“A US Army Captain and former teacher with passions for education, technology, and social impact.”
Hometown: Diamond Bar, CA
Fun Fact About Yourself:
- In 2018, I was selected by National Geographic for a fellowship and embarked on an expedition to the Arctic
- I’ve performed sets of magic for MC Hammer, at the White House, and a handful of places around the world.
- I once won a year’s worth of free chicken wings at my local Buffalo Wild Wings
Undergraduate School and Major: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona | Computer Information Systems
Most Recent Employer and Job Title:
- Washington Leadership Academy Public Charter School| Founding Computer Science Teacher
- US Army Reserves | Civil Affairs Team Chief
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? My goals are to pivot into tech with a long-term goal of starting my own venture at the intersection of media, technology, and education. Anyone considering a focus in the world of entertainment knows that UCLA Anderson has to make their list. UCLA Anderson’s commitment to an Entertainment Management specialization and the Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment, & Sports (MEMES) make it unlike any other program. Couple that with Los Angeles being home to one of the largest tech startup ecosystems in the world, UCLA was an easy decision.
Secondly, Anderson’s Parker Career Management Center is consistently ranked as one of, if not the best MBA career centers among top graduate business schools. My entire post-undergraduate work history is as a military Officer and public-school teacher. It was very important to me to find a program that would be able to provide me the tools, resources, and mentorship to help me land an internship and job in an entirely different industry and function.
What makes Los Angeles such a great place to earn an MBA? On the professional side of things, Los Angeles is home to business of all sizes and industries. UCLA is also nestled in between Silicon Beach and Hollywood entertainment. Moreover, there is a good mix of startups and established companies which makes Los Angeles a perfect place to explore all kinds of industries and functions through academic internships during the school year, informational interviews/coffee chats, and so much more.
Outside of school, Los Angeles is a place of great food, culture, and activities. Even in our current situation, Los Angeles has tons of great places to eat (outdoors), parks to picnic or hangout at, places to hike, and beaches to lounge around. The weather is unmatched with average daily temperatures between 60-80°F year-round and lots of sunlight. The weather here really puts me in a good mood.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Despite us being in a global pandemic and interacting with all my classmate mostly online, I was surprised at how easy it was to build relationships with people. It’s hard to explain, but when I finally met some folks in person there was this warmth and familiarity that I didn’t expect to exist. It felt like I had known them for a while. That’s because, even on Zoom, my Anderson classmates’ personalities shine through. One of UCLA Anderson’s pillars is “Share Success,” so my guess is that students here were not only drawn to this culture when applying but our school actively recruits candidates who embody it.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at UCLA Anderson? What makes you most nervous about business school? The Business Creation Option capstone is something I am really looking forward to. The opportunity to launch a business within the safety net of school is invaluable. There won’t be another opportunity in my life when I can start a business with such low risk. And when you layer on the resources of the #1 public university in the country, you really do get an unparalleled experience.
I’m nervous about balancing my desire to remain focused on my goals and exploring things I have yet to learn about. UCLA Anderson is well respected across several industries and functions and so it’s really easy to look at something and be tempted to go down that rabbit hole. I’m afraid I’m going to be like that dog from Pixar’s Up where he’s mid conversation, then all of sudden: “Squirrel!”
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2016, I uprooted my life in beautiful Miami and moved to Washington, DC, a city where I had no family, friends, or even professional connections. I was recruited to build an innovative high school in our nation’s capital that provides a four-year computer science education for every student.
Starting a school is deeply personal work. It not only consumed every hour of my life, but it was a heavy responsibility; families were entrusting us with their children’s futures. The risk for school founders and the families they serve is high: only one in five charter schools are successful. The possibility of failing some of the most disenfranchised kids in the city was daunting. The possibility of putting in every ounce of effort and still coming up short was frightening.
Without any reservation, the biggest accomplishments in my life thus far is being an integral part in our school’s opening, leading students to produce the highest number of passers on the AP Computer Science exam in the city, and seeing our founding class to high school graduation and beyond.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? In 2016, the school I helped found won a $10M grant called the XQ Super School Prize. We were charged with rethinking public high school education. One of our big hypotheses was leveraging emerging technology like Virtual Reality to fundamentally change the way some things are taught in a traditional classroom. We wanted to build something that was not only engaging but also academically rigorous. For 18 months, I led a team of programmers, designers, and educators to build and launch three Virtual Reality apps in the Oculus App Store. It was through this experience that I decided there was a whole other world that I wanted to explore; namely using technology and business to positively impact a part of our society that I deeply care about.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? As a Veteran (who qualified for several application fee waivers) and a Consortium applicant, I was very fortunate to be able to apply to seven schools without incurring a significant financial burden. I knew I wanted to return to my native California so Anderson, Haas, and the GSB were the top of my list. My passion for education and social impact added SOM while my interests in the technology and entrepreneurship space drew me to Sloan. Later additions were HBS and Kellogg because I was able to see the case method in person of the former and learned more about the MMM program of the latter.
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? This will seem silly, but it was “What clubs and/or activities are you interested in at Anderson?” It was the part of the MBA application process where I did the least amount of research. I named two professional clubs that popped into my head and prayed that I got their names right. Ironically, the Technology Business Association at Anderson (AnderTech) and Entertainment Management Association (EMA) will be the two professional clubs I will be joining this year.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? Geographic location was definitely high on my list. I left California right after undergrad because I commissioned into the US Army. I would later move to Miami for Teach For America and then to DC to start a high school. Every time I visited California, it became increasingly harder to leave. California, and Los Angeles in particular, is a place I knew I would be the most emotionally and spiritually happy.
As a teacher, I couldn’t take time off to visit schools, so a lot of my research for the entire MBA application process was leaning on my MLT MBA Prep family, reading things on the internet (shout out to P&Q), and making phone calls to current students and alumni at various programs.
Ultimately, I prioritized school-fit based on three factors:
1) Alignment to my Industry Career Goals: I want to get into tech, entertainment, and entrepreneurship and Los Angeles is without a doubt the leader in that regard.
2) Grading Policy: I put preference on school’s with Grade Nondisclosure because I wanted to be at place that would allow me to explore classes without fear of taking a GPA hit, but also a culture where peers aren’t always competing amongst each other #shareSuccess.
3) Size of Incoming MBA Class: I found huge cohort sizes intimidating and thought incoming classes around 400 was an ideal number. Schools affiliated with the Consortium also had a boost.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? There isn’t a singular moment, but more of an accumulation of my experiences in the military and as a teacher. As an Army Captain, I’ve led men and women whose hometowns and backgrounds span our entire nation. Providing collective purpose and camaraderie in times of high tempo, stress, and up against tough obstacles has made me a better and more reflective leader. Convincing soldiers to do what is right versus what is easy takes trust and competence. As a teacher, I constantly had to make decisions between holding high expectations for student success, but also showing compassion; pushing kids to reach their potential but also remembering they are still kids. Business school also encompasses people from diverse backgrounds and experiences so I will undoubtedly lean on my learnings from my time in uniform and in the classroom.
DON’T MISS: MEET UCLA ANDERSON’S MBA CLASS OF 2022