“Radical queer music entrepreneur turned consultant subverting systems of oppression in business and in life.”
Hometown: New York, New York
Fun fact about yourself: In my first career (while I was in college), I was a professional chef.
Undergraduate School and Degree: Bard College, BA in Photography and Written Arts
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Co-Founder and Creative Director at First One Up, an independent record label and artist management company
Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? McKinsey & Company, Southern California Office
Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Associate, Southern California Office
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
- Anderson Students Association (ASA) VP of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
- Embracing Diversity Conference Director
- Out@Anderson VP of Corporate Relations and Professional Development
- Management Consulting Association VP of Community
- Anderson Career Team (ACT) Coach – Consulting Track
- Riordan Programs Mentor
- Reaching Out MBA LGBT Fellow
- Anderson Exceptional Student Fellow
- Dean’s List
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the ASA, I oversaw our annual Embracing Diversity Conference in November. This year, with the support of Anderson’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (and its Assistant Dean, Heather Caruso), we expanded from two days of programming – over a weekend, mostly geared toward prospective students – to seven (!) incredible days designed to engage our entire community. The impact was palpable, and I believe the tradition will carry on. The Conference was something I poured a ton of my time and heart into making great, and the rave reviews from attendees made me so proud of the unbelievable team I put together.
The Conference also had particular personal significance for me this year. While planning began in the spring, the bulk of the pieces typically come together in the following fall. At the beginning of October, I suffered an extreme personal tragedy – my life partner Pedro was shot in a random act of gun violence and is now quadriplegic. Over the following four months, he was recovering in a specialty rehab hospital in Atlanta, during which time I commuted back and forth from Los Angeles each week. While I remained in my role as director of the Embracing Diversity Conference, I was absent from much of the key planning. My team stepped up, without even being asked, and did a truly remarkable job. It was such an honor to be supported by them in my time of tremendous need. Together, we delivered an amazing experience for the attendees. The Conference was, in some ways, my first time being fully back on campus, outside of the two days a week I’d return to attend classes. It was incredibly difficult to perform under pressure and both manage the chaos of the week and be on stage in the spotlight, but also deeply rewarding.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While it’s not a single achievement, I am most proud of the advocacy I’ve had the chance to incorporate into my career – and I plan to continue that streak at McKinsey. My business partner and I founded First One Up with the mission of giving independent artists whose identities and artistic choices would typically preclude them from sustaining themselves with careers in music the opportunity to do just that. Our goal is to level the playing field however we can. To that end, we even helped one of our clients, a queer rapper from Queens by the name of Dai Burger, start Where My Girls, a foundation to help young women build the technical abilities to join the industry – a resource she wished she had when starting out. The fight for equity is a constant part of my experience as a queer person in predominantly straight spaces. I strive in everything I do to be an ally and an advocate for those who do not benefit from the privileges that I do have.
Why did you choose this business school? I chose Anderson for its collaborative environment, stunning campus, and is located in Los Angeles, the best city in America (sorry to my New Yorker parents). One of Anderson’s pillars is “Shared Success” – you will hear every current and former student talk about it when you ask them what makes Anderson special. And while that could be some scripted piece of branding meant to make us sound friendly, it’s maybe the most tangible thing that sets us apart from other schools. I have never felt so supported by a community, even after being a part of it for such a relatively short period of time. Anderson students always hold each other down and lift each other up, and you can feel that everywhere from class working groups to social events to personal hardship, which I had my fair share of while here.
As for the campus and location, Anderson really can’t be beaten. The class of 2020 likes to joke that we got the short end of the stick with our timing – our campus was under construction basically the entire time we were here, but now it’s better than ever. Its newest addition, Marion Anderson Hall, is truly an architectural jewel. It’s welcoming, ultramodern, high-tech, and somehow helps keep me focused on whatever I’m doing. Not sure how that’s possible when there’s so much beauty to be distracted by, but that’s just another piece of its magic. And then there’s Los Angeles, my adoptive home. It really does make you so much happier living here, I love it so much. The sunshine melted my icy New York heart right away.
What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Talk to us! The students make Anderson the incredible place that it is. If you’re interested in our program, talk to us. Pretty much everyone I know devotes a good chunk of their time to talk to prospective students. All student leaders (basically everyone) have their emails listed on the Anderson website. Reach out. There is an unprecedented willingness among Anderson students to share our experience and what we love about this place with others. Don’t be shy. If you find yourself wanting to be friends with the people you talk to, you’ve found the place for you. Channel what endears you about us in your essays and interviews, and demonstrate that you want to be a part of this community.
What is the biggest myth about your school? Honestly, I just thought business school would be full of squares! I thought that no matter where I went, I’d be surrounded by people who I had nothing in common with as someone coming from a creative profession with an arts background and socialist values. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Anderson is teeming with like-minded people whom I will spend the rest of my life subverting systems of oppression alongside. Turns out we’re a very Bernie Sanders-friendly place. I can imagine some programs’ student bodies (most, probably) aren’t like that at all. I feel extremely blessed to be a part of this one.
Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I’d say I oversubscribed on extracurriculars, recruiting, personal stuff, and continuing my entrepreneurial venture and I wish I had made more time for leisure travel with my friends. This is such a unique time in one’s life – two years to learn and explore in an environment that is safe, professional, and fun – and I wish I’d leaned into more of the latter. Don’t get me wrong: I went to every social event that I could and was a fixture at our weekly bar night, but there are trips over every break and many weekends that students organize trips to everywhere from Mexico and South America to Southeast Asia, California wine country, the Colorado slopes, etc. I really didn’t leave room for much of that, and I wish I had.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My dear friend Makda (Sara) Matthew is someone I admire deeply. She is just an incredible person and community leader, so full of light, warmth, and patience. As one of an unfortunately small number of black women in the MBA world, she is tirelessly devoted to developing pathways for marginalized people to be successful. We were recruiting partners in consulting, and she was my first call at the end of the first week of our internships to check in and compare notes. She brings joy and laughter into everything she does and is incredibly graceful while also balancing way too many extracurriculars.
Last fall, after my partner was shot, without hesitation and on top of everything else she does as a student leader, Sara stepped up to co-direct the Embracing Diversity Conference with me. I could not have done it without her. She is one of the most poised people I know, and one of the most fun. We’re neighbors, and often give each other rides home from school and events; we end up sitting in the car for way too long laughing together, and talking about everything from our classes to our personal lives. She’s a ride-or-die friend, a fierce debater, and an amazing force to be reckoned with. She leaves an impression on everyone she works with and comes across. , and I expect she’ll continue making big waves in everything she does after school. She has public sector ambitions and the will to change the world for the better, so remember her name.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I didn’t pursue business in college – far from it! I was a double major in photography and creative writing. I spent my senior year using large format film – with the kind of accordion-style camera you have to go under a hood to use – to shoot dramatic landscape photographs of abandoned resorts in the Catskills. Business could not have been further from my mind. Rather, it was my professional experience that pushed me toward business: seeing the rampant inequity, lack of creative solutions to digital disruption, and corporate fear and greed in the music industry – and not feeling like I had the tools or language to combat those things. It was being relegated to the “creative” side of the industry when I had tons of ideas about how to improve operations at the organizations I interacted with and contracted with.
If I had to choose one person, though, it would be my co-founder and business partner at First One Up, Riliwan Salam, aka Rilgood. He studied business in undergrad before becoming a rapper, then entrepreneur, label founder, and manager. He showed me the way and gave me the confidence to seek out the knowledge and tools to succeed in the business world. He’s one of my best friends and closest collaborators and will remain those things for the rest of my life.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I’m somewhat infatuated with public speaking, so having some kind of role as a motivational speaker is high up there. Second, I’d like to work overseas. I remember talking to one partner at McKinsey who was working on a study in the Philippines and imagining myself flying back and forth to Southeast Asia every two weeks for work. I see myself getting the hang of that pretty quickly, and learning a ton in the process.
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as someone who always leaves a situation better than it was when I came into it, whether it’s a business problem, a social gathering, an institution, or a group dynamic.
Hobbies? I’m obsessed with cultivating houseplants. And like (some) plants, I like a lot of direct sunlight – LA has really brought that out in me. Spending time outside has become an essential part of the day, even if it’s just to check my email. I also go to the beach as much as possible – when I had two weeks off after my summer internship, I went every single day.
What made Ezra such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?
“Ezra invests in what is important, and that kind of discretion makes him one of the best and brightest student leaders I’ve ever known. Awash in exciting classes, center events, club activities, and more, many MBA students will spread themselves too thin to optimally achieve goals, both for themselves and for their organizations. Never so with Ezra. While maintaining deep and engrossing personal commitments on the home front, he has been a highly engaged member of our community—as VP of Corporate Relations and Professional Development for Out@Anderson, as VP of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the Anderson Student Association, and as VP of Community for the Management Consulting Association, to name just a few of his roles. Through it all, he has made sure to deliver on his commitments in ways that are never scattered, never superficial. He doesn’t “phone it in.” He doesn’t burden his professors or peers with sloppy, minimally acceptable work. He takes the time needed to deliver quality contributions or delegates to those who can. Inside and outside of class, his focus is always on what is best for the community he is in; what is best for the goals everyone is working toward together. When he is unable to be the best person to do the necessary work, he will be the first volunteer to recruit that person to the team. Invaluable as an engaged student leader, invaluable as an insightful contributor, invaluable as a selfless advocate for project and peer success, Ezra is truly one of the best and brightest.”
Assistant Dean, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations and Behavioral Decision Making