one of my regrets. In business school, I had the opportunity to compete in case competitions, help with recruiting new students, and take on leadership positions through a club and student-run business. Participating in these activities has been a really fun way to compliment some of the things I am learning in school, while giving me an additional way to collaborate with my classmates as well.
What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Giving an effective presentation to executives is one of the biggest lessons that I have gained from business school. Through participating in case competitions, I have learned how to give the bottom line results up front, but also create a story that resonates with executives and is easy to follow and remember. I have also learned the importance of being confident in my assumptions and assertions, backing them up with as much data as possible, too.
What was the most surprising thing about business school? From orientation on, I have continued to be surprised and in awe of the different backgrounds and accomplishments of my classmates. Before staring business school, I always imagined that business school students had to have a related background to succeed. Surprisingly enough, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from future doctors, lawyers, and vets for example. I had a very narrow view of what business school meant to a person’s career and what prior experience was necessary to get the most out of this kind of experience. It was been very rewarding to attend business school and have that view corrected.
What was the hardest part of business school? The first few months of business school were definitely an adjustment because I had been out of schooling for five years when I started. I hadn’t taken classes or studied anything beyond GMAT prep, so I essentially had to learn how to learn again. In that same sense, I had to learn how to manage my time. I no longer went to work, maybe to the gym and back home. It was a bit of a challenge to juggle my career development with finding a job, academics and extracurricular activities
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized I had a lot of skills and experiences that could boost my career if paired with formal business education.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…at Mattress Firm, working in sales and trying to slowly expand my career there.”
What are your long-term professional goals? I want to continue to manage people and would love to reach the C-suite level within the technology industry. I look forward to everything that I will learn from my experiences with T-Mobile and would ideally like to stay with them for the long term.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my little brother for my success. My parents have always done such an amazing job for the two of us, but he is the one that motivates me to excel. We have always been really close. As I go through different stages in life, I make a pointed effort to do the best I can and set a good example for him. As children, it’s easy to tune out your parents’ advice because it seems ‘outdated’. I don’t have the experience and wisdom of my parents by any means, but I think it helps my little brother feel more motivated when he can ‘see’ their advice playing out through my successes. So far he is doing really well at the University of South Florida and is majoring in information systems.
Fun fact about yourself: I taught English to young children in a rural village outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, during the summer.
Favorite book: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Favorite movie: Crash
Favorite musical performer: Johnnyswimm
Favorite television show: Scandal…it’s my guilty pleasure
Favorite vacation spot: Bali, Indonesia. The rice terraces and forests are serene, the beaches are beautiful, the food is amazing and the people are really friendly.
Hobbies?: I have recently taken up yoga in the mornings. I was inspired by some volunteer work I did in Thailand at a meditation and mindfulness retreat. I have found it to be much more challenging than simply ‘stretching’ and a very easy way to help my mind ‘relax’.
What made Erica such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?
“UF MBA’s core values are brought to life by students like Erika. She has become a continuous presence at UF, fully engaging in all that the program has to offer from club and networking events, case competitions, to an eager participant in the classroom. Erika has applied her enthusiasm and business skill set to drive success for two important facets of the UF MBA experience: Gator MBA Gear and case competitions.
Gator MBAGear is a student-run organization at the University of Florida, focused on developing entrepreneurial competencies in MBA students. Through her leadership as the Director of Sales Channels, Erika developed new strategies for capitalizing on existing channels and identifying new ones. Erika and her team established a physical presence at new events increasing sales and improving brand visibility. As part of this successful team, the student-run business has increased its revenue.
Additionally, Erika has been a critical team member on three case competition teams, ranging from internal to national competitions. In each of these instances, Erika not only contributed to the strategic recommendations and was an outstanding presenter, but also drove a collaborative working environment. True accomplishment is not only measured by the “what,” but also by the “how.” Her contributions enabled her team to reach the finals (top 6) out of a pool of 32 teams at a nationally-recognized competition and develop tremendous camaraderie.”
Senior Director of Full-time Student Affairs and MBA Engagement
University of Florida, Warrington College of Business
DON’T MISS: 2016 MBAs TO WATCH