Periodically, mbaMission interviews business school students and alumni to gain insight into their experience attending top MBA programs. Originally from New England, this UCLA Anderson second year was interested in making a career change from financial services to tech and new media and sought an MBA program he felt would facilitate that transition. After interning over the summer with a major tech firm on the West Coast, he plans to stay in the Los Angeles area after graduation to join a world-renowned entertainment conglomerate. (February 2019)
mbaMission: When you were considering your options for your MBA, what appealed to you about Anderson? And how has the school measured up against your expectations?
Anderson Second Year: When I was thinking about going back to school, the most important thing to me was recruiting and where I wanted to live during and after my MBA. I chose Anderson because one, it’s really strong in tech, entertainment, and media recruiting, and two, the Parker Career [Management] Center, which, everyone kept saying was one of the best career centers in the United States. I thought that would be really helpful in making the jump from financial services to a completely different industry. I visited a couple times after getting admitted, and I really like the culture here. Everyone talked about how collaborative it is. It’s not competitive or cutthroat by any means. I really experienced that here. I’ve gone into an interview right after a classmate, and he’d tell me all the questions he just got asked to help me prepare before going in. Everyone really embodies that Share Success pillar Anderson has.
We always joke about Share Success, but it is something I found to be really true here. It’s definitely met my expectations. I’ve met some great friends here. And to be in LA [Los Angeles]—I really wanted to be in a big city, to be able to do an academic internship while going to school. So last year, in my first year, I was able to do an academic internship in the spring at one of the top digital media companies in LA. That gave me the full spectrum of experiences—tech over the summer, new media last spring. I’ve really loved the experience, and you can’t beat the weather here, either. I was in New York before, so it’s great not having to deal with winters anymore.
mbaMission: What is the commuting situation like in such a big city?
ASY: I’d say most students, probably 80%, have cars. International students might not, just because they might not have had a license before. One of my roommates will take a bike or a scooter. They’re everywhere in LA now, the Bird or Lime ones. Or he’ll take public transportation. There’s a UCLA bus that goes straight to campus. Parking’s expensive. You have to pay per quarter to get a permit to park on campus. It can get pretty pricey, which is one reason people will not get a car or not drive to school. But the commute is pretty short. Everyone lives within a five-mile radius of campus. Being students, we have a flexible schedule, so we don’t have to hit that LA traffic too often. Of course, if you want to go downtown at 7:00 pm. on a weekday to get dinner, it’ll probably take you an hour, hour and a half to get there, like 15 miles. We can usually avoid it. If we want to go downtown, we’ll go on a Sunday when there’s no traffic. I’ve spent 30 minutes trying to go a mile before.
mbaMission: Crazy! What are your thoughts on Anderson’s core curriculum? Did you choose a track?
ASY: The way it works is everyone has to take the core classes: finance, marketing, accounting, stats, strategy. You have the option to waive out [of some courses] over the summer before you start, by taking a test. I decided not to, but I actually recommend that people waive out if they can because it lets you take more electives earlier on and gives you more flexibility. Because I came from a very traditional business background, the core classes were pretty repetitive to me. I do wish I took the waivers because of that. I didn’t feel like I got too much value out of it, but I know for people who came from very different backgrounds, it was challenging and very helpful for them to learn all these new topics.
I didn’t choose a track. We have the Easton Technology Management Center, and there’s an Easton tech track. I started on it but eventually chose a bunch of random electives I thought were interesting rather than doing a lot of tech classes in a row. I realized over time that tech was not for me, which was great to figure out while I was at Anderson. That’s why I’m not doing any specific tracks. I don’t know too many people that do. Easton has some fellowships and awards. The Ziman Center for Real Estate has some tracks. You can definitely get some awards and positions in those centers. It’s great if you’re interested in real estate, tech, or entertainment, to go down those tracks and get positions there for recruiting or for your personal interests.
mbaMission: We hear a lot about Anderson’s Applied Management Research (AMR) projects. Can you give me some insight into those and how they work?
