I graduated with a B.A. in Economics and a minor in Film from UCLA. My GPA was 3.55.
The third GMAT score I applied with was 700 (IR 8 Q44 V41). My first GMAT score was 690 (IR 5 Q48 V36). My second GMAT score was lower than 690. I struggled a lot with the GMAT experience. I was never the best standardized test taker. It was frustrating because I was scoring in the 720-750 range on my official GMAT practice tests and doing relatively well on my Manhattan GMAT practice tests (known to be a little more difficult).
In total, I spent 5 months on studying (3 months before my first take). For the entire duration, I would study for 1-2 hours in the morning before work and then 2 hours after work and the gym. I would come into my office on Saturday and Sundays for about 5-10 hours to study. Tools I used included Manhattan Navigator, the Manhattan GMAT books, and e-GMAT.
Looking back, I had wished I spent the money for the detailed report on my first GMAT take. I didn’t analyze closely enough what my weaknesses are. And when I focused on raising my V36 up, I focused too much that I let my quant slip.
After graduating, I started working at Hitachi Consulting as a Consultant with a focus in organizational change management. After a little over a year, I transitioned to Disney Interactive where I worked in business insights for Disney’s portfolio of entertainment and family websites. After about ten months, I transitioned to Electronic Arts where I worked in mobile publishing as a business analyst for a little over two and a half years. My passion has always been to work in the video game industry so my career progression and evolution reflects my path there.
Outside of work, I was a Big Brother of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Los Angeles. I also did some pro-bono consulting work through Taproots Foundation. I worked on a program measurement project for a non-profit that focuses on providing food to low-income families in the Greater Los Angeles area. Lastly, I was accepted into the UCLA Anderson Riordan MBA Fellow program in which I also became a Riordan Fellow mentor.
The decision to pursue business school was relatively last minute for me. It was something I lightly considered before but I was never serious about it. However, I was experiencing a bit of a quarter life crisis in both my personal and professional life. I dug deep and asked myself what my dream role was. I landed on product marketing for video games. I spoke with some colleagues and looked at the LinkedIn profiles of those that held product marketing or brand manager positions in the industry. It became apparent that getting an MBA could help me make the transition. I also got some good convincing from a friend in the thick of Round 1 applications and a colleague who graduated from Booth who stated it was the best two years of his life.
Fuqua, Ross, Tuck, and Kellogg. I made the decision to look at schools far away from California because I had spent my entire life there. I wanted my MBA to truly be a transformative experience and I wanted to get away from what was comfortable. These four schools also have a very similar type of culture that resonated with me.
I viewed Fuqua and Ross as targets, Tuck as a slight reach, and Kellogg as a reach. I felt it was a good balance with a chance that I get into at least 1 school. All the schools did relatively well at placing tech marketing.
I did campus visits to Fuqua, Ross, and Kellogg. For Tuck, I flew to one of the last info sessions being held in Minneapolis. I also did coffee chats and informationals with students and/or alumni from each of the schools.
I was accepted to Fuqua with no scholarship and was waitlisted at Ross and Tuck. My decision was relatively easy since Fuqua was my top choice of the three. Therefore, I decided not to re-take the GMAT in pursuit of getting off the waitlist at Ross or Tuck.
My biggest advice is to only apply to schools that you will be happy at. Make sure to visit and to get a good understanding if it is a good fit for you. If you are happy where you are, you will excel and get the most out of your MBA experience. It is easy to get fixated on the ranking and prestige, but I say go with your gut feeling on the school you like most.
Exciting and overwhelming. Meeting hundreds of people and having to remember hundreds of names and faces. The feeling that getting into business school is real and that I am considered an equal among a group of some of the most amazing people I will ever meet. There are so many social events to attend that I already began to wonder how I would balance social with professional and academic endeavors. It was a great problem to have.
