Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Sarah Davison, University of Texas (McCombs)

Sarah Davison

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Inquisitive and keen Canuck passionate about building up people and brands.”

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Fun Fact About Yourself: While other kids couldn’t get The Spice Girls out of their head, for me it was ads. I can still recite TV commercials from the early 2000s including L’Oréal Kids Strawberry Smoothie Shampoo and Amazing Nail Barbie. I guess I was always meant for a career in marketing.

Undergraduate School and Major: Queen’s University, Bachelor of Commerce

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Senior Manager, Marketing Strategy and Planning at IMAX

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? In terms of programming, it was the caliber of the marketing program and experiential learning opportunities that led me to McCombs. Since I studied Business in undergrad, I was looking for a program with significant opportunity to customize my course load. I liked that the core curriculum was completed in the first semester, leaving the rest of the program for a deeper dive in non-traditional and unique quantitative marketing courses – from data visualization to predictive analytics. Additionally, after spending eight years at one company, I wanted the opportunity to get hands-on with other brands, and McCombs has done a fantastic job building a network of strong brands and companies who are keen to work with McCombs students.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I hope to be a part of Marketing Fellows. The Marketing Fellows program is actually what first drew me to McCombs. The program affords students with even more hands-on experience working on live cases with brands across a variety of industries and gives students experience making quick decisions and presenting to a variety of stakeholders.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far:  I was selected to help establish the Marketing Strategy & Planning team at IMAX and given responsibility for defining and building out what an insights function would look like. In the course of that journey, I conducted over 100+ studies including a first-ever segmentation, launched an insights community (“The IMAX Idea Lab”) to get real-time feedback for executives, and helped the company start building out customer data. Best of all, that job brought me from a very cold Canada to sunny Los Angeles for five years to work in the heart of entertainment.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I grew quite quickly in my career and I wanted to broaden out. Being on a small team, there were times that I had to do self-learning and I wanted to return to the foundations. Having only worked for one company, I knew its business, customers, and climate incredibly well, but I wanted to learn a new consumer and other ways of doing things. Additionally, at my job I was working with many functions across the business and wanted to better understand their viewpoints.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Owen, Foster, Anderson, Stern, Kellogg

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?  After many questions that I felt I’d been prepared to answer I was asked: Is there anything you’d like the admissions committee to know? It was an unexpected open-ended question that threw me off guard. At that point I had already spoken to my experience, but I didn’t want to not answer the question, so I had to pull something out of the air.

How did you determine your fit at various schools?  Given my background is in research, I did a lot of that. I knew I wanted to be in a city. From there, I ranked the reputation, elective courses, and clubs that aligned with my career goals, practicum opportunities and employment data. I wanted to be at a school where marketing was a common path as I felt that would reflect the resources and ability to build my network and community.

I used each programs’ resources and my own connections to chat with current students and hear about their experiences. I must have connected with two dozen students, and I learned something from every conversation. Those interactions were quite telling, but what was best for determining fit for me was campus visits. I was lucky to get to visit five out of the six programs that I applied to, and that gave me the best feeling for each school.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? I attended the Forté Foundation Virtual Conference this summer where I connected with some of my fellow classmates and was able to get some experience with virtual networking. The McCombs career team held sessions to help us prepare, including resume workshops, which were invaluable.

Additionally, I spent a lot of time reading to prepare for the core classes’ foundations. I also set up time to chat with several returning second year students to hear about their summer internships and advice for first year. Everyone has been so generous with their time.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment was moving from Canada to Los Angeles with my job in 2015. Hailing from Canada, wanting to work in entertainment was not an easy dream and I left undergrad without a job. These roles are not common in Canada and are in high demand, even for those with years of experience. My subsequent job search and journey to IMAX taught me the value of persistence early on in my career. Once at IMAX, I thankfully had a wonderful female boss/mentor who believed in me and supported the ultimate relocation to Los Angeles. Once again, recruiting as a Canadian interested in Entertainment will be difficult and require this same level of persistence, but I’m ready for it.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? A brand I really admire is Vans, and I think it’s a great lesson in brand authenticity. Beyond the consistency of the black and white checkerboard, Vans knows where its fans are, and it shows up. One weekend, I completely coincidentally was at Vans US Open (skate and surf competition) on Saturday and Vans Warped Tour on Sunday. They literally sponsored my weekend. With Vans, they aren’t just slapping the logo on things and hoping that makes an impression. They are creatively integrating into these events in a meaningful way. During COVID, Vans launched an initiative to create limited edition custom-designed shoes to support their community of small businesses (skate shops, music venues, restaurants) and raised $4 million in two weeks. Again, very authentic to the brand.




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