2019 MBAs To Watch: Kat Hunt, U.C.-Irvine (Merage)

Kat Hunt

Paul Merage School of Business at University of California, Irvine                            

The impact I can have on someone’s day inspires every interaction I have.”

Hometown: Tustin, CA

Fun fact about yourself: Despite my name, I am allergic to cats.

Undergraduate School and Degree: UC Berkeley, Environmental Science and Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Beautycounter, Community Affairs Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? PwC, San Diego

Where will you be working after graduation? PwC, Risk Assurance

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Paul Merage MBA Scholar: Five students are selected each year for academic and professional excellence shown in their application, as well as their leadership potential in the classroom and beyond. The fellowship provides financial resources as well as professional exposure to the Dean’s Advisory Board and other Southern California business leaders.
  • Section Representative: Elected to represent my class of 45 students to the program office, Merage Student Association and faculty as needed.
  • Speech and Presentation Association President: Elected to lead club.
  • Presentation Judge: Selected and trained by a presentation expert as a judge to provide detailed feedback on final term presentations to first-year MBA students.
  • TEC (The Executive Committee): Selected as one of 12 students that experience an incredibly enriching mentorship program led monthly by the some of the region’s most successful executives.
  • Executive Mentor Program: Selected to pair with an executive during both years at Merage.
  • Teaching Assistant for three courses:
    • Microeconomics for fully-employed MBA students
    • Microeconomics for executive MBA students
    • Financial Reporting for fully-employed MBA students.

TAing has been especially rewarding because of the experience-level of the students in these classes.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of becoming Section Rep for my class. A career mentor has often told me that I naturally become a leader amongst a team or group, but I am not comfortable identifying myself as a leader. I saw business school as a chance to challenge myself in this area, so the first opportunity I had was to run for representative of my class. I was nominated by my peers and ran against five of my classmates, which was an unusually high number of candidates. We each delivered speeches to our class, back-to-back. I focused on my EQ, my strategic communication skills, and ability to hear what someone was feeling, not just what they were saying. I also felt it was important to highlight my ability to bring levity to an environment, as that was feedback I have received from every team I have been on. Voting results were announced a few days later. For me, this took more chutzpah than I had given to any leadership role I’d been in as an adult. It felt bold, scary, but incredibly exciting. I felt I’d earned the position in a whole different way.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My first job out of undergrad was at Dropbox and I was lucky to achieve promotions while keeping my focus on doing the job at hand. I was asked to build out our sales strategy and effectiveness efforts, which culminated in Dropbox’s first Sales Kick-Off event. After 6 months of working at Dropbox, I was given the role of building the content for this event as well as leading the event planning. As it was the first sales event at Dropbox, it really set the tone for the sales team as it was built out. It reflected Dropbox’s quirky, but prestigious, brand and had a lasting motivational impact on the team, which felt like a huge accomplishment for me so early in my career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is John Joseph. He teaches Merage’s core course, Strategy, and provides a level of experience and professionalism that exceeds any other course where I’ve been enrolled. All in one lecture, he’ll provide entertaining and self-deprecating commentary about his beat-up car while a poor Ph.D. student, then an impressive and pertinent story about his time consulting companies within the industry we were about to discuss. All comments were relevant and colored the case discussion really well. From there, he’d conduct the class like a symphony, albeit with some twists and turns. The lecture felt so effortless, ironically, because the students put in an impressive amount of effort in preparation for each week’s lecture. This tied back to how Professor Joseph conducted himself. He showed the class respect through his professionalism and incredible depth of experience in each subject he taught, which naturally demanded our respect back.

Additionally, I went to him frequently for more guidance on our course project that I felt uneasy about. I always felt comfortable asking questions that showed my greenness in the area, which is a testament to the level of comfort he gave students despite his own astounding knowledge of the subject.

What was your favorite MBA Course? If I had to choose one course, it’s Microeconomics for Management. I find myself applying concepts from this course every day whether it’s in class, reading the news about a business’ outsourcing decision or international trade news, or making a decision in my personal life like purchasing a condo, More importantly, this course clarifies the fundamentals of business decision-making. No matter how convoluted and complex a role or business may get, I feel I have a fool-proof method and basis of knowledge that will ground me.

