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Catching Up With Mario Barrett, MBA ’14

sockwork-newWe had the chance to chat with Mario Barrett (MBA ‘14), a West Point graduate and veteran, about his new venture, Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose. Mario started Sockwork with his wife, Tina Longo, in April of 2014. Mario recently graduated with the Class of 2014, so we wanted to catch up with him to learn more about this exciting new business now that he’s finished the program.

Tell us a little about Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose.

MB: At Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose, a sock subscription means more than never having to remember to buy socks. The venture is a sock of the month club with a great twist, in that customers get to help support this veteran-owned company and be part of creating ongoing funds to organizations that assist military veterans. Sockwork sends our customers two high-quality pairs of socks each month and allows the customer to customize their order between fun and professional styles.

In the short-term, we want to build our subscriber base to a point where it makes sense to manufacture our own line of socks here in the USA. For the long-term, we want to do two things. First, we want to create a community effect with our socks. Our socks mean something and the people that wear them not only love great socks but support a worthy cause. Second, we want to pioneer a new business model for other veteran-owned businesses to follow. This will help ensure that needed money reaches veteran charities even during times when war and the needs of people who served may be less visible to the public.

What key things do you want prospective customers to know about Sockwork?

MB: We supply socks from Richer Poorer, a brand known for high-quality and fashion appeal. Having these socks delivered serves as a personal convenience or thoughtful pampering gift for a loved one. Premium socks last and add comfort to daily life, and they’re a product that everyone uses.

Mario and Tina

Mario, and his wife Tina, co-founders of Sockwork: Socks With A Purpose

In addition to the time and money savings, a sock subscription allows people a simple way to devote some of their dollars to support people who served their country. Sockwork supplies a percentage of the money from its sock of the month subscribers to a rotating selection of veteran charities. As the network of veteran entrepreneurs grows, the volume of their donations will increase, a tried and tested method for creating lasting change.

As shoppers look for ways to make socially-conscious decisions, this company has created a hassle-free option for making a difference. Buying socks has become easier and more meaningful, thanks to the heart-centered monthly sock club, Sockwork: Socks With a Purpose.

How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced or helped your approach to running Sockwork?

MB: Coming from the Army, I didn’t know much about finance, accounting, or just about anything in the business world. If we had started this business two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought about tracking the cost of every variable, pricing, building a marketing plan, or how to differentiate ourselves from the competition.

The Texas MBA program provided me with the skills of how to evaluate a business model and understand if it is viable or not. I’ve learned about the importance of margin and breaking down costs to the most granular level to track profitability. My marketing classes introduced me to the basics of brand awareness and my strategic management classes taught me how to apply a Five Forces analysis to differentiate our company from competitors and execute more effectively. All in all, the Texas MBA program gave me the tools to approach this business in a much more cautious and methodical manner.

To learn more about Sockwork, visit www.sockwork.com

The Joy of Failure: Learn to Own Your Mistakes

By Amira Wizig Pollock, MFA

Failure is tough.  We are trained to avoid it at all costs and, if we do fail, to pretend nothing went wrong.  We lose out on numerous valuable lessons in doing so.  It is also what leads people to avoid an activity, project, or potential work promotion we are unsure we can succeed at.  We think we will fail at something so we put it off and procrastinate rather than taking a risk and giving it our best shot.  The result is something new and possibly great that was never attempted or worse, not doing a good job because the endeavor was begun too late to have a chance at success.

mistakes-imageWe must embrace failure.  Now, let me be clear.  This does not mean failure is something to strive for.  But we are human and we make mistakes.  And there is so much learning that can happen within those mistakes.  I think about my daughter, who is going to learn to walk soon.  She is going to fail many times in the process.  She will fall down, and it will hurt.  But she will get back up and try again.  Children have a healthy sense of resilience and determination.  If they were too caught up in the fact that they’d fail many times and chose to play it safe, they would go through life crawling!  As we get older, we take fewer risks and are quicker to judge and adopt avoidance behaviors.  I urge you all to consider the concept of celebrating failure.

