Anderson MBA - Interview with 2015 alum Dan Driver

  • Applicant Profile

    Hello! Starting off with your applicant profile where did you go to college, what was your major, and what was your GPA?

    I graduated from UCSD with a double major in Economics and Political Science. I graduated with a 3.85 GPA and Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude honors.

    What was your GMAT and how did you prepare?

    When preparing for the GMAT, I did a lot of self-preparation in addition to a class through the Manhattan GMAT program, which I highly recommend. Though I did not reach my target score, I walked away with a 690 on my first testing – which I felt was sufficient to get into my target school. Matched with my GPA and undergrad honors, I was confident in my candidacy for school.

    What was your work experience and extracurriculars prior to business school?

    I worked at Triage Consulting Group – a boutique healthcare revenue cycle management consulting firm. Triage gave me the opportunity to hone my analytical skills and lead small teams at client engagements with major health systems across the Southwest. Triage taught me the power of data analytics and gave me a crash course in people management.

    External to my work at Triage, I was involved as a basketball coach with the Special Olympics of Northern California. This gave me a great opportunity to give back to the community and also turned out to be an organization I was able to continue being involved with while at UCLA Anderson.

    What made you ultimately decide to pursue your MBA?

    While the culture of the firm and some aspects of the job were intriguing to me, I knew I had always wanted to pursue an MBA and I found the day to day work was not a good match.

  • School Selection

    Given your career goals stated above, what schools did you decide to apply to and why?

    School selection for me was primarily a geographic exercise with one deviation. I applied to Haas, Anderson, Kellogg, Foster, and Marshall. I knew I wanted to remain on the west coast either in Seattle, Los Angeles, or San Francisco and I had many co-workers speak positively of their experience at Kellogg.

    What type of research did you do on these schools before you applied (campus visits, coffee chats, etc.)?

    Apart from a lot of online research, I visited all of the schools on the West Coast, and set up informational interviews with alumni.

    Which schools were you ultimately accepted into (any any scholarships) and could you walk us through your decision?

    Applying in Round 1 to Haas and Anderson, I was waitlisted at Haas and accepted at Anderson with a minor scholarship. In round 2, I was denied by Kellogg and accepted by Marshall with a scholarship. I ultimately withdrew my applications from Foster (before hearing either way) and Haas when I made my decision to attend UCLA. After my early acceptance to UCLA, I did further campus visits, spoke with alumni, and attended some regional networking events, all of which led me to choose the school over other potential options. Haas also reached out with many networking events; attending more of these would likely have converted the waitlist slot into an acceptance.

    What advice would you give to future MBA applicants with respect to school selection?

    I would encourage students to look at the employment reports of the schools where they apply. While most schools will boast that their students can find jobs in any geographic location, the career service centers generally have strong geographic ties and will do their best to maintain those relationships by encouraging students to work at the firms in those areas. Where you want to live after graduation should be a significant contributing factor in where you go for an education.

  • First Year Experience

    Walk me through the excitement of the first couple of weeks of business school at Anderson.

    As with most schools, UCLA Anderson is a whirlwind of excitement in the first couple of weeks. Anderson segments each class into 5 ~70 person sections. Within each section you are matched with a 5-6 person learning team who you work with on all of your core curriculum classes. Though since restructured, the school kicked off with a Leadership Foundations class as well as optional math and excel primers for those looking for a refresher. Once the first quarter gets started, students all take Statistics, Economics, Accounting, and Finance or Marketing. The latter choice is in place to give students a leg up in one area or another based on their career interests.

    What clubs did you get involved with, and how was that experience?

    During the first few weeks, students run for office and begin getting involved with all of the professional, identity, and interest clubs. I took an officer role in the Entertainment Club and the Challenge for Charity Club, and took up membership in the Technology and Micro brewing clubs. The club experience is essential at Anderson and is one of the major driving factors in how most students match with an employer. Clubs offer dinners with industry alumni, special recruiting events, dinners, and on site visits.

    Through the entertainment club, I got the opportunity to visit the NBC Universal, Disney, and Fox offices.  Through the Tech Club, I went on a “tech trek” to San Francisco where I visited Electronic Arts, Sony Playstation, Google, several start-ups and my eventual summer internship employer - Zynga.

    What advice would you give to future MBA's to make the most of their 1st year?

    My recommendation during this time is to get really close to your learning team, making the relationship more than just academic. Being friends before peers allows you to more effectively work through times when any member of the team cannot give it their all. Due to the differences in recruiting cycles, one student may be hyper-focused on interviews and need to rely on the rest of their team at one time. Being understanding of these needs is essential to success.

  • Internship Experience

    Where did you end up doing your internship and what did you work on?

    As a Product Management Intern at Zynga, I was staffed on the mobile game FarmVille 2 – Country Escape. At Zynga, interns are treated the same as new hire product managers, so I was immediately tasked with doing analysis on game health, providing feature recommendations, and performing live operations support for the game. I was given the opportunity to work with game producers, systems designers, UX designers, engineers, artists, and other product managers from the first day.

