Announcing the 2015 Texas MBA Application Essays

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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).
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Posted in Admissions, Full-Time MBA

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.

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Posted in Community, Evening MBA, Students

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

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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

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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Posted in Admissions, Events, Full-Time MBA

Meet the Graduates | Bill Blackstone, MBA ’14, Executive MBA

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Name: Bill Blackstone
Program: Texas Executive MBA
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Undergraduate Institution: Baylor University

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

As a student in the Executive MBA program, I continued to work full-time at Rackspace while pursuing my MBA. When I started the program, I was a front-line manager, and, through hard work and leveraging what I learned in school, I was promoted three times in the first year of school. Currently, I am the Site Leader and local executive for our Rackspace Austin office consisting of 560 employees. With a background in musical theater and a degree in music, I felt an MBA was an important step to continued success in a business career.

What led you to choose the Texas MBA?

Following the sage advice of the ages, I put all my eggs in one basket. McCombs was the only program I wanted to attend due to its incredible network, world-class professors, and global reputation. Further, living in the best city on the planet – Austin – McCombs was an easy choice since I was able to continue working for Rackspace while attending school just a few minutes south on I-35.

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

Hands down, the people. You will regularly hear about the faculty being world-class. It’s true. But, so are the students. I will never forget walking into class for the very first time and meeting my fellow classmates: a Navy SEAL, an Air Force Fighter Pilot, a farmer and multiple doctors, lawyers, engineers, and C-level executives. Then, there was me – the Broadway turned Business dude. It was hard not to be intimidated.

Further, over the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of being teamed up with a study group (Team Orion!) consisting of a humorous, type-A doctor; an incredibly polished non-profit consultant; a caring and thoughtful software manager; an Excel genius, bell pepper farmer; and a thought-provoking art gallery owner that we’re convinced is a CIA agent (I really hope the NSA isn’t reading this blog post). Ultimately, the diversity in experience, thought and nationality of the entire class truly created an unparalleled learning environment.

Any particular memories that stand out?

At the beginning of the EMBA program, we have a bit of a “hell week” where all of us “old folks” get re-introduced to school. Towards the middle of the week, our study groups were given a challenge of developing a strategy for a business case and pitching our idea in a competition against the other study groups and the Mexico City EMBA program. Our team made it to the finals. As the first presenter, I was promptly introduced to the brick wall named Professor John Doggett. After successfully standing my ground through the rapid succession of questions, Professor Doggett fired his last shot: “Son, do you KNOW how to answer a question in 17 words or less?!?” I immediately quipped – “Sir, yes I do. However, you haven’t allowed me to speak 10 words without interruption.” A hush of shock fell over the room. Then, Doggett let out a roar of laughter and turned to Dr. John Burrows (EMBA Program Director) and asked, “Is this one of yours?” He immediately replied, “Damn right he’s one of mine.” Thus, my MBA career began.

What about a favorite professor?

This has to be the toughest question. To be fair, I have to mention three professors who have made a profound impact on my career. First, Dr. Rob AdamsNew Venture Creations, Texas Venture Labs Practicum – truly opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship. He showed me that success in entrepreneurship wasn’t just luck but there’s a science behind solving market pain points. Second, Professor Sandy Leeds – Investment Theory – made me write out company valuations by hand. Not only did he help me appreciate Excel more than ever, he taught in such a manner that helped me truly absorb financial concepts which will help me in every aspect of my career. Finally, Dr. Violina Rindova – Strategic Innovation – taught me to look where no one else was looking. Her methods of strategic innovation have permanently altered my decision making process.

Any words of wisdom for incoming students?

Get your tail kicked. This is the only time in your career where you can flesh out new ideas, learn tough subjects and challenge others whilst challenging yourself without fear of career altering consequences. Take every advantage of the opportunities presented during your time in school.

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

During the first information session I attended, Dr. Burrows described the ability of the program to change the slope and velocity of your career. Originally thinking this was marketing fluff, I’ve come to realize the truth of this statement. I can say, with confidence, the only area of my career it hasn’t influenced is my coffee consumption.

