2017 MBAs To Watch: Brandt Hill, USC (Marshall)

Brandt Hill

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

“Ice cream loving, family focused, analytical, creative, traveler, dreamer, marketer, runner, strategist, and leader.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Farmington, UT

Fun fact about yourself: I once got lectured by a border patrol agent on night train crossing from Ukraine to Poland for carrying a painting I bought at a street fair in Lviv!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brigham Young University, BS Facility and Property Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Bigsley, Director of International Affairs

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Walt Disney Imagineering, Glendale, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Salesforce, Product Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President, Marshall Graduate Student Association; Co-Director, Marshall Ambassador Program; AVP, Business of Entertainment Association; Dean’s Top 10 (Top 5% of class in academic performance during Core Semester); Pro-bono consulting for Help International and Encircle Together Non-profit Organizations; Launching an international LGBT youth humanitarian trek in the summer of 2017

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As this school year began, in the midst of a contentious presidential election cycle, I heard a lot of discussion from my classmates about what Marshall was doing to advocate on behalf of our diverse student body. I met with Marshall’s diversity club presidents to ask what issues were causing our students the most pain. With that knowledge, I fast-tracked the appointment of a new Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion to our student board. Together, he and I worked to launch several initiatives aimed at creating a more inclusive student community.

Our first event, which we called Shakes and Stories, gathered students in an on-campus coffee shop to share personal stories from our diverse backgrounds. Nearly a dozen students took to the mic to tell their stories, with 40 more watching from the audience. The open, vulnerable environment that we cultivated helped accomplish my goal of empowering different voices to be heard and, as a result, better understood.

We continued by arranging for better diversity training for our students, launched EQ workshops, lobbied USC administration for expanded diversity programming, and advocated for more inclusive cases and speakers to be included in classes. Though these initiatives are only a start, I am proud of the changes that I have seen in our community. I hope what I’ve accomplished has helped set Marshall on a course to become one of the most inclusive MBA programs.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2013, I quit my cubicle job, and alongside my brother, developed and launched an international running event series called Electric Run. Our goal was to provide a fun and innovative way to get people outside and exercising. The concept was simple—a nighttime 5k running event through a lit up course past glowing jellyfish, dancing arches, and 12 foot gummy bears.

In two year,s we saw the event grow to more than 20 different countries, with crowds as big as 25,000 people. For me, the biggest reward came from the good I felt we accomplished in the communities we entered. Each event had local charity partners with which we shared a portion of our revenue.

I was in Osaka Japan for one of our events in late 2014 when I heard that we had closed a deal to sell the company. This news allowed me to reflect on my time with Electric Run as I watched 20,000 happy runners cross our finish line that night. As I thought about the people we impacted through our event, I felt immensely proud of what I’d accomplished.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Joe Priester. Professor Priester teaches a course called Fostering Creativity. His course is unconventional, trading power points for meditation pillows, and his experiential teaching style changed the way I think. Beyond being a talented and innovative teacher, Professor Priester is genuinely engaged and concerned with the success of his students. After taking his class I wanted to dive further into research on fostering creativity in the workplace. He agreed to work with me to develop a research project and check my progress along the way. In meeting weekly with Professor Priester, I learned a lot about creativity, but I also learned how to treat others and live a more meaningful life.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I really enjoyed a course called Social Innovation Design. The course partners students with a local community center to develop for-profit business models which solve problems specific to low income communities. In the course we learned the essentials of design thinking and the importance of deeply understanding a customer before trying to solve his or her needs. More importantly, I developed an understanding of how business can help solve the great problems vexing our communities.

Why did you choose this business school? From my first campus visit, I recognized how special the culture at Marshall is. I wanted a business school that encourages collaboration over competition, and I truly found that at Marshall. Marshall students genuinely care for one another. Whether it is through endless practice interviews, 2nd year mentors, or peer to peer tutoring, the Marshall student body constantly strives to serve one another. Beyond service to one another, I was moved by the degree to which volunteerism and community service is lived among Marshall students. Marshall thinks more expansively about community service than any other MBA program I researched, and this focus on community really appealed to me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I have loved exploring many aspects of business in which I had little or no previous experience. It has been exciting to develop skills in data analysis, finance, and operations. Though I plan to pursue a career in product strategy, I have enjoyed adding and sharpening other tools in my toolkit.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I’ve been surprised just how empowering business school has been. As an intern at Disney last summer, with just a year of school under my belt, I was amazed how confident I felt sitting down with top leadership at a fortune 500 company and advising on the direction of the business. Marshall’s aggressive first year schedule was truly a pressure cooker that helped refine and empower me.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Come to campus and talk to as many students as possible. Being a right fit for the culture is important to the admissions team here, and it should be important to any prospective Marshall applicant. Because the program size is relatively small, it’s important that Marshall applicants want to be a part of the collaborative, ambitious, service oriented culture that we espouse.

What is the biggest myth about your school? When I was applying to Marshall, I had heard mixed reviews about Marshall’s career center and job placement. Since coming to Marshall, I have watched our Career Service Center transform into an excellent resource. Marshall’s career advisors and global sector leads have helped me in numerous ways. They have a good pulse on industry trends, and have grown the pool of top companies recruiting on campus. Beyond providing counsel and advice, the career service center has been there to support me in whatever I’ve needed. Whether listening to me complain about uncertainty in my future or celebrating with me as I receive job offers, I know I can find a listening ear at the CSC.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I try not to live with regret, but if I have one It’s that I spent way too much money at the campus cafeteria.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire my classmate Elise Yang. I’ve had the opportunity to serve with Elise on the Marshall Graduate Student Association board, and I’ve been blown away (and at times jealous) of how much Elise can accomplish in a day. She has gone above and beyond her outlined leadership responsibilities. To me, she truly exemplifies what a leader should be. We can have one conversation about a new idea or initiative and 24 hours later Elise has assembled a team, designed a logo, and launched a newsletter to promote it.

Beyond being smart, creative, organized, fearless, and team-oriented, Elise is one of the most kind and thoughtful people I know. Elise has volunteered countless hours to both the school, and the local community. I hope that I can one day be half the person that Elise is.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…the company I helped start was sold and I realized I was out of a job.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…opening an art studio in Marrakesh or something equally as bohemian.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would love to see design thinking and creative leadership taught as part of core classes. I believe that innovation is one of the only skills that can’t be programmed or outsourced, and I’d love to see Marshall foster more innovative problem solving.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would like to eventually build and run my own business. I am passionate about innovation and creativity, and I want to build a company that leads in its product category. Beyond building and cultivating a great brand, I want to build a company that provides benefit to the community. I’m currently exploring a few startup ideas that I will hopefully launch in the coming year.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents. They have always encouraged and supported me in whatever I set out to do. Their belief in me has allowed me to believe in myself. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Brandt was a creative, principled leader who worked hard and cared about his classmates.

Favorite book: The Sparrow

Favorite movie or television show: TV Show: Survivor, Movie: Silver Linings Playbook

Favorite musical performer: Adele

Favorite vacation spot: London

Hobbies? Running, Swimming, Hiking, Eating Ice Cream, Crochet, Travel



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