Master’s in Management: Lilly Ondera, University of Illinois (Gies)

Student Name: Lilly Ondera

Graduate Business School: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Gies College of Business

Describe Yourself In 15 Words: Empathetic, caring, kind, hard-working, creative, thoughtful, resourceful, determined, helpful, friendly, curious, understanding, positive, supportive, loyal.

Master’s Graduation Class: 2020.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Psychology.

Current Employer and Job Title: CJ Affiliate, Client Partnerships Associate.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I have managed to learn a ton of valuable skills and industry-specific business processes in a small amount of time considering I didn’t know much about affiliate marketing at the start.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as a graduate student: I was able to learn business in one year with no prior knowledge of business, finance, marketing, or accounting, before my master’s program.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was already familiar with the University of Illinois because it was my Alma Mater so it was an easier transition for me to go from studying Psychology to Business at a university I already called home. I also knew how reputable the Gies College of Business was and I wanted to be a part of it.

What led you to choose a Master’s in Management over an MBA? I liked that this program catered to students right out of undergrad and it was a fast-track specialized master’s program that I could do in one year to jumpstart my career.

What has been your favorite course and how has it helped you in your career? My favorite course during my master’s program was marketing with Hayden Noel. He is an outstanding professor and well-respected by students and faculty alike. This class has helped me understand the foundations of marketing and gave me insight on what I wanted to do for my career.

What role did your school play in helping you to land your first job out of the program? The Gies College of Business hosts two Career Fairs at the beginning of each semester. They also have Career Counselors assigned to each student. We have all the necessary resources at our fingertips during our job search.

How did your classmates enhance the value of your business school experience? My cohort was small and I liked that because we all got to know each other really well. I liked that each of us came from different educational backgrounds; some studied biology while others studied communications or dance. We all brought something unique to the table.

Who was your favorite faculty member and how did this person enrich your learning? Jeff Yacup and Kristen Sackley. Jeff is the Associate Director of Recruitment and Admissions and my boss when I was the Social Media Coordinator. Kristen is the Associate Director for the MSM program. They both played a huge part in my educational and professional growth because they helped guide and encourage me on my job search and throughout my master’s program.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s graduate Master’s program? Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and learn as much as you can, especially if you don’t come from a business background. I was nervous going in because I didn’t know anything related to business, but the variety of classes and “learn by doing” concept really challenges and benefits you as a student. Coming from a psychology background, I was used to studying one subject for four years and we did little group work. That all changed while I was in the MSM program. As a result, I became a better student and professional.

What was your best memory from your Master’s program? At the beginning of the MSM program, I had a really good time when all of us went on a day-trip to Allerton Park. We participated in team building and outdoor challenge courses together. This helped all of us get to know one another quickly because we were going to be classmates for the entire year.


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