Meet UCLA Anderson’s MBA Class of 2020

Kaavya Ramesh

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“Michigan State alumna who’s now fleeing winters. Spare-time creative writer. Lifelong “Buffy” watcher and re-watcher.”

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once played basketball with Tibetan Buddhist monks at their monastery in Northwest China. I’m not normally much of a basketball player, but this was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I couldn’t pass up! The monks beat us, of course.

Undergraduate School and Major: Michigan State University; Dual degrees in International Relations and Chinese, additional major in Comparative Cultures & Politics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: The ONE Campaign; Marketing Coordinator

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At ONE, a global anti-poverty advocacy non-profit co-founded by Bono, I worked with entertainment companies and talent to put global inequality issues on people’s radars. My favorite project that I was responsible for coordinating was a girls’ education video campaign. To visually represent the 130 million girls worldwide who are out of school, ONE launched a user-generated campaign asking people to record videos of themselves each counting one number between 1 and 130 million and turning the resulting footage into one of the longest videos of all time. We ended up with more than 47 total hours of video from people in more than 80 countries and more than 15 languages, including from Gal Gadot, Tom Brady, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, and Charlize Theron, among other influencers. I traveled to events including Paramount Pictures’ Corporate Day of Service in LA and a Disney/Marvel “Black Panther” event in New York, where I pitched the campaign to attendees and persuaded more than 100 total Paramount and Disney employees combined to record videos of themselves to add to this campaign. The result was successful; we debuted the full footage at a major global education summit in Senegal, leading to world leaders pledging $2.3 billion to the cause.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Genuine kindness and willingness to help other classmates succeed. Everyone is driven, but it’s not a cutthroat or overly competitive atmosphere at all, and my classmates are always looking for ways to work with each other. For example, I made an Anderson friend at the Forte Fellow conference back in June and told her I was interested in entertainment. She immediately said, “Oh, I have two friends I used to work with who are now working at studios you’re interested in, would you like me to put you in touch?” And she did, over the summer, before school had even officially started. That kind of willingness to help classmates with their goals has been a running theme I’ve noticed, and I’m deeply grateful for it. Plus, we’re constantly making the most of social time with each other – going to the beach in Santa Monica, checking out local bars, celebrating classmates’ birthdays, hiking in Malibu, you name it!

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? After dipping my toes in the entertainment waters at ONE, I realized that marketing TV and film was where my heart really was. I’d always been trying to balance my creative, storytelling side with my analytical side. When I was sent to Paramount in my first month on the job and met people in the industry who were doing the exact kind of work that I’d secretly dreamed of doing for a long time, I realized that there was no reason I shouldn’t try to do it, too. It didn’t take long after that to discover that Anderson was unparalleled in terms of its entertainment network and that being in LA would give me the best chance of pursuing that dream. Not only is the Parker Career Center incredibly knowledgeable about entertainment and very hands-on in terms of its coaching resources, but I also learned from speaking to an Anderson Class of 2018 student that her ability to complete a spring internship at a major studio in LA during the academic year gave her a major leg-up when it came to landing her summer internship at Disney.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Industry-wise, I look forward to being deeply involved in the Entertainment Management Association, which prepares students for careers in entertainment, leads days-on-the-job at major studios, and takes club members to the Sundance Film Festival every year. There are plenty of fun ways to get to know my classmates outside of school and industry clubs that I’m excited about as well, though. In the fall, we have local trips planned to sites such as Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Disneyland to take full advantage of the fact that we live in Southern California. In the winter, we have the option to go on a ski trip to Whistler. In the spring, there’s also an Anderson trip to Japan that I’m looking forward to!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I’d been planning on an MBA after a few years of working in DC, since there’s a tendency in Washington think tanks and non-profits to hit a bit of a ceiling a couple of years out of college without an advanced degree. The trip to Paramount, though, really drove home the point that I wanted to switch industries and that I needed to be in a business program in LA, in order to do it. So I took the leap.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I knew that in order to break into entertainment in a business role, I was going to need a good amount of career help in terms of strengthening my quant chops, honing my existing marketing expertise, and navigating a new industry environment. For me, the Anderson MBA was a no-brainer.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Since I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry, that narrowed it down to LA and New York, where the bulk of the entertainment jobs are. Accordingly, I applied to Anderson, Marshall, and Stern.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The factors that were most important to me were: (1) Strength of network in the industry I was targeting; (2) Ability to complete academic-year internships in entertainment; (3) Strength of academic preparation; and (4) Cultural fit. I determined basically all of these by talking to a ton of Anderson students; all in all, I think I probably talked to 8-10 different UCLA students while applying! Each of them was more than happy to chat and really gave me a feel for how Anderson prepared them for their industry, how clubs and associations worked, what they got out of their academic experience, and what the Anderson culture was like. I did the same for the other two schools to which I applied.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? It’s hard to choose just one defining moment, but I’ll choose one of the many moments that has mattered a lot to me. When I was in Florence one summer, I looked up at Michelangelo’s statue of David, and the word “perfect” kept running through my head, and it never left me. It glowed white with a sliver of light beaming down faintly on it, like moonlight. Every intricate detail was flawless. I couldn’t look away. It seemed inconceivable to me that a human being could create such a thing. That moment has solidified my pre-existing belief that human creativity is powerful and transformative.

In particular, it’s my belief in the arts that leads me to also believe that film, television, and licensed entertainment products have a unique power to influence how people think. In my work at ONE, I’ve seen first-hand that when we leverage talent such as Robin Wright and U2 in support of girls’ education, people worldwide listen. Licensed entertainment products can have a similar power; for example, decisions about diversity in body types and professions of Barbie dolls influence how millions of girls see themselves.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I aim to work in marketing (specifically, in brand management) in the film & television industry, at either a major studio such as Disney or Warner Bros. or an emerging tech-entertainment company such as Netflix or Hulu.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully, I’ll be a brand manager or working in theatrical/new film release marketing at a major entertainment company – though I realize I’m still early into my time in business school and need to learn more about possibilities within the industry! And I most likely want to stay in the greater LA area to do that, since that’s where most of the film and television opportunities are. And on a personal level, I’m dreaming of living in a cottage near the beach, growing my own tomatoes, and soaking up the sunshine and the salty sea air.

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