What’s next for you?

At the moment, I love my career at Rackspace. In my current role, I’m able to utilize all aspects of my MBA from Managerial Accounting to Negotiations to Leadership to Marketing and everything in between. Ultimately, I’m excited about the local and global opportunities that are now within reach because of the Texas MBA program.

Join us in congratulating Bill and all of our Class of 2014 graduates. They have worked incredibly hard and have truly earned the Texas MBA. If you’re interested in connecting with Bill, feel free to get in touch with him online via LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/billblackstone/  or Twitter: @BillBlackstone

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Posted in Community, Executive MBA, Students

Interview with Admissions Director: Rodrigo Malta Chats with MBA Crystal Ball

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RodrigoMalta-TXMBA-LargerOur Director of MBA Admissions, Rodrigo Malta, recently spoke with MBA Crystal Ball, an MBA admissions consulting group out of India, and shared with them some information about our admissions process, tips about essays and interviews, and more. See an excerpt below:

MBA Crystal Ball: Your 2013 employment reports states that 18% of the jobs were in the Technology industry. That is an encouragingly high number compared to other top schools. Please elaborate on the functional profiles within this sector that students go to; also help us understand whether these are primarily in the products space or also in the services side of Technology. Do you see this sector as being more open for international candidates, on a relative basis, compared to the others?

Rodrigo: About 70% of those jobs in the technology industry were in marketing and sales. Of those jobs, about 50% were in software, 25% in hardware, and a handful in E-commerce.

Generally, we do see the technology sector as being more open for international candidates.

MBA Crystal Ball: A lot of our readers are curious to understand employment opportunities in the marketing space. As an international student, which industries and what sub-functions can one realistically target post an MBA from your college?

Rodrigo: Most of the careers our international students enter in the marketing space are in technology.

In our experience, international students can expect to have better success in the consulting, technology, finance, and manufacturing industries, and, in fact, about 65% of our international students have ended up in consulting or finance.

MBA Crystal Ball: Any roles that are generally preferable (analytical, planning etc) or out of bounds (e.g. front office marketing) for international students with no prior cultural exposure?

Rodrigo: For international students without prior cultural exposure, we have found that analytical, technical, industry consulting, and manufacturing roles are more preferable. When it comes to manufacturing, for example, international graduates often provide a unique cultural background that employers may need in the global marketplace.

Because we believe that each student’s path is unique, we wouldn’t necessarily put any avenues “out of bounds,” but we do know that consumer packaged goods marketing (CPG) can be difficult for international students, but not impossible.

Generally, some of the toughest areas we’ve seen for international students are in energy or energy finance, largely because the process for acquiring sponsorship can be costly and laborious for companies in these industries.

MBA Crystal Ball: What proportion of your students typically manage to switch their careers (sector/function) after the MBA? What are some of the more drastic changes that you have observed in the recent past?

Rodrigo: Here at McCombs, the majority of our students are able to get into the industry they indicate to us as their target industry.

In our experience, however, we have certainly seen many drastic changes, like engineers shifting to create successful careers in investment banking. But when we see these types of changes, they don’t necessarily come out of nowhere.

We remind our students in these situations about the importance of continuity, and, when deciding on a new direction, the importance of acting strategically, continuing to demonstrate the relevance of their prior experience.

Click here for more admissions tips from Rodrigo Malta from his recent interview with MBA Crystal Ball.

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Posted in Admissions

What Diversity Means at McCombs

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By Brodie Reynolds, Associate Director of Admissions, Full-time MBA, University of Texas at Austin

We have a tendency here at the McCombs School of Business of bragging incessantly about how great our students are.  They truly are not only the smartest MBA students there are, but also the kindest, most genuine, and highly capable people that we know.  But what makes them this way?  I could begin to list off their unique work backgrounds, or the interesting things they learned during their undergraduate experiences, or their innovative career plans, but these lists do not really explain what makes them special.  These lists of course matter, but if I were to identify the defining characteristic of the McCombs student, it would be an excitement for learning, and an adventurous spirit that keeps this excitement alive through adversity and change.

