Jojo Chen, MBA alumna of UC Riverside's A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management, discusses her non-traditional MBA background, and how her MBA program helped her convert a summer internship at SolarMax into a post-grad career. .
Name: Jojo Chen
What were some activities you were involved with outside of class? How did you balance your time?
I made an effort to attend major school events, like the Dean's Speaker Series and networking events, and volunteer to represent the School at recruiting events. I met many extraordinary people from those events, and I greatly improve my professional communication skills. I knew that several job and internship opportunities were found by always attending events.
It was hard to balance time around classes and events. On the first day of each quarter, I organized by schedule around the syllabus. Professors posted all the deadlines for the syllabus, and I made sure to always finish assignments about one week before the deadline. And when I had the option, I preferred choosing night classes so that I would have more time in day to do other things.
What were the biggest challenges of pursuing your MBA?
I'm a professional dancer before. I went to art schools since I was 12. My undergraduate major is dance performance & education, and I also got a Master of Arts from London with a major in dance studies. Clearly, I did not have any business background and I am not good at dealing with numbers. In the first year of the MBA, we had quantitative methods and quantitative analysis as core courses. These classes were my biggest challenges. But our professors were very patient, and they were good teachers. I spent a lot of time in the library with friends, studying together. But it paid off -- I got an A in those classes and I'm not afraid of numbers now.
How did you decide that an MBA was the next step for you? What advice do you have for students considering an MBA on how to make that decision?
My dream is to open my own arts school. However, lacking a business background was my weakness. I knew that an MBA could give me the skills to run a business, and create a network of friends -- because friends are your resources in the future. For prospective students, I suggest that if you want to get a competitive advantages when you looking for a job in a new area or industry, or want to start your own business, an MBA is a good choice.
Did you do an internship during your MBA? How did that experience influence your education and career?
I found an internship in a solar company in Riverside, during my summer break. I worked in marketing department and based on my performance, hard work and personal skills, the company gave me an offer for a full-time job and agreed to sponsor me H1B visa, which is perfect for an international student. If I did not choose to do an MBA, I would not have had this opportunity.
Advice for Future Applicants
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started the MBA application process?
The school uses 'holistic approach' to admit prospective students. So students do not have to worry about if their GPA or GMAT score is on the low side. Definitely, the higher scores you get, the more opportunities you have of getting better scholarships. But the school also considers students' working or social experiences and other personal skills as well.
Did you come from a non-business background? If so, how did this effect how you approached the application process and how did you highlight your achievements to tell your personal narrative?
As I mentioned, I came from a completely different area, which was dance. As a dancer, I am very confident because I always perform on the stage, and I'm good at communicating with people. Business is a kind of art, you have to perform in front of others and you have to learn how to deal with different kinds of people. Thus, there are some overlaps between business and my past experiences that I used to highlight how I would be successful in the MBA program.