2021 MBAs To Watch: Mitchella Gilbert, UCLA (Anderson)

Mitchella Gilbert

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

An inclusive product designer and business operator who wants to do good while doing well.”

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: I was a volunteer firefighter for two years

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Chicago – BA in Public Policy; University of Michigan — Interim Michigan Teaching Certification

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Deloitte Consulting – Human Capital Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Nike – Virtual Operations Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? My startup OYA FEMTECH Apparel – CEO (we have raised $45K to date)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Roles: Anderson Students Association (ASA) VP of Operations, Black Business Student Association VP of Finance, Anderson Entrepreneurship Leadership Development Program (ELDP)

UCLA Awards: John Wooden Global Leader 2021 Award (Merit Scholarship), Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (Full Tuition Scholarship), Dean’s List

Entrepreneurship Awards: WFN 2020 Woman Founder of Distinction Award and Audience Favorite, Top 3 (Berkeley EGAL Pitch Competition), Top 3 & Audience Favorite (UCLA Lowell Milken Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition), Northwestern Kellogg BMAC Competition Audience Favorite, LAGRANT Marketing (Merit Scholarship)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  Being awarded the John Wooden Global Leader Award was an amazing achievement for me. As a legendary coach, prolific author, and inspiring speaker, John Wooden dedicated his life to motivating individuals to achieve their highest potential. Awarded annually to one student from each Anderson program, I was the full time MBA class of 2021 recipient. After coming to Anderson, I became enamored with Coach Wooden’s definition of success: “Peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you can become.”

Wooden’s tenets pushed me further in developing my leadership capability. His focus was on the journey of success instead of the destination. And, having been a teacher, I understand where he was coming from and what he was trying to build. He taught me that I want to be a leader who develops and promotes diverse talent because I believe in the fair treatment of all minorities who are given less opportunity in the business world.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am so proud of my startup team (OYA FEMTECH Apparel) that it is hard to pick one achievement. Over the past two years, we raised $45K of non-dilutive funding and in-kind services and placed in four pitch competitions. Our goal is to revolutionize women sportswear leggings with fabrics, designs, and innovations that support feminine health better than every brand before us. We aspire to build a v-friendly community of women and men who support feminine health, like our male customers who gift OYA products.

I am also proud that we always do the best of which we were capable. To that end, we launched March 2021 and are in the process of raising an angel round.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose UCLA Anderson because of the BCO (Business Creation Option) Capstone Project. With BCO, I launched my startup while still in school. I built a team of fellow Anderson classmates, we took prerequisite courses to develop a business plan, and then we applied to the BCO during our first year. We were selected to begin fall of our second year and the project spans two academic quarters.

Before starting the BCO process, I had no idea how much the program would come to mean to me. I knew that it was an amazing opportunity to identify a viable business opportunity while being surrounded by amazing resources from across UCLA. However, I had no idea that my team and ecosystem of UCLA advisors would become my family. I am also so appreciative of how much the project has helped me grow as a teammate and leader.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Matt Pierce (UCLA Lecturer, Faculty Advisor) is by far my favorite professor. He is CEO of Versus Systems and our BCO advisor. We meet with him every week to guide us in developing sales, marketing, operations, and finance strategies. His business acumen never ceases to impress me. He is relatable, hands-on, invested in our success, and does not shy away from helping us tackle the challenges that we face within our startup. We have grown so much under his tutelage and I am honored to be considered his mentee.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Embracing Diversity Conference (EDC) is an annual event for Anderson’s prospective students in November. It is a forum to learn about everything from positioning yourself as a great candidate for admission to engaging in thought-provoking conversations about equity and diversity with current students, alumni, staff, faculty, and peers. I highly recommend that all prospective students and members of the Anderson community attend the next EDC event in November 2021. You will learn a lot, meet a lot of new friends, and be thoroughly engaged.

As a prospective student, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to fly out and attend EDC in person. As a first year, I volunteered at EDC and hosted two prospective students. As a second year, I had the honor of moderating a panel entitled “HERstory: A Primer on the Black Female Path to Success.” It was an amazing opportunity to hear black women from UCLA Anderson’s MBA programs describe their wins, losses, and lessons. It was also the first time in my career that I had a safe space to talk about the race and culture-related issues that impact my professional experience.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I hope that I do not sound cliché when I say that I would have taken more time to meet people in person. No one expected COVID to prevent us from engaging in in-person networking. What’s more, I did not expect to miss our in-person MBA activities as much as I do now.

If I had had a crystal ball, I would have spent less of my first two quarters in the Anderson Accelerator and more time getting to know classmates at in-person events. That said, I am grateful for the friendships that I have been able to form and I look forward to networking with classmates in person at future alumni events.

What is the biggest myth about your school? “It never rains in Southern California.” – Song lyrics from “It Never Rains (In Southern California)” by the R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné!