ASY: Your second year, you have to do a big capstone project, and AMR is the one most people do. It’s a small, 20-week-long consulting project. You choose a team of five, and then you bid on a whole list of projects that Anderson’s AMR office curates. Then you get assigned to one by the AMR office. You work with your client, the touchpoint people, on, okay, “What’s our project for the year? What do you guys need us to get done? How do we get to that?” There’s also a lot of things AMR requires teams to do; you have to hit a certain number of interview hours, actual talking to people, and you have to hit another amount of work hours.
So there’s good and bad to AMR. You could get a really interesting project and learn a lot. I personally am doing one on the cannabis industry, which I had no idea about before. We’ve had challenges with our clients. They’ve never done AMR before; they’re not really an established business at all. So we’ve had some challenges there, but what’s driven us is that it’s a completely new industry to us, and it’s been very interesting to learn about. It’s fascinating to see an industry start off and grow right now, especially in California, where it’s legalized in most cities already. So there’s a lot of growth opportunity.
But on the downside, we have to jump through a lot of hoops, trying to get all these hours done just for the sake of AMR’s requirements, rather than what our client really needs. But it’s been interesting. There are definitely mixed feelings about AMR. Some teams, they might not have picked students that work well together, so they have internal conflicts. They might have a client that’s really difficult and nonresponsive. So it’s a mixed bag.
More people are doing other options now. There’s the BCO, which is the Business Creation Option. It’s essentially the same, a group of five people, but you’re coming up with a start-up together. You have an adviser, and you go through market sizing, figuring out how to get your product or idea to fruition, trying to launch a product throughout the year. They have their own requirements, but I’ve heard it’s a little less than for AMR, so it’s better in that respect. But it’s also a lot more challenging because you’re coming up with something completely from scratch.
mbaMission: Absolutely. For the AMR, do you have on-site meetings with your firm, or is it all done over the phone? Do you do some meetings individually and then bring everything together later, or do you always do them as a group?
ASY: It depends on the project. You have domestic and international AMR projects. International ones have a larger budget. On those, usually the teams will send a couple people, or the whole team if they can afford it, to wherever their client is. We’ve had people go to Fiji, Samoa, and Peru to meet their clients for on-the-ground interviews. And that’s usually once during the AMR project. Some teams travel twice, depending on their needs. For ours, we traveled to Las Vegas for the world’s largest cannabis expo. We met people from the industry and did a lot of interviews. For us, we mostly work as a team. Second years have no classes Wednesday mornings because it’s set aside just for AMR. We’ll meet with our adviser to get feedback, and then we’ll meet as a team to get things together, brainstorm, figure out what we need to do. During the rest of the week, we’ll individually work on that. For meetings, we met our client a couple times. He’s come to campus to meet us, but we usually have a weekly check-in by phone.
mbaMission: Got it. You mentioned going to Vegas, but have you done any other Anderson-related traveling?
ASY: I did a lot first year. We have a pre-orientation Vegas trip in August. It’s a pretty big student-led group. They work with promoters and get all these events and club nights ready. It’s a really great way to meet people before even starting out. Going into orientation, I had already made a lot of friends and knew a lot of the faces. It made it a lot easier to transition into school life again.
The next one I went on was our Snow Trip. Last year, we went to Park City, Utah, which was really fun. We went a little early in the year, mid-December, when there was no snow yet! There was no one else there—the entire resort was just Anderson students. It was pretty cool, kind of bizarre walking around a city, and you just see your classmates everywhere. But it was a great time for everyone to get together. We have theme parties at night, and in the daytime, it’s all skiing and snowboarding. This year they went to Whistler, up in Vancouver, which I heard was awesome. Tons of snow this time.
My favorite trip was definitely the spring break trip to Israel. That’s just something I would never have done on my own. We used a well-known tour group there, and about a hundred of us went out together. It was educational and eye-opening to visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and go into the desert and spend the night out there. At night, there were a lot of events. There’s the fun aspect but also historical and cultural aspects. It was well organized, very safe. I don’t think I’d go to the Middle East on my own. I felt better going with a big group. It was organized by the group that does Birthright treks for Jewish Americans, so we knew they knew what they were doing, that it was going to be very well run, well organized, educational. We also have a huge trip to Japan—about 200 students. That’s our biggest spring break trek every year. We also have a trip to Columbia. Last year, there was a Morocco trip. This year, we have a Mexico City trip.
mbaMission: Nice. How would you characterize your Anderson classmates?
