Cody Griffin, MBA alumnus of UCLA Anderson School of Management, describes how his MBA experience gave him insight into career options that were geared towards his long-term interests of the outdoors and improving the environment.
Name: Cody Griffin
School: MBA, UCLA Anderson School of Management
Profession: Bain & Company
Hometown: Virginia City, NV
Current Location: Los Angeles, CA
What was your favorite classroom experience?
A team of classmates and I helped a startup mezcal company with their go-to-market strategy. After they launched, I then went back to work with them over the summer after graduation to help them with scaling their operations, building out their marketing campaign and developing their fundraising plan to finance their scaling. Without the core classes at Anderson, I would have had no exposure to marketing strategy, operations, or finance; and without my elective that introduced me to the owners of this company I wouldn’t have met two individuals that I now consider to be mentors. I came to b-school to get a hands-on learning experience of running a business, and this one class gave me that entire experience – it was truly rewarding.
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?
This goes back to my answer above – I spent the better part of 2 years contemplating what my next step would be. For me, that involved a lot of personal reflection, but also a lot of communication with my partner about what was best for us. After narrowing in on our goals, I mapped out the best way for me to achieve my set of goals, and I believed it was through pursuing an MBA at UCLA Anderson. Ultimately, that decision has paid off, as I am on the path I wanted to be on prior to joining, but I believe I got where I am because of the amount of reflection and energy I put in before actually deciding to apply.
How did your classmates influence your MBA experience?
My classmates enhanced everything about my experience – from my social network to my classroom experience. The MBA program is deeply intense and forces you to spend significant time with your colleagues, so you get to know them very well. I found them to be a deep resource of knowledge and support throughout the process. I wound up gaining some of my best friends, who are now connected all over the world, doing everything from real estate investing to working for central banks to non-profit consulting. But I found that what I loved most was how much each person contributed directly to my learning by sharing how they had experienced or interpreted the content we were learning in their previous professional lives. This helped contextualize all that we learned and made the classroom much more engaging.
When it came time to look for jobs, did you find yourself interested in a new career that you hadn’t considered before doing your MBA?
Yes – going back to school I originally planned to pursue consulting with a social impact focus – ideally at a company like Bridgespan or Dalberg. However, I also had a huge interest in outdoor sports and so was considering working in retail strategy for an outdoor company (e.g. REI). When I got to school, I learned about several unique venture capital and private equity companies that have a more hands-on role with their portfolio companies operations. On a trek to visit Patagonia in fall of my first year, I learned they had a VC fund that invests exclusively in outdoor goods companies working to improve the environment. After chatting with the fund’s director, I learned that he came from a traditional consulting background and how he felt that background helped prepare him for the work he does on a day-to-day basis. It certainly opened my eyes to other options post business school that might blend a lot of my long-term interests.
Advice for Future Applicants
How did you fund your MBA? Can you offer any advice to students looking to finance their MBA?
I did a little bit of everything – savings, loans, TA-ships and fellowships. My biggest advice is to be resourceful and recognize that a little bit of work to earn a fellowship will always be worth it. My campus has a pool of funds set aside for second years to apply for fellowships, and working hard through the first year on academics and being involved in school certainly helped position me for receiving fellowships in my second year. But, I also asked professors whose classes I enjoyed about opportunities to work for them to help reduce my overall bills. At the end of the day an MBA is expensive, so any way you can reduce the bills is a great way to do it in my book.
What are some dos and don’ts in the MBA preparation process?
The biggest dos I have are related to personal reflection. Prior to applying oto business school I spent the better part of a year and a half thinking about my priorities, why I wanted to pursue the things I was interested in, and what would be the best path for me to do that, both personally and professionally. That allowed me to really narrow down the list of schools that I wanted to apply to (I only applied to 3), and allowed me to feel confident that I was making the right decision when heading off.
As far as don’ts, they’d be the converse. Don’t jump into an MBA without a plan, a particular set of goals for yourself. But more importantly, don’t do it without some honest introspection about what you really want the degree for and whether it really is necessary for you to fulfill your goals.