“A 9x marathoner, former accountant turned improv comedian turned marketer that’s always seeking a challenge.”
Hometown: Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Fun Fact About Yourself: My fastest time in the mile is 4:32. I also once ate 13 hot dogs at a baseball game. I’m not sure which one of those fun facts I should be more proud of.
Undergraduate School and Major: Syracuse University, finance and accounting major
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: ViacomCBS, Manager – Content & Marketing Controllers Group
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? It sounds weird to say, but Vanderbilt just felt like a family. The MBA application process, to me, was incredibly stressful – I ended up taking the GMAT four times, spent endless hours on my essays and so on – but what really helped keep me going was having so many great friends and family helping me out along the way. I knew that the MBA experience would be the same grind and a very challenging time. As a result, I wanted to find a program that had a culture where everyone felt like family to each other and would support me as a person.
Every interaction I had with current students at Vanderbilt, alums, or admissions felt incredibly genuine. As I learned more about specifics of the program like the Leadership Development Program, how the Career Management Center Coaches are incredibly personal, or how each student or alum seemed to know one another, I just knew that Vanderbilt would care not just about me as a professional, but as a person.
At Owen, you are part of one of the most dynamic business environments in the country. What has made Nashville such a great place to live and learn for you? Nashville was a huge factor in coming to Vanderbilt for me. With such a busy class and recruiting schedule in the first few months of school, having such a vibrant city to explore during free time has been invaluable. Though my classmates and I still haven’t been able to see Nashville in its true prime because of the virus, there’s still so many great areas to explore just outside of downtown where you can go for a run, find an awesome BBQ spot, or just go for a walk in a new neighborhood.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Every classmate I’ve met so far is incredibly supportive. There are many of us competing for the same internships and jobs out of the program, but I love how we don’t let that get in the way of building genuine connections with each other. The MBA experience is stressful, especially this year, and it’s been incredibly refreshing to have friends as classmates that are looking out for you as a person.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While working at ViacomCBS, one of our offices had abruptly closed due to downsizing, and I initiated the process of quickly understanding the CMT, BET, and TVLand balance sheets that those teams had previously managed. I assembled a team of two senior analysts, dove into these brands financial data that totaled over $300M in assets, and ultimately proved to senior finance leaders that I could adjust quickly and provide meaningful recommendations in a really challenging situation.
Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Beyond surviving the National Black Virtual Conference, a big accomplishment was my team and I becoming a finalist for the Hult Prize campus competition. The Hult Prize is an annual competition aimed at coming up with a business idea that solves a worldwide problem. The topic for this year’s competition was “Food for good.” After weeks of preparation and creating a business plan for our idea aimed at impacting over 10,000,000 lives, our team was selected as the school’s finalist for the Hult Prize, and we now have the chance to enter the regional competition.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt really confident that my analytical background with seven years of financial reporting experience, combined with my creative pursuits outside the office, would be a great fit for brand management and marketing. I initially looked at marketing roles within my past employer at ViacomCBS. Eventually, I realized that in order to best grow as not just a professional – but also as a person – it would be best to pursue an MBA where I could meet other career switchers like myself, develop my leadership skills, and gain a broader business knowledge to really excel in a marketing career.
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I would say a defining moment was when I took my first improv class in New York City. I’ve always been a big fan of sketch comedy from growing up with shows such as SNL, Seinfeld, and The Office. So I didn’t think much of it when I decided to sign up for an improv class as a fun way to meet more people in NYC outside of work.
Well, one intro class led to over three years of improv classes and sketch-writing classes, and I ultimately just fell in love with the whole theatre scene. Eventually, I got to the point of submitting a 10-page writer’s packet for an NBC writers workshop and even submitted nine different short stories to a humor magazine. Though I certainly don’t have the comedic talent to be on SNL, all of this experience outside the office led me to realize that it wasn’t just the comedy I was drawn to. Instead, it was just getting to work in a creative environment with people of all different personalities. It then became a simple decision for me to go back and get my MBA to pursue a role in brand management, where I could learn how to combine my analytical background with my creative interests.
DON’T MISS: Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2022