ASY: Very open and collaborative, and also very diverse. I touched on the whole Share Success aspect, where everyone is open to helping each other out. We have a ton of Slack channels for different company interviews, so you join when you get an interview, and everyone helps each other, telling each other what to prepare for. We have a couple different things set up for second years to help first years with recruiting, whether it’s mock interviews or teaching them about different industries, different functions early in the year. Trying to help them figure out what’s really for them.
I love that aspect of the community. Everyone is just really friendly and easy to talk to. People I might not otherwise have found myself interacting with much, here, it’s been easy to get to know everyone. The other thing I really like is the wide variety of backgrounds. At some of the East Coast schools, you’d have a lot of people from banking or consulting or general financial services. Here, there’s not much of that at all; there are very few ex-bankers. A good amount of ex-consultants, but also so many people from entertainment, tech, social impact, education, retail, real estate. It’s so diverse. I’ve been able to learn so much about other people’s perspectives, about other industries. Before taking the classes, I was able to talk with people who had actually been there. It’s been nice coming from New York, working at a big bank, getting this different perspective. That’s pretty unique to Anderson, I think, especially being in LA, too.
mbaMission: Sure. Have you had any professors or courses that were particularly impressive?
ASY: A couple. One is Professor Terry Kramer. He teaches two classes, “Technology Management” and “Global Mobile Industry.” He’s had a very successful career in tech and telecom, and he teaches these two classes, one is general technology and the other is mobile and mobility telecom industry. He brings great stories and a lot of industry experience. What makes his classes so great is that they are really difficult. He cold-calls, and you really have to be prepared. But it’s all applicable to life. It’s not just reading a case and coming up with some answers. He really focuses on what the lessons are, on asking, “What’s the ‘so what?’ in everything?” Always asking, “So what?” with what you’re reading, what you’re doing. So when you get called on in class and give an answer, but you don’t address the “So what?”, he’ll keep pushing, like, “Why is that even important?” It really makes you think, and I think that’s been applicable to work, life, and internships. Not just going through the paces but doing what you need to. Really figuring out why you’re doing it. I really appreciated that.
The other one I think everyone mentions is Eric Sussman. He teaches “Corporate Financial Reporting” and a couple real estate classes. I took his financial reporting class, and normally, people would say, “Oh, that’s accounting. Why would you want to take that?” It’s probably been my favorite class at Anderson. Professor Sussman is very energetic every minute of class. He’s very funny and cracks a lot of jokes. He’s witty and engaging. It’s not just learning accounting rules and how to do financial reporting, it’s digging through things like annual reports and figuring out which line items are important, what that tells us about the overall company, and how we can use that to make better investment decisions and make money for ourselves. He uses real-life applications. He invests himself, so he’ll talk about his positions and why he thinks each one is a good position based on financial reporting and what he sees in it. Our homework assignments are all delving into financial statements, trying to come up with that analysis ourselves. That’s been really fun!
mbaMission: It’s impressive that someone can make all that fun!
ASY: His class always fills up immediately during bidding. Definitely very popular.
mbaMission: Any thoughts on the interim dean?
ASY: Dean [Alfred] Osborne is great. He’s always around. He shows up to different events. He’s always cracking jokes. People love having him around. Right now is kind of a weird period, where we’re still searching for a dean, but he’s been open about it. We’ve had student meetings to talk about what we’re looking for, and he’s held lunches to speak to us about that. We’ve gotten to hear about candidates they were thinking about. So we’re still searching. They’ve been very open about it, and they’re trying to make the right decision and not rush it, which is good. He’s done a good job so far, so we’re happy to have him. He’s going to keep doing what he’s doing until we find the right person.
mbaMission: Sometimes when schools get a new dean, that can affect their standing in the various MBA rankings. Do you think Anderson’s students care about rankings very much?
ASY: No, I don’t think I’ve heard it ever brought up since I got here. I think Anderson is usually in the 13 to 16 range. I feel that being on the West Coast, Anderson’s very focused on that aspect. I think 70% of students stay in California, whether going into tech in San Francisco or staying in LA for something. It’s a very targeted kind of school. I can understand why, in rankings, if you’re comparing Anderson to the East Coast schools that place their students all over, it might rank a little lower. When it comes to tech recruiting, or anything West Coast recruiting, Anderson’s at the very top with other schools like [UC Berkeley] Haas and Stanford [Graduate School of Business]. People come to Anderson for specific reasons, to live on the West Coast or do tech, and they don’t really care too much about the rankings afterwards.
mbaMission: That makes sense. What has your experience been with Anderson’s alumni?
