Michael explains what inspired him to get an MBA after working in retail strategy, how his MBA network helped him become an entrepreneur and his advice on what to consider when choosing a school.
Michael Lee, MBA 2010 University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business
Owner and managing partner at The Charleston Restaurant and Bar in Santa Monica, California
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GET AN MBA?
Prior to business school, I worked for Gap, Inc. in Business Strategy for Old Navy. Currently, I own a restaurant-bar in Santa Monica called “The Charleston”. While working at Gap, I realized that I had “gaps” in my knowledge, no pun intended! I was working with lots of other MBA’s from top programs from across the country. They had such broader exposure than I did from being exposed to other industries from their prior jobs and from studying finance and accounting and taking strategy classes, etc.. I knew that there was so much for me to gain by getting an MBA. That is what inspired me. I ended up choosing USC. I have a real strong interest in entrepreneurship and broadening my knowledge beyond the retail industry and my personal network. My career up to that point was only retail. So, I had an interest in learning about everything and knowing people in all the different industries.
HOW HAS THE MBA NETWORK HELPED YOU?
It is very important to stay in touch with your classmates. For me, a lot of it happened organically, some of my very best friends are Marshall classmates and will be my best friends for life. In addition to that, I have been part of mixers, alumni groups, gatherings - formal and informal. I can’t stress enough how priceless it is to be continually involved with that community. When I started my business, many of the investors were Marshall alumni or classmates. Many people to whom I turned for advice were either mentors at Marshall, or people referred to me from my mentors or classmates at Marshall. To this day, I know that if I need advice or need a contact, it’s just a matter of time before I find a contact through my network.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE ON CHOOSING A BUSINESS SCHOOL?
First ask yourself, what do you want to do when you get out? That might sound a little obvious, but I feel that a lot of students and candidates are actually a little unclear on that. Where you go to school can really affect what type of job you can get. Certain schools are tapped into certain industries much more than others. A lot of that is due to geographic location, some of it is due to alumni contacts and some businesses only recruit at a handful of schools. I really recommend that a student does some deep soul searching and thinking about what they want to do afterwards.
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