In art, such as in the performing art of improvisation, artists regard mistakes as gifts or happy accidents.  We know that failures can sometimes lead us to the greatest rewards and discoveries.  This can only happen if we acknowledge a mistake and move on or better yet, use the mistake as inspiration.  Being willing to wade through awkward failures without ignoring what didn’t work can lead to creative problem-solving and brilliant results.  Consider these famous mistakes: Post-It notes were the result of failure; the chemists were trying to make a traditional adhesive!  Alexander Graham Bell was trying to invent a hearing aid when he ended up inventing the telephone.  Thomas Edison failed many times before inventing the light bulb.  Do you think he stopped taking risks after the first failure, or pretended it didn’t happen?  No.  He examined it, learned from it, moved on and tried again.

It is only by coming to terms with failure and accepting it that we will be able to stick our necks out and allow ourselves the opportunity to succeed and generate innovative new ideas.  Graduate school is a great environment for converting theory into practice and trying new things.  Enroll in an upper-level course with interesting content that looks a bit daunting and that at first glance you would shy away from.  The next time you make a mistake, don’t run from it.  Take some time to look back and analyze what went wrong before moving forward.  Finally, if you aren’t making any mistakes then you’re not taking enough risks and may be limiting yourself.  Leave your comfort zone, even if just for a little while.

Rewarding discoveries and big successes are out there waiting to be claimed by you, though they may be hidden behind a difficult last turn.  Push yourself to find them.  Fail until you have a breakthrough.  That is where the joy of failure lies.

Announcing the 2015 Texas MBA Application Essays

essay-imageEach year, like most business schools, we update our application essay prompts in an effort to better glean important information from our candidates.  The essay is a great opportunity to do a few things: one, it shows your writing skills; two, it gives us a glimpse into your personality; but maybe most importantly, it helps answer a few very important questions that we need answered to best determine if you are right for McCombs. 

Instead of giving you a vague open-ended prompt, there are actually a few burning topics we need you to be sure to cover, namely having to do with why you want to attend McCombs, who you are both professionally and personally, and what goals you want to achieve while in our program and beyond.  You have some work to do to convince us that we are the right program for you, therefore please take a moment to review our essay topics and begin to think about how you might approach answering the essay questions.

Our essays are now posted on our website, so please feel free to visit the site to learn more about the essays and the application process.  I have also listed the essays below. 

Stay tuned to our blog as we will be posting helpful advice on how to approach answering the essay questions in the weeks to come.

ESSAY 1

Imagine that you are at the Texas MBA Orientation for the Class of 2017.  Please introduce yourself to your new classmates, and include information you feel relevant to both your personal and professional life.  Select only one communication method that you would like to use for your response.

  1. Write an essay (250 words)
  2. Share a video introduction (one minute)
  3. Share your about.me profile

ESSAY 2

In the Texas MBA program, we promote a diverse and collaborative community by providing opportunities for growth in an academically rigorous environment.  Please discuss why McCombs is the right program for you, what you hope to gain from your time in the Texas MBA Program both personally and professionally, and how you will contribute to your classmates’ experiences. (500 words)

OPTIONAL ESSAY  

Please provide any additional information that you believe is important and/or will address any areas of concern that will be beneficial to the Admissions Committee in considering your application. (250 words)

  1. For example, if your standardized test scores are not exactly what you would like them to be or if you have not had coursework in core business subjects (i.e. calculus, microeconomics, statistics, financial accounting, or finance), please tell us how you plan to prepare yourself for the quantitative rigor of the MBA curriculum.  If relevant to your circumstances, please also discuss any other factors that you think may impact your candidacy (i.e. unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, academic performance, or any significant weaknesses in your application or extenuating personal circumstances).

