2021 MBAs To Watch: Lucio Chen, UC Irvine (Merage)

Lucio Chen

UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

Adventure seeker guided by curiosity and driven by impact.”

Hometown: Shenzhen, China

Fun fact about yourself: My American first impression is Yellowstone National Park, where I worked as a waiter during my year abroad and started an outdoor business by selling hammocks.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Singapore Management University, Bachelor of Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Boston Consulting Group

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? SAP Concur

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Recipient of Michael Johnson Spirit Award
  • Merage Student Ambassador
  • Recipient of the Merage Faculty Fellowship Award
  • Executive Vice President, Finance, Entertainment Management Association
  • Executive Vice President, Professional Development, Merage Product Club
  • Executive Vice President, Volunteering, Challenge for Charity (C4C)
  • Director & Consultant, Seed Consulting Group: Contributed to California non-profit sustainability-focused organizations by providing pro bono consulting services, including strategic planning for an NGO dedicated to carbon emission reduction; received Collaboration Award for leading a team of seven consultants
  • Participant of UCI Anti-Cancer Challenge, 2020
  • Teaching Assistant, Principle of Accounting, Master of Finance, 2020
  • Teaching Assistant, Merage Consulting Project, 2021

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the achievement in the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s MBA Case Competition in 2019. Along with four other bright MBA classmates, we enrolled ourselves in the competition very early on in the MBA journey despite all the unknowns and ambiguity. We embraced background differences and committed as a team regardless of the heavy workloads and duties from the school and job searching. Throughout the process, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in networking with professionals from different industries and professors focusing on different domains. Eventually, representing UCI as a team, we achieved 2nd place out of 85 stellar MBA teams across the nation. We also convinced other peers to participate in similar nation-wide competitions to gain experience.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I started my career as an Industry Analyst for the consumer electronics industry without any prior experience except for being a smartphone user. Within six months into the job, I overcame the steep learning curve by absorbing as much information as possible and became well-versed in the ecosystem. My analyses on the latest market development were quoted by top tier press such as WSJ and Reuters.

The proudest moment was my live interviews with BBC and CNBC (Squawk Box) on TV. My parents and friends were exhilarated to see a familiar face on TV. It was the first time in my professional career that my mom was incredibly proud and able to share something tangible with her friends about her son. Subsequently, I was approached by one of the most prestigious management consulting companies in the world to join their TMT practice.

Why did you choose this business school? Merage has a strong understanding of the importance of digital technologies. I have chosen the school for its emphasis in empowering students to learn the latest technology tools and master the arts of applying them in modern management. I am a deep believer in leveraging technology to empower companies. Today, every company needs a digital strategy. To be tomorrow’s management leader, learning the language and building a digitalization toolbox are essential parts of the equation.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Looking back, I missed the INTENSIVE program the most. At the beginning of the MBA journey, students are put into groups of five to solve business strategy cases and work on the project with limited time. The 1-week program exposed us to the importance of working together as a team with a tight deadline, which is highly aligned with Merage’s core value in grooming collaborative students with strong problem-solving skill sets. It also made me feel like we are a close-knit family, and we got bonded very quickly.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently, and why?If I knew there was going be a pandemic, I would have been more engaged in social activities to learn more about all the classmates and their stories at the beginning.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Merage is all about Tech – which is not entirely true. While Merage has a strong alumni base working in the tech industry, the MBA class is much more diverse than I expected. The various perspectives and professional experiences background of my peers made an enormous difference in my MBA journey.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most was the world-class professors at Merage. They are not just so helpful to students in providing academic advice, but also very approachable in guiding us in professional development and extracurricular activities.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I have done extensive research about the strength and unique positioning of the school before the application. A clear understanding of how my profile fits into the school’s culture and how the MBA program could advance my career helps tremendously in the application process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? As a student ambassador, Eric Williams shines in every aspect in the business school. His strong determination and extensive preparation helped him quickly land his dream job. It is not hard to notice his excellent public speaking and presentation skills; he is also very inclusive and generous in providing help to everyone else in the Merage community. One example was his willingness to spend extra time during his busy school schedule to help my team voice over on a video in the New Venture Competition. It was an essential part of the project that allowed us to present our idea and advance to the next round.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Since the pandamic, students and professors were able to adapt and adjust the format of the classes. I felt the most noticeable impact after a few months into remote learning as we do not see each other much, especially for those who do not have the same class or engage in the same activities together.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother is the strongest advocate for my pursuit of business education. After giving birth to four of us, she made raising the children the most important responsibility of her life. She provides incredible supports for my dad to become a successful entrepreneur and businessman. Witnessing how my dad dealt with various challenges in running his business for 35 years, she believes that business and management education will bring great value to my career development.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1) Bring innovative ideas to life to be loved and used by millions of people

2) Keep contributing to the community while advancing my professional career

What made Lucio such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“As a continuing lecturer at the Merage School of Business, for the past twenty years, I teach courses in Management Consulting/Experiential Learning, Field Studies in Management, and Global Business. During the Winter and Spring of 2020, I had the opportunity to closely work with Lucio Chen on Management Consulting projects for the global business software company SAP. The nature of the projects involved product development and business strategy, along with significant primary research focusing on competitors, customers, and technology. Lucio, as a member of two separate MBA student project teams, produced outstanding results of value to SAP.

As a result, he earned the highest academic marks for both projects/courses, plus he was recognized by executives who sponsored these projects and offered him to join SAP as a product management intern.  He has been earning praise in this assignment and is continuing until graduation in June 2021. In addition, during the 2020 Summer Term, Lucio participated in my Field Studies in Management course as an SAP intern and produced a well-thought-out research paper on the Management Consulting Industry. Plus, he co-authored with an MBA colleague an article on best practices for MBA consulting projects.

Presently, Lucio is my Teaching Assistant in the Merage Consulting Projects for Managers course, and is an excellent resource for all, including students and corporate project sponsors. Lucio has outstanding analytical skills, is an excellent strategic thinker, and has a personable style that works very well at the School as well as in business settings. His work ethic is another strong suit, plus he is comfortable with communications and presentations.

As a second year MBA student he has made significant impact with his academic performance and with his efforts and contributions to the School.  His service includes earning a special School Spirit Award, serving as School Student Ambassador, and leadership positions in various university clubs and associations.”

Emile Pilafidis, Ph.D.
Continuing Lecturer, Merage Consulting Projects & Global Business
The Paul Merage School of Business
University of California, Irvine


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