Knowing this characteristic is so pervasive within our student body, we work very hard to create an academic environment that supports and encourages innovation, adaptation, and excitement for the unknown.  We insist that our student body is as diverse as possible, so that the unknown can be found not only in the coursework you take, but also in the person sitting next to you in your study group.  Diversity, at its core, is opportunity: opportunity to learn, opportunity to step outside yourself and grow, and opportunity to make a network that can pull you in the directions that will most benefit your future.  It is what makes us different, and we encourage each of our students to be themselves fully, without reservation.

This summer we are celebrating our 30th year of partnering with the Consortium of Graduate Study in Management (CGSM), an organization whose purpose is to promote and develop diverse MBA candidates.  You can learn more about the Consortium and its mission by attending the Information Session they offer during their Orientation Program event, which is in Austin this year from June 5th – 10th, 2014. 

This is only one of many ways we support and promote diversity, including our Diversity and Women’s Forums, the Forte Foundation, MLT, and our many, many student organizations.  Each year we are excited to see the countless ways each new student adds to the diversity we have forged over the decades McCombs has existed.  We look forward to the possibility of adding your uniqueness to our community as well.

No matter who you are, you can be successful at McCombs, as long as you, too, are excited about the unknown and want to grow with the people around you. 

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Posted in Admissions, Evening MBA, Executive MBA, Executive MBA at Mexico City, Full-Time MBA, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth, MBA at Houston

Meet the Graduates | Kyle Schumacher, MBA ’14

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Name: Kyle Schumacher, #TXMBA Class of 2014
Hometown: Niceville, FL
Undergraduate Institution: University of Central Florida

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

Prior to my MBA, I was at Google (in Austin) on their Enterprise Sales team. The MBA had always been a career goal and I felt that luck favors those who aggressively seek opportunities.

What led you to choose the Texas MBA?

McCombs is based in the “City of Ideas.” This, in combination with the cooperative, but driven, student culture made McCombs an obvious choice.

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

Undoubtedly, I’ll look back on my MBA and remember how it gave me the opportunity to work for a social enterprise in Kenya. The experience was transformative. I had always worked for Fortune 500 companies, but was intrigued by developing markets and new business models. The summer internship gave me the ability to explore this passion further. Furthermore, I was directly able to apply the skills learned during my first-year to add value to the organization.

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

Board Fellows – President: I saw a club that had tremendous potential. By sticking MBA students on the board of local non-profits, the students get invaluable governance experience and the non-profit gets a fresh perspective and, often, a lacked skill set. The organization grew by 250% during our team’s tenure and secured organizations such as Livestrong.

Startup Ecosystem: The exposure I received to the Austin entrepreneurial community was unparalleled. One highlight was working with a PhD student to commercialize his robotics technology. We filed a patent and pitched to over 100 members of the local community.

MAP Trip Belize: This 10-day trip before classes started gave me an incredible set of friends to enter the program with. We still reminisce on memories from the trip.

Any other particular memories that stand out?

My study group consisted of an architect, librarian, professional poker player, and a tech entrepreneur. The incredible diversity forced me to see business problems in new ways… exactly the reason I chose Texas!

What about a favorite professor?

Professor Doggett. Love him or hate him, he is a master at his craft. Everyone was incredibly engaged and I always found myself thinking about the topics discussed outside of class.

Any words of wisdom for incoming students?

The Texas MBA program is one of the best career insurance policies in the world. Use it as an opportunity to stretch yourself and to try something new.

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

My peers’ ambitions and my ambitions go well beyond our first job post-graduation. I, perhaps foolishly, have confidence I have been exposed to the tools, to the opportunities, and to the network to proactively change the world.

What’s next for you?

