2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Stephen Jesus Mendoza, UCLA (Anderson)

Stephen Jesus Mendoza

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“Thoughtful, passionate leader who loves people and whose life purpose is to give inspiration.”

Hometown: Santa Ana, CA

Fun fact about yourself: In December 2022 during finals week, my second son was born, and his name is Luca (an anagram for UCLA).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Business Economics.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Wells Fargo – Relationship Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Nike Jordan Brand – Beaverton, OR

Where will you be working after graduation? Nike – Finance Manager, Leadership Rotation Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson (ALMA), Co-president; Sports Business Association (SBA) VP of Admissions, VP of Diversity; Parker Career Management Center, Teaching Assistant; Anderson Career Team (ACT), Sports Coach

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of serving as the Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson (ALMA) co-president for the 2022-2023 academic year. I led a club of 30 board members and 130 members and allies, and oversaw many events, including professional development events and socials. I am most proud of this because I fostered a culture of inclusion and familial community at this club and represented the Latino community at Anderson in a positive way We showed the world how, when presented with the opportunity, we can thrive in any environment and create long-lasting, positive change.

The club initiative I have been most proud of is our mentorship program with the UCLA undergraduate Latin Business Student Association (LBSA) where we paired 15 different mentee/mentor relationships that helped diverse undergraduates believe an MBA can be part of their long-term career goals. ALMA also welcomed the LBSA students for an interactive session on ‘Demystifying the MBA Application’ in collaboration with UCLA Anderson MBA Admissions, providing the undergraduate students with everything they need to know to apply to a top business school when ready.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of securing a full-time offer from Nike at the conclusion of my summer internship. I had previous work experience in banking, so the sports apparel industry was new to me; nonetheless, I had love for the brand and a high willingness to learn. Ultimately, I was paired with an incredible manager, Alex Wills, who took the time to train and develop me and with his help, I secured a full-time offer.

My internship project was to determine Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and a Go-To-Market Strategy for a new Jordan retail store and deliver a final presentation to Jordan Executive Management. I received positive feedback on my presentation and in March 2023, I was able to visit the new Jordan retail store named “World of Flight” in Tokyo, Japan. It was incredible to see first-hand the store come to life and to see the impact of the work I did during my internship.

Why did you choose this business school? I went to UCLA for undergrad and had a fantastic experience. Returning to UCLA – but as an MBA student – was a dream come true for me. Geographically, staying close to my parents for additional support was important because I had my first son named Benito in June 2021 right before I started my MBA. Secondly, I received the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management full-ride fellowship at UCLA Anderson, and I viewed it as a responsibility of mine to strive to advance their mission of enhancing diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership.

In addition, UCLA Anderson has a very collaborative culture because of their focus on ‘Share Success.’ My work style is one where I believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Collectively, we will move further if we work together, and so I wanted to be at a school where these values are shared. Because of UCLA’s strong collaborative culture, this has made the MBA experience even more enjoyable and memorable. As a soon-to-be UCLA Anderson alumnus, I would like to continue to share success by growing the pipeline of Nike employees by way of UCLA Anderson.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Jeff Moorad, who teaches sports management at UCLA Anderson. Professor Moorad is an accomplished sports executive who began his sports career as an agent before transitioning into ownership and eventually serving as the CEO of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres and founding Moorad Sports Partners (MSP), a sports investment management company. His breadth of experience in the industry made his class so memorable, and every week, we had sports executives come to our class and share their stories. Some notable guest speakers included Eric Shanks, Fox Sports CEO, and A.G. Spanos, President of Business Operations for the LA Chargers.

