Learn about Venita Sivamani’s experience as an MBA student at UC Davis, where she learned about different economies, experienced new cultures, and made connections across the globe.
- Name: Venita Sivamani
- Business School: University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management
- Originally From: San Francisco Bay Area, California
- Occupation: Entrepreneur, Founder of LearnSkin
Q: How did you choose your MBA program? What were your program’s greatest assets?
A: UC Davis is situated between to two major hubs, Silicon Valley and Sacramento. I wanted to stay in the region with access to capital, mentorship and talent for my startup.
Q: What activities were you involved in outside of class? How did you balance your time?
A: As a full-time MBA student, I was fortunate to be able to spend my free time on extra curriculars and immerse myself in activities both on and off campus. At the Graduate School of Management, I was president of the Women in Leadership club, where we launched a Board Fellowship Program to support student participation on local nonprofit boards. Corporate boards often require prior experience which can be difficult to obtain, so this program broadened access to volunteer board opportunities while making a positive impact in the community. I also was a teaching assistant in my second year for the Articulation and Critical Thinking course, which is part of the UC Davis MBA’s capstone IMPACT curriculum. During that experience, I got to know the incoming class much better, and I honed my presentation skills.
At UC Davis, I served on the Chancellor’s Graduate and Professional Student Advisory Board, where I co-chaired the Diversity and Retention of Underrepresented Students Committee. In Sacramento, I interned at the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls and helped found Million Women Mentors, California. Internationally, I worked on a project through DLab for agricultural supply chain management in Ethiopia after visiting the country. The breadth of endeavors I was able to pursue is a testament to the Graduate School of Management’s supportive and innovative environment. I enjoyed collaborating with students, faculty, staff and alumni to create and implement new ideas and initiatives. I prioritized my time around experiential learning and graduated with an incredible community I can still count on today.
A: The first person I hired for my company was a classmate! I was extremely fortunate to bring on someone with such incredible caliber and expertise that I would not have had access to otherwise. I often hear how challenging recruiting is from fellow startup founders. Having a network I can rely on has been instrumental. I’ve reached out for advice, feedback, and events. We even had a team offsite at a classmate’s winery in Napa. It was one of our favorites!
Some of us have stayed in touch through Rotary and continue to be active leaders in the community. I have found that someone in the group always knows someone who can help, and it’s been exciting to see all the endeavors everyone has embarked on.
Q: What resources and support did your program offer during the career search?
A: Our career services team was hands-on and proactive. We were encouraged to participate in mock interviews, 360 degree review coaching, career fairs, skill workshops and guest speaker events. I did less than my peers in terms of traditional job searching, though I took big advantage of the UC Davis Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Big Bang Business Competition workshop series, entrepreneurial conferences and startup site tours. I still have my notes!
Q: When applying for jobs, how did you highlight your achievements?
A: While it’s been awhile since I’ve applied for a job, as an employer I look for those with a results oriented mindset, who work well on a team, and aren’t afraid to think outside the box.
Q: What is something you learned during your MBA experience that was unexpected?
A: The importance of soft skills. I started the UC Davis MBA program expecting to focus on finance, marketing, and accounting, which were all important to understand. What I also realized was that strong and collaborative leadership needs to be practiced and developed over time. The study of effective communication, project planning, and resource management are equally important to the core subject areas.
Q: What advice do you have for future MBA candidates?
A: Stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone—that might be a new subject area, leadership role or sport. Even when you’re exhausted from a day of classes or group projects, go to that networking mixer and guest speaker lecture. Two years goes by quickly. Make the most of it!
Interested in receiving an MBA or Business Master’s Degree? Check out UC Davis’ website to learn more about their graduate business opportunities!