I will be working for a local startup, Impossible Ventures, who is committed to taking on an extremely complex problem. My role is to help build out their customer-facing operations. Should be challenging and exciting!

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

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Posted in Career, Community, Full-Time MBA, Students

Meet the Graduates | Michu Benaim Steiner, MBA ’14

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michu-benaimName: Michu Benaim Steiner, #TXMBA Class of 2014
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Undergraduate Institution: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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

I started an arts magazine called Gopher Illustrated a few years ago, and after the first issue was released decided to move the publication to Austin from South America. After some time and a few experiments around its business model, my co-founder and I decided to spin off a design and communications firm called In-House as both a consultancy and as a revenue source for the magazine.

As much as I learned about running a business by figuring it out as things progressed, with two growing companies to manage, it became clear that formal training would help enormously. A great and wise friend of mine was graduating from McCombs and he encouraged me to look into an MBA. To be perfectly honest, I thought the idea was insane, but eventually I did look into it and it all clicked.

What led you to choose the Texas MBA?

A couple of things. In the beginning, I considered McCombs because it was in Austin, and my companies and my life were already here. But the more I learned about McCombs, the more excited I became about it. The culture of the program was an incredibly important factor; I was looking to learn and to collaborate, not to be in competition constantly. I was also excited about all the entrepreneurial opportunities here, and how much support there seemed to be for those of us who were already running a business. The professors sounded great, and the resources were great, but in the end, I chose McCombs because of the people here. It was clear to me that, like in many top programs, everyone here was very impressive. But no one was showy or arrogant, and most were very curious to learn from each other.

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

Learning from peers – with so many group projects, case competitions, and Plus project opportunities, I’ve had a chance to team up with a large number of people. People in the program come from such a wide range of disciplines, and have such a variety of interests, that it was impossible not to be enriched by getting to know them.

Any particular memories that stand out?

My first year study team was made of magic rainbow pixie dust. I remember our first real work-meeting, for a finance assignment, and the amazing feeling that we had all brought our whole selves. Two group members were very familiar with the concepts for the week, and instead of just taking over, they made sure to put all of us to the task. It wasn’t about just getting it done, it was about what happens in the process.

What about a favorite professor?

Do I have to pick just one?

Fair enough. Any words of wisdom for incoming students?

Take advantage of the opportunities this program offers, but be selective about the things you go after – the quality of your involvement matters a lot more than the number of commitments you make. And mentorship is important; find someone to mentor you, and be a resource to others.

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

I feel much better equipped to make things happen, whether that means running a company, or putting a big arts project together. I now know I have the skills needed to pull all the pieces together. It also opened the scope of career options immediately available to me.

What’s next for you?

My husband just found out that he received a Knight Fellowship at Stanford for the next academic year, so we will be moving to the Bay Area in August! I am starting to explore opportunities in the region.

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

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Posted in Community, Full-Time MBA, Students

Commencement Speaker Spotlight | Dan Driscoll, MBA ’14

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Dan Driscoll (MBA ’14), Sebastian Turner (MBA ’15), Susan Strausberg (Longhorn Startup mentor to Prepify), Sarah Yu (MBA ’15) and Eric Burleson (MBA ’15) at Longhorn Startup Demo Day.

Getting to Texas

When asked how he ended up in Texas, Dan Driscoll (MBA and MA in Advertising ’14) will tell you that it wasn’t necessarily his choice. In fact, in the Washington D.C. native’s own words, Texas was the “last place” he ever thought he’d live. But when Dan’s wife was admitted to the LBJ School of Public Affairs here at UT Austin, and at a time when Dan was ready to move on from coaching soccer through an organization he co-founded, they were eager to make the move.

dan_bwOnce in Austin, Dan began work as a digital media consultant, teaching businesses how to market themselves, focusing primarily on web presence, digital strategy, apps, and social media. But over time, after alluring job offers from larger tech companies surfaced, he realized that he would much rather spend his time developing and marketing a product of his own than those belonging to other people.

