2021 MBAs To Watch: Daniel Henderson, UC San Diego (Rady)

Daniel Henderson

Rady School of Management at UC San Diego

Analytical. Caring. Bibliophile. Dependable. Balanced. Iterative. Learner. Husband. Brother. Son.”

Hometown: Valley Center, California

Fun fact about yourself: Last May, I launched a board game podcast with my brother, John. The idea came to me one day the previous year while I was on a break at work.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. Cum Laude in Economics from Harvard College

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Encore Capital Group; Senior Data Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Illumina in San Diego, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Illumina, as a Senior Financial Analyst

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Served at the San Diego Food Bank; Co-president of the Rady Life Sciences Club; Teaching Assistant for Introductory Economics; Economics Research Assistant to Professor Marta Serra Garcia; Researcher on Supply Chain PGM (Post-Globalization Movement) working paper under Professors Hyo Duk Shin and Helen Wang; Rady Scholar Fellowship; Rady Family Foundation Fellowship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am very proud to have had the opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant. I assisted in Managerial Economics, one of my favorite subjects (I was an Economics major as an undergrad). While I found teaching difficult and demanding, it was also incredibly rewarding to help students in the first-year class grasp important concepts, to answer their (very good and sometimes very tough) questions about the subject, and to hear back from them at the end of the course that I made a real difference in their understanding of the material. It was also a great opportunity to meet some of the remarkable students we have in our full-time class of 2022. Outside of this, we have had limited opportunities to interact and get to know each other given the COVID circumstances.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Two years after I started my first job out of college as a data analyst, a couple of key members of our team quit and I had to take over the inventory processes that had been under their purview. Their relationship with their primary business partners had been shaky at best; they often found their partners’ requests unreasonable, while their partners did not understand why seemingly simple asks were pushed back. Thus, my job would not only be to take over, run, and refine the process, but also to smooth out the relationship with our new business partners. I set up weekly meetings, crafted a set of change of governance guidelines, and made a point to build rapport through frequent in-person conversations, pop-overs, and questions. I also was not shy about calling out violations of these guidelines and explaining firmly and clearly why they were there and how they benefited both teams.

The relationship between the teams gradually became much more respectful, collaborative, and even friendly. A few months later, when it was time to migrate this process to a new operating system, the process ran smoothly and efficiently, with lively discussions and steady progress toward our end goal. I take pride in the role I played in the mending and refocusing of this key business relationship. I learned a great deal about the importance of relationships to business processes and the ability of clear articulation and mutual respect to drive a business forward.

Why did you choose this business school? I really appreciated the fact that Rady was a relatively new school and had such outstanding faculty. Because of this, I knew that the education I would receive at Rady would not only be current and relevant, but also on the cutting edge of research.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor William Mullins, my professor for both Core Finance and Valuation. Having had no finance experience coming into Rady, I found Professor Mullins explained the language of finance remarkably well through the use of simple examples and illustrative analogies – a hot dog stand, an axe murderer, and a pizza, to name a few. I also appreciated the professor’s insistence that we feel comfortable giving our best effort, knowing that we would naturally make several mistakes and learn from them in the process. As a result, many of the concepts I learned in his courses have already benefited me in real-world environments, including my job at Illumina.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I quite enjoyed the spring formal, one of the last in-person events I was able to attend with my fellow classmates in 2020. Dean Ordóñez and several faculty members, as well as staff and alumni, were in attendance. I thought it painted a great picture of the community at Rady and the accessibility of these key figures. I have been very impressed with the responsiveness of the faculty and staff – always prompt in their replies and eager to lend a hand, sometimes even in the wee hours of the morning before an exam.

On a simpler note, probably my favorite tradition was simply standing outside of class during breaks and talking to my classmates. They all have such a wealth of experience, which has contributed significantly to my learning here at Rady and they are all so fun to talk to as well. This is one of the activities I have missed the most since COVID forced the nation into online classes last March.