ASY: The alumni have been great. They’re always on campus for recruiting events. Because we’re in LA, we have a lot of people that are willing to come in. For banking consulting, there are a lot of people in LA offices, so they’ll come in and do mock interviews, case prep, or banking technical question prep on campus. It’s a great resource for students, through the Parker Career Management Center, to get real interaction with alums in the industry. We get a lot of tech people that come in as well. We have career nights that attract a lot of Anderson alums, which is great. I’ve had a lot of interaction with them.
Over the summer after my first year, I thought about doing investment banking full time. To do that full time, it’s all networking. There’s no set path forward, so I spent all summer reaching out to alums in banking, and all of them were helpful. They were all willing to chat on the phone, give me tips, pass along my resume. They even got me a bunch of interviews. I’m grateful for how open they were to doing that. I decided not to pursue it, for lifestyle reasons, but they were super accessible. I’m really grateful for how much they were willing to help me with that process.
mbaMission: Did you personally rely much on Parker when you were recruiting?
ASY: I used Parker a lot. I thought it was helpful for setting me up for success, but there were some mixed opinions about it. There’s a Parker Career Series class you take in the summer quarter. It starts off pretty early, but we’re on the quarter system. This summer quarter helps us ramp up and get people started talking about resume prep, cover letters, small talk, networking, all of it leading up to doing mock interviews. That was a good way to get started right away with recruiting. But it was also early in the summer, and a lot of people wanted to have fun at the beginning, didn’t want to do all the work that early on and wanted to wait until later.
It’s what you make of it. If you wait, then you have a lot more work in a high-pressure time to get things done. Whereas if you start earlier, you can ramp up slowly, and when recruiting hits and all the companies start coming, you’re ready for it. Parker also does Anderson Career Teams, or ACTs, which are small groups of eight to ten first years, completely led by second years. That usually starts in the September–October time frame and goes to December. I was an ACT coach for corporate finance. We walk the first years through recruiting tips for specific industries, like the typical jargon they’ll need to know, what it actually means to work in finance. Because there are a lot of different roles—operations finance, market finance, corporate development. All these first years were making a functional switch to really understanding what they were getting into, what it takes to get a job there.
There’s also Interview Prep Teams, which are also student led. Second years are hooked up with four first years and meet one-on-one and mock interview them for whatever they’re recruiting for. There are a lot of these resources in place. If you take advantage of them, you’ll be ready and set up for success with recruiting. I’ve heard from my friends who did banking that a lot of recruiters thought Anderson candidates were way more polished than at the other schools, because banking starts in October, and we’d been prepping and getting ready for small talk and networking events for months. Other schools don’t have as many of these career resources; they don’t really have this structure in place. If you take advantage of it, it’s great, but I can also understand why some people thought it was too much work too soon.
mbaMission: What would you say about Anderson’s facilities?
ASY: I think the facilities are probably one of the weaker points. At Anderson, everything’s a bit older. Even the bathrooms feel older. We’ve been going through a lot of renovations, so a couple bathrooms have been completely renovated and look really nice now. They’ve been working on a completely new building. It’s supposed to be ready sometime this year, but who knows? It’s real estate; I don’t know when it will actually be ready. Definitely after I’m gone, early 2020. That’s going to be a huge new building, state of the art. It will help spread things out a bit, so you’ll have more room for study and to meet in groups.
Right now, the library during finals time is completely packed. A lot of undergrads also use our library. They’re not allowed to use the pods or the private rooms, but it’s really packed. Undergrads will sometimes take spaces until you tell them to leave. There could definitely be some upgrades. Classrooms are kind of old—no windows or daylight, which you would like in LA, because you have so much sunlight all the time. But I think they’re working on it. UCLA as a whole has so much, and we as MBAs have access to it all. I just went to the pools at UCLA. The private dorms have three outdoor pools, huge fields, and a volleyball setup. Being able to access all the UCLA resources makes up for the rest.
mbaMission: What have been some of your favorite social events?