For the final presentation of the sports management class, our assignment was to prepare a recommendation for the Los Angeles Lakers to partner with an international market and a corporate sponsor. Our presentation was delivered to a panel of judges who worked at the Lakers, including the Chief of Integrity officer and the Finance team. This was a great networking opportunity and a good way to add value to my favorite team.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite class has been the Japan Global Immersion: The Business Environment and Opportunities in Japan course taught by Professor Mariko Sakakibara. The course included a week-long session in Japan, where we visited different companies such as Panasonic, Costco, BCG, DeNA, and more. I learned a lot about Japan’s strong technological and cultural base, how Japanese companies are prioritizing innovation, and insights on Japan’s competitive position in the world. The trip to Japan was one of the best trips of my life and I learned a lot about Japan’s cultural differences and how to be a better international businessperson. My biggest takeaway from the class was that while it is important to recognize and appreciate cultural differences, there are more points at which we are alike than different. The mindset that is needed to succeed internationally is to realize that it is more productive to look at our similarities and commonalities and build on those when working with other people.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event at UCLA Anderson is Embracing Diversity Week. It’s a great way to show prospective students the amount of progress our school has made with DE&I efforts, and for our identity clubs and professional clubs to come together and be creative with our programming centered around a common theme. This year’s theme was “Seeking Authenticity,” and I came out of the week really inspired by the value of bringing out my true, authentic self in the workplace.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? My biggest regret from my MBA experience is not being more involved with UCLA’s comedy club. The MBA is all about tradeoffs, and the truth is, time is limited, and prioritization is key. Going into business school, my approach was that I would rather be a key leader in a few clubs than join many different clubs, stretch myself too thin and be passive with my involvement. I tried to juggle many different things such as my health & well-being, social life, academics, and my family life. In fact, during this MBA, I garnered the reputation as being very disciplined, professional, and serious. However, that is one side of me, and there is another side that is much more energetic and lively. As an avid fan of standup comedy, I would have loved to be more involved in UCLA’s Comedy Club. However, it’s not too late, and I think this would be a great way to tap into my creative side and work on my presentation skills.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about UCLA Anderson was that academically, it would be challenging to compete with other intelligent students in my classroom. However, this was not the case because, for one, students are not competing. UCLA Anderson believes in the principle of sharing success and so there is no competition with other students; instead, we are uplifting each other, studying together, and sharing valuable recruiting insights. Secondly, from an academic perspective, professors are very flexible and do a great job at creating a classroom environment that is collaborative and discussion-based. In undergrad, it was common for a professor to lecture students and learn directly from the professors and teaching assistants. However, in an MBA, the professor is guiding the conversation and posing the right questions. Ultimately, students are learning from each other by sharing their unique perspectives from their backgrounds (both professionally and personally).

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I really enjoy Westwood Village because it has something for everyone. There are countless restaurants of all types, from casual to upscale. There are museums and movie theaters for those interested. But what I love the most is UCLA’s First Thursdays that take place in Westwood Village on the first Thursday of every month. The event typically has two parts: daytime activities at the Westwood Village Farmer’s Market and then an evening block party. This is always a great opportunity to connect with other UCLA students outside of the business school.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most about business school has been the level of support identity clubs get from the university. As the co-president for the Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson (ALMA), I was very appreciative at the level of financial support our organization got from UCLA’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). We secured funding to sponsor an Andernoon gathering to feed over 200 students and for live entertainment with a Grupo Folklorico and Mariachi de Uclatlan Performance. Throughout my entire presidency, I never felt like funding an event was a barrier to our goals and for that, I am very appreciative of our administration’s support.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? My MBA journey began well before I arrived to campus for the summer term. I believe that what gave me an edge during the application process was that I was a participant in many pre-MBA programs, including Riordan MBA Fellows Program and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBA Prep and Professional Development Program. These pre-MBA programs were instrumental in preparing me for the rigor of the MBA program and for helping me begin the MBA with a sense of career direction. Specifically for the Riordan MBA Fellows Program, this program took place at UCLA Anderson, and I was able to secure a sense of belonging early on. Additionally, through this program, I was assigned a mentor who was a current MBA Candidate at UCLA Anderson named Sagar Naik. He shared his success with me even when I wasn’t a student by inviting me to an in-person lecture, and by connecting me with other students that were able to pivot industries into sports apparel. These pre-MBA programs showed MBA Admissions that I was serious about my MBA journey and now as a current MBA student, I paid it forward and spent the last two years as a mentor to prospective students in the Riordan MBA Fellows program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire the most is Andrea Maciel. Even more deserving of a recommendation than Andrea Maciel, the professional, is Andrea Maciel, the person. She is an amazing person who is kind-hearted, caring, and brings out the best version of those she works with.

Andrea and I have worked together in many ways throughout the years, as Riordan pre-MBA Fellows, board members for Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson (ALMA), classmates, and even in international settings through the Global Immersion program. In every setting, she is great to work with. I have full confidence she will go on to graduate from UCLA Anderson and have a very successful career in entrepreneurship and Real Estate, and I will support her through every step of her professional career.

