2020 MBAs To Watch: Lance Skiles, USC (Marshall)

Lance Skiles

USC, Marshall School of Business

“I am hyper-focused on achieving my dreams and believe greatness is rarely accomplished alone.”

Hometown: Bringhurst, Indiana

Fun fact about yourself: After growing up on a farm and graduating from a small high school in rural Indiana, I started my own small farming corporation which I still own and operate. I own 75 acres and lease 85 acres where I grow corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Vanguard University; Bachelor of Arts in Business Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Mariners Community Outreach, a subsidiary of Mariners Church in Irvine, CA.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? Boston Consulting Group (BCG); Los Angeles, CA office.

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group; Consultant.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was the Assistant Vice President of our Junior Achievement partnership program. In this role, I helped recruit over 200 classmates and organized multiple tutoring sessions for over 1,000 elementary and middle school students in underprivileged communities throughout Los Angeles. I also helped recruit over 150 classmates and organized multiple mentorship sessions for underprivileged high school students who are working to become first-generation college graduates. Additionally, I serve on the USC Marshall Honor Committee, which is tasked with ensuring that our four Core Values are embedded and lived out within our community.

My primary leadership role has been as President of the Marshall Consulting and Strategy Club. Our club is the largest within the MBA program, with a leadership board of 14 Vice Presidents and a membership role equal to ~45% of the incoming class. We are directly responsible for providing recruitment training and interview preparation for our members. Our club accounts for ~30% of all full-time job placement within the Marshall MBA program. As president, I am especially proud to have gender parity within my leadership board, which is reflective of my 2020 class as a whole.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Academically, I am most proud of being acknowledged on the Dean’s List in each of my first three semesters and staying on-track to graduate with full honors. As the first person in my family to attend college or graduate school, this achievement has brought me a great sense of accomplishment and belonging.

Outside of academics, I am most proud of winning first place in both the Deloitte Supply Chain and Operations case competition and the EY Strategy case competition. Not only did each of these achievements come with a team cash prize of $5,000 respectively, but the experience also solidified my desire to become a consultant. It reconfirmed my business school decision and opened doors for my career where I previously did not have access. It was a key moment for me to realize that I had earned my place at a top 20 business school and I was embarking on a lifechanging career path.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of continuing to operate my small farming business while simultaneously investing in my future career and earning my bachelor’s degree. Since no one in my family graduated from college, attending university was not a part of my plan. I planned to graduate high school and become a farmer, which I did. But after running my small business full-time for two years, I realized that I wanted a different life for myself which included going to college. A few months later, I moved to Southern California and enrolled in university, but I was not in a financial position to become a full-time student. So, I worked full-time while attending university in the evenings and on weekends. Throughout this time, I held a 4.0 GPA while successfully growing in my career and earning promotions and other advancements. While this experience was not easy, it is a key part of what prepared me for USC and a career at BCG. It’s not a traditional story, but I’m extremely proud of my journey and what I’ve accomplished.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Dr. Murat Bayiz. Not only was Professor Bayiz a deeply caring person who consistently brought cookies to class, but he was also one of the most practical teachers I have ever had. His class topics were not overly technical or complex and he focused on teaching skills that were highly actionable and directly related to real-life working environments. I appreciated his ability to forgo academic jargon for real-life applications.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition was the MBA tailgate that took place every Saturday before home football games. It represented all the pageantry and thrill of a storied football university and provided a way for our class to relax and deepen friendships. These types of events were a mainstay within our program and represented the collegial nature of my MBA class, of whom I knew every person. It also represented a sense of deep pride in USC that stretched beyond our love of Marshall and the MBA program.

