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The New Deals


By Becky Ebenkamp

Published Oct 1, 2014 8:00 AM

Getting Schooled

In close proximity to many innovative industries — Hollywood’s entertainment/content complex, Silicon Beach’s technology — UCLA is preparing future business leaders to compete in a modern marketplace in which everything from product design to service is being reimagined.

In his last year at Anderson, Asmi Shah M.B.A. ’14 ran Anderson’s Entrepreneur Association Conference, which unites students, professors, entrepreneurs and investors. Two of that year’s finalists, Vow to be Chic and Neural Analytics, raised funding and are executing their businesses.

Today’s grads, Kawasaki thinks, are better prepared because their education is more “real world,” less Fortune 500/packaged goods. “Nobodies are the new somebodies,” says Kawasaki, who is one of Anderson’s 100 Inspirational Alumni.

Tabis says UCLA is where The Bouqs and his entrepreneurial desire were lit. “Anderson has a really great culture, and they focus on much more than the M.B.A. content,” he notes. “Several classes [stressed the value of] relationships in business.”

Willard found her bliss — and a 20-year career — while getting schooled: She was recruited for Macy’s Executive Trainee Program at UCLA’s Career Center. The English major had planned to become a teacher.


Guy Kawasaki

“I really love what I do, and I stumbled into it,” says Willard, who was honored as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Finance/Retail” by Women of Color magazine in 2012.

“Retail isn’t an exact science — customers still pick the pink one instead of the black one, even though all our research says the opposite,” Willard explains. “[But] liberal arts majors live in the gray: There’s no exact science when you’re breaking down a poem or analyzing Shakespeare.” She’s noticing that more M.B.A.s are minoring in something different to round themselves out.

Minoring in philosophy was a life-changing experience for Foley because he learned to ask, “Why?” “Classes, readings and discussions taught me how to think, how to ask questions and how to never accept ‘That’s the way it’s always been done.’ ”

Stengel, who teaches a course about the chief marketing officer called Next Generation CMO for second-year Anderson students, says millennials want to work for an organization with a strong culture and a purpose that improves lives. If their business school’s curriculum isn’t inspiring, this generation will go elsewhere to learn and prepare for their business world.

Serial entrepreneur Perdew, who delivered a keynote address at this year’s Entrepreneur Association Conference, says Anderson promotes a symbiotic, hands-on business experience: Students get trained while providing companies with cheap labor. Being a Bruin even gave him a leg up on his reality-TV competition.

“If you’ve taken Bill Cockrum’s finance class — or Al Osborne’s ‘Doing Deals’ — you’re pretty prepared for The Apprentice,” Perdew quipped.

“I try to bring [my work] to the classroom,” says Chen, who teaches classes in behavioral economics, competitive strategy and behavioral decision theory. One class is working on a menu-choices project for white-hot dining chain Umami Burger. Another helps Chen consult for Uber, which is changing the staid car-service industry “through lots of math and interesting technology.” Uber’s co-founder, Travis Kalanick, also attended UCLA.

SunPower’s Cobb credits UCLA with plucking him out of his small-town Chico, Calif., background and transplanting him into a diverse, stimulating environment. “It helps you find yourself and exposes you to things so you’ll be better prepared for career challenges,” he says. Relationships, he says, opened every door in his career. “Foster them in school, and use your time wisely by becoming an entrepreneur in a collaborative, low-risk environment,” he advises. “Worst-case scenario: You leave with a degree. Why not try to start a business at the same time?”