    What are some things you learned from your internship - whether about yourself, the industry, the PM role, etc.?

    Working in this industry and position, I instantly knew that I had found the right mix of data-informed decision making and creative problem solving in an industry that I was passionate about. Working at Zynga taught me the importance of getting interdisciplinary stakeholder buy-in, using data to understand past decisions to make product recommendations, and that the creative process, while difficult to get right, is very rewarding.

    What advice would you give to future MBA's to make the most of their internship?

    To get the most out of your internship, I would advise future MBAs to meet people from within your discipline across the company – don’t be afraid to send emails to people. You will be surprised how receptive most people are to a coffee chat with someone anxious to learn their story. I would also encourage students to get to know people from different disciplines. One of the most rewarding parts about working in tech and entertainment is the deep bench of talent to which you are exposed. Build out your network; everyone you meet has something to offer.

  • Second Year Experience

    What would you say are the major differences between life as a first year and life as a second year?

    Most MBAs will tell you that the first year (and especially the first half of the first year) is a particularly stressful time. The second year is different for many students as they return from summer with a full time offer they are ready to accept or at least know they have as a backup. During this time, I found myself focusing on classes that mattered most to me.

    What were some of your favorite elective classes and why?

    Because UCLA has such close connections to the entertainment and technology industry, some classes that I found particularly valuable were Entertainment Business Models, an elective for the Business of video games, New Product Development and data analytics classes. These electives often offered an outlet to meet industry veterans and were frequented by high profile industry veterans living in the area (another benefit of thinking about the geography of your school).

    Tell us about recruiting for a full-time role. How did it compare to internship recruiting? Did your internship experience inform or influence the direction of your full time job search?

    In my second year, I continued recruiting, although I was pretty certain that I was going to return to Zynga full time. I secured a full time offer to work with Direct TV in a contract negotiations role, but ultimately decided to return to Zynga as I knew about some of the exciting opportunities I would get when coming back to the company.

    How did you feel upon graduating? Did your class do anything special before you all departed?

    Graduation was an unsurprisingly bittersweet experience. While I was excited to start my full time career in an industry I was excited about, I knew that I would never be able to surround myself with such a motivated group of self-starters. We commemorated the end of the year with a group trip to Las Vegas, dubbed “Dis-Orientation.” This great end of year tradition matched with many smaller events really cemented our group’s commitment to lifelong friendships. Four years out of school, I am still celebrating with classmates - though primarily through weddings and babies, not trips to Vegas.

    What advice would you give to future MBA's to make the most of their 2nd year?

    I highly recommend taking second year as a time to enjoy the last time you will not be working full time for a while, honing your interests in the area you are most excited about, taking electives that interest you, getting to know professors, and continuing to build your network with first year students. Don’t forget to travel!

  • Post MBA Life

    What's it like being back in the working world after getting your MBA?

    Following my MBA, I was excited to hit the ground running in a new career. I love working in an industry that I am passionate about and I am challenged to working with people across many different disciplines. Creating video games has always been something I thought would be interesting, but never knew that it was something so attainable. Four years out, I am impressed with how I have been able to build my network up within the industry and through my connections at Anderson.

    How do you stay in touch with your classmates?

    Some of my closest friends in the Bay area (and my fiancé) are my classmates from business school.  Outside of meeting up for dinner and drinks, we will occasionally go to alumni events put on by the school. I continue to support recruitment for Anderson at my employer and take part in any initiatives the school puts on where I can help. I recently volunteered to talk to newly admitted students about their decision on which school they should enroll into.

  • Reflection and Advice

    What is the one thing you'll remember most about your business school experience?

    UCLA Anderson was an amazing two years. The most memorable experience for me; however, was the Challenge for Charity Competition that happened at the end of my first year of school. This event brought students from all of the west coast business schools to Stanford for a weekend charity competition. Students raise money throughout the year and perform in sports for the title. This event was great because it not only brought a bunch of hyper-competitive A-type people together, it allowed us to network and get to know some of the other business school students across the country.

    What is one thing you would have done differently?

    If I did one thing differently, I would probably have gotten involved in some of the special programs that UCLA Anderson offered outside of the clubs. There are many fellowships that allow students to get to know more industry veterans, and I chose not to focus on them. These often led students to explore industries they may have never initially considered.

    What is the one piece of advice you'd give to the next generation of MBA's that might challenge their perspective or a commonly held belief?

    As you enter business school, make sure to explore and focus on what you want to do with the rest of your life. Many students fall into a trap of driving themselves crazy recruiting for jobs they are not actually interested in. You don’t need to get a job in the first quarter of school. There are plenty of employers that continue to recruit throughout the year, so if you don’t get the job you want right away – don’t panic! Almost every student at Anderson had a job they wanted at or shortly after graduation.