How the UCLA Executive MBA program led to a new career

Janine Magyar, graduate, Executive MBA program, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Janine Magyar reached a career plateau and was looking for a new challenge when she decided to enter the Executive MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“It’s definitely not a program for people who are lazy or are quick to give up,” Magyar says. “It is not easy, but it is so worth it because the rewards are phenomenal.”

After 20 years of working in events and menu planning, Magyar stepped outside her comfort zone and it led to a position as an innovation manager at Mattson, the largest independent developer of new products for the food and business industry in North America.

Smart Business spoke with Magyar about her experiences in the MBA program and working at a job in which she could be “tasting sauces at 7 in the morning and cocktails at 2.”

Why did you choose UCLA’s executive MBA program?

It was convenient for me because I worked for The Walt Disney Company at the time. But it’s also an internationally acclaimed program and it’s very well respected in the entrepreneurial world.

I considered applying for the class of 2008 and audited a class. I listened to how the class interacted and how supportive the students were of each other. There were teaching moments not just from the professor at the front of the room, but also from all 65 students sitting in the chairs. I was impressed with the openness of the classroom environment. There wasn’t the cutthroat competition or one-upmanship that I’ve heard exists in other high-caliber programs.

Why is that the case?

I believe it is systemic in the Anderson culture. I worked in the recruiting and admissions department after I graduated and saw what they look for in incoming students. It’s not just what you’re going to get out of the program, but also what you’re bringing to it as a potential student. The admissions team considers all the pieces and how they will fit when putting together a class.

You’ll learn a lot from an amazing caliber of professor, but you’ll learn just as much in a different way while sitting next to CFOs, CEOs or senior vice presidents in finance or marketing who have had amazing real life experience.

How did the MBA program prepare you for your current job?

The key thing my MBA gave me was a sense of confidence to step out beyond what I had known for so long, which was event management and planning, and food and beverage. I’m still in the food world, which I love and I’m passionate about, but now I approach it from a completely different perspective.

When a client comes to me with a new food or beverage product, I not only can show them the formula they need and how to make it taste good, but I can also get them thinking about what will give this new product a level of competitive advantage and protect it from being immediately knocked off by potential competitors or what kind of marketing strategy to use when presenting the concept to potential buyers.

Did anything about the MBA program surprise you?

I knew I would come out of it a stronger, faster, smarter person, that’s what a good MBA program is all about. But I was really impressed with two things from Anderson. First was UCLA Anderson’s network. I reached out to Anderson alums for my strategic research project and afterward while recruiting and I’ve always gotten a call back. It’s a big school, but it’s a very tight, supportive community.

The second thing that surprised me was how quickly I was able to put the lessons learned into practical application. There were a lot of opportunities for me to go back to the office and be faced with a strategic project or personnel issues that I now had a new way of thinking about. It’s pretty spectacular when you’re in a position to apply what you’ve learned and get a real return on your educational investment quickly.

Janine Magyar is a graduate of the Executive MBA program at UCLA Anderson School of Management. Reach her at (818) 486-6590 or [email protected]

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