By Michael Peck (’15)
When I was weighing different MBA programs during my business school search, UCLA Anderson got extra points for its location in Los Angeles. Anderson’s website and marketing materials talk about Los Angeles being “the gateway to South America and the Pacific Rim,” and I was sure that the Los Angeles location and the magnitude of the Los Angeles economy would provide opportunities to maximize the MBA experience. But as an MBA applicant, it is difficult to quantify the Los Angeles advantage or to see exactly how the resources available here will add to your educational opportunities and guide your future career path.
After my first year, I can describe that "X factor" in much more concrete terms. I’ve taken tours and met people from numerous local companies:
- Riot Games — Their one game, League of Legends, has more than 67 million unique players monthly, making it the most-played video game on the planet.
- Gallo Winery — With 60 brands in the Gallo portfolio, Gallo is the largest wine company in the world, exporting to more than 90 countries.
- SpaceX — Elon Musk’s ground-breaking aerospace company needs no introduction. Walking around the production floor, underneath a space capsule with actual re-entry scorch marks, is breathtaking.
- Westfield — The international mall/retail space developer based in Century City walked us through their plans for the brand new World Trade Center retail space.
- The Los Angeles Dodgers — With the Anderson Strategy Group, we met with a young marketing/data analytics team and talked strategy.
I’ve met with alumni from a dozen major consulting firms, as well as Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Anheuser Busch-InBev, MillerCoors, Golden Road Brewing, The Bruery, AEG, Dress for Success, The Bourbon Review and many others. The capstone opportunity this year has been a ticket to this year’s E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, held in downtown Los Angeles.
E3 is the world’s largest video gaming expo, featuring the latest developments from Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo, as well as sneak peeks, media presentations and hundreds of gaming stations set up to try the latest games and hardware. For a gamer, the three days of E3 are akin to drinking from a fire hose. There is simply so much to see and take in throughout the sprawling LA Convention Center and surrounding area that it becomes easy to forget that, as an industry-only event, the 50,000 or so attendees presumably have some work to do between playing games. It is an absolute blast.
And there are more reasons than ever for an MBA to explore this bastion of nerddom. The 2015 class at Anderson has more students pursuing careers in gaming than ever before, reflecting the growth and opportunity in what has become the most popular leisure activity in the United States and Europe. How each game developer/publisher prioritized their space indicated what was most important to them: the shock and awe of releasing a new trailer or the up-close connection with gamers actually playing a new alpha version. How attendees moved through the expo revealed what they are most excited about, particularly how people gravitated toward team-based games as fun to play and to watch. Finally, the bar for marketers at E3 seems to have been set higher than ever, with a working WWII tank crushing a taxi at the E3 entrance, or a 30-foot-tall model robot at the street corner attracting people to NVIDIA’s separate gaming tent across the street. Understanding the marginal gain from an investment in “booth babes” vs. a medieval staging area for a new release makes an MBA needed in this industry more now than ever.
My ticket to E3 was provided by Sony Playstation, where I will be interning this summer in their Sales Planning and Analysis group. I found my way to Sony after a classmate at Anderson recommended that I visit the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. In contrast to my MBA applications, I switched career plans several times, and I would not have ultimately found my place at Sony had I not taken advantage of the rich Anderson network in Los Angeles and elsewhere. The point is that each student’s X factor will be different, but the benefits to being in LA cannot be discounted when applying, because they will alter the course of your life.
That, and biking around Santa Monica in March while the East Coast schools are still frozen over is pretty nice, too.