The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business
Hometown: Santa Paula, CA
Pre-MBA Location: San Francisco, CA
Fun Fact About Yourself: I played college baseball (pitcher) and played alongside and against several now Major League Baseball players.
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 overinvest 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.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2015, I helped develop and launch a new-to-world food ingredient and brand in under six months. The ambition was to develop a national consumer brand using algae as the core ingredient for a new cooking oil. To create a national brand with mainstream appeal, we needed to develop the right brand and adoption roadmap.
I was responsible for driving development of the brand identity, adoption roadmap, and how best to articulate the algae cooking oil story with media, consumers, and retailers. The results from the market test and launch were fantastic – we received coverage in over 100 major media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Oprah Magazine, among many others. The product was also named a top 2016 food trend, and within a few months, the product was ranked among the top 25th percentile of the total oil category sales in the test retailer.
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 are 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 inputted 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 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 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.
Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My dream employer is a company that is purpose-driven and improves the lives of consumers. My ideal company embraces entrepreneurial spirit and creates opportunities for newcomers to bring new ideas to the table. After business school, my dream role is a brand development or marketing innovation role where I’m able to lead teams, develop exciting new products, and have impact in the market.
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 and 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!
What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I’d like my peers to say that I created impact in the Texas MBA program by adding value to their Texas MBA experience for them and for future classes. I’d also like them to say that I’m ambitious for growth and that I have a knack for building aligned, cohesive teams that pull together to win. I plan to add value to my classmates’ experience by bringing a passion for winning, bringing fresh ideas and seeking out opportunities to learn and grow with them.