Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class of 2019

Anita Gardea

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: An adaptable, honest and empathetic woman with a penchant for logic, humor, and baking sweets.

Hometown: Arcadia, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a huge musical theatre fan! I’ve attended countless productions across the country, and I love to perform Broadway songs. I have classical training as a mezzo-soprano, and can frequently be found stuck in Los Angeles traffic belting out show tunes from soundtracks ranging from The Phantom of the Opera to Hamilton.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University

Bachelor of Science, Supply Chain Management

Bachelor of Arts, Sustainability

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  • AArete LLC, Consultant
  • Sikorsky Aircraft, Material Logistics Analyst
  • United Technologies Corporation, Operations Leadership Program (OLP) Associate
    • Business & Operations Analyst
    • Commodity Manager
    • Quality Engineer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to make impactful contributions over the course of my career. I’ve co-led efforts to lean out WIP inventory by $10M and negotiated contracts with savings up to $1.5M. While I am very proud of these projects, I consider my biggest accomplishment to be the set up of a small inventory staging area (supermarket) supporting a small union shop.

When I worked in manufacturing, one of my first projects was to consolidate multiple hardware bins to one supermarket location to support increased production. The challenge was that I was working a unionized shop, and I was not allowed to touch fixtures or material on the floor.

I was ready to go out and ask for the help I needed, but I realized I didn’t know anyone on the floor. So instead, I focused on building relationships. As I expanded my network, I also had the opportunity to learn from people who had a direct hand in manufacturing our products.

When I shared what I wanted to do with the supermarket project, I had so many people willing to help, that I had to create shifts. We were able to get all the old material cataloged and the new supermarket set up within a month, which was remarkable considering this project had been passed around for almost a year.

This experience underscored that if you want people to respect you and buy into your ideas, you must offer the same to them. Rarely do we work in a completely isolated environment without outside help. The ability to listen to voices across all levels of an organization has allowed me to have success where others have run into opposition.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? First off, get a good GMAT study plan down, and give yourself enough time to prepare. If you can get this done early in your application process, it can free up some mental energy for other important application activities.

My main advice would be to allow your passion to shine through in your application and interview. I was hesitant to share my desire to switch from operations/supply chain work to human resources because I thought my story might seem confusing or illogical. Now that I’m in an MBA program, I realize that a large portion of my classmates are “career-pivoters” looking to switch into a new industry or function. Once I let myself share my personal story and motivations for pursuing HR, explaining my intended career change has been very easy, and well-received!

I would also suggest that those who are considering MBA program to take time to think about their reasons for pursuing an MBA. Business school is a big investment, and it’s important to do some research to figure out how to best leverage your education to meet your goals. When you understand what you’re looking to get out of an MBA, it is much easier to select the best program for your needs. Plus, when people ask why you want to attend a certain school, you will have a cohesive and focused answer.

Lastly, give yourself a chance to explore and talk to those who have been there before. Many schools hold exploratory events for potential applicants to learn more about the campus, culture, and curriculum in a low-pressure setting. Take advantage of these events for schools that you’re favoring. A half-hour conversation with someone who’s currently in the program you’re eyeing can often be more enlightening than hours of internet research.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? When narrowing down my options for MBA programs, I knew that finding a collaborative culture where diverse perspectives are celebrated and encouraged was paramount. I am pursuing a career in human resources because I firmly believe that creating an atmosphere where diversity is embraced allows people to freely share their different perspectives. In turn, this inspires fresh ideas, and helps us look beyond normalized behaviors and actions to instead consider new possibilities. The unmatched advantage that USC Marshall offers, in terms of perspective, lies in the vibrant fibers of talent that comprise the vast tapestry of the unparalleled Trojan family. I am truly impressed by the wide variety of experiences and viewpoints my classmates bring to class each day, which have challenged my way of thinking and enhanced the experience for everyone.

 What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? After Year 1, success to me would mean being able to take the analytical and qualitative skills I have honed, and translate them into successfully generating value for an organization during my summer internship. My goal is to be able to bring a fresh perspective to immediate and impactful human capital questions, while creating value for the business, management, employees, shareholders, and the community.

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