Sarah Garza, MBA '20 Candidate

Sarah Garza, '21, Online MBA

Role & Company: Senior Product Manager, UserZoom

Location: San Francisco Bay Area

1. Please describe where you were in your career when you first considered getting an MBA. What were you looking for in an MBA program?

I graduated with a B.S. degree in Cognitive Science in 2012, and have been working at various software startups in Silicon Valley in UX and product management functions since. In my current role as a senior product manager, I work to inform our product strategy and bring new concepts to market by analyzing a variety of data inputs, understanding market trends, prioritizing customer needs, and communicating value to our user base. I knew that having a well-rounded understanding of all aspects of business would enable me to be an effective product manager and grow immediately in my current career. Silicon Valley is also ripe with an entrepreneurial spirit, and I hope to one day pursue my own venture. I was seeking an MBA program that would empower me with the necessary knowledge to become an innovative leader in Silicon Valley. With the SCU Online MBA program, I have felt a renewed drive to continue on this path knowing that I have new and vital knowledge from my MBA coursework to bring to the table.

2. What have you enjoyed the most about the Online MBA program at SCU?

This may surprise some, but I especially enjoy that much of the coursework in the online program is actually group work. With an online program, networking does not always happen as naturally, so working together with other classmates to complete various projects and assignments challenges us to collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds. When you sign up for the online learning management system, you create a profile with a photo and a brief summary of your background. This makes it easy when you're assigned a new group project because you can get reacquainted with the classmates you met at the residency weekend. I've had the opportunity to team with incredibly smart individuals who work in a variety of areas like agriculture, banking, consulting, and advertising…just to name a few! This has really helped to open me up to different working styles given much of my career has been in the same industry.

3. How have you been able to incorporate learnings from the program into your work?

I really enjoy the variety of the coursework. Last quarter, I took a marketing course aptly titled Doing Business in Silicon Valley. The course discussed business models, network effects, and shared characteristics of innovative Silicon Valley companies. Through written case studies, recorded interviews with local business leaders, lecture content, and group discussions, we analyzed how new ventures are both financed and brought to market. Coursework like creating a cap table or drafting a proposal for Amazon's next investment were invaluable in helping me systematically understand why businesses make certain decisions. In my current role, I often find myself thumbing back to class notes to help provide evidence and reasoning for product improvements.

Also, even though courses can be very different, they are also very related. For example, in both my Business Analytics and Strategic Negotiations course, we discussed game theory. And in both my Marketing Strategies and Decisions and Managerial Economics course, we discussed pricing strategy and optimization. This really helps me to see the interconnectedness of functional areas and understand topics in a really robust, and well-rounded way. I'm more confident each quarter about my ability to make an impact in my company, career, and community.