What is the biggest myth about your school? (The biggest “myth” about the school, though it is absolutely true, is that the weather is amazing and that the scenery is beautiful. Another “myth” that has definitely been confirmed is the high quality of the faculty. The highly-ranked faculty was one of the main reasons I chose Rady to begin with, and they have not disappointed; they have a cogent and passionate grasp on their subject matter, are patient and intent with students, and are very accessible outside of class. After I emailed a question to Professor Eric Floyd, told me to drop by his office rather than simply emailing me an answer. We then worked out the solution together on the whiteboard. This level of interest, engagement and care for students was commonplace among the faculty here at Rady. It is truly exceptional.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised, and have continually been surprised, by the level of drive among my classmates. I cannot think of one “slacker” in my cohort. In my experience, everyone was eager to learn, regardless of their level of ability or familiarity with a subject coming in; no one seemed to be “skating by.” This was in stark contrast to nearly all of my past school experience, independent of grade level. I also was nervous about the amount of group work coming in, but the drive and diverse skill sets of my classmates made group work, in large part, an educational and even enjoyable experience.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? While I can’t ultimately know what gave me an edge, I can say that I responded to the essay questions with authentic examples of my experience, stories that highlighted my perseverance, drive, and growth. I also was specific about why I was pursuing an MBA – not only to pivot from my current career, but also the main roles and industries I was interested in and why.

*Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire Dan Peterson. Dan spent a decade in the Marine Corps before coming to Rady. Having him in my first study group was a gift and taught me many important lessons, such as the importance of “planning to plan,” oand everyone being on the same page in terms of desired levels of effort, contribution, and quality of results before starting a project. What has really stood out to me about Dan is his steady effort and his desire to learn. Even in courses where he had less of a background than others going in, he never dropped the ball on group assignments and was never afraid to ask questions when he didn’t understand. It is clear that he sees the value of his education and is willing to devote considerable time to it. He has been a pleasure to work with and to get to know; I recently learned that he will be going back to Rady next year to get his MSBA, which is truly remarkable given that he hadn’t taken a statistics course before Rady. This is a testament to his willingness to push himself. I have no doubt that he’ll march his way through that degree just like he has this one.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? For me, it was quite disruptive and took a lot of getting used to. I would say adrenaline and novelty carried me through the first virtual quarter. The Zoom fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and general melancholy that I would probably not have a real opportunity to see my classmates in person again started to hit in the fall quarter of 2021. I have had to be much more intentional about taking care of myself; it’s taken some iterations, but I’d say I’m in a decent rhythm now.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My wife, Taylor, had a huge influence on my decision to pursue business in college. For one, I saw her drive in pursuing her own Master’s degree (in engineering) during the early years of our marriage. For another, I saw the potential that her research projects had for helping people led me to consider a pivot from the industry I was working in at the time – debt collection. I had known for a couple years that I was interested in an MBA before I mustered up the courage to apply, and Taylor supported me at every step – from driving me to my GRE to proofreading my application essays. She believed in me, my purpose and my potential, even when I doubted myself.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? For one, I want to start a profitable business. I admire the many of my classmates who have already done so. I’m working on a couple new businesses right now and am sure they will not be my last. I often find myself on a walk or run thinking of new business ideas and am excited to dive in deeper with the skills and knowledge I have gained from my MBA. A second is that I’d like to work on a business venture with my wife. I know husband-wife teams may equal red flags in the venture capital world, but it would truly be an honor to work side-by-side with the woman who has done so much for my own business development.

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

“Being an instructor on zoom is tough – despite my best efforts, I sometimes get silences that can be painful. Dan was who I counted on to help me out at those moments of total confusion; he would make a brave attempt, often mixing in some dry humor to get us moving again. His classmates also love him, remarking that he was an informal TA for his team. Did I mention he speaks about 25 languages?”

William Mullins
Assistant Professor of Finance at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management



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