Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class Of 2021

Jeff McDermott

University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business

“An emerging entertainment strategist that will revolutionize the live entertainment industry.”

Hometown: Little Silver, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself: My family has an unusual post-graduation tradition: we go running with the bulls in Pamplona Spain the summer after completing an undergraduate degree. So far, I’ve run twice (once for myself and once with my brother) and both times I’ve been hit by a bull.

Undergraduate School and Major: Virginia Tech – Electrical Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Consultant at Deloitte

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2018, I led an initiative to transform the way my client prioritized projects. My team performed industry research, conducted countless interviews with stakeholders, and developed a ranking framework based on the critical factors such as Level of Effort, Customer Impact, and Urgency.

Ultimately, this framework proved so helpful for managing this client’s high project volume that I used it as a model for multiple other clients as I progressed in my career.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Hands down, the best quality to describe my fellow MBA classmates is authenticity.  Whether meeting a classmate for the first time, interacting with 2nd-year students, or reaching out to alumni during the admissions process I’ve never received anything short of a genuine and honest response from anyone. The quality of every interaction speaks volumes for the work the admissions team does to find open-minded and welcoming students who will not only help each other in the classroom, but also in the field 15+ years down the road.

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 key factor that led me to choose this program was the opportunity to position myself within the entertainment industry. When I determined the way ahead for my career was through an MBA, I first had to look forward to where I wanted to go with it. Did I want to go back to consulting?  Did I want to do investment banking? I asked myself a lot of these tough questions and every time I didn’t have a clear answer…until I asked myself about the entertainment industry. Entertainment, whether it’s theme parks, live entertainment, or music, has always been a big passion of mine. Before I could even finish asking the question to myself, I knew I already had my answer. So, when it came time to begin targeting schools, I narrowed my search to one key factor…which MBA will give me the best chance to break into the entertainment industry?

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really looking forward to the PRIME global travel trip that is part of our curriculum here at Marshall.  Getting the chance to travel to an international company for a week to provide meaningful work is going to be a valuable learning experience I can apply towards my future role upon graduation.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?  “Why leave consulting?”  That was the toughest question I faced during my admissions process. Although I knew where I wanted to go, I still liked the job I was doing.  Consulting for me was a great job to have when I was still looking for my niche at a time when I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. To walk away after investing so much time in growing my network to start again from scratch terrified me. However, with all the support I received from my coworkers and managers going through this process, I came to realize that no matter where I went or what I did, I could always depend on the friends that I made in my time as a consultant.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I’m at a turning point in my career where I’m happy with my progress professionally, but I know I need to make a change if I want to continue to grow and enter an industry where I can fulfill my potential. Coming from the federal industry made it a difficult task when attempting to maneuver into the entertainment industry at an equivalent or similar level. Coming to Marshall to get my MBA now allows me the time to develop skills and make new connections that will be crucial in breaking into the entertainment industry.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UCLA Anderson, UT McCombs, NYU Stern

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started out my search by doing a lot of online research, looking up everything I could about the various schools and their curriculum. I already knew I was looking to break into entertainment, so I began targeting schools with the highest rate of post-grads heading to that industry (USC, UCLA, NYU).  From there, I began leveraging my existing network in MBA programs to gauge the opportunities as well as the workload. Then, after a lot of reflection, I finally determined that pursuing my MBA full-time was the right career move for my circumstances and that I would be best prepared to break into the entertainment industry if I put my best foot forward for Marshall.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment came when my dog suddenly passed away just shy of being 2 years old. For the previous few years, my life had been so focused on the day-to-day tasks like paying bills, picking up dog poop, or meeting up with friends that I never paid much attention to where my career was heading. Then, when the unforeseen happened, I can only describe it as being jolted awake. For the first time in a long time, I began taking a deeper look at myself and asking if I was truly going where I wanted to go in my career. It was at that moment that I made the choices that lead to me pursuing my MBA at Marshall. And although I still struggle every now and then when I think about her, I will always have my dog to thank for finally showing me what I was meant to do and where I was meant to go.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself as an Imagineer at The Walt Disney Company, creating the strategy behind the development of their next ride, theme park, hotel, or cruise ship!

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