Master’s in Business Analytics: Jolee Zhao, USC Marshall School of Business

Student Name: Jolee Zhao

Graduate Business School: USC Marshall School of Business

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: I am curious, driven, and versatile. I aspire to transform businesses with data analytics. 

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: Pepperdine University, International Business.

Current Employer and Job Title: Ernst & Young, Technology Consultant.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Keeping up with self-learning and growth can be very difficult once we start working. Therefore, my biggest accomplishment in my career is obtaining several learning certificates to expand my knowledge system while working full-time. Other than that, I’m pretty proud of helping billion-dollar international companies solve their business and technology problems. 

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: I led a team of four MSBA students to win the first-place award in a DataThon case competition hosted by BCG GAMMA. We competed against 12 teams selected from a handful of schools in the greater LA area. 

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As one of the oldest and most prestigious schools in Southern California, USC, especially the Marshall School of Business, has an excellent global reputation for high-quality curriculums and renowned faculty. It also has a rich alumni network. The Trojan network is beyond imagination. Even before I joined the vast USC network, I had heard about how powerful it is. Then, I became a part of it, and experienced the support and love of the alumni community first hand. The alumni network even helped me find my internship and full-time offer.  It’s also the perfect location; I wanted to stay in LA after graduating from Pepperdine, and USC was a perfect choice, right in the middle of the city.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Business Analytics over an MBA? For a more advanced degree, I wanted to gain deep domain knowledge and receive specialized training in an innovative field, as opposed to pursuing a broad business degree again like I did in college. Therefore, business analytics is the perfect interdisciplinary domain that integrates multiple areas of my interests: business, statistics, computer programming, and problem-solving. 

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? DSO510 Business Analytics was my favorite course, as it helped me build a solid knowledge base about the fundamental aspects of business analytics, including strategies, methods, and technical tools integrated with hands-on practice. It continues to help me in my career every day because it equipped me to define business problems and solve them with an innovative data-driven approach. 

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? I took advantage of the various resources offered by the Marshall Graduate Career Center, from career advisors to alumni connections. I had several advising sessions with Jack Ringquist and Yoyo Yang to determine the most suitable career path, given my passion and strengths. I also reached out to alumni in the industries and companies of my interest, connecting with them on LinkedIn to get advice and hear about their experience. All of these efforts helped me land a dream offer at EY. 

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? The USC MSBA program only recruits top talents from various backgrounds, and I immediately felt the intense competition as soon as I joined the program. Therefore, my classmates definitely motivated me to work harder toward my goals. Meanwhile, having students from different domains helped ensure a good level of diversity in the program. This diversity was very beneficial as I collaborated with multi-background teammates, learned about a wide range of industries, and broadened my peer network. Most importantly, my class was very close-knit. I developed lots of close friendships with my classmates and even invited many of them to my wedding. These elements greatly enhanced my business school experience. 

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? It’s hard to pick a favorite when you have awesome faculty members like Abbass Sharif and staffers like Nina Richardson. They’re almost like the program Mom and Dad. Abbass is such a patient, gentle, and kind professor, who always cares about more than just our grades. He is invested in our personal and professional success, as well as our wellbeing. On the other hand, Nina takes care of anything administrative. She is the go-to person if anyone ever has any questions or concerns about anything in the program, and she is always dedicated to ensuring our success. We feel absolutely safe going to either one of our “parents” – that’s how awesome they are. 

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate master’s program? For anyone hoping to get into the USC MSBA program, you should try to present yourselves as a well-rounded applicant who is passionate about the subject of business analytics. You can communicate your interest by showcasing the steps you’ve taken toward strengthening your technical skills, gaining relevant field experience, or taking online classes in this subject. 

What was your best memory from your master’s program? Late-night study sessions turned into deep philosophical chats about life, early-morning presentation rehearsals turned into dance moves powered by over-excess caffeine, frustrating de-bugging wait time turned into spontaneous Korean BBQ meals in K-Town (Korea Town in DTLA) … Small moments like these are the most unforgettable about my time at the USC MSBA program. 


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