In the first week, I got to meet my section/cohort that I would be taking all of my core classes with. Through the orientation and the section Olympics (of which I volunteered for the dancing competition), I developed camaraderie with my cohort quickly. Proud to be an Uno (Section 1)! I also got to meet my C-LEAD team, a group of 5-6 other students who I would be doing core class projects and case studies with. Fuqua looks to make C-LEAD teams as diverse as possible. My C-LEAD was 6 of us, each from different geographic locations and different work backgrounds. I hadn’t met any of them through the events yet so I looked forward to getting to know them.
Before Fuqua’s actual terms start, we are a part of what’s called GIE. First year students take two courses called LEO and GI. LEO is about leadership ethics and principles while GI is about global institutions. GIE is not only a great introduction for many of us who are getting back into the swing of school, but also an opportunity to develop chemistry with our sections and C-LEAD teams. This all happens before Second year students return from their summer internships and before undergrad students are back. It is just your first year classmates in the city of Durham, which further encourages getting to know one another.
Another exciting part was reconnecting with all the friends I made from Blue Devil Weekend. Blue Devil Weekend (BDW) is Fuqua’s admit weekend where the school shows you what it’s all about. You’ll meet potential classmates, attend some classes taught by Fuqua professors, learn Duke basketball chants, meet all the different clubs, and more. You also grow a fond love for nights at Shooters, Tuesdays at Tavern, and late night eats at Heavenly Buffaloes.
Fuqua’s curriculum is in four terms. First semester is split into Fall 1 and Fall 2 while second semester is split into Spring 1 and Spring 2. Fall 1 and 2 are all core classes (unless you test out of a class in which you would take an elective). Core classes include economics, finance, marketing, strategy, statistics, accounting, and operations. I didn’t test out of any subjects so I took all the core classes. Starting in Spring 1, you only have one core class (Operations) and can take start taking electives.
One class I vividly remember is Marketing Strategy with Christine Moorman. It’s a highly rated Fuqua course offered in Spring 2. As someone who is relatively new to marketing, it’s a phenomenal class that goes through relevant case studies (past and present) that help understand what it means to be customer-obsessed. During the class, we have one whole class dedicated to using design thinking. IDEO comes and helps run a brainstorm session that is related to the live case we do for the class. The live case is a case study focused on a real problem that a company is facing right now. Our case was to work with Xbox (awesome how related this was to my career goals) and help them figure out how they could sell more consoles to a different generation.
I was a first year cabinet member for both Tech Club and Culinary Club. I helped organize and send our newsletters as well as market our big events. I highly recommend joining a club cabinet as a first year because you get to know the second years better and you set yourself up to take a leadership position your second year.
In my second year, I was VP of Marketing for Tech Club and Co-President of Culinary Club. As VP of Marketing of Tech Club I helped create a new club logo, design our merchandise, and market our key events. As Co-President of Culinary Club, I worked with my co-president on our marquee event – Fuqua Iron Chef. Every Spring 2, Culinary Club puts on a competition for 8 teams to create a 3-course menu (Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert) with a secret ingredient. We reveal it right before the event in which teams have only 24 hours to create the menu. We organize for the teams to cook on school premise for a panel of judges that include the Dean, Associate Dean, and other faculty members and special guests.
Fuqua is a student-run school and taking a leadership position is rewarding because you get to work with your cabinet on fun and informative events that positively impact the student body.
For me, networking was about finding the right connection who would be a champion for me internally. My goal was to find an authentic connection with someone from the company and to build off that versus spread my net far and wide and talk to as many folks as possible.
For larger event networking, my goal was to build a genuine connection with someone and to have a unique conversation outside of the generic formula. That way, when following up for a coffee chat or a 1:1, I stood out of the crowd and we could continue building on that relationship. The goal was to build a relationship and make a great impression that if I was to drop his or her name in the cover letter, that he or she would support me as a good fit.
I never approached networking as a chore or ticking the box. It was more about authentic engagement with the companies and roles I was genuinely interested in learning more about. I was more targeted in my approach versus some of my other classmates.
