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Meet Entrepreneur & MBA Student, Tim McCormack

Meet Entrepreneur & MBA Student, Tim McCormack

June 25, 2009

UCLA and USC do have stronger brand names, especially in the area of hiring. Pepperdine has a bit of a younger program, and may not ever have the same size as UCLA and USC, but it’s a great university. The atmosphere was incredible, and so is the curriculum on international studies, which was something that was very important to me. They have a strong entrepreneurial management program, which was something else that I was looking for. And the scholarship money was a big deal for me as well. Really, they had everything that I was looking for. Plus, the campus is incredibly beautiful, on the mountains in Malibu, overlooking the ocean; the whole graduate campus has a 180 degree view of the ocean. You come in every morning and thank God you’re alive; it’s very beautiful.

Tell us about your MBA experiences thus far.

Classes are very demanding. The way classes are set up at Pepperdine is in trimesters, four classes at a time. Each class meets once a week, four hours a day, for seven week class; four, 13-week trimester. It’s broken up in such a way that it’s manageable. I’m also getting into the Pepperdine study abroad program. I applied for IESE in Spain, which is ranked No. 6 in the world, it’s set up by Harvard case study model, a little different than what Pepperdine does. I’ll be starting the four month program in September of 2006.

Pepperdine has so many different opportunities for clubs and participation, so when I got here I jumped right in. I’ve had a great experience so far. I started my own club, the Executive Alliance, which is still pretty young. I never had played golf before, and I wanted to learn how to play. So I decided to start a club that focuses on golf and golf training as a way to tie in to our huge alumni groups, as well the fully-employed MBA students and other people from the communities. Basically, we’re all just playing golf together; the idea is to create more connections between the alumni and the community.

The Alumni are great to work with; the idea is that we’re building one skill pretty commonly used by executives to tie everybody together and get them involved.

I’m a member of The Executive Committee, which is a great program. A group of executives, CEOS get together in groups of about 12, and they do group mentoring at UCLA, USC and Pepperdine. Students have to apply, and a group of 12 students from each school are paired with a high-end CEO, in my case from an LA construction co. We meet with him 12 times, six times privately one-on-one and six times as a group, and talk about career and personal development, life-work balance and those types of issue. When we have a group meeting, another CEO from a different organization comes, and we get to ask questions about what works for them. It’s been an incredible experience.

We have pretty high-end speakers who come to university periodically, and I was selected by the faculty as a student ambassador, one of about 10. We act as the front line host to the people who come along with the speakers and we interact with the speakers themselves.

I’m a member of the Entrepreneur Club, which mainly revolves around the business plan competition, which I really want to participate in next year. You create business plans, submit them to a committee, pitch them, and the winner gets between $20,000 and $30000 seed money. I’ve been involved with IT Club, where we go through different contacts at the university and visit different technology firms in the LA area, meet with them, and discuss technology with them.

Out of all the things that I’m in, I feel the most honored to be selected as an Emerging Leader. This is the first year of the program at Pepperdine; I was one of 12 students chosen by the faculty as one of the emerging leaders in our class. We have meetings with the program director, and we offer perspective on what’s worked, what hasn’t and advice from student perspective. We’re working on setting up a mentoring process for the next school year. As second year students, we’ll be given a portion of the incoming student class that we’ll be responsible for mentoring throughout their school time. It will be sort of an active leadership-training practicum. We’re creating it as we go, as it’s a new program.

How is active participation in campus organizations contributing to your MBA experience?

It’s definitely a major part. Though it’s not like this for everybody, for me, the networking and career advancement opportunities found in campus organizations are as important as anything I’ve learned. The more people I can meet and the more exposure I can get to different industries, the better for me. You hear of some university MBA programs that are very competitive, but Pepperdine has a very friendly atmosphere. Here, it’s more collaborative between students, and there are a lot of things going on, charity activities and such. Personally, I think its very important to be involved; you can learn everything, in the end, a lot of the extra-curricular things you put on your resume are as important as anything else. A lot of companies don’t even ask for your GPA, but they want to know what organizations you’ve been involved with and if you’ve had any leadership roles. For me it’s a very important part, and I’m glad to be at a university that offers lots of opportunities.

In retrospect, what do you know now that you wish you knew before you pursued your business education?

If I could give any sort of advice it would be pick a career path, pick an industry, and a career goal, and work toward that consistent goal, and you’ll get a lot more out of what you’re learning. I’ve been broader in my focus; so in that sense, I haven’t been able to take advantage of all of the opportunities because I haven’t always been able to express where I want to go with it. If you are focused the entire time, you have a much better chance of graduating and getting into any kind of job you want.

What factors should prospective students consider when choosing an MBA program?

It depends on what’s important to you, because everyone has different things that are important. Obviously you need to look at what you want to do, because different universities have different strengths. Beyond that, look for cultural fit. It’s really important, because you are going to go through two years of very intense study, and if you don’t work well with the people around you, it’s going to be tough. For me, one of the things that I have been most pleased with at Pepperdine is the atmosphere. I don’t think I would be as happy in a purely competitive environment. There is a big aspect of environmental fit that I think people really need to take into consideration when they are choosing their university. For me, I really figured out what I wanted by actually visiting the university; I was really able to feel the genuine friendliness of the campus.