The Stereotype-Defying MBAs In The Class of 2018

Josh Berrington

Josh Berrington

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Hometown: Santa Paula, CA

Pre-MBA Location: San Francisco, CA

Undergraduate School and Major: California State University, Stanislaus, Business Administration Major

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

– California Natural Products (Lathrop, CA)

• Marketing Manager – Branded Products

– TerraVia (San Francisco, CA)

• Brand Manager – Consumer Food Brands

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? Be aware of score thresholds at your target list of programs, but don’t get fixated on an all-or-nothing approach for a particular score. Instead, find a maximizing point between your test score and all of the other elements of your profile. The key is to achieve a score that complements your profile, whether you’re addressing a gap or proving a strength area. That ideal score will be different for everyone, so don’t focus on hitting a predetermined score.

Create realistic improvement metrics and track your progress against those goals. Don’t over-invest in the test if your score isn’t improving. Also, make sure you’re not sacrificing the other aspects of your application in order to squeeze a few extra points out of the test.

There are many pitfalls to avoid during test prep. First, avoid getting tactics and strategies from too many sources. Often times, these tactics will conflict with one another and will leave you confused. Second, put in the necessary work, but make sure to maintain a healthy work/test/life balance. Internal and external factors will impact your score – make sure to listen to your body! Maintaining a regular exercise routine is key to maintaining a healthy mind during test prep. Last, limit the number of people who know about your test prep goals. The added visibility only adds stress. Instead, rely on a small group of people who will support and encourage you along the way.

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? Start with an open mind rather than fixating on a subset of schools based on ranking or location. I’d encourage starting by casting a wide net and then narrowing down your list as you collect insights. Introspection at this stage is key. Having a solid sense of the strength areas and skills you’d like to develop further during business school will help you formulate a short list.

It is helpful to create a list of filters and key criteria to use when evaluating programs. I created a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves to help prioritize. To help guide your selection process, I recommend interacting with programs across multiple touch points. Campus visits, coffee chats with alumni and current students, school tours, and MBA fairs are all helpful sources to get a complete view of your target programs. Investing more time upfront in collecting well-rounded insights will help immensely in gaining clarity on which programs are best for you.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? There’s two roles that should be equally embraced during the application process. The first role is to approach your application like a project manager. This means creating and keeping to the timeline, knowing all relevant deadlines, holding yourself accountable and adjusting the work plan as you go.

The other role is to approach your application with the mindset of a brand strategist. This role requires that you assess your strengths and potential weaknesses relative to the market (the applicant pool), create the framework for your brand story, and create an action plan.

For the essays, start with an ideation session with no guardrails. The key is to form high level themes that you can continue to refine. Once your first draft begins to take shape, don’t be afraid to get input from a variety of sources: current students, alumni, work colleagues, and friends.

For the interview process, a tool that helped immensely was a question-and-answer grid. I would input most commonly asked MBA interview questions and wrote in my answers, which I optimized over time. Focus on the questions that you’re highly likely to encounter during the interview, but don’t forget to have answers prepared for the lower-probability questions. I made sure to include curveball questions in my grid that although are rarely asked, could potentially throw me off my game during the interview.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? The McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin is a fantastic program that uniquely matched my key criteria for what I was seeking in a business program. Firstly, the Texas MBA Program is truly far ahead of the curve for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is deeply ingrained at McCombs, and the entrepreneurial culture of Austin extends perfectly into the program. McCombs has created an inspiring and supportive environment for budding entrepreneurs at all stages. The unique backdrop of Austin provides built-in resources and tools that are accessible to those interested in furthering their startup ideas. The Texas Venture Labs pitch competition is one proof point of the program’s commitment to entrepreneurship. Participating in the competition allowed me to see firsthand the substantial resources and energy McCombs is putting behind entrepreneurship.

The culture fit with McCombs was instant for me. I wanted a program with friendly, collaborative classmates and accessible staff, and McCombs reinforced both of those qualities across every touch point during my evaluation process. Career placement into top-tier CPG companies was also a key factor in my decision, and the career services staff at McCombs has a solid track record of placing candidates into some of the most sought-after players in the industry.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? During my time at McCombs, I’d like to help start a Food & Beverage CPG Fellowship program to continue to attract and develop food & beverage CPG talent at McCombs. I’d also like to help increase participation in and spread the mission of the Consortium Fellowship program. I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue to develop my startup and to collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs to refine and launch innovative products. Lastly, I want to build the foundation for becoming a more well-rounded business leader and create long-lasting relationships with my classmates – Hook ‘em Horns!

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