My internship recruiting was primarily targeted towards marketing. At first, I was entertaining the idea of pursuing brand management or marketing at a CPG company because I heard it was a great training ground for marketing. However, I decided that I was more interested in tech marketing because it was more directly related to my post-MBA goals of doing product marketing for video games. If I could land a marketing job at a reputable tech company, I felt confident I could use that as a launch pad to eventually make my way towards where I wanted to be.
At the top of the list was companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple (all big tech). Microsoft was my number one choice so I participated in the Microsoft Business Innovation Challenge in which my team placed first at Fuqua. That was great exposure for Microsoft so I highly recommend doing any case competitions for the companies or for the industries that interest you. It is also a great thing to put on your resume. I also applied to some other companies such as Ford and Wayfair. Also because Deloitte had reached out to me about tech consulting, I decided to pursue that as well on the side. I focused on tech marketing but kept an open mind to some other positions on the fringe to hedge my risk of putting all my eggs in one basket.
Overall, I submitted to about 25 roles of which I made the closed list on 50%. Of those 12 or so first rounds, I made it to about 6 final rounds and got 3 offers. I had an internship offer at Ford for its Marketing Leadership Program, at Google for Google Play Business Development, and at Microsoft for Product Marketing at Xbox. Ford was my first offer, which helped ease my nerves a bit because I knew I had a great marketing internship regardless of the other applications. Once I got Microsoft, I ruled Ford out and was 100% certain I was going to take Microsoft. However, Google reached out to me late and I decided to try for fun but I was still intent on Microsoft. When I got Google, I wavered a bit due to the brand name. There was some pressure internally and externally, but I followed my gut and went with the internship that aligned with what I wanted to do. When you have the fortune of deciding between internships, go with your gut!
The MBA shouldn’t be a transactional experience, but a transformational one. Don’t go with the mindset that you’re here to only get a job and that if you don’t get MBB consulting that it was all a waste. Come with an open mind and a “yes and” attitude. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone to try new things, to meet new people, to challenge yourself, and to really listen to the various perspectives of your classmates. Let loose of any ego. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Also, focus on your game plan and what’s in your control. It’s easy to get lost in what your classmates are doing and to compare yourself to others. These can be detrimental distractions from your game plan and it can create reason for self-doubt and hurt any confidence you might have. I found that if I focused on my game plan and did the best I could, I would have no regrets no matter the outcome.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions or show weakness. It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome among the cream of the crop. Everyone has his or her strengths and weaknesses. You were chosen for a reason; you bring something unique to the table. Accept that you are on equal level with your peers. Be confident in yourself and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. I found that sharing in the vulnerability with my peers helped bring me closer with my classmates. I learned and grew the most from my classmates.
At Xbox, I worked in product marketing for Mixer. Mixer is an interactive livestreaming service where people can stream themselves playing video games or doing IRL streaming. It also has interactive tools that allows viewers to engage with and to be a part of the stream.
I worked on an end-to-end GTM plan for Mixer in Germany. It was my job to identify why Germany, the target audience and addressable market, and to build a robust marketing plan that would appeal to the German audience. Afterwards, I had the privilege of attending Gamescom in Cologne where I helped with our event booth strategy and operation
I learned that product marketing in the game industry is exactly what I want to do with my career. It lived up to my expectations. I learned a lot about the livestreaming industry and the growth and prominence of influencer marketing. The game industry has multiple different components and I learned more about how they all interact with each other.
I also learned that there was a heavy weight towards soft skills when it came to marketing and execution within games. There are so many different stakeholders so it’s important to learn how to coordinate a cohesive effort. I learned to communicate my goals clearly and concisely and to get buy in from different parties to get things down. I found that empowering them to provide feedback and input helped build buy in.
Lastly, I learned to have a bias for action but be empathetic to those around you.