I was immediately attracted to UCLA because of the weather. I also truly believed Tony! Toni! Toné! when they said that it did not rain in Los Angeles. To my surprise, I learned that this song was a myth because it does drizzle here during the winter. Of course, this is a very silly myth because I love Anderson. I grew so much more than I expected to within this program. I would not trade my time here for the world.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was pleasantly surprised to learn how much “shared success” is valued here at Anderson. When I applied, I referenced how much I value collaboration in my essays. However, I did not expect my classmates, professors, and alumni to really embrace “shared success” as an ethic.

Our culture is cooperative, and people are generous with their time because everyone wants to see you win at Anderson. I have demonstrated “shared success” by supporting my classmates in preparing for pitch competitions and job interviews. I am proud to say that I have helped classmates land internships at Amazon, Google, Nike, Microsoft, and Facebook. My classmates, professors, and alumni have returned the favor by coaching me on leadership, product development, accounting, pitching, marketing, and recruiting.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Coming to visit during the Embracing Diversity Conference (EDC) as a prospective student gave me an edge in the UCLA Anderson selection process. EDC helped me understand Anderson’s value proposition and the extensive resources they have dedicated to help each student win. EDC also exposed me to wonderful alumni who helped me edit my essays.

Again, not to sound like a broken record, but I highly recommend that all prospective students and members of the Anderson community attend the next EDC event in November 2021. You will learn a lot, meet a lot of new friends, and be thoroughly engaged.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my teammate Patrick Ayers (Anderson Full Time MBA Class of 2021). I have adored him since we first met on campus during Anderson’s “Admission Days” as prospective students. He is passionate about problem-solving, social impact, and animal GIFs. He is kind, thoughtful, intelligent, and hard-working. I value him as a teammate because he thinks outside-the-box and he pushes me to grow. I also admire Patrick’s strength in managing his cerebral palsy. I know that it is not easy, but he concentrates on things his disability does not prevent him from doing well as opposed to regretting the things it interferes with.

Patrick’s strength inspires me to not be afraid as a woman of color who is trying to gain a foothold in the entrepreneurship world. Sometimes, I too feel like I have a disability as Black women are slighted by startup investors and significantly under-funded. In fact, by 2018, only 34 Black women had raised over $1 million in funding. However, Patrick pushes me to not be afraid to try. He pushes me to think through our strategy. He pushes me to practice pitching. And he is always there to support our team in being the best that we can be.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?’ After COVID hit, UCLA went fully online. This was an easy shift because Anderson dedicated so many resources to help us succeed. As the Anderson Students Association (ASA) VP of Operations, I worked with Student Affairs to prepare student clubs for the change. I also witnessed Student Affairs working tirelessly to get professors more comfortable teaching online and to get students new resources like Headspace to support mental health.

Personally, COVID helped me discover my inner homebody. Taking classes online afforded me more time to work out, cook healthy food, decorate my apartment, and focus on raising capital.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother always supported my desire to become a businesswoman. She was a single, hard-working mom, a high school math teacher, and a former accountant. She was the family matriarch and was the first in our family to go to college and to create structure for us. When she passed, our family never fully recovered as she was the bedrock for four generations. My earliest memories involve watching her care for others.

When applying to business school, I learned how much my mother valued family, industriousness, and financial independence. Despite (or because of) her not having the easiest life, she pushed me to work hard, to help others, to always be the best that I could be, and to understand how to manage finances. Her support influenced me to pursue an MBA, to become the best businesswoman I could be, and to give back.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My first goal is to develop an inclusive, innovative product and to generate $1M in revenue for that product. My second goal is to build a $10M company with a fabulous team.

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

“From the moment that Mitch stepped onto campus, she instantly shone! She gives true meaning to the phrase “Force of nature.” She had a clear vision for her time at UCLA Anderson, and she threw herself into it from day one and made sure to squeeze every drop out of all of our amazing entrepreneurial resources. However, her vision was not simply self-serving; though she has poured countless hours into making her startup a success, she has spent equal time serving and enhancing our community.

She had faith that Anderson could engage with the hard questions about race and in the process become a better, more inclusive institution, and so she did not shy away from having those conversations with peers, staff, and faculty. Her role as VP of Operations in our Anderson Student Association was a particularly tough job this past year, as she was the primary student resource to our 50 clubs as they figured out how to keep a community connected for an entire year of remote instruction (without a single in-person event!) Through it all, she maintained a can-do attitude and delightful sense of humor that her peers often struggled to hold onto. It brought a smile to my face every time I read the introductory paragraph she adds to our weekly email digest of student activities.

This is even more impressive when you know Mitch’s personal background and the fact that she is no stranger to hardship and struggle. But anyone can see that simply motivates her to care harder and work harder. I’ve worked in MBA education for 15 years now, and Mitch is the rare student whose passion is matched by prodigious dedication and work ethic, and whose drive towards personal accomplishment is inextricably linked to a drive to leave each place she inhabits better than when she found it. I can unequivocally say it’s been a joy to have her in our program and watch her impressive development into a fully-fledged leader and manager, and I will miss seeing her face on campus when we return!”

Jessica Luchenta
Assistant Dean, MBA Student Affairs



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