2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Joy Mina, U.C.-Irvine (Merage)

Joy Mina

Paul Merage School of Business at University of California, Irvine

“I am happiest when traveling, spending time with loved ones, or enjoying simple pleasures.”

Hometown: La Habra, CA from age 3 onward, born in Tanta, Egypt

Fun fact about yourself: I love diners. I grew up spending many summers on the east coast visiting family where we would often frequent diners. Additionally, my first job after high school was as a waitress in a mom and pop diner. It was only open during breakfast and lunch and most of the customers were regulars. I kept that job all throughout college and much of my tuition was paid using tip money from my weekend morning shifts. I loved working there and it was a very sad day when I left.

To this day, I make an effort to go out of my way to find and patron diners, both at home and while traveling. Yuban coffee, pancakes, biscuits/gravy, a wait staff that has been there longer than I have been alive, etc. I love every bit of it.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California Irvine, Electrical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? SPAWAR/Colsa, Software Engineer

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018?

Verizon Digital Media Services, Playa Vista

Role: Product Management Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Experian, Leadership Development Program Participant (Title: Program Manager)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

2018- 2019- President, Merage Student Association: The Merage Student Association is the governing body that oversees all clubs and student activities at the Master’s level at the Merage school, including MBA, FEMBA, EMBA, MPac, MFin, MSBA, MSBTM, MSEM, etc. The MSA is comprised of an executive board which both plans events and oversees all the events planned by student clubs.

2017-2019 Paul Merage MBA Scholar: This is the highest-level fellowship awarded by the Merage School. There are a total of five Merage Scholars in my class. The Merage Scholarship is granted upon admission based on academic and professional excellence shown in an application, as well as a student’s leadership potential in the classroom and beyond.

2017-2018 – Student Ambassador: In this role, worked alongside other ambassadors and the program’s admissions staff to engage with potential students. This included, but was not limited to, planning events for incoming students, reading applications, answering questions on student life, sitting on panels, etc.

2018-2019 – Teaching Assistant: As a Teaching Assistant, I have had the pleasure of helping teach the MBA Statistics for Managers course and the EMBA core Strategy course. In this role, I grade assignments, conduct supplemental teaching sessions and provide any help where needed.

*Outside of the business school I also sit on the UCI Young Alumni Council where I lead and support strategic initiatives for UCI alumni

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to continue to support and invest in the development of current students and alumni of UCI. In addition to serving as the Merage Student Association (MSA) President, where I oversee all student activities/clubs for all the Master’s programs at Merage, I am also a member of the Young Alumni Council (YAC) at UCI.

My position as MSA president allows me to serve the current student population for all nine Masters Programs at Merage. This has allowed me to impact the student experience of 1,000+ students.

Additionally, my position on the YAC, allows me to serve the young alumni population (alumni who graduated 10 or fewer years ago) from any school at UCI which accounts for 40% of all UCI alumni. This position has allowed me to leverage my professional background and MBA experience to lead and support strategic initiatives that increase engagement and promote success amongst our young alumni population.

I am honored to serve in both capacities and am grateful for the opportunity to give back while back in school. Being a Full-Time MBA student can be an all-encompassing experience and being able to regularly take a few steps back and give back to the community makes this time in my life far more meaningful.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to continually make transitions in my career that allow me to explore new areas of learning and growth. I am proud of the work I accomplished as a software engineer and am really looking forward to what the future holds since the role I will be starting this July is very different and relies heavily on my softer skills. Having spent years building a career based on hard skills, I am excited to finally get to build a career that allows me to leverage my passions as well. I am far more passionate about building a career centered around soft skills (communication, collaboration, negotiation, compromise, public speaking, change management, etc.) since I firmly believe that soft skills are what is necessary for a workplace to thrive.

What was your favorite MBA Course My personal favorite course was “Sustainability as a Competitive Advantage”. I really enjoy strategy as a whole and value sustainability. I came to business school to round out my skill sets so I can be a better leader who also makes a difference.

I always knew that doing the right thing could make for great business, but this class dove into how sustainability could not only be a profitable part of corporate strategy but how to implement sustainable practices and change company culture. This course, taught by Professor Leonard Lane, included a range of high profile guest speakers, who had implemented large scale sustainability practices in their companies.

This course was valuable in teaching me how to implement sustainable practices across a range of industries in a realistic and profitable manner.

Why did you choose this business school? The primary reason I chose the Paul Merage School of Business was the culture. I know myself and I am not a cutthroat person. I am competitive, but first-and-foremost I am a team player. I really value collaboration and that is at the core of the Merage School.

When I was originally looking into different MBA programs, I considered a range of different schools but my interactions with current students and ambassadors at the Merage school really stood out. Over the short admissions period, I was able to meet every ambassador and they each took time to answer my questions. By the time I was admitted to the school, I already had a very good understanding of the culture and where I could fit within it.

Additionally, the admissions process also included events with staff, faculty, and alumni. Although the Merage program is smaller, the alumni community is very connected and it was apparent in their willingness to engage with potential students. This same level of engagement extended to the staff of the school as well. Before even starting classes, admitted students were invited to meet with the career center staff and program staff. This hands-on, engaged (you are not a number) approach really won me over.

