2023 MBA To Watch: Mike Steigerwald, UC Irvine (Merage)

Mike Steigerwald

UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

“I am a diligent, driven, and authentic individual with a passion for uplifting those around me.”

Hometown: Escondido, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I can both ride a unicycle and juggle; I’m keeping circus clown as a back-up career!

Undergraduate School and Degree: California State University, San Marcos: B.S. Business Administration & Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Sherwin-Williams, Commercial Sales Representative in Eugene, Oregon

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? West Monroe, Seattle, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? West Monroe, Senior Consultant, Los Angeles, CA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Leadership:
    • (2021) Merage Faculty Scholarship
    • (2021) VP Finance, Challenge for Charity (C4C)
    • (2022-2023) Co-President, Challenge 4 Charity (C4C)
    • (2022-2023) Executive VP Finance, Merage Student Association (MSA)
    • (2021-2023) Teaching Assistant
  • Community:
    • (2021) Volunteer Speech Judge, Orange County Academic Decathlon
    • (2022) Panelist, Junior Achievement Young Men’s Empowerment Forum
    • (2022) Panelist, Consulting/Internal Strategy Merage MBA/BA Panel
    • (2021 – 2023) Project Manager and Sr Consultant, Seed Consulting Group
      • Pro-bono consulting to create a more environmentally sustainable world.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being invited as a panelist in the Junior Achievement Young Men’s Empowerment Forum reaching over 100 students throughout Orange County high schools. Junior Achievement is an international nonprofit that encourages and provides education about entrepreneurship and financial literacy in underserved communities.

As a panelist, I had the chance to share my personal and professional experiences and to provide guidance and inspiration to these students to help equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the future. This experience is a source of pride for me because it allowed me to use my education and skills to make a difference in the community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am extremely proud of being individually recognized in an Intern Spotlight at West Monroe and asked to present my project to over 200 people at the quarterly Seattle office meeting.

Throughout the summer, I helped design a digital governance system for a mid-sized bank in Texas. I collaborated cross-functionally with many client teams and internal stakeholders, consolidated several conflicting viewpoints into a single system, and presented it to senior leadership.

Why did you choose this business school? I was attracted to Merage because of its small class size and its welcoming culture. The small class creates an inclusive and tight-knit community that is very supportive. During my recruitment process, everyone I interacted with, including ambassadors, students, and admissions staff, made me feel very welcome. I could immediately tell that this was the program for me, and these past 2 years have absolutely confirmed that!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dr. Maritza Salazar-Campo. She is extremely passionate about her subject and creates an inclusive learning environment where everyone can participate. She designed her organizational behavior class in a way that allowed us to practice and apply the concepts.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course during the MBA program was Business Dynamics. This was a tough but engaging class that challenged me to critically analyze complex business situations and provide actionable recommendations in a very succinct memo. It taught me how to write with an executive voice, and clearly define my action plan and assumptions – which is an essential skill for my career.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition at Merage is the annual Challenge for Charity Halloween Party. It is a wonderful event that brings together Merage business students from all our different graduate programs in the spirit of community giving, celebration, and spookiness. In the past 2 years, we’ve raised over $5,000 for C4C’s core charities which are Special Olympics, Junior Achievement, and Second Harvest Food Bank.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back over my MBA, I don’t think I would change a thing. I’ve accomplished everything that I wanted. This includes landing an internship and full-time role at a premium management consulting firm, leading student organizations like C4C and MSA, giving back my time and experience to help others transition into consulting, and building a network of amazing individuals – many of whom will become lifelong friends.

If I had to change anything, I would have taken the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester in Chile to learn more about the business environment in South America and further develop my Spanish. However, I am fortunate to be able to travel to Cuba for a week-long study program!

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Merage is that it is a cutthroat business school. Everyone at Merage is extremely supportive and is always open to hop on a call for a mock interview or to share a connection at their target company. During my first year, a couple of classmates and I started a case interview group to help students with different career goals prep for case interviews. After a few weeks, we found that over 40% of our class had joined. They began using the group to share connections with classmates, and help them with mock behavioral interviews and case interviews.

Merage is the type of community where the adage “the rising tide lifts all ships” rings true.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I love Irvine because it’s one of the safest large cities in the US. It has a wonderful assortment of cuisines and is only a few miles from the beautiful Southern California beaches.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? During the application process, I reached out to several current and former Merage students and ambassadors before applying. This was a win-win as it allowed me to gain a better perspective on what life was like as an MBA at Merage and it gave the students a chance to learn more about me and how I would fit as an MBA candidate.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Erika Cortez-Red exemplifies the Merage culture. She is always open to help other students whether that be prepping for an interview, sharing a connection, or helping them navigate the complex US visa process. She is the president of Merage Student Association and has used her experience as a marketing manager to give Merage graduate students an unforgettable experience. I admire her natural leadership qualities: she is always willing to stand up for her team and pushes people to be better while lending encouragement and support.

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

  1. Join a nonprofit board
  2. Lead a firm’s expansion in Latin America

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

“Mike Steigerwald is a mission-driven leader who has created great impact on the UCI Merage School community and beyond. I had the pleasure of working with Mike as his career advisor and I was impressed by his effort and dedication through the recruiting process to switch his career from sales management in retail to consulting. Mike was the first one at the Merage School to land an MBA consulting internship at West Monroe, and he decided to return to West Monroe post MBA. In addition to being an active leader in the Management Consulting Association to support the club members, Mike also initiated case interview study groups with more than 40% engagement to prepare his classmates for case interviews across multiple business functions, influenced the Merage Career Center to move the timeline of case interview education earlier, led mock interviews with 1st and 2nd year MBA students, and joined a panel event to educate Merage undergrad business major students on consulting and internal strategy career paths. He gained respect from staff members by asking great questions to challenge the status quo and providing creative and intentional solutions. His classmates and the 1st year MBA students spoke highly of Mike’s professionalism, support, and generosity, and expressed their great appreciation of Mike’s effort to help the students achieve success in their internship and full-time job search processes.

Being naturally curious, Mike also leveraged his strong problem-solving skills to create broader impact. He holds multiple student leadership roles at Merage. As the Executive VP of Finance for the Merage Student Associate, he managed the finances for 18 graduate business student organizations and developed and implemented a budgeting system from scratch. In his capacity as the Co-President of Challenge 4 Charity, he instilled a culture of community involvement by motivating members to raise funds and volunteer their time for three core charities. Beyond the Merage School community, he has also been an active member in Seed Consulting’s Orange County chapter, providing pro-bono consulting services to local non-profits to tackle California’s urgent environmental problems. In addition, Mike was featured in the Junior Achievement Young Men’s Empowerment Forum as a panel speaker for Orange County high schools, providing his advice and insights to help prepare students transition out of high school and enhance their financial literacy.

Through his leadership and commitment, I know Mike is driven to bring impact to any organization and community he’s part of, and I’m confident that he will use his MBA to the benefit of the society. I’m proud of having him as a Merage alumnus and can’t wait to share his stories to motivate future students.”

Qilin He
Supervisor, Career Advisory, MBA Programs
UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

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