“I’m a Marketing Manager with lots of start-up experience. I’ve worn many hats, often simultaneously.”
Hometown: Farina, IL (pop. 600)
Fun Fact About Yourself: I can lick my left elbow, but not the right one.
Undergraduate School and Major: Yale University (2013), Psychology
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Open Up Resources, Marketing Manager
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? UCLA Anderson has a Leaders in Sustainability specialization that allows graduate students to study issues of sustainability across disciplines. Fighting the coming climate crisis is important to me, and the sustainability specialization will allow me to incorporate more sustainability-focused thinking into my studies and build sustainability-oriented strategies into my future work, no matter where I end up.
What makes Los Angeles such a great place to earn an MBA? Los Angeles provides access to a lot of amazing companies that I’m excited to learn from – both large corporations and small start-ups. Additionally, I think LA’s social vibe, beautiful outdoor spaces, and good weather contribute to a cohesive, familial feeling within the class. Visiting campus, I could tell the student body was a tight-knit group despite living in a large city. For now, COVID-19 is obviously making such large gatherings impossible, but I’ve been impressed with how well my class has been fostering an Anderson family virtually.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Supportive. Starting an MBA during the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for everyone. The decisions we made about whether to enroll this year were tough, and plenty of students have struggled with not being able to arrive in LA as early as they’d hoped. I’ve been inspired by how our class is coming together to meet people’s needs across time zones, and prioritizing building a strong virtual community that is accessible to every student.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at UCLA Anderson? What makes you most nervous about business school? I’m excited to learn more about a diverse set of industries, companies, and job functions. I’ve greatly enjoyed the past seven years I’ve spent at EdTech start-ups, but I’m now looking forward to exploring a whole new world of opportunities.
Regarding what makes me nervous, my biggest fear has already been resolved just a few weeks in! Before starting class, I worried that everyone would be eager to practice “being a leader,” and it would result in competition and conflict when it came to group exercises and projects. Fortunately, that hasn’t been my experience at all. My classmates and I have been working together to ensure we all develop our leadership skills, in class and out. I think UCLA Anderson’s first course, Leadership Foundations, helped establish that mindset.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The last company I worked at was Open Up Resources, a K–12 curriculum nonprofit. Last year, the CEO was looking for someone to spearhead an effort to put on an inaugural professional learning conference. I’d never headed an event for hundreds of people before, and the project required a lot of financial planning and executive authority that was new to me. Still, I had an amazing team and a collaborative work environment. Nine months later, we’d attracted 400+ attendees, achieved a net promoter score of +35, and driven millions of dollars in new business from attendees in the following weeks.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I’ve found great fulfillment working in the education space. Being young in my professional life, I want to explore new job functions and industries before continuing on my career path. An MBA is a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and explore new organizations that – besides just being really interesting – will open up new opportunities down the road.
What other MBA programs did you apply to?
UT Austin McCombs, Northwestern Kellogg, Columbia Business School, Stanford GSB, and Harvard Business School. Anderson wasn’t the only school that admitted me, but they were by far the school I was most excited about, and I’m thrilled to be enrolled here now. (Confession: I’m a bit biased after having already “attended” UCLA Anderson once as another student’s significant other.)
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question wasn’t one someone else asked me, it was one I asked myself: “In light of the global pandemic, is now really the right time to start an MBA?” I was excited about business school, but COVID-19 put me in an uncertain state of mind. I wondered what the internship market would look like the following summer, what the economy would look like when I graduated, and – of course – what the program would look like in the fall.
In the end, it came down to two questions: (1) Did I trust UCLA Anderson to make my MBA experience a great one, even if it wasn’t going to be the exact experience I’d originally expected? I did. (2) Did I trust myself to make the most out of an unconventional MBA experience? Absolutely.
Answering those two questions helped me realize that even if the specifics of the next two years were uncertain, the outcome was still guaranteed to be great.
How did you determine your fit at various schools? From a concrete perspective, I looked at the classes and programs offered by the schools, and tried to put together a two-year experience I felt excited about. Some were clear fits; others obviously weren’t for me.
From a more intuitive standpoint, I tried to visit every school that extended an interview opportunity. There’s something to walking onto campus, talking to a few students, and asking, “Do I feel at home here?” Visiting campuses may be a lot harder (or impossible) this year, but I believe it’s still possible to perform this “gut-check” through a virtual experience.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? During a major initiative I was working on (organizing a conference for 400+ people), I began to realize the project was falling behind, partially due to being under-prioritized. To be honest, I felt completely overwhelmed, and could feel the fear of a very public failure creeping in.
It was a scary moment, but it also gave me the biggest lesson in leadership I’ve ever had: learning how to ask for help in a clear, strategic way. I had to have some hard conversations with my manager about the parameters of the project, the importance of success, and my own limitations. However, being open and honest enabled him to advocate for additional support from the CEO and other departments, and they were grateful that I’d raised the issue. I have spent a lot of my career accomplishing every objective given to me. That was a moment where I learned how to be vulnerable and truthful about what my limitations were.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them?
You may laugh, but my favorite company is a small, California-based donut chain called Sidecar Doughnuts. I think they embody two important lessons. First, it’s all about quality. There are times when you can just feel the passion that’s gone into a company’s product – Sidecar’s delicious doughnuts are a fine example. Second, never stop innovating. Sidecar never stops playing with new, creative flavors, and rolls out new doughnuts every month. There’s nothing like novel recipes to keep me coming back every single week.
DON’T MISS: MEET UCLA ANDERSON’S MBA CLASS OF 2022