2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Andrew Engram, U.C.-San Diego (Rady)

Andrew Engram

Rady School of Management, University of California San Diego

“A passionate and driven business leader that is always seeking improvement and innovation.”

Hometown: Lorena, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: I recently ran in the Ragnar Trail Relay on the Los Coyotes reservation in Southern California. I ran 8 miles in freezing weather in the middle of the night. It was exhausting but we had a great team and had a lot of fun!

Undergraduate School and Degree: I have a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M, with a minor in Business and a minor in Mathematics.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked for the offshore drilling company, Rowan Companies, in their project management department. I was a Principal Project Engineer as well as the Client Liaison Manager for an $800 Million drillship that Rowan built in Ulsan, South Korea.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I interned at Xendee Corp as a Business Strategist. I assisted the CEO with marketing materials and the investment pitch deck because they were beginning the process of raising venture capital.

Where will you be working after graduation? Last summer, I started a venture capital firm and startup accelerator, Lightning Rod Ventures, with a vision of helping entrepreneurs develop leadership skills and investing in them at the end of the accelerator program. I am still undecided on whether I will pursue this full time after graduation, but I am committed to the idea that leadership is one of the most important factors in the success of early-stage companies. If I don’t pursue Lightning Rod Ventures full time after graduation, then I will keep working on it part-time, building out a robust and quality leadership program that has a solid reputation in the industry. My secondary goal would be to join a venture capital firm as an Associate or Principal and continue to develop my skills for working with and helping entrepreneurs grow and scale their companies.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I started the Venture Capital & Private Equity Club at the Rady School of Management with the initiative to compete in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) in 2019. I serve as President of the Rady Student Association and led the Winter Formal Planning Committee. Additionally, I am leading a team of Rady FT MBA students to Cambodia in March 2019 for a consulting immersion course.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Starting the Venture Capital & Private Equity Club at Rady and organizing a team to compete in the VCIC competition has been the most rewarding achievement of my time in business school. To be able to help other Rady students who are interested in venture capital to compete and network with successful venture capitalists has been a very fulfilling experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One of my proudest achievements during my career at Rowan Companies was successfully delivering the Rowan Relentless drillship to our client, Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas, a month ahead of schedule. This was a culmination of great efforts by the entire Rowan Relentless project team and I am extremely proud to have been part of that achievement.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Michael Finney. He taught the Organizational Strategy course and taught the pilot course Change Management. His ability to relate core principles to real-world scenarios and hold students accountable for learning is something that made a large impact on me. He is also the group leader for our consulting immersion course in Cambodia. With many years of experience working in emerging markets as a management consultant, Professor Finney is providing critical insights to us as we navigate and learn about the external environment within Cambodia.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite MBA course is New Venture Finance taught by Professor Rick Townsend. I have been interested in pursuing a career in venture capital since I started business school. This course has added to my knowledge of how the venture capital industry works and has given me insight into key components that venture capitalists consider before investing in a startup company. This class has reaffirmed my belief that being successful as an entrepreneur is about surrounding yourself with quality people who believe in the vision of the company.

