Meet The Texas McCombs MBA Class Of 2020

Mary Li

University of Texas, McCombs School of Business

I’m a spirited foodie, avid news junkie, frequent national park hiker, and extreme animal lover.”

Hometown: most recently Chicago, IL for the last 8 years (but I’ve lived in [chronologically] Beijing, Dallas, New Haven, and Birmingham Alabama)

Fun Fact About Yourself: I picked my name Mary when I moved to America back in 2001, when my third-grade teacher asked then 9-year-old me what my name was on the first day of class.

Undergraduate School and Major: Northwestern University, Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: SapientRazorfish – Paid Media Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Being the leading member of the first team in my agency to use Pinterest for paid social media advertising. When I recommended Pinterest as major opportunity for one of my clients, Pinterest had just launched their advertising beta. Nobody within the agency had prior experience, and there were no established best practices and resources for me to rely on. I took charge in onboarding this brand-new publisher, learning a new system to manage advertising campaigns, all while keeping the client informed of creative and targeting optimizations in real time. I successfully launched the campaign and drove huge lifts in traffic and e-commerce revenue for the client. I was also able to pass on the learnings and best practices onto the agency for future Pinterest initiatives so other teams can have a solid start.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diversity. I have only been here a week and the stories I’ve heard of everyone’s backgrounds and experiences are truly global in its variety and impact. The knowledge and perspectives that they will bring into the classroom and into my life is going to make the next two years a truly rewarding experience.

Aside from your classmates, 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? The myriad of marketing learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom, including (and definitely not limited to) the Brand Marketing concentration, the Marketing Fellows program , the annual Marketing Challenge hosted by the Graduate Marketing Network, the experiential Marketing Labs, and the MBA+ Leadership Program.

Outside of the people and the culture, which are extremely important when I picked McCombs, it was the academic opportunities that really excited me. I can get a world-class business education in becoming a general manager and at the same time have such insightful experiential learning through projects and cases that will allow me to bring concepts and ideas to life.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Austin is such a unique, trend-emerging location for food & beverages, so I am really looking forward to joining the Epicurean Club, not only as a foodie but also as someone very interested in the industry.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Having developed strong expertise in digital advertising for the past four years, I’ve come to realize I could not be a true advocate for the brands I worked on unless I was part of the client’s team where I could know the ins-and-outs of a company and be a part of the strategic decision-making process. And one of the best ways to pivot into brand management was through getting an MBA.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I weighed the likelihood of successfully pivoting into brand management and the personal fulfillment of an enriching school experience with classmates against a temporary pause in income and financial security. There are rewards in an MBA far beyond salaries forgone. The amazing network, the unique experiences, and the opportunities to get to know companies and invest in myself are unparalleled.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Kellogg & Haas

How did you determine your fit at various schools? By talking to current students about what they love and found lacking, and to fellow admitted students to get a feel for how much I would enjoy spending two years with them in and outside the classroom.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Immigrating to America from China back in 2001 was life-changing and it has truly made me more empathetic as a person, appreciative of different backgrounds, and excited to learn and experience new things.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? Become an associate brand manager at a major food & beverage company working on brands I love to eat or drink as a consumer myself.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I want to become the director at a major food & beverage company where I drive the strategy and performance for my category while continuing to innovate and satisfy the needs of consumers.

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