2020 MBAs To Watch: Brittany Ouyang, U.C. Irvine (Merage)

Brittany Ouyang

University of California Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business

A creative-turned MBA.”

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Fun fact about yourself: I trained in classical ballet at the San Francisco Ballet School from age 6 to 18. I knew from the first ballet class that I took when I was four that I wanted to be a professional dancer. Along the way, I’ve danced in over 200 performances of the Nutcracker (the music still makes me nostalgic!), Giselle, La Bayadère, and countless others. Because of this, college was only loosely a focus and graduate school was certainly not on my radar. If you had told me when I was 18 that I would be pursuing an MBA 10 years later, I would not have believed you!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Vassar College, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Brittany Ouyang Consulting, Founder – Following a number of years working as a marketer and publicist for fashion designers and brands in New York City, I established an independent consultancy to aid emerging labels to create and execute communications strategies.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Mattel, El Segundo, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Mattel, Associate Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Merage Faculty Scholarship: Scholarship awarded for academic excellence.

Student Ambassador: Six students from each class are appointed to represent the school and engage with potential applicants. This includes traveling for MBA fairs, planning events for incoming students, reading applications, answering questions on academics and extracurriculars, participating on panels, and helping to develop new prospecting and retention initiatives.

Teaching Assistant: I have served as a TA for two undergraduate courses: Business Communications and Organizational Behavior. Coming from a liberal arts education, I love reading and writing – and in this role, I am able to help business students develop these critical skills. In addition to grading assignments and answering questions, I conduct a once-weekly discussion session where students can apply what they learned in the lecture in a smaller, more intimate environment.

Co-President, Women in Business: Women in Business provide the women of the Merage school with networking opportunities, speaker events, and career guidance. This year we worked hard to rebuild the community after a few slower years and continued our partnership with Women in Leadership, our undergraduate division, to kick off an undergraduate-MBA mentorship program.

VP, Merage Marketing Association: Elected to club leadership.

TEC (The Executive Committee): I was selected as one of 12 students to participate in an incredibly rewarding mentorship program with one of Orange County’s most prominent executives.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the relationships that I have forged with younger students during my time at Merage. As a TA, I have worked with many undergraduate business students who lack confidence in writing and have spent time outside of the classroom to address their fears and give them the tools to succeed. Similarly, with Women in Business, we serve as mentors to the undergraduate Women in Leadership club and help them with all things academic and career-related, from choosing a concentration to writing a cover letter. My desire to give back stems from my own experience as an undergraduate and the mentors that I had the privilege to work alongside early in my career who had an outsize impact on my development.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? From 2015-2017, I served as Marketing Manager for an emerging contemporary designer called Tanya Taylor. For a brand rooted in art – Tanya hand-paints all of her prints – I strived for all marketing initiatives to be a reflection of its artful DNA. In 2016, I forged a partnership with the 100 GATES Project, a non-profit dedicated to “beautifying” New York City by painting the city’s iconic storefront roll-down gates. For this partnership, Tanya Taylor sponsored gates all over lower Manhattan – from the Lower East Side to the West Village – which was painted in Tanya Taylor’s colorful and eye-catching prints. For me, it was immensely gratifying to create an open-air art gallery of sorts, support local artists, and bring a smile to New Yorkers’ faces.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Merage is Maritza Salazar Campo. She teaches the core course, Organizational Behavior for Managers, and does so with a level of professionalism and expertise that exceeded my highest expectations. Often times, MBAs focus solely on developing hard skills, and Professor Salazar Campo’s course challenged us to develop soft skills and confront our own biases. Though this kind of growth was difficult at times, she guided us expertly through the process and I can confidently say that I am a better professional because of it.