That’s when Dan decided to pursue a dual degree program at UT, starting first with a Master in Advertising through the Advertising School in the Moody College of Communication, where he was able to pursue digital technology in the marketing space, and a Texas MBA here at the McCombs School of Business. During his time here, Dan has helped launch a few exciting ventures.

HireUp

HireUp is a recruiting tool Dan developed after witnessing the inefficiencies and frustrations for both candidates and recruiters at career fairs. Determined there could be a better way to connect the two groups, he developed an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that helps “take the pain out of the search process, helping people avoid long waits and dead ends at career fairs.”

1A8493HI_1391752661528As a Texas MBA student, Dan was able to take an elective course outside of the business school that focused on UI/UX design, which helped him take the project from idea to product. He was the only business student in the class and he was able to connect with two engineers who were interested in working on the project. The HireUp model was so successful in their market testing for the class that they already had clients wanting to enroll before the semester had even ended. Dan knew that it was a bit more than he could handle with all of his other responsibilities, so he handed it over to a friend, Cawley Thompson, a student visiting from the ESADE Business School in Barcelona through the Texas MBA’s Exchange Program, who still runs HireUp today along with Dan’s original classmates from the UI/UX course.  HireUp is now funded and joining the Seed Sumo startup accelerator this summer in College Station, TX.

Prepify

Prepify came out of his coursework from the “Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility” class, taught by Professor Brian Richter. Dan wrote a paper that introduced a venture that would provide free, high-caliber SAT preparation to any student anywhere. A computer adaptive learning platform where students can login and study for the SAT through engaged learning, Prepify is gamified, which encourages students to interact with the curriculum in meaningful ways. Prepify was developed in partnership with Bell Curves, an education organization based out of New York that provided the curriculum content.

130PGBNX_1383243896362A few other Texas MBA students got involved with the project: Joe Bartolotta (MBA, ’15), Sebastian Turner (MBA, ’15), Sarah Yu (MBA, ’15), and Eric Burleson (MBA, ’15). They were able to acquire some developers from MakerSquare, a boot camp for coding in downtown Austin where Dan had taken some part-time classes, and, together, they built a demo. Recently, the Prepify team took home the $20,000 grand prize as the national winner of the Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge – an enormous honor for any entrepreneurial venture. (Sanergy won the same competition two years ago, a company that has since been named as one of Fast Company’s ten most innovative companies).

reQwip

I7ZLFXDB_1382722493937In 2011, during his first year at UT, Dan participated in a three-day startup conference where he helped hatch reQwip, a marketplace for sports gear. We’ve talked about reQwip previously in the blog, but now, in 2014, we’re pleased to report that they’re at last going to market. reQwip is also joining the Seed Sumo accelerator: they’ve fully funded their pre-seed round and they’ve won a few competitions (which translates to tens of thousands of dollars in cash prizes to help fund the venture). One of the co-founders on the project is a former engineering student from UT, and the other, Kate Dailey, is the wife of fellow Texas MBA student Doug Herling (MBA, ’15).

Using the idea for reQwip, Dan participated in the Longhorn Startup Seminar run by Josh Baer, Bob Metcalfe, and Ben Dyer. While not officially offered through the MBA Program, it turned out to be one of the best classes Dan has taken here at UT. “It’s all about learning by doing and making mistakes. You focus less on your grade – it’s more about where you end up based on where you started,” he says.

Since starting the Texas MBA Program, Dan has won multiple awards for his innovative business plans, including the national "Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge" for Prepify.

Since starting the Texas MBA Program, Dan has won multiple awards for his innovative business plans, including the national “Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge” for Prepify.

The Texas MBA Experience

While pitching ideas at the Longhorn Demo Startup Day in front of nearly 1,000 people (on the same stage where four U.S. Presidents stood just weeks before) was an incredible experience, Dan says that it has been his classmates he appreciates the most about his time in the Texas MBA Program. “People here are genuinely excited for their neighbor’s success – the general view in Austin is that a rising tide lifts all boats. It has been a remarkable experience here, and I think that really speaks to the quality of the Texas MBA students,” he says.

