2018 Best MBAs: Darlene Zephyrine, USC (Marshall)

Darlene Zephyrine

USC, Marshall School of Business

“I am diligently driven to make a valuable impact on this earth and my life.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (from birth to age 10)

Fun fact about yourself: I was featured in Ebony Magazine in 2008 as one of the top-performing high school students in America.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brandeis University, Bachelor of Arts in Business and Economics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Accenture, Technology Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Paramount Pictures, Los Angeles, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? I am still recruiting. Currently, I am interning at NBCUniversal in Brand Development, Franchise Strategy, which has an opportunity to convert to full-time.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Marshall Leadership Fellows Program – President
    • A small team of fellows and I are organizing a designing thinking workshop to help young adults design the best career for them based on their skills, interests, and the impact they want to make on their communities.
  • Business of Entertainment Association – VP of Communications
  • Volunteering and community work includes:
    • Junior Achievement
    • Special Olympics
    • After-school assistant teaching programs (elementary schools)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my role in the Marshall Leadership Fellows Program, one of the signature programs meant to develop students into compassionate, influential leaders who not only want to expand upon their personal goals, but also want to create tangible value in their surrounding communities. I have had the privilege of helping to guide a group of leaders in their own right, and continuously shape the fellows program. Additionally, with a subset of my fellows, I get to partake and organize a design thinking workshop for local, entrepreneurial-minded youth, providing them with the resources and tools that they need to create their own community impact via their careers.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After work hours, I volunteered to teach basic computer and coding skills to adults trying to enter the workforce. Many of these adults had never worked in traditional or business-related roles and very few knew how to operate a computer. A small group of co-workers and I taught them how to build and maintain a resume, to apply for roles online, to use office computer tools, and more. For those wanting to learn more advanced skills, I taught classes on basic SQL coding to people interested in the development space. This help set them up for job applications and interviews so that they could then provide for themselves and their families.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Sherry Gunther Sugerman (Entrepreneurship in Entertainment and Media): She was my favorite professor because she became a guidepost for me as I learned how to transition from consulting to entertainment. She met with me outside of school during the summer while I interned to ensure that I was taking the right steps for a smooth pivot, knowing that entertainment in many ways is like politics. Her advice helped me throughout my summer internship and gave me a foundation to help me land my current spring internship.

What was your favorite MBA Course Fostering Creativity is a favorite among Marshall students, myself included. The biggest business insight that it provides is the impact mindfulness and change can have in new or creative environments to produce and maintain an efficient, satisfied, and excited workplace and workforce. Without focusing on the health and well-being of the self and our professional companions, we cannot be influential leaders and managers, especially during stressful or non-profitable quarters.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Marshall, hands down, because of the collaborative nature of the student body and the willingness of my classmates to support and guide me in my career transition. I could feel, see, and understand this even during Admit Weekend, before the program began. Given my passion for media and entertainment, USC was a perfect fit for me to pursue my interests in business-related roles in those fields.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Marshall is not just about your own self-development. It is also about what you have to offer to your fellow classmates and the program, both academically and outside of the classroom. To truly thrive, you should think beyond yourself and discover how you can enlighten the lives and careers of your class in addition to those of your own.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not being able to take a class called Digital Sustainability Strategies in the Emerging World due to a scheduling conflict. The class encompassed a consulting project, in which we worked with various companies spanning different industries (communication, tech, media, etc.) to determine core business strategies that were both profitable and sustainable – meaning it would improve the social and economic outlook for society while creating concrete revenues and profits for businesses. It encouraged students to think creatively and carefully about sustainable business practices that go beyond simple “green” initiatives and that allowed business operations to remain flexible rather than stagnant and outdated or harmful to society.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Juliana Tashiro. Juliana’s sensible and thoughtful approach to both personal and professional endeavors is the reason I admire her. She has learned from her background and life experiences to become a woman that is not only intelligent, but also hard-working, forward-thinking, and inspirational to others. She has the ability to effectively advise her peers and superiors in a manner that is both respectful and inclusive. Consequently, she will make a real impact through her decision to go into human capital consulting after graduation.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother most influenced me because as a woman who never went to college and who didn’t really have financial independence, she understood the potential of her youngest daughter controlling her own life through an education in business. My mother worked hard to make sure that my sisters and I would be the authors of our own destiny; she wanted me (and my sisters) to accomplish more and go further than she had already done for us.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…tracking toward partner at Accenture, believing that this was the only option for my career and not entertaining the idea that I could find my place, a platform to potentially make a global impact, and success within the world of media and entertainment.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would want to make sure that all departments supporting full-time MBA students focus on expanding or highlighting resources to industries and roles beyond the traditional b-School lens of finance and consulting, especially because this generation, who will comprise our future leaders, is interested in careers that make a social, economic, environmental, and cultural impact on both business and society.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Travel to all the countries to which I can safely travel before I retire.
  2. Give back at least US$200,000 in scholarships to advancements in education (primary or higher education).

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want to be remembered for always bringing a piece of joy and laughter to those around me and for lending my ear in someone’s time of need if and when I could.

What is your favorite movie about business? Trading Places because you must always act with integrity in business; otherwise it will not be pleasant for anyone.

What would your theme song be? “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston (but more about the “dance” part).

Favorite vacation spot: Tobago (for now, maybe, until I accomplish #1 on my bucket list)!

Hobbies?

  • Dance
  • Songwriting and Singing
  • Travel and trying new dishes (at least once in life)
  • Spinning/Biking
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Mixed Martial Arts (exercise)

What made Zephyrine such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“During her time as a student at USC Marshall, Darlene’s contributions to the community have been extensive. Most notably, over the past year, she has served as the student lead for the Marshall Leadership Fellows Program (MLFP), a relatively new leadership development program reserved for a select group of students who wish to grow and strengthen their leadership skills on a variety of dimensions. One of Darlene’s main responsibilities has been to serve as the liaison between the student Fellows, faculty, and administration to plan programming, address challenges, identify areas for improvement, and implement change.

Her primary initiative this year was to create greater alignment between the required course and Program activities beyond the course. Darlene has performed exceptionally in this role. First and foremost, she actively listens to others and seeks to understand their point of view. She is incredibly skilled at negotiating, providing insights, and challenging others to think about problems differently. She has also been instrumental in keeping the Fellows on track with their Community Impact Projects, a key requirement for the Program. While the faculty and administrative leads for this program (including myself) have provided guidance and support, there is no doubt that the experience the Fellows have had this year would not have been as robust or impactful if it weren’t for Darlene’s dedication. Her job has oftentimes been thankless, yet she has persisted because she believes so deeply in helping her fellow students grow.”

Anne Ziemniak
Assistant Dean and Director
Full-Time MBA Program, USC Marshall School of Business

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018