Why did you choose this business school? Throughout my years of living in Southern California, I became aware of the power of being a USC Trojan alumni. It meant I would be afforded significant opportunities to connect with and join a massive network of loyal individuals. This network is second to none in Southern California and I knew this would be key in building a successful career. Yet, while this was the impetus of my interest in USC, it was ultimately the culture that confirmed it as my final choice. As I met students and alumni, I felt as though there was a special responsibility that came with being a Trojan. It meant I could count on those who had come before to make sacrifices on my behalf and to help ensure my success, but it also meant that I would be responsible to provide the same support and access to all those who would come after me. This commitment was also seen within each class, where people would make sacrifices to support fellow classmates. Within Marshall, the prevailing spirit was that “I win when we all win.” I am happy to say that my perception of the USC MBA program has proven correct during my time as a student, and I am extremely pleased with my decision.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Take time to learn about the culture that USC Marshall currently has, and the culture and brand that we are working to build in the next few years. Because Marshall is a program on the rise, you’ll need to prove that you understand what type of effort it will take to accomplish shared greatness and that you’re excited to be part of that process. So, don’t rush into your essays or interviews. Make sure you understand what’s expected and make a clear plan to share how you’ll add unique value.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Marshall is that we are only a consulting school. While it’s true that consulting has been a cornerstone, Marshall is taking full advantage of industry trends in Los Angeles and California as a whole. We now have a burgeoning start-up scene in LA as venture capital money is pouring in. This, coupled with the strength of our Greif Center for Entrepreneurship, is leading to significant placement within start-ups. Marshall is also seeing success in placing students in prestigious tech roles at companies such as Google, Airbnb, Snapchat, and more. These opportunities have been growing year-over-year, and are on pace to become one of our largest placement areas. USC Marshall is a diverse place with students finding success in every sector. It isn’t just a consulting school.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would say “yes” to everything. In business school, especially when you’re married like I am, it can be tempting to not take part in many of the optional student activities. I was busy with school, worried about getting good grades, and concerned about finances. I often let these things influence me and it led to some regrets as I missed out on opportunities to deepen friendships and make lasting memories. In hindsight, I’m learning that all the things I worried about weren’t as important as I thought at the time. If I could do it all again, I would push myself to rarely say “no” to any night out or ski trip with my classmates.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Pablo Kao. Not only is Pablo one of the smartest, most accomplished people that I know, he is also the most humble. Pablo’s parents moved from Taiwan to Argentina where he grew up. After high school, Pablo moved to the U.S. where he excelled at the University of California and in his career in global shipping and logistics. He learned to read and write Mandarin, Spanish, and English growing up. Then he learned Portuguese during his previous job so he could service a Brazilian client. Yet, even with these and so many more accomplishments, he is humble and kind in all he does and is one of the most loved people in my class. He had opportunities to attend other schools, but I believe his choice to attend Marshall is well-aligned with who he is and what he represents as a Trojan. Pablo is an inspiration to me, and I’m proud to call him my friend.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was most influenced by my dad. Although he did not attend college, he was an entrepreneur who had a strong business sense that was admired by me and many others. Watching him from a young age, I gained a love for business and entrepreneurship. He taught me that no matter where you start from, your willingness to combine hard work and grit with the art of business can provide endless opportunities to build the life you want. To him, business meant that there was always hope for a better future and that no one’s life was static. His love for business and belief in its power to open unimaginable opportunities was contagious and helped me decide that this is what I wanted to study and do for the rest of my life.

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

1) Become a Partner and Managing Director at BCG.

2) Start a business in a sustainable farming space.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as a humble, trusted friend who always worked to build coalitions and to bring out the best in those around me.

Hobbies? I enjoy domestic and international politics, social activism, 20th-century European history, and European travel that corresponds to history. I spend a great deal of time learning about 20th-century politics and how it informs the future of our political state in the U.S. and beyond. This is important to me not only as a student of history but also as someone who worked in nonprofit community development serving poor and marginalized communities throughout Southern California. I have witnessed systemic injustice on a first-hand basis, am committed to continue working towards improvement, and I believe that lessons from our history will hold solutions for a better future.

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

“It is rare to come across an MBA student with so much drive, so much positivity, and so much willingness to support fellow classmates as Lance. Lance has worked tirelessly during his time at USC Marshall and has made significant contributions through a number of channels within the student community. First, Lance has had a lasting impact as president of the Marshall Consulting and Strategy Club, working hand in hand with recruiters, students, and the Marshall Graduate Career Services team to ensure one of the strongest consulting recruiting seasons in Marshall’s history. This would be more than enough to keep any student leader busy, but Lance didn’t stop there. He’s also demonstrated outstanding leadership through student organizations like MBA Partners and Honor Committee, supporting Marshall’s core values of Collaborative Ambition, Transformational Courage, Impactful Service, and Unwavering Integrity. Though Lance has more than a full plate with his own academic and leadership responsibilities, he is never too busy for a conversation about how we can work together to move USC Marshall forward, or simply provide words of encouragement or support to classmates who need it.”

Anne Ziemniak
Assistant Dean and Director, Full-Time MBA Program


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