If all of that isn’t enough, Dan has also been working closely with the McCombs Entrepreneur in Residence, Brett Hurt, on designing and executing strategies and opportunities for advancing entrepreneurship on the campus of the UT Austin. And in his “spare” time, Dan is also an assistant coach with the UT men’s soccer team and volunteers for DreamGoDo.org, a charity raising college tuition support for at-risk youth.

Looking Ahead

Dan’s trajectory has been shaped by many different experiences – his résumé is a roadmap of a mind in motion and a reflection of innovation in action. We’re glad his path led him here, and we wish him all the best as he transitions to his full-time role with reQwip after he graduates with the Class of 2014 on May 16. We’re also excited to mention that Dan was recently given the honor to speak at the 131st University-wide Commencement Ceremony, taking place Saturday May, 17.

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

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Posted in Community, Full-Time MBA, Students

MBA+ Project: Phillips 66

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Phillips 66 MBA+ Project Team

The Phillips 66 MBA+ Project Team, pictured from left to right: Joung Park, Jason Cohen, Vanessa Murray, George Lefelar, and Charles Bonner.

The MBA+ Leadership Program connects Texas MBA students with companies through short-term micro-consulting projects. I recently caught up with Full-Time MBA student and MBA+ project leader, Joung Park, to learn more about his team’s experience this past semester investgating the implications of excess North American natural gasoline/light naphtha for Phillips 66.

What was your MBA+ Project?
JP: Phillips 66 wanted our team to investigate the main demand drivers for natural gasoline, which is a particular subset of North American natural gas liquids (NGL) production. Phillips 66 wanted to use our analysis to figure out if and how the growing supply of natural gasoline in North America due to horizontal drilling activity would be absorbed, which has major implications for the company’s hydrocarbon transportation, refining, and expert business activities.

Why did this specific project interest you?
JP: I came into McCombs with a deep interest in energy, and the surge in NGL production and the issue of what to do with the excess supply is a hot button topic that was interesting to explore. I was also interested in potentially working for energy companies such as Phillips 66 after McCombs, so I was interested in the career networking aspects as well. Finally, I was excited about the chance to work closely within a team and exercise my leadership skills.

What was your favorite part of the project?
JP: First of all, I enjoyed learning about the NGL space, which is a complex and fascinating industry. Second, I enjoyed working with my team and getting to know them better (especially at the end of the project when we were cramming for the final presentation!). Finally, I enjoyed providing a final product that gave Phillips 66 something to think about – after our presentation, the strategy team at Phillips started talking amongst themselves about how they could put our analysis into actionable strategies, which was great to see.

What did you find most challenging about the project?
JP: Natural gasoline is a niche NGL product that is difficult to find good information for. That is perhaps why Phillips 66 wanted us to do the project in the first place! We had to search high and low for reliable information sources, and ended up mining information from energy consultancies, expert blogs, Phillips 66 personnel, and more.

What skills did you gain and/or utilize working on this project?
JP: Our team had diverse industry backgrounds ranging from investment research to energy trading to engineering, which helped in tackling the sometimes overwhelming task at hand. As team leader, I also learned a lot about project management and the amazing ability of McCombs students to get tons of work done during the last week of a major project!

How has this experience influenced your time at McCombs and your future aspirations?
JP: I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Phillips 66 on the MBA+ project. Although the project required a ton of effort (I think I may have spent more time on the plus project last semester than all my classes combined), it was a fun learning experience and a great resume boost. I’m still very much interested in working in the energy space and believe having the Phillips 66 project under my belt gave me a legs up in the energy finance recruiting cycle. I’d recommend incoming students to do a MBA+ project in the industry they are interested in, with the caveat they must be prepared to work really hard during that semester balancing the project workload with classes.

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Posted in Career, MBA+ Projects
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