ASY: Every Wednesday, we have Sundowners. The social chairs at Anderson pick a bar every week, and the whole school is invited. It’s usually a good showing. First and second years will show up at a bar and basically take it over. We usually book an area and have some drink specials. It’s pay-for-yourself. It’s a great way, in the middle of the week, to unwind, talk with new people, or just hang out with your friends. And it’s great that we have it every week. It’s a nice tradition. Every Thursday, we have Anderson Afternoons. That happens on campus. It’s usually sponsored each week by a different club. They’ll use their budget to provide food and drinks. I think this week, we’re going to be celebrating Chinese New Year, so different foods from different Asian countries, which is really fun. Everyone gets together. And it’s free!
For first years, at the beginning of the year, there’s a ’90s party. Everyone goes crazy for that one. A lot of fun. Tomorrow, we have Casino Night, which is a schoolwide event. You pay to get in, but it’s open bar, and there are blackjack tables, poker tables, roulette, craps all set up. The price of admission goes to charity, but you get a bunch of fake chips, and you can play whatever you want, have a few drinks with friends. There’s a dance floor as well. Those are two really fun events. There’s another Vegas trip at the end of the year, just for second years, called Disorientation. It’s a good final trip before everyone graduates together. I’m really looking forward to that trip.
mbaMission: Is it hard to balance all the different parts of the MBA experience, the social with the classwork and recruiting?
ASY: It’s challenging. This is something someone told me before I came to business school: You have three tracks—recruiting, social, academic. And you have to figure out for yourself how to prioritize them because it’s impossible to do all three well. So for me, recruiting was number one, social was number two, and I kind of let academics slide a bit. I was okay with that. Everyone’s different; everyone has different priorities. Once recruiting was done, I was more focused on social. And then I got an academic internship to keep bolstering that professional, recruiting side that I really wanted to focus on.
If I’ve been recruiting, but other people are recruiting later on, there might be challenges finding time to hang out and get together, because everyone is on a different timeline. January through March is pretty challenging in the first year. Everyone’s going through a lot. The social side of things died during winter quarter in first year. Second year has been much better for free time. People have more time to do whatever they want now in LA and to travel. However you want to prioritize your time, you can get it done. It’s important to understand that it’s okay to not do all three really well. There’s a lot going on.
mbaMission: Have you encountered anything you didn’t expect during business school?
ASY: On the positive side, how easy it was to get to know everyone and find really close friends. I was nervous about not knowing anyone in LA. You know, “Can I even make new friends?” It’s been really easy to get to know a lot of people. I feel like I know a good amount of my classmates, and know them pretty well. It’s a smaller class, about 360. It’s easy to get to know a lot of people pretty well.
On the negative side, I didn’t realize how crazy recruiting is. It was the most stressful. Last January, all the tech companies were coming in for on-campus interviews. Everything was happening in January. It was hard to balance, especially right after winter break. I did not expect that, and it’s something I know a lot of people are struggling with now. It can be really overwhelming for first years. Knowing that now, it’s good to get an earlier start. Use Parker well; use your winter break well. You can travel your second year, but first year, spend time getting your resume and cover letter done. Get your behavioral question answers ready.
mbaMission: What is something you’d like people to know about Anderson that they probably don’t already?
ASY: One important thing for all candidates to consider is what they really want out of the MBA experience. What are you looking for out of recruiting? Your academics? Social? What’s your lifestyle going to be like? Do you want to live in a city? Do you prefer more of a college campus life, in a more rural area? All the top schools are different. You might be in East Coast weather when you don’t like winter. For recruiting, do you want to be on the West Coast? Anderson’s a perfect school for that. If you want to live in a big city and meet a very diverse set of people, that’s great at Anderson. If you want to do banking or consulting in New York City, there are much better schools for you than Anderson.
I’ve been really happy with my choice. I’ve made some great friends, and I’ve had a lot of great career opportunities open up living here. That’s why I decided to stay in LA after my second year. I knew coming in, it was about recruiting for tech and entertainment. I knew it was about the right cultural fit. Coming from financial services, I really wanted to meet different people from different backgrounds, and I really got that at Anderson.