2017 Best MBAs: Grace Guo, U.C.-Davis

Meet another member of the Poets & Quants Best & Brightest

Grace Guo

University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management

“I am a serial entrepreneur with passion and determination.”

Age: 38

Hometown: Chifeng, China

Fun fact about yourself: I can be found in the piano room, dance studio, and bicycle trail. Trained in piano playing, Chinese folk dance, and Zumba. I also love culinary art.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Undergraduate School:                                 Northeastern University (China)

Undergraduate Degree:                                BS in Automation

Graduate School:                                             UC Davis, Northeastern University (China)

Advanced Degree:                                           MBA, Ph.D. in System Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Coverage Tech (China)                                    Founder and CMO

IVY Tech (China)                                                Founder and CMO

Northeastern University (China)               Faculty Member

UC Berkeley,                                                       Visiting Scholar

Akita Prefectural University (Japan)       Visiting Professor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016?

AT&T Leadership Development Program, Dallas

Where will you be working after graduation?

AT&T Leadership Development Program, Dallas

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I have demonstrated great leadership and showed a proven track record of delivering success. I was a student member of the GSM’s education policy committee, which helps the school design its courses and evaluate faculty performance. I have also been appointed to a campus-wide chancellor advisory board working on diversity issues. I am working on alleviating disparities and thus promoting educational, professional, and social equity among graduate and professional students. I facilitated the partnership of the Graduate School of Management, the Internship & Career Center, and Professional Development Program to host UCD’s second annual, campus-wide startup career fair, ‘Launch’. As a trustee of GSM, I actively work together with marketing division and admission division by translating the GSM’s marketing material to Chinese and interpreting the conversation between GSM and delegation of Chinese Universities. Based on my excellent academic performance and contribution to the GSM, I was awarded the Faculty Scholarship and Kenneth E. and Joanne M. Nitzberg Scholarship.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my Big Bang Case Competition experience that happened in my first school year. I entered my start-up in the competition and led our five-person team to conduct marketing research and investigate potential customers and investors. It was eye-opening. I have gotten the most out of the one-year Big Bang Case Competition Program. Through this experience, I have recognized and bridged the gap between my startup business model and the expectation of the customers and investors. I am proud of building a robust network with seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, and corporation leaders in Silicon Valley. They are guiding me to the U.S. entrepreneurial world. At the same time, these ventures helped me realize having a great experience at big companies, especially AT&T (the dominant of telecommunication industry), is fundamental for my future career considering my business model is built on the cooperation with carriers.

Another extracurricular achievement I am proud of is winning the best speaker and the most improved speaker for my first speech at Toast Masters. I am proud of myself for the progress I have made in such a short time, my passion for public speaking, and my demonstrated persistence.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have won a myriad of awards, grants and recognitions from both academic world and business world. They include: China State Scholarship, Principle Investigator of China Doctoral Fund, China Innovation Group member, Grand Award Judge of ISEF, and the Excellent Prize in ‘Wei Ge’er’ Creative Theme Design Competition. Talking about my favorite accomplishment, I thought it is my creative idea “Family +” project.

As you know, there are over 215,000,000 aging people in China. Most of them have only one child who is working far away and caring about their parents seriously. The location-based service “Family +” would help the family with aging people connect with each other closely. It’s not only a locator and cell phone, but also an intelligent bodyguard, an attentive private nurse, and a personal secretary for your family. I initiated the “Family +” project, promoted the cooperation with China Mobile, and talked to Newspaper Media to promote “Family +” product. In 2015, “Family +” products have received great attention from the market. In the first round of presale, we received 20,000 orders which was beyond our expectation. Today, Coverage is ready for the first-round venture capital investment.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course is Management of Innovation. As we all know, the secret weapon of a startup is innovation. How to manage innovation effectively is critical to the existence of a startup. Through the class, I have learned how to critically evaluate opportunities for innovation, effectively manage innovation in organizations, and get hands-on experience in the tools and techniques of innovation.

Why did you choose this business school?

  1. Great location with proximity to State Capitol, Silicon Valley, and San Francisco Financial Center.
  2. Renowned faculty who are informed, knowledgeable and supportive.
  3. A springboard for entrepreneurial initiatives – providing the necessary skills, resources and network support to turn ideas into action.
  4. Impressive job placement based on one-on-one career counselor service.
  5. Impact project emphasizing learning-by-doing and teamwork through a real-world project with faculty mentors.
  6. Vibrant student association and collaborative learning environment.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I have enjoyed the innovative environment, working with experienced entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders to create and implement new ideas and initiatives. I have greatly appreciated the one-on-one career counselor service, upon which I launch my future as a leader in AT&T telecommunication business.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I never thought my business school would give me such a deep sense of belonging. Everybody cares about each other, the students, staff, faculty, and deans. We know each other well. We bond as one family.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Prepare, prepare, and prepare, not only physically but also psychologically for the application. Pay a visit to our beautiful campus and talk to current students. You will have a full picture of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