Outside of the classroom, she made me feel comfortable in seeking additional guidance. She is just one of the many outstanding faculty from which I have had the pleasure to learn.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is our participation in Challenge for Charity. Merage competes all year long alongside other top west coast business schools in fundraising and volunteering. This then culminates in a weekend at Stanford GSB, where we compete in a slew of athletic events. Though we’re small, we’re mighty, we consistently rank in the top schools for volunteer hours per capita. My favorite volunteering opportunities have been with Junior Achievement, where we teach kids grades K through 8 in Orange County about business.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose to attend Merage because of the small class size and the sense of community. I’ve always known that I learn best in a more intimate setting where every student has the chance to participate in the class discussion and where all questions are heard. Coupled with this is the strong sense of community that the Merage school exudes. I flew from New York to visit as I was applying. Though I was nervous to move back to the west coast and embark on this new adventure, I was confident that the community would support me.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best advice is to have a clear sense for where you’re going and be able to articulate your story. Describe how your past experiences informed your desire to return to school – and how you’ll use a Merage MBA to help you get to where you want to go.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Merage is that its small size is a limiting factor. I have benefited greatly from its small size and have not felt limited in the way of opportunities, exposure, or development.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have challenged myself to participate in more case competitions, especially during my first year. As a first-year student, I was very focused on academics and landing an internship. I wish I had thrown my hat into the ring for more of these growth opportunities.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate who I most admire is Zoe Shiovitz. Apart from being the consummate professional – she parlayed her background as a project manager in healthcare to a full-time job at Amazon – she’s an incredibly generous and kind person. She has a quiet confidence and an unwavering sense of self that I really admire.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My friend and fellow MBA Trang To most influenced me to pursue a business degree. Trang came to intern at the fashion company for which I was working in the summer of 2016. At the time, she was pursuing her MBA – prior to school she had worked for Saks Fifth Avenue – and was at Tanya Taylor to craft the corporate strategy for the company. When she and I crossed paths, I had just started exploring the idea of returning to school but was wavering. Few fashion professionals I knew had an advanced degree, let alone an MBA. Trang’s ability to identify weaknesses in the business, to use her analytical skills to craft recommendations, and then to deliver those recommendations gracefully to leadership gave me the push I needed to delve into the application process fully.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Live and work abroad. Growing up, I had the pleasure of spending all of my summers in my parents’ hometown of Hong Kong and I loved the experience of immersing myself in a different culture.
  • Be a mentor to young professionals who are just starting out. I’ve benefitted from the guidance of mentors throughout my professional journey and believe strongly in paying it forward.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? She made an impact, gave more than she received, always had a smile on her face.

Hobbies? Ballet, downhill skiing, eating Asian food of all varieties, adventuring with my Border Collie, Winston.

What made Brittany such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“It was a great joy to meet Brittany in the first week of class. She was excited about the possibilities for her career even as she was uncertain where her it might take her. Having worked in start-ups and smaller fashion organizations, she was thrilled to get exposure to frameworks that allowed her to process experiences in new ways. Even more than that, I enjoyed the many conversations we shared about marketing and consumer behavior theories and how they manifest in practice! Whenever we met, we would have items to cover, however, that was never where we would end our conversation.

Though I only had one class with Brittany, I count it a privilege to have continued our conversations throughout her time at Merage! In the classroom, she exhibited a quiet leadership that commanded others to tune in to her contributions and follow her guidance. Brittany came to Merage with a broad set of management experiences having worked in organizations where she often wore many hats. Those experiences provided her opportunities to contribute relevant insights in ways that moved classroom discussions forward. In addition to contributions in the classroom, Brittany shares her multiple talents and leadership savvy throughout the Merage community. Her contributions to Merage will surely be felt for years to come especially due to her work with Women in Business and as Student Ambassador.

Upon graduation in June, I am excited that Brittany will remain in the region so we can continue our conversations in the years to come! And of course, I look forward to having her come to campus to share her experiences—both as a student and Brand Manager—with her newest achievement: being one of our incredible Merage alums!”

Tonya Bradford
Assistant Professor of Marketing


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