Why did you choose this business school? When I interviewed for acceptance into Rady, I traveled to La Jolla from Houston, where I was living at the time. The most impressive aspects of the school, in addition to the excellent location and weather, were Rady’s facilities and the curriculum. Rady’s focus on innovation and entrepreneurship – and the way that these concepts are incorporated into every class – allows students to understand the importance of innovation not just in the sense of entrepreneurship but how to maintain a competitive advantage in the corporate marketplace.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? For any applicant wanting to get accepted into Rady, I would advise them first to be genuine. Before you start applying and interviewing for Rady, make sure that you have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses both personally and professionally. This will allow you to communicate how you want to improve as a business leader and will set you on the right track during the evaluation process.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Moving to La Jolla from Houston, I started at Rady with a blank slate and I had no expectations and I didn’t know of any myths before I arrived. All that I knew was that I needed to have the right growth mindset to get the most value out of my MBA experience. During the time that I have been at Rady, I can see that Rady is one of the premier entrepreneurship schools in the United States with a world-class faculty and an intense immersive curriculum focused on innovation. One myth about Rady, as a business school focused on entrepreneurship and innovation, is that Rady isn’t geared towards being able to succeed in a corporate environment. I would argue that this myth is wrong. All the curriculum at Rady can be applied in either an entrepreneurial environment or the corporate world.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Before I started my MBA program, I wish I had known the importance of the summer internship. As a college athlete during my undergraduate, I didn’t have an opportunity for an internship, and I didn’t appreciate its value. If I would have known the significance of the internship before I started at Rady, I would have begun researching and applying for opportunities sooner.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Coming from an engineering background, there was not a lot of emphasis placed on being a strong communicative leader. I had several opportunities in leadership positions during my career in oil and gas, but I always lacked strong communication skills and my leadership suffered as a result. The MBA classes that were focused on leadership really helped me develop those skills to a point where now I feel comfortable coaching and inspiring my colleagues with a passionate vision and message.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of my most admired classmates at Rady is Chris Cheezem, a former Navy officer who is now pursuing an entrepreneurial path to increase awareness about preserving the ocean habitat. Chris’s passion for the ocean and oceanic wildlife is apparent in all his actions and through his choice to start a company with a mission of getting people active in appreciating the ocean through diving. Chris has had this vision since he started the MBA program; he is currently working on developing a complete business case and business plan for his company in Rady’s Lab to Market Workshop course. Seeing the progress that Chris has made on this idea since I met him in September 2017 is evidence of his passion and willingness to see this vision become reality.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The one person who influenced me the most to pursue an MBA was the Vice President of Projects while I was at Rowan Companies, Jason Montegut. Jason is an extremely talented and driven professional that cares about and supports his teams. I talked with him several times about my career path and he was always supportive of continuous learning and improvement.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie about business isn’t about business at all, it is about leadership. In Act of Valor, a team of Navy SEALs must stop a terrorist attack. In one of the final scenes, one of the SEALs jumps on top a live grenade to save the rest of his team from being injured and he pays the ultimate price. This is the attitude that business leaders must have when leading and managing a team. They must be willing to give it all for their team to succeed.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still working in the oil and gas industry as a project manager, possibly living overseas.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Looking at the Net Present Value and the earnings potential over a lifetime, getting this education is a no brainer. The value of a Rady MBA not only in education but also in connections and public capital outweighs the current financial cost of attaining this education.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

1) I want to learn piano.

2) I want to become fluent in 4 foreign languages (Spanish, Russian, French, Mandarin Chinese)

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as someone who never backed down from a challenge and was always there when my friends and classmates needed me. Also, I would like to be remembered as someone who always got the job done no matter the circumstances.

Hobbies? I enjoy working out at the gym, walking on the beach, hiking, and camping.

What made Andrew such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“I have taught Andrew in several classes and am currently working professionally with him and a team of his classmates on an international social enterprise consulting project that will take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

As his professor, I have found him to be intellectually engaged, always prepared, a leader of discussions, and an academic star. Andrew’s performance in the classroom is unvaryingly excellent. He approaches campus and course-based leadership opportunities with an admirable humble self-confidence. As a result, his peers, those that he leads and those with whom he collaborates on projects, have confidence in and respect him. He balances focused commitment with a dry wit and sense of humor appreciated by all.

Andrew is by nature entrepreneurial. He is currently a Managing Partner of a venture capital firm he started here in San Diego. He is personally and his firm is professionally committed to developing entrepreneurial leaders and assisting innovative startups to reach their full potential. This personal and professional commitment emerged over time as he worked with and for other venture capital enterprises. The fact that he has started his own firm while still a student in the academically demanding Rady MBA program is a testament to his personal and professional initiative and discipline.

Finally, as his colleague preparing for a two-week, international-immersion consulting project in Cambodia, I appreciate Andrew’s eagerness to jump feet first into a dynamic and demanding Emerging Market challenge that most busy MBA students would find either too daunting or superfluous to their educational objectives. He is leading a team of his fellow MBAs as they work with a social enterprise on a project intended to improve the health and livelihoods of the rural poor in Cambodia.

Andrew is intellectually engaged, socially aware, committed to his and the growth of others, and filled with enthusiasm for whatever challenge life throws at him. I do hope you include him in the Poets and Quants “Best and Brightest” 2019 cohort. From the point of view of a professor at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, I believe he epitomizes the values and character hoped for and expected of our students. All I have written above is ample evidence that Andrew has been an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019.”

Michael Finney, PhD

Visiting Associate Professor of Management

Rady School of Management

University of California, San Diego


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