What is the biggest myth about your school? UC Davis Graduate School of Management(GSM) will leverage its unique academic resource, geographic location, faculty and alumni relationship to raise its profile and ranking. As one of UC Davis GSMers, I want to say what I have experienced will lead me to believe the myth will come true soon. GSM plans to augment the school’s curriculum so students can be trained in fields where the rest of the university is well-known for its excellence, such as food, agriculture, and biotech. At the same time, GSM professors began to share their research and insights with Sacramento companies on an ongoing basis to enhance the relationship between the Sacramento businesses and GSM. In fact, some of us have already benefited from these changes. In the ‘Alumni Thanksgiving and Big Day of Internships’, a third of our first-year full-time MBA students have been placed for the summer internships.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Personally, I do not have any big regret in business school. Like anyone, I could have done a couple of things differently. One of these things is losing work and life balance, which is the biggest concern of my family and close friends for me. As you can see, I, as a new first-generation U.S. immigrant, face the challenges of the language barrier and culture shock. To obtain the same achievement, I need to go extra miles beyond a native English speaker no matter whether it is for academic or extracurricular achievement. To make my goals happen, I fight every day at the expense of my sleep time with a strong will. However, if I were given a second chance, I would still make the same selection.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is me. I hope I am not too egotistic to say this way. I am inspired by myself every day. I gave up my career and home, leaving behind my husband and daughter in China, to come to the UC Davis Full-Time MBA program for my dream – my business on the soil of the United States.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I immigrated to the United States because a business degree would round out my business knowledge and allow me to pursue my dream in the United States as an entrepreneur.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…reaching the limit on my perspective, network, toolkit to develop my business solution for a broader impact.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Our new dean, professor Rao Unnava, has great passion and drives amazing changes in GSM. I did learn how to make a strategic move from a conversation with him. If I were a dean for a day, I would add Business Analytics – a new STEM major provided by GSM – to the current Master of Business Administration Program. This will extend international MBA students’ OPT time from 12 months to 36 months, which will give International MBA students greater flexibility when applying for a job, especially under today’s U.S. political environment.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I hope to create a platform through which people can get access to resources, services and a new way to balance their work and life balance, to say ‘I love you’ and ‘I care about you’ to their loved ones. By blending entrepreneurship and telecommunication service, I strive to develop and lead innovative organizations that impact change.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family – my parents, my husband, and my daughter. The experiences they created shaped my passions, and the support they provided enabled me to pursue them. Years of professional piano training introduced me to the music world, where I developed a love for playing piano, dancing and singing, a sense of aesthetics and an optimistic personality. My parents instilled in me the concept of being at the level of excellence and provided me the resources and network to thrive. After graduating with a Bachelors Degree with honors, I met my husband. He guided me to the entrepreneurial world. His global mindset, perseverance, and strategic initiative brought me a grand vision for my career. We founded our first startup in 2002 and a second startup in 2013. In 2015, I immigrated to the United States and enrolled in UC Davis full-time MBA program. Being far away from my family, their support becomes one of the most important inspirations for me to be my best.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A female leader who is ambitious, persistent and driving change.

Favorite book: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel (introduced me the idea’ Entrepreneurs should embrace monopolies’)

Favorite movie or television show: The Pursuit of Happyness

Favorite musical performer: Lang Lang, Pianist

Favorite vacation spot: Oia, Greece

Hobbies: Playing piano, dancing, singing, bicycling, reading and traveling abroad.

What made Grace Guo such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“I am honored to nominate Grace Guo for the Poets & Quants Best & Brightest 2017 because she is one of our most engaged students that has impressed everyone at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Grace deserves the highest accolades not only for her work to make our school a better place, but also for her determination and resolve in the very difficult decisions and sacrifices she has made to further her career.

Grace was already extremely accomplished when she applied to the UC Davis MBA Program. She had completed her Ph.D. in Systems Engineering at Northeastern University, Shenyang China, and worked as a faculty member there and as a Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley. She had ten years of experience conducting business research and teaching university-level mathematics, e-commerce, and operations among other subjects. In addition, she was co-founder and COO for two very successful start-ups. It is very impressive that Grace received Permanent Residency status because of her outstanding research contributions.

Despite her success in China, Grace made the difficult decision to leave China and come to the US to complete her MBA to improve her fluency in English and learn more about the US business environment. From the time she arrived, she has worked diligently with our Associate Director of Career Development to improve her language skills, reached out to other students to build her network and to be a resource for other international students. She has proven herself to be fully committed to her classmates and to the Graduate School of Management.

Since arriving in Davis in June 2015, Grace has made a huge impact on the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and larger UC Davis community through her passion and desire to make our school a better place. Over the past year, she entered the BigBang Business Plan Competition, was appointed to the Chancellor’s Graduate and Professional Students Advisory Board, and was an active member of the school’s educational policy committee and developed a Startup Career Fair for her fellow students. Wow! Grace not only is very involved in the GSM community, but encourages other students to get involved as well.

In addition to her academic success and involvement in numerous activities, Grace was selected for the AT&T Leadership Development Program and will begin her career there after her graduation in June 2017. Grace has truly proven that she deserves to be one of the best of the class of 2017 with all she has accomplished here at UC Davis.”

Kathy Gleed

Senior Director of Admissions and Chief Diversity Officer