Meet the Graduates | Kevin Terwilliger, MBA ’14, Evening MBA

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Name: Kevin Terwilliger
Program: Texas Evening MBA
Hometown: Poughkeepsie, NY
Undergraduate Institution: North Carolina State University

What were you doing professionally before coming to McCombs, and what made you decide to pursue your MBA?

Before joining the McCombs program, I was an Industrial Designer in the Dell Experience Design Group. My focus was on creating best-in-class customer experiences for Enterprise server products by developing innovative product design strategies and working directly with marketing and engineering teams on implementation. I joined the McCombs MBA program because I wanted to expand my sphere of influence from product features to more strategic portfolio-level decision. In order to do this, I needed to create a strong foundation of skills outside of the training I received in my Industrial Design undergraduate studies.

What led you to choose the Texas MBA?

Choosing McCombs was very easy for me. The evening program made it convenient for me to continue to work here in Austin while attending class, and after attending an info session and seeing the caliber of other potential classmates, I was sold on McCombs.

What has been your favorite part of the Texas MBA Program at the McCombs School of Business?

The camaraderie is by far my favorite part of the McCombs program. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed all the classes and professors, always looked forward to the Austin Intensives, and I particularly enjoyed our global trip to South Africa, but the reason I enjoyed all of these parts of the program was because of the lasting relationships that I was able to develop with other classmates.

What other activities have you been able to participate in because of your affiliation with McCombs?

There were multiple activities that I participated in during the MBA program that helped to shape me and expand my career opportunities. The first organization that I joined was the McCombs Entrepreneurship Society, and it was through this organization that I won the 2012 Pitch Competition. I pitched an idea I developed for advertising on the side of in-transit tractor trailers, which I called TEN4 Ads. Winning this competition gave me the confidence I needed for my wife and I to start this company. The venture has now been in operation for a little over a year, serving clients such as Mighty Fine Hamburgers, Capital Metro, and MyPlates.com, among others.

The second activity that I participated in was the MBA+ Program. During the summer of my first year in the program, a group of my classmates and I formed a team to complete a strategic marketing project for a local technology company. At the end of project, we had the opportunity to present our findings to most of the C-suite and we received great feedback. This really opened my eyes to the passion that I have for strategic marketing. Although I did not know it at the time, this project also helped to pave the way for me to make a transition into marketing at Dell.

Any particular memories that stand out?

The memory that really stands out for me was the Global Trip my class took to South Africa. We had the opportunity to visit a diverse set of companies and experience the local culture over the course of a one week trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town. After we completed the required portion of the trip, many of us remained in the country for a few days. It was then that I had the opportunity to go shark diving with my fellow classmates off the coast of Cape Town – certainly a stand out memory. The day after, we took a surfing lesson, which was also a lot of fun. But if I were to do it again, I would probably choose to do the surfing lesson first, before the shark diving experience, because, at that point, we were all a little concerned after seeing an 18′ shark in the exact same water the previous day.

What about a favorite professor?

This is a really hard question to answer. Thinking back through all the classes, there were multiple professors who broadened my understanding and influenced the way I thought about different disciplines. Professor Adams made me think differently about the way I validate a market opportunity, Professor Meakin changed my understanding of the legal environment of business, Professor Dierking added significantly to my tool set as far as leading people and negotiating, and Professor Williams broadened my skill-set in strategic marketing. With that said, I think my favorite was Professor Bentzin because I really had to stretch to understand how to utilize analytical tools to drive marketing decisions. In his class we were challenged to really dive deep into marketing case studies to understand the driving forces behind decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. This class in particular really framed my understanding of marketing and positioned me for success as I transition into marketing at Dell.

Any words of wisdom for incoming students?