I believe that Andrea made an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023. Andrea played instrumental roles in clubs like Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson (ALMA) and Association for Real Estate at Anderson (AREA) where she led the successful creation of 10+ new events for the clubs. Andrea also has an incredible life story, growing up in Mexico and moving to the United States at 10 years old. After graduating from UCLA undergrad, she worked her way up the ranks in the Banking industry to become a successful finance professional and homeowner. Andrea has a very bright future ahead of her, and every team, club, classroom where she was in was better because of her. She’s a true Anderson superstar.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? In the next four years between ages 26 and 30, I will be working at Nike and my goal is to become a Senior Director at Nike by 30. I plan to continue moving up in Nike and perhaps one day reach Executive Management. However, by the age of 30, I believe I will have reached a crossroads in my life. Over the first 30 years, a lot of people have helped me. Over the next 30 years, I’d like my primary focus to be helping others. Therefore, my two other professional goals are to 1) launch a scholarship in my mother’s name and 2) start a nonprofit organization designed to gift shoes to underprivileged youth who wouldn’t be able to afford them otherwise. As it relates to a scholarship foundation, I want to target high school students in Santa Ana, CA, which is my hometown. Education is a powerful investment and I want to be able to financially support a new wave of diverse students. In terms of the nonprofit organization, I believe this would be another great way to uplift communities of color and give them the confidence they need to be the best, happiest version of themselves.

What made Stephen such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Stephen’s creativity and the passion behind his sharing of his success outside of Anderson is what I admire the most about him. I have followed his career ever since I was introduced to him back as a Riordan MBA Fellow in 2019, and at every stage, he has been creating new initiatives to give back to his Latino community. He is humble, gracious, and charismatic, and he genuinely believes he has a responsibility to uplift a younger generation of diverse leaders.

In the two years of Stephen’s MBA studies, he and I worked together at the Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders (SIEML) conference. At this conference, Stephen represented his club, the Alliance for Latinx Management at Anderson, and hosted a “First-Generation Student” panel and a “Life as a Diverse MBA Student” panel to an audience of 50+ students from Historically Black College and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions who were interested in developing their leadership and professional skills. These sessions were regarded by many of the participants as their favorites because of the authenticity with which Stephen and his peers spoke. Stephen’s story is inspiring given where he came from. He is a first-generation Mexican-American who was born and raised in an underserved area and, through perseverance and self-belief, he used education as a way to get himself and his family out of poverty and into professional service careers. Later, he would find his true passion as a sports professional and achieved his MBA to successfully pivot into that industry. Stephen believes that the more he brings his story to life, the more he can inspire others along the way, and SIEML was one platform he used to do that.

Most recently, in April 2023, Stephen and I worked together to launch an event titled Demystifying the MBA, which catered to UCLA’s undergraduate Latin Business Student Association and its members who were interested in eventually pursuing an MBA. During his presentation, he increased the audience’s understanding of the MBA application and journey and introduced them to many different pre-MBA programs they could participate in, such as Riordan Programs, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. Stephen’s vision was to share everything he learned throughout his pre-MBA journey with these undergraduate students, and he is working on securing ten of the attendees to begin their pre-MBA journey immediately after graduation by starting on a newly launched Pathway Guidance Program designed to offer free one-on-one guidance. In the same week as the successful Demystifying the MBA event, Stephen returned to the high school he graduated from to share his story and inspire a group of diverse students at an even earlier stage in his hometown of Santa Ana, CA.

Through working with him, I have seen that this kind of thing is what Stephen does, and this is what makes him special. He is not the kind of MBA student that will just get by, search for a job, and move on. He has already secured a post-MBA job in sports, and yet he is also the Anderson Career Team coach that enhanced the curriculum to get even more entrants into the sports industry. He is someone who recognized his platform and spent his free time helping more undergraduates believe that they too can achieve a graduate-level education. Stephen spent his MBA helping others, sharing his success, and living every day with kindness and authenticity. He is on track to become a very successful business executive, but the motivation that excites him the most is his belief that he can be very successful professionally while also changing the world.”

Roy Quinto
Head of Pre-Admission Initiatives, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
UCLA Anderson


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