Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Jake Hartley, USC (Marshall)

Jake Hartley

University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business

“A strong communicator with a passion for simplifying the complex.”

Hometown: Raleigh, NC

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love national parks, and my all-time favorite is the Denali National Park in Alaska—it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Undergraduate School and Major: Duke University, Double Major in English and Spanish

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Manager of Entertainment Services, Rehling Law P.C.

Aside from your classmates, 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? As someone with a non-traditional background, I was really drawn to the breadth and depth of the core curriculum. There’s no “easy track” for first year students and that’s a good thing: You want to emerge from your program armed with real-world skills and a fundamental fluency in every aspect of business.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? Even before classes started, I knew I wanted to get involved in the Marshall Graduate Student Association (MGSA). It’s been a great way to get to know my classmates, second year students, professors, and administrators—and I’ve already been able to see that the MGSA has a very real impact on student life here.

What was your first impression of USC Marshall? How has that changed or been reinforced since then? I was admittedly skeptical when I first heard about the strength of the Trojan network, just because every school likes to say that their network is great. So I decided to actually test it out, and reached out to multiple students while applying. Every single person was quick to respond, more than happy to connect and really genuine when we spoke. Since enrolling, it’s become even clearer that the Trojan network isn’t just a talking point—it’s virtuous cycle that attracts the type of people who care about collaboration and paying it forward.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my previous role, I worked for a leading immigration law firm specializing in visas for artists and creative professionals. Over time, I developed a unique expertise that helped set our firm apart from the vast majority of practitioners. As a result, I was given the opportunity to help set the strategic direction for the firm, hire support staff, and ultimately lead the firm to record growth. Succeeding in that type of competitive environment was not only professionally rewarding, but also personally gratifying because our efforts enabled so many incredibly talented foreign nationals to pursue their own ambitions here in the U.S.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Like many students, my MBA journey represents a pivot point. Coming from a highly specialized role, I’m pursuing an MBA to gain more long-term career mobility and exposure to different industries and functions.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The hardest question and the easiest question are one in the same: Why Marshall? It’s tempting to think about what an interviewer would want to hear, but the better approach is to make sure that the answer you give yourself—the raw, unvarnished version—is something that actually motivates you. That authenticity will come through in all aspects of your application, but more importantly will help you make the right decision for yourself.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? At top programs, fit is less about the institution and more about your peers. For example, many programs are predominated by consultants and investment bankers. If you’re not part of that group, you can still be admitted—but you might spend your entire education on the margins. After talking to current students and having real conversations about clubs, course offerings, and career services, I felt confident that Marshall was a great fit. The student body here reflects a rich diversity of professional interests that makes the entire institution more inclusive and robust.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I don’t think I believe in the concept of a defining moment; successes and failures aren’t always dramatic. What brought me to business school is a continuous desire to learn and improve. I think what really defines us are the little moments of commitment we make each day.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Whatever you think of them now, I’ve always been amazed at how many times Netflix has had to reinvent itself in some way, and how willing its leadership has been to embrace that evolution. It takes courage and self-awareness to pivot away from something that has worked in the past and that’s a lesson that should resonate with any student who commits to an MBA.

Picture yourself in two years graduating from business school. Looking back, how would you know your experience has been a success? I don’t need to look that far ahead to know I made the right choice. USC Marshall has given me an unparalleled opportunity to challenge myself personally, academically, and professionally – and it’s already paying dividends in ways I never imagined. While I’m excited to see what the future has in store, I’m not placing any limits on it. My focus right now is on making the most of everything the MBA journey has to offer.


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