Take advantage of every opportunity to stretch yourself. My favorite quote is “a boat in the harbor is safe – but that is not why a boat is built”. There are so many areas within the MBA program to get involved and challenge yourself to learn something new from the Entrepreneurship Society, Consulting Club, Entrepreneur-in-Residence speaking series, MBA+ projects, and the list goes on and on. The time flies by and you only have the opportunity to get involved in these different groups while you are enrolled. Be proactive and find the time to get involved outside of just attending class. You will get so much more out of your experience.

How has your education in the Texas MBA Program influenced your approach to your career?

My undergraduate degree was specialized in product development and I wanted to be able to move beyond that toward general management long term. The MBA program gave me exposure to all the different disciplines within business that work together to drive success. While attending MBA classes, I could immediately see a change in my confidence when it came to having conversations with decision makers in other disciplines. It provided a foundation of understanding across the whole business which I will build upon for the rest of my career. I think most importantly, the focused intensity of the program accelerated my career over the last 3 years and now I feel like I am on the right path, heading toward my goals of general management.

What’s next for you?

I recently transitioned into the Global Marketing Rotation Program at Dell. I will complete three, one-year rotations in different areas of marketing to understand how all the different teams work together to deliver products to our customers. I will use my first rotation to get as close as possible to our sales force. I will be mapping out the customer journey to understand how we can make our sales touch-points more efficient. As I mentioned, my initial goal when I started the MBA program at McCombs was to expand my sphere of influence to be more portfolio focused, and I will be able to do just that with my first role.

Join us in congratulating Kevin and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA.

There’s No Place Like McCombs: Visit Us in Austin and Around the World

mccombsglobe

Summer is here!  And with summer comes heat, sun, and travel.  We, too, will be hitting the road for a number of events around the world, and we wanted to take just a quick moment to let you know how you can find us this summer

Below, find a list of opportunities to meet us in a city near you.  If we are not visiting a city near you, then know we are always happy to have you here in Austin!  Austin is a great place to visit over the summer if you too love sun and heat, as well as live music, great food, and many places to take a dip in cool waterAdmissions Officers will be present all summer long, and if you plan in advance with us, we can do our best to have a current student or alumni here to meet you as well, just let us know. 

Without further pontificating, here is our general travel schedule.  Hope to see you on the road!

Domestic Coffee Chats

  • Our current 1st Years are all across the country now working at their summer internships.  We have asked many of them to host local coffee chats, an intimate opportunity with typically no more than 5-6 people, to discuss McCombs and their own experience during the application process through their first year at McCombs. Space is limited, so please register soon to ensure you get a seat at the table.  Visit the following link to see the full schedule and register:
  • McCombs Summer Coffee Chats Registration Link

Diversity Opportunities

  • We will be attending a number of events for the Consortium, MLT, and Forte, and if you are a member of those organizations, we look forward to seeing you there! 
  • If you are not a member of either of these organizations, or if you are and want another opportunity to meet us, we will be at the National Diversity MBA Summit in Washington, DC.  Here are the details:

International Opportunities

  • MBA Tour: We will be visiting many cities around the world with our friends at the MBA Tour.  Please visit their website for exact dates and instructions on registering.  Here are the cities we will be visiting:
    • Sao Paulo, Brazil
    • Lima, Peru
    • Bogotá, Columbia
    • Mexico City, Mexico
    • Taipei, Taiwan
    • Tokyo, Japan
    • Seoul, South Korea
    • Shanghai, China
    • Beijing, China

Come to Austin

  • If you can make it to Austin, please email us at TexasMBA@mccombs.utexas.edu.  We will do our best to accommodate a visit with us here at the MBA Program Office.

Other Outreach

  • For a comprehensive list of our Coffee Chats and Tour Events, please visit our website.
  • If you still cannot find an opportunity to meet one of us on our travels, then please make sure to reach out to a current student or an alumnus via our student and alumni directory.  They are happy to answer your questions and offer you advice as you begin the process of researching and applying for B-School.
  • Also remember that once the Fall hits, we will have a whole host of new opportunities to meet us both domestically and around the world, so stay tuned! 
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