The Paul Merage School has smaller classes and a very close community, which fosters collaborative learning. The faculty and staff at the school know all the students and we all know each other. This type of community was exactly where I wanted to spend my two years as an MBA student.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? As cliché as it sounds, be yourself. Business School is a huge investment and you will get the absolute most out of it if you listen to yourself and build a career path (with the help from staff) that aligns with both your strengths, your passions, and your personality.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The school is too small to be noticed. The Paul Merage School is a top MBA school and I have had so many incredible opportunities. Access to top employers is not limited because we are small. If anything, the relationships are just that much more authentic.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I had known that the majority of classes during the first year (and many during the second year) start at 8:30 a.m.!!! As someone who earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and worked as a software engineer for years, it took me some time to get used to being that awake that early. It’s one thing to be awake and commuting at that time; it’s a completely different thing to be engaged and participating in a class that early in the morning!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is incredibly challenging to pick just one but if I were to speak about one person it would be Lindsay Taylor. Not only is Lindsay a wonderful person, but she has consistently focused on following her passions and building a fulfilling career that leverages her strengths and interests. I am consistently inspired by Lindsay’s willingness to take risks to pursue her interests.

Lindsay is one of my classmates who has focused her MBA on Marketing. She and I often talk about the intersection of technology, strategy, and marketing. I always find it challenging to understand, at a fundamental level, how people react to and experience emotions around brands/products/companies. This kind of thinking comes very naturally to my classmates who are marketing-focused. These classmates of mine have an incredible knack for emotional intelligence and I find that to be impressive and frankly necessary for good business. Too often, we narrowly focus on hard skills, but anyone can learn hard skills. Having a passion and intuitive understanding of soft skills is something I think we should appreciate more.

Lastly, I want to also highlight the importance of following one’s passions. As cliché as it sounds, many of us pursued an MBA to get away from stagnant careers or jobs that just weren’t fulfilling. To see classmates of mine supporting each other and holding true to their convictions and interests is extremely inspiring to me.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who most influenced my decision was my fiancé Anthony (who is also currently an MBA student). I had always assumed I would get a Masters in engineering, engineering management or IT. However, I have always had a passion for strategy and understanding the greater “why/how” behind every project I worked on.

Anthony encouraged me to consider an MBA and to pursue a career that leveraged my soft skills and passions.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still working as a software engineer, possibly transitioning into a product management role.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I see little point in putting an exact dollar value on my MBA. The school places a price tag of ~$90,000 on it. However, I pursued an MBA in order to build a career around my passions and to round out my skill set. I feel as if this degree has accomplished those goals. I am a more well-rounded individual and am really excited to be starting the next chapter of my life in a career built upon all my skills (hard and soft).

I do think that my MBA was worth it. I have spent two years filling in my skill gaps, pursuing my passions and will soon start at a new job that I would never have had access to otherwise.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? The top two things on my bucket list are to visit Antarctica and the Patagonia region. I love the outdoors and I have always wanted to hike throughout Patagonia and visit Antarctica (kayaking!!!). I am hoping to visit both within the next 2 years.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope to be remembered as one who gives more than she takes and leaves places better off than when she arrived.

Hobbies? My biggest hobby is to travel. I absolutely love visiting new places, learning about new cultures, eating new foods, and just being outside. I will usually plan my trips around one big outdoor activity and spend the rest of the time enjoying the outdoors, food and culture.

I often reward myself with travel or mark big milestones with trips. This year, between graduation and starting my new job, I’ll be taking a 23-day trip throughout Europe with my fiancé. Although I am most excited to get to dive between the tectonic in Silfra, I know I will love every minute of it. I tend to be a relaxed traveler and like to enjoy my hobbies (swimming, cooking, hiking, yoga) while abroad as well.

When at home I love to read, cook, hike/walk with my dog, practice yoga and swim.

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

“I am writing to provide feedback about Joy Mina, who took my “Driving Profitability” MBA course last year. I was asked to comment on what made Joy such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019. I can primarily speak to what Joy is like in the classroom. I have been teaching for almost twenty years now, first at Harvard Business School where I taught in their MBA program for seven years, and now at UC Irvine where I teach MBA and Executive students. Thus I have seen thousands of MBA students over my career. Joy stands out. She is one of those few students that I know I will remember years down the road, and I look forward to keeping in touch with her and following her as she advances through her career. I have confidence that she will do amazing things.

The course I teach combines traditional “Cost Accounting” topics such as profitability analysis and budgeting with “Management Control System” topics such as designing incentives for employees, creating belief statements for an organization, and communicating strategy down through an organization. Students in my course have to combine rigorous analytical thinking with creative problem solving and an understanding of the human elements of business and apply all of this in active case discussions. Joy excelled at this. She was an active participant every week in class, and our class discussions would not have been the same without her. She has a sharp critical mind and was always willing to ask difficult questions or take unpopular stances when necessary to further the discussion and force her classmates to think deeply about issues. Joy did well in the course, earning an “A” grade. But what stands out to me is how she enhanced the learning of all of her classmates. I have spoken with Joy outside of the classroom as well, and she has an incredibly strong moral compass guiding her career and ambitions. As someone who teaches topics related to belief systems, fraud, and risk management, I have seen a wide variation in this over the years. What I’ve seen with Joy gives me confidence that she will not only help her current classmates but will be an asset to our society in whatever roles she takes going forward.”

Devin Shanthikumar

Associate Professor, Accounting


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