Why did you choose this business school? As a kid, I really wanted to pave my own path, so, when my parents first suggested I look at UCI for undergrad, I quickly turned them down. Both of my parents had gone to UCI for their MBAs and I wanted my own experience for both undergraduate and graduate school. As my values and perspective have matured, I looked at UCI differently. I realized UCI was exactly what I wanted from the practical standpoint – a small program with passionate professors and globally represented student body. It also represented something really important in my family: it gave both of my parents the tools, confidence, and exposure that allowed them to transform their careers into what they hoped for. I wanted to come to UCI to also gain an educational experience that would forever transform my career.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Showing interest in contributing to and being involved in the school community is great, but truly doing so, authentically, will make attending Merage one of the best decisions you can make. When you’re at a smaller program like Merage, it’s not just about what the school can do for you. The real satisfaction and enjoyment of being a part of this program is impacting the community you’re now a part. Whether you enjoy socializing, more of a excel whiz, or passionate about a cause, introduce the community to your skills by planning social gatherings, helping classmates in quantitative courses, or partnering with a charitable club like C4C. It’s a talent in-and-of-itself to be able to leverage your skills, but if you’re able to, it will benefit the school, but it will have an even bigger impact on your experience here.

What is the biggest myth about your school? There are potentially limited opportunities because of the small size of the program. UCI is part of a huge school and grad school with multiple degrees that make way for tons of opportunities to take a variety of courses, have professional exposure, and meet all kinds of students with various specialties and backgrounds.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I wish I’d known that this was exactly the right step for me at this time of life and career. I feel like I’m on the correct and best path for the first time in a long time. I spent some time worrying about if coming to business school was what I should do. That was time and energy wasted because the more time that’s passed, the more I’m confident this was a phenomenal decision for me.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I feel more capable. I’ve grown more confident in skills, both quantitative and interpersonal, that I’ve developed over the last two years.

After graduation, I want to become a forensic accountant. I came back to school to learn the fundamental business language – finance and accounting. These were areas I was not comfortable in or even comfortable to explore enough to learn more. The idea of gaining that knowledge seemed out of reach. Now, I have no doubt in my ability to become a forensic accountant after each tax accounting exam or financial valuation project and successfully navigating through academic discussions with my accounting professor or keeping up with news about tax reforms.

Interpersonally, I’ve been able to understand myself as a leader. Knowing your leadership style is one thing, but becoming a confident female leader today, I believe, has some additional nuances. Merage has given me the opportunity to hone my reactions, whether they’re verbal or silent. I’ve practiced being a female leader cross-culturally as well, learning that there is a large spectrum of interpretations of my actions and that one of the most important characteristics of a successful and relatable leader is adaptability.

The last two years have given me an enhanced perspective of myself and what my potential in the future can be.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Matt Morris. He’s inclusive, hilarious, unafraid in class to ask the question needed, accountable and juggles all of his responsibilities with a smile.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom inspired my decision to pursue business school because she saw it as a turning point in her personal and professional growth. My mom exhibited what it meant to be satisfied in a career and the positive effect it can have on those around you. She was a wonderful mother, which in part was due to her engagement in her career, control over it, and its ability to stimulate and challenge her in a way that made her feel valued. She brought home this attitude which permeated into my perspective of what a career looked like. I, like her, have affinities for quantitative reasoning and saw business school as the right step for me to successfully attain this career path.

What is your favorite movie about business? All the President’s Men is my favorite movie about business. Although it’s more famous for its depiction of political history, it’s also an incredible perspective of a company’s bravery. The Washington Post and two brave journalists took chances, followed their instincts, and did what they believed was right. At times, they were hated, but, in the end, they produced heroic reporting which none of The Post’s peers could claim.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? PITI (Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance) – it really does bring about pity with how expensive real estate is.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an investigative journalist or CIA agent.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I’ll be better equipped to answer this in about five years. I’ve been able to earn all the credits needed to sit for the CPA exam upon graduation as well as unexpected opportunities to practice my leadership style, teach as a teaching assistant, and meet incredible mentors through the TEC and executive mentorship programs. It’s been invaluable to me.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Running for local office and starting a B Corp someday with zero carbon footprint.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone that was approachable, positively affected the environment, and they hope to keep in touch with, both professionally and personally, in the future.

Hobbies? Running, yoga, music (piano/singing), reading, comedy

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

“I’ve been privileged to have Kat in three courses. I found Kat brings the rare combination of global experience, strong intellect, and inquisitiveness, down to earth perspective, collaborative approach, competitive spirit, and a kind demeanor to not only the classroom but the entire Merage School. It’s never uncommon to receive detailed inquiries from Kat, as she dove further into case studies or technical issues being researched. In group settings, it is apparent Kat’s peers appreciate her strong work ethic, but also her humility. These traits have not only led to Kat’s success as a student, but also to success as a leader, exhibited by being a teaching assistant for several courses and active participation in numerous Merage activities and events.

Upon graduation, Kat will reignite her career working for a global professional services organization. The organization and its clients will surely benefit from Kat’s traits and skillsets. This June Kat will transition to become a Merage alum. An alum who will represent the school well and an alum we can be very proud of.”

Nate Franke
Continuing Lecturer

Are you a friend of Kat? Leave a comment to congratulate her.