Everyone wants to get an offer after the internship. The internship is almost like an interview after the interview (i.e. a test run). However, don’t forget that you are “interviewing” the company as well during your internship. Learn if this is what you really want to do. Ask a lot of questions and have coffee chats with people inside your organization and outside of your organization.
First year for me was all about discovery and breadth whereas second year was all about depth. I spent first year meeting as many people as possible, learning about different subjects, attending as many different events as possible, etc. It was about me searching for what mattered the most to me.
Second year was about depth. I focused my time on the things that I decided mattered to me. I invested more time in deepening the relationships and the networks with the people that I was closer too. I got involved in tech club and culinary club and diverted most of my club efforts there. Physical health was important to me so I spent more time at the gym and playing golf and tennis. This was possible because I was fortunate to have accepted my full time offer to return to Microsoft. I didn’t have much of a re-recruiting process my second year.
I can’t comment much here, but I could afford to be a lot more selective in full-time recruiting. I was almost certain I was going to return to Microsoft so it took the nerves out of the job search. I knew I wanted to go back into the video game industry so I casually had a few coffee chats with different companies but the recruiting timelines didn’t line up with when I had to accept my return offer.
This varies depending on a lot of factors but I found that recruiting for full time roles is less stressful than internship recruiting. People have a much better idea of what they’d like to do so I saw a lot of my classmates wait until later for the right opportunities.
I felt fulfilled. I had accomplished everything I had wanted with business school. I broadened my perspectives, made lifelong friends, rounded out my skill sets, and had unforgettable experiences. It was truly the best two years of my life.
Underneath was a sense of sadness. Knowing that I’d miss the people that I spent the last 2 years of my life with. Before we all departed, we had a beach week at Fuqua for all the second years. I got a house with a group of my good friends and we just spent the entire week on the beach, reminiscing about the time we had together, playing Spikeball and board games, etc.
Afterwards, we held a graduation party with our families and rented out a place to get together and have dinner. We introduced each other to our families and even gave out gag awards. These people weren’t just friends, but my extended family.
Business school flies by. Spend some time really understanding what your priorities are and double down on them. Don’t leave school with any regrets. Deepen the relationships with the friends you care about. Or introduce yourself to more people and broaden your friend groups. Focus on the classes that you really care about, despite how easy or hard the class is. Spend time abroad through an exchange program. I’d say have fun with it!
I miss all my friends from Fuqua and the variable schedule. The ability to hang out and make plans on the fly. Everyday was different in terms of schedule and I could structure my day however I wanted. I had a lot more time to focus on physical health and still have time to learn, and to cook. That being said, being in the working world has it’s pros! I’ve always liked routine so its been comforting to get into a routine. I’m also happy to be in my dream job so I look forward to learning more everyday and building on my career. Oh, the paycheck is nice too!
I try to spend weekends visiting cities and hanging out with whoever is in town. Fantasy sports leagues help as well as text chains/GroupMe. You can never resist sending funny memes and trash talking about wins and losses. I also try to do trips with classmates (ski trips, reunion trips, etc.). I could do a better job with calling though! It’s tough with work so it’s always about making a conscious effort.
The people and the lifelong friends I made. I learned so much from my classmates and owe so much to them. They’ve helped me grow as a person. They invested in me and I in them. It’s a bond that I’ll treasure and carry through my whole life.
This may sound ridiculous but I wish I would have invested more time in playing sports with my classmates! I mostly went to the gym, but would have loved to improve my skills as a golf and tennis player. So many classmates are talented in these areas and I would’ve loved to use it as an opportunity to pick their brains and to improve my abilities outside of the classroom.
I’ll go back to something I said before which is don’t choose a school on ranking alone. I’d almost argue culture fit is more important. If you go to the right school and you’re happy there, you’ll set yourself up for success. It’s easy to get caught up in prestige. Do it for yourself and not for others. You’ll end up with closer connections and you’ll naturally make the most of the experience. Follow your gut and you’ll carve your own path. Once you carve that path, stick to your game plan and stay focused.